Sepharad

SEPHARAD (sē-fā'răd, Heb. sephārādh). The place of captivity of certain people of Jerusalem (Obad.1.20). Its location is uncertain; perhaps it is to be identified with Shaparda, which Sargon II, who exiled Israelites to the cities of the Medes and claims to have conquered Judah, mentions as a district of SW Media. Among the Jews of the postbiblical period the term was used to refer to Spain.


SEPHARAD sĕf’ ə răd (סְפָרַ֑ד). A place mentioned by Obadiah as the site of the exile of certain captives from Jerusalem (Obad 20). It has been identified with Saparda, a country which appears in the Assyrian Annals of Sargon II as a district of SW Media.

Most prob., however, it is to be identified with Sardis, the capital of Lydia. The difference in spelling is not linguistically objectionable since an Aramaic-Lydian bilingual inscription, found at Sardis, refers to Sardis as ספרד, the same consonants as in Sepharad. Sardis appears as sparda in Old Pers. inscrs.

In the light of this, the citation of Sepharad in Obadiah 20 is of great historical importance for it indicates the existence of a Jewish colony at Sardis as early as the Book of Obadiah. The importance of Sardis as a center of trade between the sea routes of the Aegean and the interior land routes makes it not surprising that Jewish exiles should be found there.

The Targums mistakenly identified Sepharad with Spain, hence, Spanish Jews are called Sephardim.

The modern Sart, near Izmir, Turkey, marks the ancient site of Sardis.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

se-fa’-rad, sef’-a-rad (cepharadh): Mentioned in Ob 1:20 as the place of captivity of certain "captives of Jerusalem," but no clear indication is given of locality. Many conjectures have been made. The Targum of Jonathan identifies with Spain; hence, the Spanish Jews are called Sephardim. Others (Pusey, etc.) have connected it with the "(Tsparda" of the Behistun Inscription, and some have even identified it with "Sardis." The now generally accepted view is that which connects it with the "Saparda" of the Assyrian inscriptions, though whether this is to be located to the East of Assyria or in Northern Asia Minor is not clear. See Schrader, Cuneiform Inscriptions, II, 145-46; Sayce, HCM, 482-84; articles in DB, HDB, EB, etc.