Where was Ophir?

Psalm 45:9 Kings' daughters were among your honorable women: on ...

Once upon a time, King Solomon sent an expedition to a place called Ophir, which brought him back 450 talents in gold (2 Chronicles 8:18). In 9 Chronicles 13, we are told the king’s total revenue amounted to 666 talents. Solomon was the richest king of his time, and that one trip to Ophir netted him about two-thirds of a year’s revenue.

But where was Ophir?

We don’t know. The Bible doesn’t tell us–probably because, at the time it was written, people knew where Ophir was and didn’t have to be told. And it was famous for its gold. Psalm 45 speaks of “the queen in gold of Ophir.”

There is no mention of Ophir in the New Testament. Was that because the name had changed? Or maybe Ophir’s civilization had collapsed.

Where was it?

Speculation as to the location of Ophir takes Solomon’s ships as far afield as the coast of America, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, and Central Africa. There’s no archaeological evidence to support any of those theories.

But we do know–and have evidence for it–that the ancient Indus Valley civilization sent trading ships up the Persian Gulf to Arabia and Mesopotamia. Probably Mesopotamia sent ships to the Indus. Personally, that’s where I think Ophir was. It’s a long way from the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea, where Solomon’s ports were. But Alexander the Great was able to send ships from the Indus back to the Persian Gulf; they surely could have continued around Arabia and up the Red Sea. There were plenty of ports along the way, for rest and re-supply.

If Solomon flourished around 900 B.C., the Indus Valley civilization was already out of business by then; but other civilized people now lived there.

We do tend to sell the ancients short, and think they couldn’t possibly have done things that no one else did till modern times. Thor Heyerdahl made a pretty good career out of poking holes in this doctrine. Of course, nobody believes anymore in any of the things he said or wrote; but no one can deny that he built accurate re-creations of several kinds of ancient vessels and successfully sailed them on long voyages. If he could cross the Atlantic on a boat made of reeds, then at least it was possible for someone in the ancient world to do it.

But we still don’t know where Ophir was.


11 comments on “Where was Ophir?

  1. I’ve always questioned the accuracy of the historical narratives. The fact is, there is much we do not know, period. Much of the historical narrative relies on a handful of facts and a whole bunch of speculation. There is far from universal agreement on any number of “facts” taught in the schools. For a long time, I have questioned the notion that the Americas were isolated until 1492. There may have been periods of isolation, but I doubt that people were so limited, back in those days, as to have been unaware or unable to sail great distances.

    Perhaps the best evidence for this is the fact that pyramids seem to exist all over the place. How could that have happened in all of those places, unless there was some degree of exchange?

    1. Hardly an effortless one. I would imagine that building a pyramid probably involved the use of literal slaves, with zero say in the matter, or persons whom were enslaved to some form of false worship, which made them act out of fear, and not from devotion. They pretty much had to be related to a false god, of some sort.

    2. Legend has it that Leif Erickson set foot on North America a half a millennium before Columbus. It doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. It’s not so far from Norway to Iceland and then from Iceland to what today is Canada.

    3. As a kid, with some Scandinavian ancestors in the family tree, I always took great pride in Leif. Some be,i eve that Viking explorers got as far inland as the Midwest, although there are sharp divisions on this point. I could imagine old Leif walking past the area that became Madison, WI and.saying; “Ya, da missus vould like dis place”. 🙂

    4. The Vinland Sagan has been confirmed by the archaeological evidence. So, yes, they really made it here from Greenland.

    5. That is believable. Some of the other legends tried to place him further inland, and I think that there may be some wishful thinking involved.

    6. According to the saga, they did visit a few places on the mainland (Leif and a few others), but chose Newfoundland for their settlement.
      Did I tell you I’m an official and bona fide expert on the Viking Age?

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