Ophir (/ˈfər/;[1] Hebrew: אוֹפִיר, Modern: ʼŌfīr, Tiberian: ʼŌp̄īr) is a port or region mentioned in the Bible, famous for its wealth. King Solomon received a shipment from Ophir every three years (1 Kings 10:22) which consisted of gold, silver, sandalwood, pearls, ivory, apes, and peacocks.[2]

Biblical referencesEdit

Ophir in Genesis 10 (the Table of Nations) is said to be the name of one of the sons of Joktan.[a] The Books of Kings and Chronicles tell of a joint expedition to Ophir by King Solomon and the Tyrian king Hiram I from Ezion-Geber, a port on the Red Sea, that brought back large amounts of gold, precious stones and 'algum wood' and of a later failed expedition by king Jehoshaphat of Judah.[b] The famous 'gold of Ophir' is referenced in several other books of the Hebrew Bible.[c]

In the Septuagint, other variants of the name are mentioned: Ōpheír, Sōphír, Sōpheír and Souphír.[3]

The New Testament apocrypha book Cave of Treasures contains a passage: "And the children of Ophir, that is, Send, appointed to be their king Lophoron, who built Ophir with stones of gold; now, all the stones that are in Ophir are of gold."[4]

Archaeology and US-Saudi investigation on Mand adh DhahabEdit

In 1946, an inscribed pottery shard was found at Tell Qasile (in modern-day Tel Aviv), dating to the eighth century BC.[5][6] It bears, in Paleo-Hebrew script, the text "gold of Ophir to/for Beth-Horon [...] 30 shekels"[d][7] The find confirms that Ophir was a place from which gold was imported.[8]

In 1976, the United States Department of Interior announced that a team formed by the United States Geological Survey together with experts from Saudi Arabia believes it has "a fairly airtight case” that Mahd adh Dhahab, or Cradle of Gold, in Saudi Arabia is the biblical Ophir. As evidence, the team states that "there are huge quantities of waste rock left behind by ancient miners, approximately a million tons, and that it has an average gold content of sixtenths of an ounce per ton, indicating that the mined ore must have been richer. From sampling old slopes and from production figures during the 1939 to 1954 period when the mine was reactivated to extract gold and silver, the geological survey scientists estimated that in biblical times much gold must have been found at or near the surface." Moreover, Mahd adh Dhahab is "within range of Israel's transport capability," and it "could easily have been known to Solomon or his advisers because it lies on a north‐south trade route that has run to Aqaba for some 4,000 years." Their conclusion is that "Mand adh Dhahab [sic] could have produced 34 tons of gold in ancient times and was the biblical Ophir."[9]

Theorized locationsEdit

Possible 1st century BC trade routesEdit

Sri LankaEdit

The 10th-century lexicographer, David ben Abraham al-Fasi, identified Ophir with Serendip, the old Persian name for Sri Lanka (aka Ceylon).[10] Moreover, as mentioned above, A Dictionary of the Bible by Sir William Smith[11] notes the Hebrew word for parrot Thukki, derived from the Classical Tamil for peacock Thogkai or Sinhalese "tokei".[12] Both Sinhalese and Tamil are native to Sri Lanka.[citation needed]

Poovar, Kerala, IndiaEdit

Poovar is often identified with Ophir

A Dictionary of the Bible by Sir William Smith, published in 1863,[11] notes the Hebrew word for parrot Thukki, derived from the Classical Tamil for peacock Thogkai and Sinhalese "tokei",[12] joins other Classical Tamil words for ivory, cotton-cloth and apes preserved in the Hebrew Bible. This theory of Ophir's location in Tamilakam is further supported by other historians.[13][14][15][16] The most likely location on the coast of Kerala conjectured to be Ophir is Poovar in Thiruvananthapuram District (though some Indian scholars also suggest Beypore as a possible location).[17][18]

Earlier in the 19th century, Max Müller and other scholars identified Ophir with Abhira, near the Indus River in modern-day state of Gujarat, India. According to Benjamin Walker Ophir is said to have been a town of the Abhira tribe.[19]

In Jewish tradition, Ophir is often associated with a place in the Indian subcontinent,[e] named for one of the sons of Joktan.[22] Ibn Sa'd says in his Kitab at-Tabaqat al-Kabir that the Indians, the Sindhis and the Bindis are the descendants of Yufir (Ophir).[23]

Robert Wilkinson's 1823 map of the descendants of Noah's sons which identifies Ophir with Indonesia


