OPHIR (ō'fêr, Heb. ’ôphîr)

OPHIR ō’ fər, Heb. אוֹפִ֥יר, and on an ostracon from Tell Qasile as אפר, in LXX as Gr. οὔφειρ (1 Chron 1:23); however, the LXX tradition is confused (infra no. 2).

1. Ophir, one of the sons of Joktan, grandson of Eber, great grandson of Shem, mentioned in the table of nations (Gen 10:26-29) quoted in 1 Chronicles 1:23. A folk etymology ascribing the notion of “fat,” “rich” to the name grew in favor in the Medieval period.

Of special interest is the association of the Queen of Sheba with Ophir (1 Kings 10:10-12). This might be made even more certain if indeed the Queen of Sheba ruled over the Sabeans (q.v.) as is usually supposed. The fact is that little consistent archeological work has been expended upon the coast lands of the southern Red Sea basin and almost no records of the East African peoples of antiquity have survived. Undoubtedly the riches of the Solomonic kingdom were immense and goods were imported from far places and notable peoples. The confusion concerning the name is seen in the fact that it appears in Jeremiah 10:9 in a context similar to Isaiah 13:12 in that both passages have the parallelism of “adj. plus gold”//“gold of Ophir” (1 Chron 29:4).


B. Maisler, “Two Hebrew Ostraca from Tell Qasile,” JNES, X (1951), 265-267, pl. xi B; G. W. Van Beek, “Frankincense and Myrrh in Ancient South Arabia,” JAOS, 78 (1958), 141-152; G. Ryckmans, “Ophir” Supplément au Dictionnaire de la Bible (1959), cols. 744-751; GTT (1959), 48, 70.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

o’-fer, o’-fir (’owphiyr (Ge 10:29), ’owphir (1Ki 10:11), ’ophir):

1. Scriptural References:

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 1Ki 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 1Ki 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 Ge 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.