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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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Genesis 10:29. Placed between Sheba and Havilah, Ophir must be in Arabia. Arrian in the Periplus calls Aphar metropolis of the Sabeans. Ptolemy calls it Sapphara, now Zaphar. Eleventh of Joktan's sons. Gesenius explains Ophir, if Semitic, "fruitful region." The Himyaritic ofir means "red". The Mahra people call their country "the ofir country" and the "Red Sea" Βahr Οfir . Αphar means "dust". In 1 Kings 9:26-28; 1 Kings 10:11, Solomon's navy on the Red Sea fetched from Ophir gold and almug trees; and in 1 Kings 10:22, once in three years (which included the stay in Ophir as well as the long coasting voyage) Tarshish ships (i.e. like our term for far voyaging ships, "Indiamen") brough; "gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks." Mauch, an African traveler, found at latitude 20 degrees, 15 minutes S.l longitude 26 degrees 30 minutes E., ruins resembling Solomon's temple, which he connects with Ophir.

The gold of western Asia was anciently obtained principally from Arabia. Saba in the southwestern part of Yemen is the only other place for gold besides Ophir mentioned in Scripture (Isaiah 60:6). Strobe, 16:777, 778, 784, Diodorus Siculus, 2:50; 3:44, describe Arabia as rich in gold. No gold is now found there; whether it has been exhausted as in Spain, or we know not the interior sufficiently to be sure there is no gold left. (See PARAN.) The "al " in almug or algum is the Arabic article "the," and mica is "sandalwood" (Gesenius), so that that wood must have come to the Hebrew through Arabic merchants. But Lassen derives it from Sanskrit valgu or valgum , "sandalwood." The wares and animals, from India or Africa, if such was their source (as the Sanskrit, Tamil, and Malay origin of the words ivory, peacocks, and apes respectively implies), came through Arabia.

Ophir probably therefore was the entrepot there. In Palestine and Tyre the articles even of India and Africa would be designated from Ophir, from which they more immediately came. The indigo used in Egyptian dyeing from of old must have come from India; muslins of Indian origin are found with the mummies; Josephus (Ant. 8:6, section 4) connects Ophir with India (Malacca, so Sir J. E. Tennant); Chinese porcelain vases have been found in the tombs of kings of the 18th dynasty, i.e. before 1476 B.C. Gold of Ophir was proverbial for fineness (Psalms 45:9; Job 28:16; Job 22:24; Isaiah 13:12; 1 Chronicles 29:4; 1 Kings 22:48). The Ishmaelites abounded in gold: Numbers 31:22; Judges 8:24-26; Psalms 72:15 "gold of Sheba (Arabia)." Agatharchides in the second century B.C. (in Photius 250, and Hudson's Geograph. Minores, 1:60), living in Egypt, and guardian to a Ptolemy in his minority and so familiar with the commerce between Egypt and Arabia, attests that gold was found in Arabia. Two of his statements have been confirmed: (1) that there were gold mines in Egypt, Linant and Bonomi found theta (?) in the Bisharce desert (Wilkinson, Ant. Egypt. 9); (2) that there were large gold nuggets.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Ophir'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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