KITTIM (kĭt'ĭm, Heb. kittîm)

Descendants of Javan (Gen.10.4; 1Chr.1.7).The island of Cyprus is probably meant in Isa.23.1, Isa.23.12; and Ezek.27.6 (see footnotes; kjv “Chittim”). Invasion from that direction was expected to help topple the Assyrian Empire. The word can characterize ships of Grecian pattern (Num.24.24), which roamed the Mediterranean very early (see also Dan.11.30 and footnote). Many think that the reference in Daniel is to the Roman fleet; even so, the Romans owed much to Greek naval architecture.

CHITTIM. KJV form of Kittim.

2. The island of Cyprus. (Note references in lit. of ANE, e.g., the Tale of Wenamon, where Cyprus is called Alishiya [Elishah?].) Josephus (Antiq. I, vi. 1) relates the name to the city Cition on the SE coast of the island. Phoenician inscrs. referring to this city call it כתי. Apparently the city name was extended to the whole island, or perhaps the city was named after an older island name. Herodotus (vii:90) relates that the island was first colonized by Phoenicians (Shem), Ethiopians (Ham), and Greeks (Japheth). This would be similar to the situation on the island of Crete where a Sem. people who had apparently come by way of Egypt (Minoans) were eventually displaced by Indo-Europeans from Greece (Myceneans). Probably a similar situation prevailed on Cyprus, although being nearer the Phoen. homeland, the Gr. influence took longer to become dominant. For those interested in controlling coastal trade, Cyprus was a necessary prize. Records of the Akkad. empire in lower Mesopotamia (c. 2400 b.c.) indicate that Sargon, the founder, stretched his power as far up the Euphrates as the Mediterranean. Recovery of a seal cylinder of Naram-Sin, Sargon’s son, on Cyprus confirms that claim. Later, Cyprus became a tributary of Thutmoses III. (This was by no means Egypt’s first contact with Cyprus since high quality Cypriote pottery was found in the 1st dynasty tombs at Abydos [c. 3000 b.c.].) Later still, Sargon II, conqueror of Samaria, erected a stela on Cyprus, commemorating the island’s vassalage to himself (708 b.c.). This vassalage was renewed by both Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, the two final noteworthy Assyrian kings.

During the Neo-Babylonian period, the Egyp. Amosis, exercising pretensions toward empire laid Cyprus under tribute. The Persians dashed such pretensions in turn relinquishing their hold to the Greeks about 410 b.c. During most of the first millennium despite nominal political affiliations the dominant cultural and mercantile influence upon Cyprus was Phoen. Thus, Ezekiel, in his dirge over Tyre, tells that Cyprus (Kittim, LXX χεττιιν) supplied decking for Phoen. ships from its pine forests (27:6). Similarly, Isaiah 23:1 and 12 (LXX 1 Κιτιαιοι, 12 Κιτιεοι) report that Cyprus will be intimately related to the downfall of Tyre. Tyre will flee to Cyprus and from Cyprus will come news of its final downfall. This corresponds with the boast of Sennacherib (cf. ANET, p. 288) that Luli, king of Sidon, fled from Sennacherib, to Cyprus, but was killed there.

4. The occurrence of numerous references to the Kittim in the DSS has created considerable scholarly controversy over the correct interpretation. These references occurring predominantly in the Commentary on Habakkuk (IQpHab) where the “Chaldeans” of the text are called Kittim in the commentary, and in the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness (IQM), have provoked suggestions that the Kittim were understood to be the Seleucid Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Crusaders, the Turks or the unspecified eschatological foes of righteousness. In response to the last, it may be pointed out that apocalyptic terms, while they appear to be vague, have specific meaning for the initiate. Lack of specificity would be most unusual. Those who propose peoples after the time of Christ have generally done so because of a conviction that the Scrolls were a medieval production (cf. Poliak, JQR). This point of view seems to have been refuted adequately. The majority of scholars have divided over an identification with the Greeks or with the Romans. H. H. Rowley has been the leading advocate for the Greeks, while F. M. Cross has spoken out for the Romans. Implicit in the controversy has been the problem of dating IQpHab and IQM. A Maccabean or earlier date automatically precludes the Romans. The following references have been significant in the debate: the rulers of the Kittim fell one after another (IQpHab 4:11f.) (Decline of the Seleucid house or Roman civil war?); the Kittim sacrifice to their “signs” (IQpHab 6:3-5) (the deified standards of the Rom. legions?); the Kittim of Egypt and Assyria (IQM 1:2-6, etc.) (the Ptolemies and Seleucids?); the kings of Kittim will arise after the kings of Greece (Commentary on Nahum, 4QpNah 1:3) (a clear reference to Rome?). Perhaps Kittim meant for the Dead Sea Community, as 3 above, simply “Westerners” and could be applied to any particular western people as need arose. See Cyprus.


J. A. Montgomery, Daniel (1927), 455, 456; G. Hill, A History of Cyprus, I (1940), 96, 97; H. H. Rowley, The Zadokite Fragments and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1952), xii, 20n, 33f., 43f., 45, 46, 49, 56f., 58, 60, 60ff., 69, 75; “The Kittim and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” PEQ (1956), 92-109; Y. Yadin, The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness (Heb. 1957), 21-24; A. N. Poliak, “The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Approach,” JQR, XLIX (1958), 89-107; F. M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran, Rev. ed. (1961), 82n, 123, 124n.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(kittim, Isa 23:12; Jer 2:10; kittiyim, apparently plural of kitti (not found, but compare (4) below); Ketioi, Kitioi, Ketieim, Jer 2:10; Chettieim, Chettein):ntified with Sepphoris, which is represented by the modern village of Seffuriyeh].

