Caphtor, in the Bible, home of the Philistines before they migrated to Canaan. Its inhabitants are called Caphtorim. Caphtor has been identified with both Crete and Cyprus.
Caphtor (כפתור) is a locality mentioned in the Book of Amos, 9.7: "Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?" It is named as the place of origin of the Caphtorites, said in Genesis 10:13-14 to descend from Ham's son Mizraim (Egypt).

The Septuagint translates the name as "Kappadokias" and the Vulgate similarly renders it as "Cappadocia". The seventeenth-century scholar Samuel Bochart understood this as a reference to Cappadocia in Anatolia but this was not the understanding of the Jewish targumists who rendered this name in Aramaic as "Caphutkia" meaning the town of Pelusium at the eastern edge of the Nile delta. This identification is also made by Benjamin of Tudela, the twelfth-century Jewish traveller from Navarre, who wrote that "Damiata" (the name for Pelusium in his day) was the biblical Caphtor. .

Modern commentators and translators commonly identify Caphtor with Crete (Hertz 1936) although it has also been linked to Cyprus, and the nearby coasts of Anatolia. Cyprus and Crete together are by some accounts identified as "the island of the Caphtorim".

The name has been compared to Egyptian Keftiu and Akkadian Kaptara (a term found in the Mari Tablets, dated to c. 1780 BC). The name keftiu is found written in hieroglyphics in the temple of Kom Ombo in Upper Egypt and possibly in the Egyptian tomb of Rekhmire.

The Caphtorites (or Caphtorim) were a people first mentioned in Genesis 10:13-14 in the Table of Nations which lists them as a descendant of Mizraim thereby making them an Egyptian people.

Deuteronomy 2:23 records that the Caphtorites came from Caphtor, destroyed the Avvites and usurped their land. The Talmud (Chullin 60b) notes that the Avvites were the original Philistine people in the days of Abraham while the Philistines of later times were descended from the conquering Caphtorites. This accords with Genesis 10:13 which lists the Philistines as a distinct people to the Caphtorites while Jeremiah 47:4 and Amos 9:7, set in a much later period, speak instead of Philistines having come from Caphtor.

The name Caphtor is identical to the Biblical Hebrew word for a knob-like structure .

Keftiu and its location

The Egyptian cognate Keftiu is attested in numerous inscriptions. The identity of Semitic Caphtor and Egyptian Keftiu is of long standing. The original thesis, that Keftiu corresponded to Caphtor, and that Caphtor was to be identified with Cyprus or Syria, shifted to an association with Crete under the influence of Sir Arthur Evans. It was effectively criticised in 1931 by G. A. Wainwright, who located Keftiu in Cilicia, on the Mediterranean shore of Asia Minor, and drew together evidence from a wide variety of sources: in geographical lists and the inscription of Tutmose III's "Hymn of Victory", where the place of Keftiu in lists is among recognizable regions in the northwesternmost corner of the Mediterranean, in the text of the "Keftiuan spell" śntkppwymntrkkr, of ca 1200 BC, in which Cilician and Syrian deities Sanda Tarku and Kubaba have been detected, in personal names associated in texts with Keftiu and in Tutmose's "silver shawabty vessel of the work of Keftiu" and vessels of iron, which were received as gifts from Tinay in northern Syria. In 1980 J. Strange drew together the most complete collection of documents that mention Caphtor or Keftiu. His examination showed conclusively that Keftiu could not be identified with Crete, for crucial texts dissociate Keftiu from "the Islands in the Middle of the Sea", by which Egyptian scribes denoted Crete. Strange made a painstaking argument that Keftiu correspondes geographically with Cyprus.



  • Hertz J.H. (1936) The Pentateuch and Haftoras. Deuteronomy. Oxford University Press, London.
  • Strange, J. Caphtor/Keftiu: A New Investigation (Leiden: Brill) 1980. Reviewed by J.T. Hooker, The Journal of Hellenic Studies 103 (1983), p. 216.
  • Deuteronomy 2:23
  • Book of Jeremiah 47:4
  • Book of Amos 9:7

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