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SHAPHAN shā’ fən (שָׁפָ֤ן; LXX, Σαφαν, coney, rock-badger, has been taken with other names, by some scholars, as an evidence of totemism in Israel). 1. Son of Azaliah, and secretary of state to Josiah, king of Judah. It was Shaphan who brought “the book of the law” which was discovered when the Temple was being repaired, from Hilkiah the high priest to Josiah in 621 b.c. (2 Kings 22:3-20; 2 Chron 34:8-20). Shaphan read from this law to Josiah with the result that the king’s reform movement gained impetus. He was an important leader in Josiah’s reforms and this brought him into close contact with the prophet Jeremiah and his work. He was sent by the king with Hilkiah the priest and others to confer with Huldah the prophetess about the newly discovered law (2 Kings 22:14, 15). Shaphan’s family for two generations participated as lay leaders in the religious life of Judah and supported the work of Jeremiah.

His influence upon his sons is clear, for he was the father of Ahikam who also was an official in the court and involved in the discovery of the book of the law (2 Kings 22:12; 2 Chron 34:20). According to Jeremiah 26:24, Ahikam saved the prophet from being lynched at the hands of a mob during some disturbances in the reign of King Jehoiakim. Another son of Shaphan, Elasah (Jer 29:3), was one of two messengers who took a letter of the prophet (Jer 29) to the exiles in Babylonia. Another son, Gemariah, was the owner of the house where Baruch the scribe read the prophecy of Jeremiah to the people and later made a futile effort to prevent King Jehoiakim from destroying the scroll (36:10, 25). Gedaliah, the governor of Judea after the Babylonian captivity, was his grandson (39:14).

2. The father of Jaazaniah, one of seventy idolaters in the Temple (Ezek 8:11).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

An old totem clan name (so W.R. Smith; compare, however, the article TOTEMISM; Gray, Gray, Studies in Hebrew Proper Names, 103 ff, and Jacob’s Studies in Biblical Archaeology, 84 ff).

(2) Perhaps the father of Jaazaniah, one of the 70 men whom Ezekiel saw, in his vision of the Temple, sacrificing to idols (Eze 8:11).

Horace J. Wolf