1. Two Usages of the Name:

In Ge 10:4 the word is applied to the descendants of Javan, and indicates, therefore, the Greek-Latin races, whose territory extended along the coasts of the Mediterranean, and included its islands. By the side of Kittim are mentioned Elisha, Tarshish, and Dodanim ( = Rodanim of 1Ch 1:7), generally explained respectively as Sicily with Southern Italy, Spain and Rhodes. In its narrower sense Kittim appears simply to have stood for the island of Cyprus--it is mentioned between Bashan ( = Pal) and the isles of Elisha in Eze 27:6,7, and with this Isa 23:1,12 agree, Kittim occurring in these passages between Tarshish, Tyre and Sidon.

2. In Its Limited Sense:

The oldest etymology is apparently that of Josephus, who connects Kittim with the well-known old Cypriote city Kition (Citium) (Ant., I, vi, 1), testifying to the settling of the Kittim on the island. This word he further connects with Chethima, from Chethimus, and states that it was on account of Cyprus being the home of those people that all islands were called Chethim by the Hebrews. The derivation of an ancient Chethim from Chethimus, however, would make the m to be a radical, and this, with the substitution of Ch ( = Kh) for Kittim, renders his proposed etymology somewhat doubtful.

3. In Its Extended Sense:

The statement of Josephus, that "all islands, and the greatest part of the sea-coast, are called Chethim ( = Kittim) by the Hebrews," on the other hand, must be taken as the testimony of one well acquainted with the opinions of the learned world in his time. In Jer 2:10 and Eze 27:6 the isles of Kittim are expressly spoken of, and this confirms the statement of Josephus concerning the extended meaning of the name. This would explain its application to the Roman fleet in Da 11:30 (so the Vulgate), and the Macedonians in 1 Macc 1:1 (Chettieim) and 8:5 ([@Kitians). In the latter passage the Greek writer seems to have been thinking more of the Cyprian Kition than of the Hebrew Kittim.

4. Colonization of Cyprus:

According to Herodotus (vii.90), Cyprus was colonized from Greece, Phoenicia, and Ethiopia. Referring to the plundering of the temple of Aphrodite at Askalon by the Scythians (i.105), he states that her temple in Cyprus was an offshoot from that ancient foundation, as reported by the Cyprians themselves, Phoenicians having founded it at Cythera, on arriving from Syria. The date of the earliest Phoenician settlements in Cyprus is unknown, but it has been suggested that they were anterior to the time of Moses. Naturally they brought with them their religion, the worship of the moon-goddess Atargatis (Derceto) being introduced at Paphos, and the Phoenician Baal at Kition. If Kition be, then, a Semitic word (from the same root as the Hebrew Kittim), it has been transferred from the small band of Phoenician settlers which it at first designated, to the non-Sem Japhethites of the West. Kition occurs in the Phoenician inscriptions of Cyprus under the forms K(i)t(t) and K(i)t(t)i, the latter being by far the more common (CIS, I, i, 10,11,14,19, etc.).

5. Its Successive Masters:

The early history of Cyprus is uncertain. According to the Assyrian copy of Sargon of Agade’s omens, that king (about 3800 BC in the opinion of Nabonidus; 2800 BC in the opinion of many Assyriologists) is said to have crossed "the sea of the setting sun" (the Mediterranean), though the Babylonian copy makes it that of "the rising sun"--i.e. the Persian Gulf. Be this as it may, General Cesnola discovered at Curium, in Cyprus, a seal-cylinder apparently inscribed "Mar-Istar, son of Ilu-bani, servant (worshipper) of Naram-Sin," the last named being the deified son of Sargon. In the 16th century BC, Cyprus was tributary to Thothmes III. About the year 708 BC, Sargon of Assyria received the submission of the kings of the district of Ya’, in Cyprus, and set up at Citium the stele bearing his name, which is now in the Royal Museum at Berlin. Esarhaddon and his son Assur-bani-apli each received tribute from the 10 Cyprian princes who acknowledged Assyrian supremacy. The island was conquered by the Egyptian king Amasis, and later formed part of the Persian empire, until the revolt of Evagoras in 410 BC. The Assyrians knew the island under the name of Yad(a)nanu, the "Wedan" (Vedan) of Eze 27:19 Revised Version (British and American) (Sayce, PSBA, 1912, 26).

6. The Races Therein and Their Languages:

If the orthodox date for the composition of Ge be accepted, not only the Phoenicians, but also the Greeks, or a people of Greek-Latin stock, must have been present in Cyprus, before the time of Moses, in sufficient number to make them the predominant portion of the population. As far as can be judged, the Phoenicians occupied only the eastern and southern portion of the island. Paphos, where they had built a temple to Ashtoreth and set up an ’asherah (a pillar symbolizing the goddess), was one of their principal settlements. The rest of the island was apparently occupied by the Aryans, whose presence there caused the name of Kittim to be applied to all the Greek-Latin countries of the Mediterranean. Greek and Phoenician were the languages spoken on the island, as was proved by George Smith’s demonstration of the nature of the non-Phoenician text of the inscription of King Melek-yathon of Citium (370 BC). The signs used in the Greek-Cyprian inscriptions are practically all syllabic.

7. The Testimony of Cyprian Art:

The many influences which have modified the Cyprian race are reflected in the ancient art, which shows the effect of Babylonian, Egyptian Phoenician and Greek contacts. Specimens are to be found in many museums, but the finest collection of examples of Cyprian art is undoubtedly that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Some of the full-length figures are life-size, and the better class of work is exceedingly noteworthy.

See nodetitle.