In Tomo III (1519-1522), pages 112-138, of the book Colección general de documentos relativos a las Islas Filipinas existentes en el Archivo de Indias de Sevilla,[24] found in the General Archive of the Indies in Spain, Document No. 98 describes how to locate the land of Ophir. The navigational guide started from the Cape of Good Hope in Africa to India, to Burma, to Sumatra, to the Maluku Islands, to Borneo, to Sulu, to China, then finally Ophir, which is said to be the Philippines. Parallel to this Spanish archive an older text called the "Periplus of the Erythean Sea" cited the directions to Chryse, a golden island in the Eastern Ocean, is an island right to the south of China, where the Philippines is.[25]


Biblical scholars, archaeologists and others have tried to determine the exact location of Ophir. Vasco da Gama's companion Tomé Lopes reasoned that Ophir would have been the ancient name for Great Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe, the main center of southern African trade in gold in the Renaissance period — though the ruins at Great Zimbabwe are now dated to the medieval era, long after Solomon is said to have lived. The identification of Ophir with Sofala in Mozambique was mentioned by Milton in Paradise Lost (11:399-401), among many other works of literature and science.

Another, more serious, possibility is the African shore of the Red Sea, with the name perhaps being derived from the Afar people living in the Danakil desert (Ethiopia, Eritrea) between Adulis and Djibouti.

Afri was a Latin name used to refer to the Carthaginians, who dwelt in North Africa, in modern-day Tunisia. This name, that later gave the rich Roman province of Africa and the subsequent medieval Ifriqiya, from which the name of the continent Africa is ultimately derived, seems to have referred to a native Libyan tribe originally, however, see Terence for discussion. The name is usually connected with Phoenician afar, "dust", but a 1981 hypothesis[26] has asserted that it stems from the Berber word ifri (plural ifran) meaning "cave", in reference to cave dwellers.[27] This is proposed[27] to be the origin of Ophir as well.[28]

Inspiration or named afterEdit


In a letter written in May 1500, Peter Martyr claimed that Christopher Columbus identified Hispaniola with Ophir.[29]

The theologian Benito Arias Montano (1571) proposed finding Ophir in the name of Peru, reasoning that the native Peruvians were thus descendants of Ophir and Shem.[30]

The California Gold Rush boomtown, Ophir, was renamed[31] after "the biblical source of Solomon's treasure."[32]


Ophir, New South Wales, is a town established during the Australian gold rushes.


Mount Ophir is the English name of Gunung Ledang in Johor, Malaysia.

Solomon IslandsEdit

In 1568, Alvaro Mendaña became the first European to discover the Solomon Islands, and named them as such because he believed them to be Ophir.[33]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ This is also stated in 1 Chronicles 1:22
  2. ^ The first expedition is described in 1 Kings 9:28; 10:11; 1 Chronicles 29:4; 2 Chronicles 8:18; 9:10, the failed expedition of Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings 22:48
  3. ^ Book of Job 22:24; 28:16; Psalm 45:9; Isaiah 13:12
  4. ^ Beth-Horon probably refers to the ancient city 35 km south of Tell Qasile; another interpretation is that Beth-Horon means 'the temple of Horon', (a Canaanite deity also known as Hauron), see Lipiński (2004, p. 197)
  5. ^ Fourteenth-century biblical commentator, Nathanel ben Isaiah, writes: "And Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab (Gen. 10:29), these are the tracts of countries in the east, being those of the first clime,"[20] and which first clime, according to al-Biruni, the sub-continent of India falls entirely therein.[21]


