Where is the land of Ophir?


How true is the theory of the Philippines being the land called Ophir as stated in the Bible?


"Joktan became the father of Almodad and Sheleph and Hazarmaveth and Jerah and Hadoram and Uzal and Diklah and Obal and Abimael and Sheba and Ophir and Havilah and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan. Now their settlement extended from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the hill country of the east" (Genesis 10:26-30).

Joktan is a son of Shem, one of Noah's three sons. Shem's descendants tended to settle the Middle East region. Joktan's family originally settled on the Arabian Peninsula. There is a place on the Persian Gulf that the Greeks called Mesene, which could be a derivative of the name Mesha. The Assyrians called the Arabian Desert "Mashu," which is another possibility. Most people place Sephar as Zaphar, located on the Arabian Peninsula next to the Indian Ocean, between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. Basically, the region where Yemen is today.

Solomon, king of Israel, and Hiram, king of Tyre, regularly sent ships to Ophir from which they brought gold, almug trees, and precious stones (I Kings 9:28; 10:11).

"King Solomon also built a fleet of ships in Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent his servants with the fleet, sailors who knew the sea, along with the servants of Solomon. They went to Ophir and took four hundred and twenty talents of gold from there, and brought it to King Solomon" (I Kings 9:26-28; also II Chronicles 8:17-18).

Ezion-Geber was located somewhere on the northern edge of the Gulf of Aqaba. Ships from here would have access to the Arabian Peninsula, the east coast of Africa, and possibly even India. Many references in the Bible indicate that Ophir was a large source of high-quality gold for most of the Middle East.

No one today knows where Ophir is. The common candidates are:

  • Southern Arabian Pennisula (because of Joktan's son)
  • India, particularly Tamilakkam on the southern tip, because several Hebrew words seem to have been borrowed from the Tamil language (parrot, ivory, cotton fabric, and ape).
  • Somewhere on the east coast of Africa because large deposits of gold were found there, especially in the Middle Ages.

As the Europeans were discovering "new" lands, many people started speculating that they might have found Ophir. Thus, Columbus thought he found Ophir in the Americas in 1500.  Tomo III around 1519-1522 thought he discovered Ophir for Spain when he discovered the Philippines. Alvaro Mendaña thought the Solomon Islands that he discovered in 1568 was Ophir (hence, why he named the Islands "Solomon"). None of these places have actual reasons for claiming to be Ophir other than some explorer wanting it badly to be so.

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