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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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O´phir occurs first, as the proper name of one of the thirteen sons of Joktan, the son of Eber, a great-grandson of Shem, in . Many Arabian countries are believed to have been peopled by these persons, and to have been called after their respective names, as Sheba, etc. and among others Ophir. Ophir occurs also as the name of a place, country, or region, famous for its gold, which Solomon's ships visited in company, with the Phoenician. The difficulty is to ascertain where Ophir was situated. The first theory which appears to be attended with some degree of evidence not purely fanciful is that Ophir was situate in Arabia. In , Ophir stands in the midst of other Arabian countries. Still, as Gesenius observes, it is possibly mentioned in that connection only on account of its being an Arabian colony planted abroad. Though gold is not now found in Arabia, yet the ancients ascribe it to the inhabitants in great plenty (;;;; ). This gold, Dr. Lee thinks, was no other than the gold of Havilah (), which he supposes to have been situate somewhere in Arabia. But Diodorus Siculus ascribes gold-mines to Arabia. He also testifies to the abundance of 'precious stones' there (Diodorus ii. 54), especially among the inhabitants of Sabas (Diodorus iii. 46; comp.;; ). Others suppose that, though Ophir was situate somewhere on the coast of Arabia, it was rather an emporium, at which the Hebrews and Tyrians obtained gold, silver, ivory, apes, almug-trees, etc. brought thither from India and Africa by the Arabian merchants, and even from Ethiopia, to which Herodotus (iii. 114) ascribes gold in great quantities, elephants' teeth, and trees and shrubs of every kind. In behalf of the supposition that Ophir was the Arabian port Aphar, it may be remarked that the name has undergone similar changes to that of the Sept. of Ophir; for it is called by Arrian Aphar, by Pliny Saphar, by Ptolemy Sapphera, and by Stephanus Saphirini. Grotius thinks his to be Ophir. The very name El Ophir has been lately pointed out as a city of Oman, in former times the center of a very active Arabian commerce. In favor of the theory which places Ophir in Africa, it has been suggested that we have the very name in afri, Africa. Origen also says, on , that some of the interpreters understood Ophir to be Africa. Michaelis supposes that Solomon's fleet, coming down the Red Sea from Ezion-geber, coasted along the shore of Africa, doubling the Cape of Good Hope, and came to Tarshish, which he, with many others, supposes to have been Tartessus in Spain, and thence back again the same way; that this conjecture accounts for their three years' voyage out and home; and that Spain and the coasts of Africa furnished all the commodities which they brought back. Strabo indeed says that Spain abounded in gold, and immensely more so in silver (see ). Others have not hesitated to carry Solomon's fleet round from Spain up the Mediterranean to Joppa. In behalf of the conjecture that Ophir was in India, the following arguments are alleged: that it is most natural to understand from the narrative that all the productions said to have been brought from Ophir came from one and the same country, and that they were all procurable only from India. The Sept. translators also appear to have understood it to be India. Josephus also gives to the sons of Joktan the locality from Cophen, an Indian river, and in part of Asia adjoining it (Antiq. i. 6. 4). He also expressly and unhesitatingly affirms that the land to which Solomon sent for gold was 'anciently called Ophir, but now the Aurea Chersonesus, which belongs to India' (Antiq. viii. 6. 4). There are several places comprised in that region which was actually known as India to the ancients [INDIA], any of which would have supplied the cargo of Solomon's fleet: for instance, the coast of Malabar. Perhaps the most probable of all is Malacca, which is known to be the Aurea Chersonesus of the ancients. It is also worthy of remark that the natives of Malacca still call their gold mines ophirs. On the other hand, some writers give a wider extent to the country in question. Heeren observes that 'Ophir, like the name of all other very distant places or regions of antiquity, like Thule, Tartessus, and others, denotes no particular spot, but only a certain region or part of the world, such as the East or West Indies in modern geography. Hence Ophir was the general name for the rich countries of the south lying on the African, Arabian, or Indian coasts, as far as at that time known.'





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Ophir'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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