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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Yoktan', יָקְטיָן, little; Sept. Ι᾿εκτάν, Josephus Ι᾿ούκτας , Ant. 1, 6, 4; Vulg. Jectan), a Shemite, second named of the two sons of Eber; his brother being Peleg (Genesis 10:25; 1 Chronicles 1:19). B.C. cir. 2400. He is mentioned as the progenitor of thirteen sons or heady of tribes, supposed to have resided in Southern Arabia (Genesis 10:26-30); 1 Chronicles 1:20-23). The Arabians called him Kahtan, and assert that from him the eight original residents of Yemen sprang. His name is still pointed out by them near Keshin (Niebuhr, Beschreib. p. 287), and traces of the same name appear in a city mentioned by Niebuhr (Beschr. p. 275) as lying three days' journey north of Nejeran, perhaps the station Jaktan alluded to by Edrisi as situated in the district of Sanaa. (See A. Schultens, Hist. imp. vetust. Joctanidar. in Ar. Fel. ex Abulfeda, etc., Harderov. 1786; Pococke, Specim. hist. Arab. p. 32 sq.; Assemani, Bibl. Orient. 3, 2, 553 sq.: Bochart's Phaleg, 3, 15.)
The original limits of the Joktanidae are stated in the Bible: "Their dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest unto Sephar, a mount of the East" (Genesis 10:30). The position of Mesha, which is reasonably supposed to be the western boundary, is still uncertain, (See MESHA); but Sephar is well established as being the same as Zafari, the seaport town on the east of the modern Yemen, and formerly one of the chief centers of the great Indian and African trade. (See SEPHAR).
1. The native traditions respecting Joktan himself commence with a difficulty. The ancestor of the great southern peoples was called Kahtan, who, say the Arabs, was, the same as Joktan. To this some European critics have objected that there is no good reason to account for the .change of name, and that the identification of Kahtan with Joktan is evidently a Jewish tradition adopted by Mohammed or his followers, and consequently at or after the promulgation of El-Islam. M. Caussin de Perceval commences his essay on the history of Yemen (Essai, 1, 39) with this assertion, and adds, "Le nom de Cahtan, disent-ils [les Arabes], est le nom de Yectan, legerement altere en passant d'une langue etrangere dans la langue Arabe." In reply to these objectors, we may state:
(1.) The Rabbins hold a tradition that Joktan settled in India (see Joseph. Ant. 1, 6, 4), and the supposition of. a Jewish influence in the Arab traditions respecting him is therefore untenable. In the present case, even were this not so, there is an absence of motive for Mohammed's adopting traditions which alienate from the race of Ishmael many tribes of Arabia: the influence here suspected may rather be found in the contradictory assertion, put forward by a few of the Arabs, and rejected by the great majority and the most judicious of their historians, that Kahtan was descended from Ishmael.
(2.) That the traditions in question are post-Mohammedan cannot be proved; the same may be said of everything which Arab writers tell us dates before the prophet's time; for then oral tradition alone existed, if we except the rock cut inscriptions of the Himyarites, which are too few, and our knowledge of them is too slight to admit of much weight attaching to them.
(3.) In the Mir-at ez-Zeman it is stated, "Ibn El-Kelbi says, Yuktan [the Arabic equivalent of Joktan] is the same as Kahtan, son of 'Abir," i.e. Eber, and so say the generality of the Arabs. El-Beladhiri says, "People differ respecting Kahtan; some say he is the same as Yuktan, who is mentioned in the Pentateuch; but the Arabs arabicized his name and said Kahtan, the son of Had [because they identified their prophet Hud with Eber, whom they call 'Abir]; and some say, son of Es-Semeyfa," or, as is said in one place by the author here quoted, "El-Hemeysa, the son of Nebt [or Nabit, i.e. Nebaioth], the son of Ismail," i.e. Ishmael. He then proceeds, in continuation of the former passage, "Abi-Hanifeh ed-Dinawari says, He is Kahtan, the son of Abir, and was named Kahtan only because of his suffering from drought" [which is termed in Arabic Kaht]. (Mir-at ez- Zeman; account of the sons of Shem.) Of similar changes of names by the Arabs there are numerous instances. (See the remarks occurring in the Koran, chap. 2, 248, in the Expositions of Ez-Zamakhsheri and El- Beydawi.)
