🔼The name Japheth: Summary
- Formless Expansion
- From the verb פתה (pata), to grow bigger with whatever.
🔼The name Japheth in the Bible
Japheth is one of three sons of Noah, and since Noah sums up all of mankind, his three sons describe the three great categories of human mentality (see our article on the name Noah for a lengthier defense of this idea).
Japheth's younger brother Ham appears to describe a personal but also national primitive self-awareness that leads to passionate feelings towards self-preservation and personal gain. Shem, on the other hand, stands for a world view that is wholly divorced from self-preservation and personal gain, and which solely concentrates on the proper functioning of the whole of creation. Japheth sits in the middle, and he represents the personal and national perspective of individuals and nations that are busy developing a so-called theory of mind (which in human children occurs between the ages of about one and seven).
Japheth views the world wholly but not without self-interests. He is aware of different perspectives but remains convinced that his view is the best one. His most famous "sons" are Javan (the Hebrew word for Greece) and Madai (the Hebrew word for the Medes), from which the world received the typical bi-polar (and pseudo-monotheistic) thinking of Zarathustra.
🔼Light versus dark
Zarathustra taught that all is one (which is a Shemite trait) but still divided into a kingdom of light and a kingdom of darkness. These two kingdoms are perpetually at odds with each other, and their battle is what creates reality, demonstrated wherever temptation mars wisdom, or cold contrasts heat, light contrasts dark, or up contrasts down; all in a world where the yin of the sacred feminine lies locked in with the yang of the sacred masculine, in some cases even to produce a sacred infant.
All this seems wonderfully advanced, and its tenets still fill vast chains of New Age bookstores, the patrons of which routinely forget how the societies that gave us these "wisdoms" couldn't wait to convert to the technology and medicine of science-based models and abandoned faith in their traditions en masse. Because, no, femininity and masculinity are not in any way such opposites that they encompass the whole of creation. Darkness is not the opposite of light but the absence of it. When we switch on the light in a dark room nothing leaves or is replaced; light is substantial but darkness is not. Light comes out of a source — a candle, a lamp or the sun — but darkness does not come out of a source; it doesn't come from anywhere; it's only light that comes. There is no hot or cold; there is only energy or the absence of it. And, most importantly, there is no kingdom of evil that exists parallel to the kingdom of light, which has an evil monarch, who rules an evil organization (Isaiah 45:5-7). Evil is the absence of good, not the opposite of it.
"Good" is when all creatures are what they can be and therefore work together in a most effective and mutually pleasing way. "Evil" occurs when "good" is absent, and characters such as satan simply drive creatures apart but do not organize them in some adverse way, and they certainly don't rule an organization of darkness and evil. The name Baal-zebub, for instance, means Lord of the Flies, and anyone who knows anything about flies knows that flies (contrary to bees; see the name Deborah) don't cooperate, don't build a house and don't produce anything substantial (like, say, a hypothetical "anti-honey").
Still, both on a personal level and on a national one, Japheth is probably better than Ham.
🔼Etymology of the name Japheth
The name Japheth is identical to the verb used in Noah's blessing (Genesis 9:27), where it is commonly, but perhaps not all too correctly, translated with "enlarge": "May God enlarge Japheth..".:
The verb פתה (pata) appears to describe the process of slowly but surely growing wider without investing much critical thought in the quality of the substance that is acquired. It's the process that makes a mud flat or sand bank grow bigger, until it even begins to yield dry land and perhaps to support an island ecosystem. In much the same way a human mind will grow, if one does not separate useful from useless information, and eventually yield certainties and perhaps even forms of creativity that are all based on mostly garbage and loose debris.
This verb's sole derivative is the noun פתי (peti), which describes a non-critical mind that grows ever larger with nonsense: forever learning but never understanding.
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 surmise that the main difference between Shem and Japheth is that although both acquire, Japheth is simply piling upon an ever growing heap, whereas Shem carefully adopts elements that he may incorporate into a previously conceived design. Japheth is simply making a bigger pile (gossip, rumors, fiction; anything goes), but Shem is building a temple. Shem's temple consists of the knowledge of natural law, and not all facts can serve as its stones.
For more on the world of Japhethite thinking, read our article on the name Homer.