(Οὐφίρ; Οὐφείρ; Σουφίρ; Σουφείρ; Σωφίρ; Σωφιρά; Σωφαρά; Σωφηρά; Σαπφείρ; Ὀπφείρ; Ὠφείρ
, LXX.; J. AJ 8.6.4
), a district, the name of which first occurs in the ethnographic table of Genesis,
10.29. Solomon caused a fleet to be built in the Edomite ports of the Red Sea, and Hiram supplied him with Phoenician mariners well acquainted with navigation, and also Tyrian vessels, “ships of Tarshish.” (1 Kings,
9.28; 2 Chron.
The articles of merchandise which were brought back once in three years from Ophir were gold, silver, red sandalwood ( “almuggim,” 1 Kings,
10.11; “algummim,” 2 Chron.
9.10), precious stones, ivory, apes, ( “kophim” ), and peacocks ( “thŭkyim,” 1 Kings,
10.22; “thūkyim,” 1 Chron.
The gold of Ophir was considered to be of the most precious quality. (Job,
20.11, 24, 28.16; Ps.
7.18). In Jer.
10.9, “the gold from Uphaz,” and in Dan.
10.5, “the fine gold of Uphaz,” is, by a slight change of pronunciation, the same as that of Ophir.
Many elaborate treatises have been written upon the details of these voyages.
The researches of Gesenius (Thesaur. Linguae Hebr.
vol. i. p. 141; and in Ersch und Grüber's Encycl.
), Benfey (Indien,
pp. 30--32) and Lassen (Ind. Alt.
vol. i. pp. 537--539) have made it extremely probable that the W. shores of the Indian peninsula were visited by the Phoenicians, who, by their colonies in the Persian Gulf, and by their intercourse with the Gerrhaei, were early acquainted with the periodically blowing monsoons.
In favour of this Indian hypothesis is the remarkable circumstance that the names by which the articles of merchandise are designated are not Hebrew but Sanscrit.
The peacock, too, is an exclusively Indian bird; although from their gradual extension to the W. they were often called by the Greeks “Median and Persian birds;” the Samians even supposed them to have originally belonged to Samos, as the bird was reared at first in the sanctuary dedicated to Hera in that island. Silks, also, which are first mentioned in Proverbs,
31.22, could alone have been brought from India. Quatremère (Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscr.
vol. xv. pt. 2.1845, pp. 349--402) agrees with Heeren (Researches,
vol. ii. pp. 73, 74, trans.), who places Ophir on the E. coast of Africa, and explains “thukyim” to mean not peacocks, but parrots or guinea-fowls. Ptolemy (6.7.41
) speaks of a SAPHARA (Σάπφαρα
) as a metropolis of Arabia, and again of a SOUPARA (Σουπάρα,
7.1.6) in India, on the Barygazenus Sinus, or Gulf of Cambay,
a name which in Sanscrit signifies “fair-shore.” (Lassen, Dissert. de Taprobane Ins.
p. 18; comp. Ind. Alt.
vol. i. p. 537.) Sofala,
on the E. coast of Africa, opposite to the island of Madagascar
(London Geog. Journ.
vol. iii. p. 207), is described by Edrisi (ed. Jaubert, vol. i. p. 67) as a country rich in gold, and subsequently by the Portuguese, after Gama's voyage of discovery.
The letters r
so frequently interchanged make the name of the African Sofala
equivalent for that of Sophara, which is used in the Septuagint with several other forms for the Ophir of Solomon's and Hiram's fleet Ptolemy, it has been seen, has a Saphara in Arabia and a Soupara in India.
The significant Sanscrit names of the mother-country had been repeated or reflected on neighbouring or opposite coasts, as in the present day occurs in many instances in the English and Spanish Americas.
The range of the trade to Ophir might thus be extended over a wide space, just as a Phoenician voyage to Tartessus might include touching at Cyrene and Carthage, Gadeira and Cerne. (Humboldt, Cosmos,
vol. ii. pp. 132, 133, notes 179--182, trans.)