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Holman Bible Dictionary

Ophir

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(uh' fuhr) Place and personal name meaning, “dusty.” Place famous in the Ancient Near East for its trade, especially in gold. Solomon's ships with help from Phoenician sailors brought precious goods from Ophir (1 Kings 9:28 ; 1 Kings 10:11 ; compare 1 Kings 22:48 ). Gold from Ophir was apparently highly valued, the phrase becoming a stock descriptive term in Ancient Near Eastern commercial language (Isaiah 13:12 ; Job 22:24 ; Job 28:16 ; Psalm 45:10 ). Ophir is mentioned outside the Bible on a piece of broken pottery found at tell el-Qasileh, north of Tel Aviv on the plain of Sharon. See Aphek . This inscription reads, “Gold of Ophir for Beth Horon, 30 shekels.”

The geographical location of Ophir is disputed among biblical scholars. Three regions have been suggested: India, Arabia, and Africa. Scholars who support an Indian location do so because of the resemblance of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) form of Ophir to the Egyptian name for India. The available evidence with regard to trade practices indicates that Egyptian, Phoenician, and Greek fleets obtained eastern goods indirectly through ports in South Arabia and East Africa.

Other scholars have suggested that Ophir was located on the Arabian Peninsula. At least five areas have been identified, but the evidence for certainty with regard to any of them is lacking. The strongest argument for an Arabian location is the occurrence of the name Ophir among the names of Arabian tribes, descendants of Joktan, in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10:1 .

Finally, one location in Africa has been suggested: the East African coast in the general vicinity of Somaliland. This location is supported because of its distance from Palestine and the products that are characteristic of Africa that are mentioned in biblical texts (1 Kings 9:28 ; 1Kings 10:11,1 Kings 10:22 ).

The location of Ophir will remain a matter of uncertainty. A knowledge of ancient trade routes and practices, maritime ventures in the Ancient Near East, and economic policies in ancient Israel will be helpful in determining the cite of Ophir. See Commerce ; Economic Life .

James Newell


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Ophir'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/o/ophir.html. 1991.

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