  1. ^ "Ophir". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ Schroff, The Periplus of the Erythræan Sea 1912, p. 41.
  3. ^ Mahdi, The Dispersal of Austronesian boat forms in the Indian Ocean 1999, p. 154.
  4. ^ Badge, William (1927). The Book of The Cave of Treasures by Ephrem the Syrian: Translated from the Syriac Text of The British Museum. London: The Religious Tract Society. p. 32 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Maisler, B., Two Hebrew Ostraca from Tell Qasîle, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Oct., 1951), p. 265 [1]
  6. ^ Boardman, John, The Prehistory of the Balkans: The Middle East and the Aegean World, Tenth to Eighth Centuries B.C., Part 1, Cambridge University Press, 1982, p. 480 [2]
  7. ^ Kitchen, Kenneth A.; Handy, Lowell K. (ed.), The Age of Solomon: Scholarship at the Turn of the Millennium, BRILL 1997, p. 144 [3]
  8. ^ Lipiński 2004, p. 144.
  9. ^ Rensberger, Boyce (24 May 1976). "Solomon's Mine Believed Found". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Solomon Skoss (ed.), The Hebrew-Arabic Dictionary of the Bible, Known as `Kitāb Jāmiʿ al-Alfāẓ` (Agron) of David ben Abraham al-Fasi, Yale University Press: New Haven 1936, vol. 1, p. 46 (Hebrew)
  11. ^ a b Smith, William, A dictionary of the Bible, Hurd and Houghton, 1863 (1870), pp.1441
  12. ^ a b Smith's Bible Dictionary
  13. ^ Ramaswami, Sastri, The Tamils and their culture, Annamalai University, 1967, pp.16
  14. ^ Gregory, James, Tamil lexicography, M. Niemeyer, 1991, pp.10
  15. ^ Fernandes, Edna, The last Jews of Kerala, Portobello, 2008, pp.98
  16. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition, Volume I Almug Tree Almunecar→ ALMUG or ALGUM TREE. The Hebrew words Almuggim or Algummim are translated Almug or Algum trees in our version of the Bible (see 1 Kings x. 11, 12; 2 Chron. ii. 8, and ix. 10, 11). The wood of the tree was very precious, and was brought from Ophir (probably some part of India), along with gold and precious stones, by Hiram, and was used in the formation of pillars for the temple at Jerusalem, and for the king's house; also for the inlaying of stairs, as well as for harps and psalteries. It is probably the red sandal-wood of India (Pterocarpus santalinus). This tree belongs to the natural order Leguminosæ, sub-order Papilionaceæ. The wood is hard, heavy, close-grained, and of a fine red colour. It is different from the white fragrant sandal-wood, which is the produce of Santalum album, a tree belonging to a distinct natural order.Also see notes by George Menachery in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. 2 (1973)
  17. ^ Menon, A. Sreedhara (1967), A Survey of Kerala History, Sahitya Pravarthaka Co-operative Society [Sales Department]; National Book Stall, p. 58
  18. ^ Aiyangar, Sakkottai Krishnaswami (2004) [first published 1911], Ancient India: Collected Essays on the Literary and Political History of Southern India, Asian Educational Services, pp. 60–, ISBN 978-81-206-1850-3
  19. ^ Walker, Benjamin (1968), Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism, Volume 2, Allen & Unwin, p. 515
  20. ^ Ben Isaiah, N. (1983). Sefer Me'or ha-Afelah (in Hebrew). Translated by Yosef Qafih. Kiryat Ono: Mechon Moshe. p. 74.
  21. ^ Sunil Sharma, Mughal Arcadia: Persian Literature in an Indian Court, Harvard University Press: Cambridge 2017, p. 66
  22. ^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (Book 8, chapter 6, §4), s.v. Aurea Chersonesus
  23. ^ "Soebratie.nl - soebratie Resources and Information".
  24. ^ Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas. Colección general de documentos relativos a las Islas Filipinas existentes en el Archivo de Indias de Sevilla. Vol. Tomo III--Documento 98, 1520–1528. pp. 112–138.
  25. ^ W.H. Schoff Longmans, trans. The Periplus of the Erythean Sea: Travels and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant in the First Century. Commercial Museum of Philadelphia. 1912. Pages 45-48
  26. ^ Names of countries Archived 2017-08-15 at the Wayback Machine, Decret and Fantar, 1981
  27. ^ a b The Berbers, by Geo. Babington Michell, p 161, 1903, Journal of the Royal African Society book on ligne
  28. ^ Lipiński 2004, p. 200.
  29. ^ De orbe novo decades
  30. ^ Shalev, Zur (2003). "Sacred Geography, Antiquarianism and Visual Erudition: Benito Arias Montano and the Maps in the Antwerp Polyglot Bible" (PDF). Imago Mundi. 55: 71. doi:10.1080/0308569032000097495. S2CID 51804916. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  31. ^ "OPHIR". CA State Parks. Retrieved 2022-02-27.
  32. ^ "1 Kings 10:11 (The fleet of Hiram that brought gold from Ophir also brought from Ophir a great cargo of almug wood and precious stones". biblehub.com. Retrieved 2022-02-27.
  33. ^ HOGBIN, H. In, Experiments in Civilization: The Effects of European Culture on a Native Community of the Solomon Islands, New York: Schocken Books, 1970 (1939), pp.7-8


For many references and a comprehensive outline of the products exported from Muziris, Ariake &c. cf. George Menachery ed. The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, 1973, 1982, 2009.

External linksEdit