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SHABBETHAI (shăb'ē-thī, Heb. shabbethay, Sabbath-born). A Levite of Ezra’s time who is mentioned as a participant in the foreign-wives controversy (Ezra.10.15), as an interpreter of the Law (Neh.8.7-Neh.8.8), and as a chief Levite over the temple (Neh.11.16).

SHABBETHAI shăb’ ə thī (שַׁבְּתַ֥י). A Levite who was involved with Ezra in the edict against having foreign wives (Ezra 10:15; 1 Esd 9:14, KJV SABBATHEUS, ASV SABBATEUS). It is not absolutely certain whether he opposed or assisted Ezra in this matter; prob. the latter. He was present at the reading of the law (Neh 8:7; 1 Esd 9:48). The “chief of the Levites” referred to in Nehemiah 11:16 may be the same man.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A Levite who opposed (?) Ezra’s suggestion that the men who had married foreign wives put them aside (Ezr 10:15). Kuenen, however, renders the phrase `amedhu `al zo’th, of which Asahiel and Jahaziah are the subjects, to mean "stand over," "have charge of," rather than "stand against," "oppose" (Gesammelte Abhandlungen, 247 f); this would make Shabbethai, who was in accord with the two men mentioned above, an ally rather than an opponent of Ezra. We incline toward Kuenen’s interpretation in view of the position attained by Shabbethai under Nehemiah--one he would have been unlikely to attain had he been hostile to Ezra. He is mentioned among those appointed to explain the Law (Ne 8:7), and as one of the chiefs of the Levites who had the oversight of "the outward business of the house of God" (Ne 11:16).

Horace J. Wolf