SEPHAR (sē'far, Heb. sephārâh). The eastern limit of the territory of the sons of Joktan (Gen.10.30). This may be equated with the Arabic Zafar, the name of two towns in southern Arabia.
SEPHAR sĕ’ fər
, post-Biblical Heb. border country,
but is prob. a non-Heb. proper name of unknown meaning). The lands of Joktan are defined as extending from Mesha, “as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the E” (Gen 10:30
; writer’s tr.). If “as you go toward Sephar” merely defines the direction in which Joktan’s lands extended (cf. “in the direction of Gerar,” Gen 10:19
), identification with Mt. Shepher (Num 33:23
) is possible though unlikely. Since the two related sites with plausible identifications (i.e., Hazarmaveth and Sheba; q.v.) are in S Arabia, Arabian sites are usually suggested, for example Zafār in S Arabia or Safãri in Bahrain. Alternatively, the tr. “border country” has been suggested.
“Sephar,” IDB (1962).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
se’-far: Only in Ge 10:30 cepharah, "toward Sephar"), as the eastern limit of the territory of the sons of Yoktan (Joktan). From the similarity between the names of most of Yoktan’s sons and the names of South Arabian towns or districts, it can hardly be doubted that Sephar is represented by the Arabic Qafar. The appropriateness of the site seems to outweigh the discrepancy between Arabic "z" and Hebrew "s". But two important towns in South Arabia bear this name. The one lies a little to the South of San`a’. According to tradition it was founded by Shammir, one of the Sabean kings, and for a long time served as the royal seat of the Tubbas. The other Zafar stands on the coast in the district of Shichr, East of Chadramaut. The latter is probably to be accepted as the Biblical site.