🔼The name Ophir: Summary
- Coast Of Riches, Gathering Mark Of Wealth
- Exhausted, Depleted
- From the verb אוה ('wh), to desire or draw near, and (2) an Arabic synonym of the previous.
- From the noun אפר ('eper), ashes.
🔼The name Ophir in the Bible
Ophir is one of many sons of Joktan, the brother of Peleg (Genesis 10:29), and Peleg became the ancestor of Abraham, while the Joktanites are the last mentioned Shemite generation before the tower of Babel was built.
Much later a typically auriferous land of Ophir is mentioned, which may or may not be the land that the descendants of the first Ophir settled (1 Kings 9:28, Psalm 45:9, Isaiah 13:12).
The name Ophir is mostly spelled אופיר, but in Genesis 10:29 it's אופר (Ophar) and in 1 Kings 10:11 it's אפיר (Aphir).
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Ophir
The etymology and original meaning of the name Ophir are unclear. Fuerst's Hebrew & Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament assumes that the name Ophir consists of two elements, and derives the first one from the root group אוה (awa):
There are four different verbs אוה ('wh), which all appear to express a desire or movement toward something. Noun אי ('i) means coast, which has been mankind's preferred place to settle since time immemorial. Nouns או ('aw), מאוי (ma'away), אוה ('awwa) and תאוה (ta'awa) all mean desire. The noun אות ('ot) means mark or sign, and humanity's earliest marks were not to assert private ownership but rather a collective identity: something to draw toward and gather around. Noun אי ('i) means jackal, and noun איה (ayya) means hawk or falcon. These creatures were possibly named after their supplicatory calls, or else their rapturous method of predation.
The conjunction או ('o) means "or." The interjection אי ('i) expresses regret: "alas!" Adverb אי ('i) may serve as a particle of negation ("to be desired" and thus not so), or as an interrogative adverb, meaning "where?", usually in rhetorical questions. The substantive אין ('ayin) expresses negation or nothingness and occurs hundreds of times in the construct מאין (m'ayin), which literally means "from where is not?", as introduction to a rhetorical question concerning something that is true in all known parts of the world: "where isn't it so that such and such, hmm?"
The second part of the name supposedly comes from an Arabic equivalent meaning riches. The name could thus mean Coast Of Riches or Gathering Mark Of Wealth. NOBSE Study Bible Name List simply reads Rich. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Abundance.
However, whatever the original meaning of the name Ophir might have been, a Hebrew audience would have surely noted the distinct similarity between the name אופר and the root group אפר ('pr):
It's not clear what the unused verb אפר ('apar) might have meant but it's clearly not very positive and possibly has to do with being exhausted or depleted of inner strength and inherent merit.
Noun אפר ('eper) means ashes, which is what remains when all useful energy is extracted from a fuel. Noun אפר ('aper) means covering or bandage, which is what is applied over a limb when its inherent strength is broken.
That means that the name Ophir would probably have reminded a Hebrew audience of the fleeting virtues of wealth, or at least the corrupting qualities of material wealth relative to the eternal wealth of knowledge and wisdom.