🔼The name Caphtor: Summary
- Unknown but perhaps Protected, Redeemed, Crown or Pomegranate.
- Unknown but perhaps from the verb כפר (kapar), to form a protective wall, כתר (katar), to protect or redeem, or a comparable word that means pomegranate.
🔼The name Caphtor in the Bible
Caphtor is the ancient name of the island where the Philistines came to Palestine (Jeremiah 47:4). Nowadays it's called Crete. Most commentaries state that in classical times its name was Cappadocia, but BDB Theological Dictionary, stern as ever, roars, "certainly wrong"!
🔼Etymology of the name Caphtor
The name Caphtor is most likely a loan word to indicate the Cretans. Consequentially, this word, כפתור (kaptor), came to indicate the capital on top of a pillar, named after Crete as the place from which they were first imported (Amos 9:1) or knob of bulb as seen on the Menorah in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:33 and on).
But, because the Caphtorim appear so early in the Book of Genesis (namely in Genesis 10:4), the name should also have some Hebrew connection. Hence some commentators recognize the root group כפר (kapar):
The verb כפר (kapar) describes the formation of any sort of protective perimeter around any sort of vulnerable interior.
Noun כפר (koper) describes the price of a human life, i.e. the purchasing price and maintenance costs of keeping a person out of slavery. This is not simply a single sum of money but rather an economic protective layer of all sorts of hedges and investments. The noun כפרים (kippurim) is in fact a plural of the previous and denotes a massive free-buying and free-keeping of many people at once.
Nouns כפר (kapar) and כפר (koper) mean village, but emphasize not the mere huddling together of folks, but rather any rudimentary social stratification that mimics the natural formation of eukaryotic cells, with cell walls, organelles and a nucleus that hosts the wisdom tradition.
The problem with reading כפר into our name comes with the appearance of the dominant letter ת (taw), which is rarely inserted half-way a root.
The renowned theologian Gesenius solved this by proposing that the name Caphtor could be seen as the superimposition of two three-letter roots, namely כפר (kapar) and כתר (katar), meaning to surround:
The verb כתר (katar) means to surround. Noun כתר (keter) means crown. Nouns כתרת (koteret) and כותרת (koteret) denote the capital of a pillar.
Some other words of interest are: כף (kep), rock, or the much more applied כף (kap), outstretched hand or any item that resembles it, such as a cup or dish. The final part of the name bears strong resemblance to the word תור (tur), to explore or survey, and derivation תור (tor), dove.
For a meaning of the name Caphtor, NOBSE Study Bible Name List probably goes with the noun כפור that derives from verb כפר (kapar), meaning bowl (overlaid with leaf gold, perhaps?), and reads Cup, which completely misses the point.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names goes with the noun כפתור (kaptor), meaning knob or top of a pillar, and reads Crown, but that word derives from our name rather than that it explains it. BDB reports that there may be links to words in other Semitic languages that are similar to our noun and which may mean pear or pomegranate, which would make our name Caphtor comparable to name Rimmon.