wide spreading: "God shall enlarge Japheth" (Heb. Yaphat Elohim le-Yephet, Gen. 9:27. Some, however, derive the name from yaphah, "to be beautiful;" hence white), one of the sons of Noah, mentioned last in order (Gen. 5:32; 6:10; 7:13), perhaps first by birth (10:21; comp. 9:24). He and his wife were two of the eight saved in the ark (1 Pet. 3:20). He was the progenitor of many tribes inhabiting the east of Europe and the north of Asia (Gen. 10:2-5). An act of filial piety (9:20-27) was the occasion of Noah's prophecy of the extension of his posterity.
After the Flood the earth was re-peopled by the descendants of Noah, "the sons of Japheth" (Gen. 10:2), "the sons of Ham" (6), and "the sons of Shem" (22). It is important to notice that modern ethnological science, reasoning from a careful analysis of facts, has arrived at the conclusion that there is a three-fold division of the human family, corresponding in a remarkable way with the great ethnological chapter of the book of Genesis (10). The three great races thus distinguished are called the Semitic, Aryan, and Turanian (Allophylian). "Setting aside the cases where the ethnic names employed are of doubtful application, it cannot reasonably be questioned that the author [of Gen. 10] has in his account of the sons of Japheth classed together the Cymry or Celts (Gomer), the Medes (Madai), and the Ionians or Greeks (Javan), thereby anticipating what has become known in modern times as the 'Indo-European Theory,' or the essential unity of the Aryan (Asiatic) race with the principal races of Europe, indicated by the Celts and the Ionians. Nor can it be doubted that he has thrown together under the one head of 'children of Shem' the Assyrians (Asshur), the Syrians (Aram), the Hebrews (Eber), and the Joktanian Arabs (Joktan), four of the principal races which modern ethnology recognizes under the heading of 'Semitic.' Again, under the heading of 'sons of Ham,' the author has arranged 'Cush', i.e., the Ethiopians; 'Mizraim,' the people of Egypt; 'Sheba and Dedan,' or certain of the Southern Arabs; and 'Nimrod,' or the ancient people of Babylon, four races between which the latest linguistic researches have established a close affinity" (Rawlinson's Hist. Illustrations).
JAPHETH (1) [ISBE]
- ja'-feth (yepheth; yapheth; Iapheth):
1. Etymologies of Japheth:
This name, in Gen 9:27, seems to be explained by the phrase "may God make wide (yapht, the American Standard Revised Version "enlarge") for Japheth," where yapht and Japheth are represented by the same consonants, but with different vowel-points. The root of yapht is pathach, "to make wide." This etymology, however, is not universally accepted, as the word-play is so obvious, and the association of Japheth with Shem ("dark") and Ham ("black") suggests a name on similar lines--either gentilic, or descriptive of race. Japheth has therefore been explained as meaning "fair," from yaphah, the non-Sem and non-Hamitic races known to the Jews being all more or less whiteskinned. The Targum of Onkelos agrees with the English Versions of the Bible, but that of Jonathan has "God shall beautify Japheth," as though from yaphah.
2. His Descendants:
The immediate descendants of Japheth were seven in number, and are represented by the nations designated Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Mesech, and Tiras; or, roughly, the Armenians, Lydians, Medes, Greeks, Tibarenians, and Moschians, the last, Tiras, remaining still obscure. The sons of Gomer (Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah) were all settled in the West Asian tract; while the sons of Javan (Elisah, Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim or Rodanim) occupied the Mediterranean coast and the adjacent islands.
3. His Place among the Sons of Noah:
In Gen 9:27, as in other passages, Japheth occupies the 3rd place in the enumeration of the sons of Noah, but he is really regarded as the 2nd son, Ham being the youngest. In the genealogical table, however (Gen 10:1 ff), the descendants of Japheth are given first, and those of Shem last, in order to set forth Semitic affinities at greater length. Though this would seem to indicate that the fair races were the least known to the Jews, it implies that the latter were well disposed toward them, for Japheth was (ultimately) to dwell in the tents of Shem, and therefore to take part in Shem's spiritual privileges.
4. Japheth and Iapetos:
It seems unlikely that the Greek giant-hero, Iapetos, father of Prometheus, who was regarded by the Greeks as the father of the human race, has any connection with the Hebrew Japheth. The original of the Hebrew record probably belongs to a date too early to admit borrowing from the Greek, and if the name had been borrowed by the Greeks from the Hebrews, a nearer form might be expected.
See SHEM; HAM; TABLE OF NATIONS.
T. G. Pinches