CAPHTHORIM kăf’ thôr im, CAPHTOR kăf’-tôr, CAPHTORIM kăf’ tôr ĭm (כַּפְתֹּרִֽים, כַּפְתֹּ֔ור, meaning uncertain). Name of a people and the place from which they came.
Explicit references to Caphtor are few. The Philistines and the Caphtorim are both said to have come from Caphtor (Deut 2:23; Amos 9:7) and are prob. to be identified or related. (In Gen 10:14 and 1 Chron 1:12, the Philistines are said to have come from the Casluhim and it is generally assumed that the phrase in question has been misplaced and the text should read “Caphtorim whence came the Philistines.”) In the Table of Nations (Gen 10) the Caphtorim are the descendants of Egypt.
The closest the OT comes to giving the location of Caphtor is in Jeremiah 47:4 where the Philistines are “the remnant of the coastland of Caphtor.” Caphtor may mean the Philistine coast itself (the Lord will destroy those who remain in the coast of Philistia/New Caphtor). More likely, however, is a reference again to the land from which the Philistines came, which is called an ’i, isle/coast. A choice must then be made between “which is Caphtor” and “which is part of Caphtor” as the proper meaning of “of Caphtor.” Even if the former has been generally accepted, one must choose between “isle” and “coast,” and a precise location is far from attainable on the Biblical evidence. Outside the Bible words similar to Caphtor occur in cuneiform texts of the 2nd millennium b.c. Kaptara is described as a land beyond the Upper (Mediterranean) Sea and within the knowledge of Sargon of Akkad. Mari mentions Kaptara and Ugaritic has Kptr (parallel to Ḥkpt) but no location is given. In Egyp. texts of the same date mention is made of Keftiu. The fact that this name disappears from Egyp. texts about the same time that Linear B replaces Linear A on Crete suggests that Keftiu was the Egyp. word for Crete. On this evidence two main theories have been constructed: (1) that Biblical Caphtor is used in the same sense as Kaptara, Kptr, Keftiu and refers to Crete; (2) that the words do not refer to the same place even though they may be related and that Biblical Caphtor refers to Cilicia. In this latter view it is admitted that Keftiu means Crete but it finds the closest parallels to the Biblical Caphtorim in Cilicia.
G. A. Wainwright, “Caphtor-Cappadocia,” VetTest, VI (1956); C. H. Gordon, The World of the OT (1958), 293; J. Prignaud, “Caftorim et Kerétim,” RB (1964); K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and OT (1966), 80f.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)