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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

 

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OPHIR

o'-fer, o'-fir ('owphiyr (Gen 10:29), 'owphir (1 Ki 10:11), 'ophir):
1. Scriptural References:
The 11th in order of the sons of Joktan (Gen 10:29 = 1 Ch 1:23). There is a clear reference also to a tribe Ophir (Gen 10:30). Ophir is the name of a land or city somewhere to the South or Southeast of Israel for which Solomon's ships along with Phoenician vessels set out from Ezion-geber at the head of the Gulf of Aqabah, returning with great stores of gold, precious stones and "almug"-wood (1 Ki 9:28; 10:11; 2 Ch 9:10; 1 Ki 22:48; 2 Ch 8:18). We get a fuller list of the wares and also the time taken by the voyage if we assume that the same vessels are referred to in 1 Ki 10:22, "Once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks." The other products may not have been native to the land of Ophir, but it is certain that the gold at least was produced there. This gold was proverbial for its purity, as is witnessed by many references in the Old Testament (Ps 45:9; Job 28:16; Isa 13:12; 1 Ch 29:4), and, in Job 22:24, Ophir is used for fine gold itself. In addition to these notices of Ophir, it is urged that the name. occurs also in two passages under the form "Uphaz" (Jer 10:9; Dan 10:5).
2. Geographical Position:
At all times the geographical position of Ophir has been a subject of dispute, the claims of three different regions being principally advanced, namely (1) India and the Far East, (2) Africa, (3) Arabia.
(1) India and the Far East.
All the wares mentioned are more or less appropriate to India, even including the fuller list of 1 Ki 10:22. "Almug"-wood is conjectured to be the Indian sandal-wood. Another argument is based on the resemblance between the Septuagint form of the word (Sophera) and the Coptic name for India (Sophir). A closer identification is sought with Abhira, a people dwelling at the mouths of the Indus. Supara, an ancient city on the west coast of India near the modern Goa, is also suggested. Again, according to Wildman, the name denotes a vague extension eastward, perhaps as far as China.
(2) Africa.
This country is the greatest gold-producing region of the three. Sofala, a seaport near Mozambique on the east coast of Africa, has been advanced as the site of Ophir, both on linguistic grounds and from the nature of its products, for there all the articles of 1 Ki 10:22 could be procured. But Gesenius shows that Sofala is merely the Arabic form of the Hebrew shephelah. Interest in this region as the land of Ophir was renewed, however, by Mauch's discovery at Zimbabye of great ruins and signs of old Phoenician civilization and worked-out gold mines. According to Bruce (I, 440), a voyage from Sofala to Ezion-geber would have occupied quite three years owing to the monsoons.
(3) Arabia.
The claim of Southeastern Arabia as the land of Ophir has on the whole more to support it than that of India or of Africa. The Ophir of Gen 10:29 beyond doubt belonged to this region, and the search for Ophir in more distant lands can be made only on the precarious assumption that the Ophir of Ki is not the same as the Ophir of Gen. Of the various products mentioned, the only one which from the Old Testament notices can be regarded as clearly native to Ophir is the gold, and according to Pliny and Strabo the region of Southeastern Arabia bordering on the Persian Gulf was a famous gold-producing country. The other wares were not necessarily produced in Ophir, but were probably brought there from more distant lands, and thence conveyed by Solomon's merchantmen to Ezion-geber. If the duration of the voyage (3 years) be used as evidence, it favors this location of Ophir as much as that on the east coast of Africa. It seems therefore the least assailable view that Ophir was a district on the Persian Gulf in Southeastern Arabia and served in old time as an emporium of trade between the East and West.
A. S. Fulton

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'OPHIR'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE; 1915.

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