. יפת, Greek
Ιάφεθ , Iapheth , Latin Iafeth
or Iapetus, Arabic:
يافث) is one of the sons of Noah
in the Bible
. In Arabic
citations, his name is normally given as Yafeth ibn Nuh
(Japheth son of Noah).
Order of birth
He is most popularly regarded as the youngest son, though some traditions regard him as the eldest son. Genesis 10:21 refers to relative ages of Japheth and his brother Shem, but with sufficient ambiguity to have given rise to different translations. The verse is translated in the KJV
as follows, "Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder
, even to him were children born". However, the Revised Standard Version
gives, "To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth
, children were born."
The place in Noah's family
For those Jews
, and Christians
who take the genealogies of Genesis
to be historically accurate, Japheth is commonly believed to be the father of the Europeans
. The link between Japheth and the Europeans stems from Genesis
10:5, which states that the sons of Japheth moved to the "isles of the Gentiles
," commonly believed to be the Greek
isles. According to that book, Japheth and his two brothers
formed the three major races
William Shakespeare's play Henry IV, Part II contains a wry comment about people who claim to be related to royal families. Prince Hal notes of such people,
- ...they will be kin to us, or they will fetch it from Japhet. (II.ii 117-18)
Genesis 10:5 was often interpreted to mean that the peoples of Europe were descended from Japheth. Clearly, then, any two Englishmen must have at least this one ancestor in common, and thus any individual could claim kinship with the king.
In the Bible, Japheth is ascribed seven sons: Gomer, Magog, Tiras, Javan, Meshech, Tubal, and Madai. According to Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews I.6):
- "Japhet, the son of Noah, had seven sons: they inhabited so, that, beginning at the mountains Taurus and Amanus, they proceeded along Asia, as far as the river Tanais (Don), and along Europe to Cadiz; and settling themselves on the lands which they light upon, which none had inhabited before, they called the nations by their own names."
Josephus subsequently detailed the nations supposed to have descended from the seven sons of Japheth. Among the nations various later writers have attempted to assign to them are as follows:
- Gomer: Armenians, Cimmerians, Scythians, Welsh, Irish, Germans, Huns, Turks, Franks.
- Magog: Scythians, Slavs, Mongols, Hungarians, Irish, Finns
- Madai: Persians, Indo-Iranians, Mitanni, Mannai ,Medes , Tajiks, Pashtus, Kurds, Balochis, Talishis, Mazandaris, Zazas, Sengesaris and Tati . According to the Book of Jubilees (10:35-36), Madai had married a daughter of Shem, and preferred to live among Shem's descendants, rather than dwell in Japheth's allotted inheritance beyond the Black Sea; so he begged his brothers-in-law, Elam, Asshur and Arphaxad, until he finally received from them the land that was named after him, Media.
- Javan: Greeks (Ionians)
- Tubal: Tabali, Georgians, Italics, Iberians, Basques
- Tiras: Thracians, Goths, Jutes, Teutons
- Meshech: Phrygians, Illyrians, Caucasus Iberians, Russians
The "Book of Jasher", published in the 17th century, provides some new names for Japheth's grandchildren not seen in the Bible or any other source, and provided a much more detailed genealogy (see Japhetic).
In the same vein, Georgian nationalist histories associate Japheth's sons with certain ancient tribes, called Tubals (Tabals, Tibarenoi in Greek) and Meshechs (Meshekhs/Mosokhs, Moschoi in Greek), who they claim represent non-Indo-European and non-Semitic, possibly "Proto-Iberian" tribes of Asia Minor of the 3rd-1st millennia BC.
Proposed correlations with deities
In the 19th century, Biblical syncretists
associated the sons of Noah
with ancient pagan gods. Japheth was identified by some scholars with figures from other mythologies, including Iapetus
, the Greek Titan
; the Indian
figures Dyaus Pitar
, and the Roman Iu-Pater
or "Father Jove", which became Jupiter
. Some or all of these resemblances may be mere coincidence; the actual Proto-Indo-European etymology
of Latin Iuppiter
, i.e. "Jupiter", is usually reconstructed as *dyeu-p?ter
, "sky-father" (the *
denotes a hypothetical, unattested form).
The term "Japhetic" was also applied by William Jones
and other early linguists
to what later became known as the Indo-European
language group. In a different sense, it was also used by the Soviet
linguist Nikolai Marr
in his Japhetic theory
Japheth in literature
Japheth is a major character in the Madeleine L'Engle
novel Many Waters
(1986, ISBN 0 374 34796 4). He is characterized as thoughtful and intelligent, a kind-hearted young man who is on good terms with feuding family members Noah and Lamech
, with the seraphim
, and with visiting time travelers Sandy and Dennys Murry
. Depicted in the book as Noah's younger son, Japheth is barely into adulthood, but at Noah's instigation is already married. His equally kind wife, Oholibamah, is an unusually fair-skinned woman with black hair, who may have been sired by one of the nephilim