🔼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
The name Caphtor appears to belong to an evolutionary stage of human culture between Mizraim (Egypt) and the Philistines. It's tempting to assume that the name Caphtor refers to a specific region, and many commentators have located Caphtor either in the Nile delta or on an eastern Mediterranean island such as Cyprus or Crete, but in Old Testament times, lands were named after the people in it and when the people moved on, the name moved with them or went away.
In ancient times, cultures could remain largely the same for very long times and hence stretch over vast areas. But that doesn't mean that all the people who lived within that cultural basin were biologically related. In fact, it's clear that when technology is relatively scarce and human tribes are nomadic, tribes would very often meet and assume each other's technology and form a very wide relatively homogeneous spread of the same culture. This wide-spread organic technology sharing among many different peoples and tribes gave rise to not centralized cultures such as that of the proto-Indo-Europeans and more recently the Celts, the Phoenicians and originally even the Huns.
The Torah explains that Caphtor is the land of the Caphtorim, who descended from Mizraim of Ham of Noah (Genesis 10:4), which is to say that the ancient culture of Egypt radiated its science and technology and ignited an independent derivative culture, on the north and eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, long prior to the emergence of the Phoenicians (and note that that Luke places a harbor named Phoenix on Crete: Acts 27:12). These Caphtorim appear to have displaced several earlier cultures, among which the Avvim (Deuteronomy 2:23), but somewhere along the line the Caphtorim culture itself came under pressure of others. Through the prophet Amos, YHWH declared that he brought up the Philistines from Caphtor, and through Jeremiah that the Philistines emerged as a separate derivative culture from a remnant of Caphtor.
At that time this remnant of Caphtor appears to have been concentrated on an island (the noun אי, 'i refers to a coast region: coast, capes and islands off the coast). Most commentators seem to favor Crete as the last stronghold of the Caphtorim, which would make the Philistines displaced survivors of the Minoan culture. The Minoans had maintained a highly advanced civilization from the 4th millennium BCE, which had absorbed much of Egypt's culture and which in turn had radiated its own identity to the Greek and Canaan coasts. After a series of natural calamities and attacks by Hittites and probably others, the Minoan culture began to decline halfway the 2nd millennium BCE. Around 1200 BCE, the Minoan culture had been eradicated from the island.
It seems reasonable to expect that certain Minoan refugees began to seek refuge with their old business partners. Right around the time that the Minoan culture came to an end, Egyptian records begin to make mention of the Philistines in their realm, and the distinct Philistine identity may very well have come about when waves of late-Minoan refugees overwhelmed native Canaanite tribes.
🔼Etymology of the name Caphtor
The name Caphtor is most likely a loan word from the Minoan language to indicate Minoan 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).
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. Noun כפרת (kapporet) is the technical term for the cover of the Ark of the Covenant; the Mercy Seat.
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.
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.