Japheth meaning | Japheth etymology

Discover the meanings of thousands of Biblical names in Abarim Publications' Biblical Name Vault

יפת
Japheth in Biblical Hebrew
Japheth
Biblical male character
Browse Biblical names alphabetically

Search this site

This project depends on the support of readers like you.
Please help...

The name Japheth in the Bible

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.

Etymology of the name Japheth

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 group פתה (patah):

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

Of course, the pressing question is why Noah would want God to "make wide" Japheth (Genesis 9:27). Tradition dictates that on this occasion our root verb may also mean to make abundant (having much offspring), but the abundant usages of our verb in decidedly negative contexts makes the existence of this loophole rather dubious.

It seems much more logical that Noah declares Canaan the lowest of the three, Shem the highest of the three, and Japheth firmly in the middle; compared to Canaan Japheth will be a glorious dweller in Shem's tents, but compared to Shem, Japheth will be the clearly distinguished blabbermouth of the two.

Note that although the Torah is obviously based on ancient sources, it gained its present form during the Babylonian exile. That exile ended when the age of the great Greek philosophers was just about to begin.

Japheth meaning

For a meaning of the name Japheth, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes Enlargement. NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Wide Spreading. Here at Abarim Publications we prefer Gullible.

עABARIMPublicationsFor the Love of the Word