(4.) If the traditions of Kahtan be rejected (and in this rejection we cannot agree), they are, it must be remembered, immaterial to the fact that the peoples called by the Arabs descendants of Kahtan are certainly Joktanites. His sons' colonization of Southern Arabia is proved by indisputable and undisputed identifications, and the great kingdom which there existed for many ages before our era, and in its later days was renowned in the world of classical antiquity, was as surely Joktanitic.
2. The settlements of the sons of Joktan are examined in the separate articles bearing their names, and generally in ARABIA. They colonized the whole of the south of the peninsula, the old "Arabia Felix," or the Yemen (for this appellation had a very wide significance in early times), stretching, according to the Arabs (and there is in this case no ground for doubting their general correctness), to Mekkeh on the northwest, and along nearly the whole of the southern coast eastwards, and far inland. At Mekkeh tradition connects the two great races of Joktan and Ishmael by the marriage of a daughter of Jurhum the Joktanite with Ishmael. It is necessary, in mentioning this Jurhum, who is called a "son" of Joktan (Kahtan), to observe that "son" in these cases must be regarded as signifying "descendant," and that many generations (though how many, or in what order, is not known) are missing from the existing list between Kahtan (embracing the most important time of the Joktanites) and the establishment of the comparatively modern Himyaritic kingdom, from this latter date, stated by Caussin, Essai, 1, 63, at B.C. cir. 100, the succession of the Tubbaas is apparently preserved to us. At Mekkeh the tribe of Jurhum long held the office of guardians of the Kaabeh, or temple, and the sacred inclosure, until they were expelled by the Ishmaelites (Kutb ed-Din, Hist. of Mekkeh, ed. Wü stenfeld, p. 35 and 39 sq.; and Caussin, Essai, 1, 194).
But it was at Seba, the Biblical Sheba, that the kingdom of Joktan attained its greatness. In the southwestern angle of the peninsula, Sana (Uzal), Seba (Sheba), and Hadramaut (Hazarmaveth), all closely neighboring, formed together the principal known settlements of the Joktanites. Here arose the kingdom of Sheba, followed in later times by that of Himyar. The dominant tribe from remote ages seems to have been that of Seba (or Sheba, the Saboei of the Greeks), while the family of Himyar (Homeritoe) held the first place in the tribe. The kingdom called that of Himyar we believe to have been merely a late phasis of the old Sheba, dating; both in its rise and its name, only shortly before our era.
Next in importance to the tribe of Seba was that of Hadramaut, which, till the fall of the Himyaritic power, maintained a position of independence and a direct line of rulers from Kahtan (Caussin, 1, 135-6). Joktanic tribes also passed northwards to Hireh, in El-Irak, and to Ghassan, near Damascus. The emigration of these and other tribes took place on the occasion of the rupture of a great dike (the dike of El-Arim), above the metropolis of Seba; a catastrophe that appears, from the concurrent testimony of Arabic writers, to have devastated a great extent of country, and destroyed the city Ma-rib or Seba. This event forms the commencement of an era, the dates of which exist in the inscriptions on the dike and elsewhere; but when we should place that commencement is still quite an open question. (See the extracts from El-Mesudi and other authorities, edited by Schultens; Caussin, 1, 84 sq.) See Tuch, Commentary on Genesis (Halle, 1838). chap. 10; Knobel, Vö lkertafel, p. 178 sq.; Ritter, Halbinsel Arabien, 1, 38 sq.; Dr. Ley, De Templi Meccani origine (Berlin, 1849).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Joktan'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/joktan.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.