Friday, February 21, 2014


Map from Biblical Days showing Ophir

Ophir is a port or region mentioned in the Bible, famous for its wealth. King Solomon received a cargo of gold, silver, sandalwood, precious stones, ivory, apes and peacocks from Ophir, every three years.  So every three years Solomon's trading ships were sent out to get these precious cargo.

Ivory, Precious Gems

Peacocks, Lar Gibbon or White-handed Gibbon (Hylobates lar) {ape}

Gold and Silver

Sandalwood (Seedling) Tree

Modern Day map showing the Red Sea

Ophir in Genesis 10 (the Table of Nations) is said to be the name of one of the sons of Joktan.  The Books of Kings and Chronicles tell of a joint expedition to Ophir by King Solomon and the Tyrian king Hiram I from Eziongeber, a port on the Red Sea, that brought back large amounts of gold, precious stones and 'algum wood' and of a later failed expedition by king Jehoshaphat of Judah.  The famous 'gold of Ophir' is referenced in several other books of the Hebrew Bible.

Early Christian traditions

Adam and Eve

Details about the three of Joktan's sons, Sheba, Ophir and Havilah, were preserved in a tradition known in divergent forms from three early Christian (pre-Islamic) sources: the Arabic Kitab al-Magall (part of Clementine literature), the Syriac Cave of Treasures, and the Ethiopic Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan.

Mountain of gold is a beautiful peak in Karakoram range of Pakistan (for reference to the below text)

The Kitab al-Magall states that in the days of Reu, a king of Saba (Sheba) named "Pharoah" annexed (added) Ophir and Havilah to his kingdom, and "built Ophir with stones of gold, for the stones of its mountains are pure gold."

In the Cave of Treasures, this appears as: "And the children of Ophir, that is, Send, appointed to be their king Lophoron, who built Ophir with stones of gold; now, all the stones that are in Ophir are of gold."

The version in the Conflict of Adam and Eve says: "Phar’an reigned over the children of Saphir [Ophir], and built the city of Saphir with stones of gold; and that is the land of Sarania, and because of these stones of gold, they say that the mountains of that country and the stones thereof are all of gold."

Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

Biblical scholars, archaeologists and others have tried to determine the exact location of Ophir. Vasco da Gama's companion Tomé Lopes reasoned that Ophir would have been the ancient name for Great Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe, the main center of sub-African trade in gold in the Renaissance period — though the ruins at Great Zimbabwe are now dated to the medieval era, long after Solomon is said to have lived. The identification of Ophir with Sofala in Mozambique was mentioned by Milton in Paradise Lost (11:399-401), among many other works of literature and science.

Another possibility is the African shore of the Red Sea, with the name perhaps being derived from the Afar people of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti.

Afar man of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti.

Portrayal of Carthaginians

Afri was a Latin name used to refer to the Carthaginians, who dwelt in North Africa, in modern-day Tunisia. This name, from which the name of the continent Africa is ultimately derived, seems to have referred to a native Libyan tribe originally.  The name is usually connected with Phoenician afar, "dust".  It may also stem from the Berber word ifri (plural ifran) meaning "cave", in reference to cave dwellers. This is proposed to be the origin of Ophir as well.



A more specific possibility is Southern India or Northern Sri Lanka, where the Dravidians were well known for their gold, ivory and peacocks. Sandalwood came almost exclusively from South India in ancient times. 

A map showing Tamilakkam

A dictionary of the Bible by Sir William Smith published in 1863, notes the Hebrew word for peacock Thukki, derived from the Classical Tamil for peacock Thogkai joins other Classical Tamil words for ivory, cotton-cloth and apes preserved in the Hebrew Bible. This theory of Ophir's location in Tamilakkam is further supported by other historians. 

Thiruketheeswaram temple

Ophir, referring to the country of the port Tarshish may well refer to the nation of the Tamil Velir-Naga tribe Oviyar in ancient Jaffna, who lived around the famous port towns of Mantai and Kudiramalai, home to the historic Thiruketheeswaram temple.


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