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Meaning and etymology of the name Javan

Javan Javan

Javan is a son of Japheth, son of Noah (Genesis 10:2). The descendants of Japheth occupy Europe and Asia Minor. Javan is the Biblical name for Greece.

The name Javan comes from Javan (yawen) meaning mire, which is wet or soft mud (Psalm 40:3, 69:3). Its unused root is identical to another unused root Javan (ywn), which yields derivation yona (yonah) meaning dove (Leviticus 1:14, Isaiah 38:14).

There is no obvious relation between these two words except for the contexts. In the meaning of mire the word appears two times, in Psalm 40:2 and 69:2. On both accounts the mire is a substance that yields no foothold. This in contrast to a rock (Ps 40:2; also see Matthew 7:24-27). When Noah releases a dove from the ark, she too finds no foothold (Genesis 8:9). Perhaps the flight of the dove - rather erratic and not very vigorous - reminded the Hebrews of the mire in which no foothold is found. Hosea likens Ephraim to a silly dove (7:11) because this group runs after Egypt, then after Assyria. Even the prophet Jonah (whose name is identical to our word yonah) vacillates between Tarshish and Nineveh after God has called him (Jon 1:2-3).

Solomon likens the eyes of the bride with doves (Song of Solomon 1:15), and that is curious because Jesus besmirches the eyes of the blind man with mud (Joh 9:6). In addition Paul writes that God's works can be clearly understood by what can be seen (Rom 1:20). By Law of Moses, people who could not afford a lamb were allowed to offer two doves for purification (Leviticus 5:7). But the grand finale of this name is the dissension of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus; in the form of a dove (Mat 3:16).

The functions of the Holy Spirit are legion of course but possibly He chose the appearance of a dove to indicate that God brings people together by their weaknesses and not by their strengths, and the fabric of Truth is uncertainty, contrary to deterministic certainty. The mind of Christ is not about knowing all things down to the most minute facts, but being alive in a whole new way. Being able to waver is a quality of life; lifeless objects travel by straight, predictable lines. But since Javan (or at least his father Japheth) is living in the tents of Shem, uncertainty without a fundament of the Rock is fatal. In an odd and almost paradoxical sense can a human being be somewhat of a saved Christian without having been endowed with the Holy Spirit (the disciples between ascension and Pentecost; but also Acts 8:14-17), but can not be saved by being endowed by the Holy Spirit without having been set upon Christ.

A fine example of a Javanite thinker is Socrates, who challenged people's certainties not because he had the answers but because he knew that the things that the people were certain of, were provable flaws. Another Javanite thinker is Buddha, who taught a lifetime to die saying that he never really knew a thing. A truly honest man keeps doubting until he meets the Truth.

The name Javan means Mud Man and this name may even be a playful reference to the name Adam; Earthling. We sons of Adam have bodies made of solid earth (even though we are mostly fluid); the sons of Javan have minds that begin to yield some wobbly foothold to the mind. It is by no means a coincidence that the gospel of Jesus Christ was first successfully promoted in the realm of Greek philosophy.

For a meaning of the name Javan, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Supple, Clay. NOBS Study Bible Name List simply reads Greece.

A related name is Jonah.



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