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Meaning and etymology of the name Japheth

Japheth Japheth

Japheth is a son of Noah. His older brother is Shem, his younger brother is Ham (Genesis 10:21 & 9:24). The descendants of Japheth occupy Europe and Asia Minor. His son is Javan, which is the common Biblical name for Greece.

The name Japheth is identical to the word used in Noah's blessing (Genesis 9:27), where it is commonly translated as to enlarge: "May God enlarge Japheth..." Both this verb and the name Japheth come from the root patah (patah I & II).

patah (patah I) basically means to open, and in a third of the occurrences denotes the opening of the mouth, eyes, ears, hands or lips (Job 3:1, Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 50:5). Figuratively, this verb comes to mean to speak, to hear, to see etcetera. It may also mean to loose or release, such as camels (Genesis 24:32), loins (Isaiah 45:1) or armor (1 Kings 20:11).

Some derivatives of this verb are:

petah (petah), meaning opening or doorway (Genesis 18:1, Psalm 24:7);
pithon (pithon), meaning opening (Ezekiel 16:63);
petiha (petiha), denoting a drawn sword (Psalm 55:22, Psalm 37:14, Ezekiel 21:33). This derivative shows that the verb denotes exposure rather than opening;
miptah (miptah), meaning opening, utterance (Proverbs 8:6);
mapteah (mapteah), meaning key.

The verb patah (patah II) means to carve or engrave. This verb is possibly treated as separate from patah (I) because linguists have distinguished similar verbs in other languages, but the meaning of carving texts in stone (Exodus 28:9, 1 Kings 7:36) comes very close to the meaning of exposing of the verb patah (II).

Similarly, the verb pata (pata) means to entice, deceive or persuade, but HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament reveals that "the basic idea of the verb is to be open, specious, wide, and might relate to the immature or simple one who is open to all kinds of enticement, not having developed a discriminative judgment as to what is right or wrong" (Exodus 22:15, Proverbs 1:10).
Derivative peti (peti) means simple or foolish - "naive but not deranged," adds HAW (Proverbs 14:15).

The name Japheth may mean Enlargement (Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names), or Wide Spreading (NOBS Study Bible Name List).

A related name is Naphtuhim



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