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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Heb. Ye'pheth, יֶפֶת, in pause YaIpheth, י פֶת, wide-spreading [comp. Genesis 9:27], although some make it signify fair, referring to the light complexion of the Japhethites; Sept. Ι᾿άφεθ ; Josephus. Ι᾿αφέθας, Ant. 1:4, 1), one of the three sons of Noah, mentioned last in order (Genesis 5:32; Genesis 6:10; Genesis 7:13; Genesis 9:18; Genesis 10:1; 1 Chronicles 1:4), although it appears from Genesis 10:21 (Genesis 9:24) that he was the eldest of Noah's sons, born one hundred years before the flood (Michaelis, Spicil. 2, 66). B.C. 2616. He and his wife were two of the eight persons (1 Peter 3:20) preserved in the ark (Genesis 7:7). In Genesis 10:2 sq. he is called the progenitor of the extensive tribes in the west (of Europe) and north (of Asia)of the Armenians, Medes, Greeks, Thracians, etc. (comp. Syncellus, Chronicles p. 49; Mala, Chronogr. p. 16; see Tuch on Genesis 10:27). (See ETHNOGRAPHY).

De Wette (Kritik, p. 72) justly repudiates the opinion of the Targumim, both Jonathan and Hieros., who make Japheth the progenitor of the African tribes also. The Arabian traditions (D'Herbelot, Biblioth. Orient.) attribute to Japheth wonderful powers (Weil, Biblische Legenden, 8, 46), and enumerate eleven of his sons, the progenitors of as many Asiatic nations, viz. Gin or Dshin (Chinese), Seklah (Slavonians), Manshuge, Gomari, Turk (Turks), Khalage, Khozar, Ros (Russians), Sussan, Gaz, and Torage. In these traditions he is called Aboultierk (Hottinger, Hist. Orient. p. 37). To the seven sons of Japheth mentioned in Genesis 10:2 and 1 Chronicles 1:5, the Sept. and Eusebins add an eighth, Elisha, though not found in the text. Some (Buttmann, Mytholog. 1, 222; Bochart, Phal. 3:1; and Hasse, Entdeckung, 2, 131) identify Japheth with the Irenrog of Greek fable, the depository of many ethnographical traditions (see Smith's Dict. of Classic. Biogr. s.v. Japletus), while others, again, connect him with Hereus, mentioned by the ancient historian Sanchoniathon. His act of filial piety, in conjunction with Shem, as related in Genesis 9:20-27 (where some understand the clause, "He shall dwell in the tents of Shem," to refer to God, and not to Japheth), became the occasion of the prophecy of the extension of his posterity (see Iengstenberg's Christology, i, 42). (See SHEM).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Japheth'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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