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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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the son of Noah, who is commonly named the third in order of Noah's sons, was born in the five hundredth year of that patriarch, Genesis 5:32; but Moses, Genesis 10:21 , says expressly he was the oldest of Noah's sons, according to our translation, and those of the Septuagint and Symmachus. Abraham was named the first of Terah's sons, "not from primogeniture, but from preeminence," as the father of the faithful, and the illustrious ancestor of the Israelites, and of the Jews, whose "seed was Christ," according to the flesh; with whose history the Old Testament properly commences: "Now these are the generations of Terah," &c, Genesis 11:27; all the preceding parts of Genesis being only introductory to this. By the same analogy, Shem, the second son of Noah, is placed first of his three sons, Genesis 5:32 , and Japheth, "the eldest," last. Compare Genesis 10:21; Genesis 11:20 . Thus Isaac is put before Ishmael, though fourteen years younger, 1 Chronicles 1:28 . And Solomon, the eldest, is reckoned the last of Bathsheba's children, 1 Chronicles 3:5 .

Japheth signifies enlargement; and how wonderfully did Providence enlarge the boundaries of Japheth! His posterity diverged eastward and westward; from the original settlement in Armenia, through the whole extent of Asia, north of the great range of Taurus, distinguished by the general names of Tartary and Siberia, as far as the Eastern Ocean: and in process of time, by an easy passage across Behring's straits, the entire continent of America; and they spread in the opposite direction, throughout the whole of Europe, to the Atlantic Ocean; thus literally encompassing the earth, within the precincts of the northern temperate zone, while the enterprising and warlike genius of this hardy hunter race frequently led them to encroach on the settlements, and to dwell in "the tents of Shem," whose pastoral occupations rendered them more inactive, peaceable, and unwarlike; as when the Scythians invaded Media, and overran western Asia southwards, as far as Egypt, in the days of Cyaxares; and when the Greeks, and afterward the Romans, subdued the Assyrians, Medes, and Persians, in the east, and the Scythians and Jews in the south, as foretold by the Assyrian Prophet Balaam:

"And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, And shall afflict the Assyrians, and afflict the Hebrews;

But he [the invader] shall perish himself at last."

Numbers 24:24 .

And by Moses: "And the Lord shall bring thee [the Jews] into Egypt [or bondage] again with ships," &c, Deuteronomy 28:28 . And by Daniel: "For the ships of Chittim shall come against him," [Antiochus, king of Syria,] Daniel 11:30 .

In these passages Chittim denotes the southern coasts of Europe, bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, called the "isles of the Gentiles," Genesis 10:5 . And, in later times, the Tartars in the east have repeatedly invaded and subdued the Hindoos and Chinese; while the warlike and enterprising genius of the British isles has spread their colonies, their arms, their arts, and their language, and, in some measure, their religion, from the rising to the setting sun.

The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The Scripture says, that they peopled the isles of the Gentiles, and settled in different countries, each according to his language, family, and people, Genesis 10:5 . It is supposed that Gomer peopled Galatia, and that from him the Cimmerians, or Cimbrians, and also the Phrygians, derived their origin; that Magog was the father of the Scythians, and Tartars, or Tatars; that Madai was the progenitor of the Medes, though some make him the founder of a people in Macedonia, called Macdi; that from Javan sprung the Ionians and Greeks; that Tubal was the father of the Iberians, and that at least a part of Spain was peopled by him and his descendants; that Meshech was the founder of the Cappadocians, from whom proceeded the Muscovites, or Russians; and that from Tiras the Thracians derived their origin. Japheth was known, by profane authors, under the name of Japetus. The poets make him father of heaven and earth. The Greeks believed that Japheth was the father of their race, and acknowledged nothing more ancient than him.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Japheth'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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