The name Japheth (Strong’s H3315) means “expansion” (Strong’s s.v.) or “widely extending” (Gesenius’ s.v.) and fittingly his descendants were dispersed widely across the Mediterranean from Anatolia to Iberia and also throughout Iran, the Caucasus, Russia and Eastern Europe.
While his descendants undoubtedly spread to further regions and diverged into new tribal branches, much of what we know of them is lost to time, unknown events that went unrecorded in remote regions among illiterate peoples. Nonetheless we are still able to identify each of the Japhethic patriarchs with at least one branch of their offspring.
Unlike the Hamites, and to some extent the Shemites, there is no controversy over their racial character, so I will not have cause to speak about that here. What we ought to be mindful of is the fact that Shem and Ham were pure-blooded brothers of Adamic stock.
Noah was chosen to preserve the Adamic race because he was “perfect in his race [G1074]”. Genea (Strong’s G1074) means “race, stock, family” (Liddell and Scott s.v.) or “men of the same stock, a family” (Thayer s.v.). His wife and sons were certainly of the same stock (Tobit 4.12) or the purity of Noah’s race would’ve been for nought. It cannot reasonably be imagined that his sons Ham and Shem were racially dissimilar to Japheth.
Gomer, Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah.
In Jeremiah 51.27 Ashkenaz is mentioned along with Ararat (Strong’s H780) and Minniy (H4508), both regions in the vicinity of Armenia (Strong’s and Gesenius’ s.v.). Ararat corresponds to Urartu which was centered in the historic Armenian highlands and Minni is the historical Mannaea centered in modern Iranian Azerbaijan adjacent to Armenia. In Armenian tradition, Ashkenaz and his brother Togarmah were considered to be the ancestors of the Armenians.
Koriun, the earliest Armenian historian, calls the Armenians an “Askanazian nation” in the first line of his work Life of Mashtots. The later Armenian historian Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi also refers to Ashkenaz and Togarmah as the ancestors of the Armenians (History of Armenia 1.6-7). The identification of Togarmah with the Armenians is affirmed by Hippolytus of Rome (Chronica 68).
In the medieval Georgian Chronicles and Moses of Chorene’s History of Armenia Togarmah is portrayed as the progenitor of both the Armenians and the Kartvelians. Haik is said to have been the first son of Togarmah who inherited Mount Ararat and founded the Armenian nation. Kartlos settled North East of Ararat and established Kartli while Heros was the founder of Hereti. Caucus was the forebear of the Caucasians and Egros established Egrisi/Colchis (Stephen H. Rapp, Studies In Medieval Georgian Historiography: Early Texts And Eurasian Contexts, Peeters Publishers p. 427).
While these local traditions may not be precisely reliable, we can say with certainty that the Armenian and Kartvelian peoples of the Caucasus were traditionally thought to be descended from Gomer. This squares well with the what little Biblical information there is concerning the descendants of Gomer. It must also be said that Gomer was not the only patriarch whose posterity contributed to Armenian ethnogenesis, and it is apparent that the descendants of Aram through Hul also formed a portion of the ancient Armenians.
Riphath cannot be identified with certainty but I might propose that he left his name to the Riphean Mountains of classical Greek geography in whose foothills the Arimaspi (also known as Ripheans, Pomponious Mela, Chorographia 1.1.2) were said to live. While the location of the Riphean Mountains is uncertain, they certainly were quite far from Anatolia and the Caucasus where Riphath’s brothers, cousins and forefathers seem to have settled. Nonetheless it is not impossible that the sons of Riphath reached the Riphean Mountains during the long lapse of the ages.
Flavius Josephus tells us that Gomer founded the Galatians, Ashkenaz the Rheginians, Riphath the Paphlagonians and Togarmah the Phrygians (Antiquities 1.6.1). Hippolytus of Rome identified Gomer not as the father of the Galatians, but of their neighbours, the Cappadocians (Chronica 57). There being no particularly close connections between any of these tribes aside from their geographical proximity, it seems most plausible that Josephus and Hippolytus are identifying the Gomerite tribes with a region they had once settled and confusing them with its much later inhabitants. Most probably ancient Gomerites settled in Anatolia before migrating North into the Caucasus.
Magog, Meshech and Tubal.
Herodotus mentions two tribes among those subject to Persian dominion, the Moschi and the Tibareni (The Histories 3.94, 7.78), which resided in the North Eastern reaches of Anatolia on the coast of Pontus. Josephus tells us “Thobel founded the Thobelites, who are now called Iberes; and the Mosocheni were founded by Mosoch; now they are Cappadocians.” (Antiquities 1.6.1). Josephus’ Thobelites and Mosocheni can only be the Tibareni and Moschi of Herodotus.
There is good reason to think that both the Tibareni and the Moschi originated in North Eurasia before crossing the Caucasus and settling in Pontus. Josephus refers to the Tubalites as Iberians (of the Iberia of the Caucasus) and other ancient writers attributed to the Tibareni an origin in Scythia (Xenophon, Anabasis 5.5.2, Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica s.v. Tibarenia). Strabo has the Moschian Mountains as joining the Caucasus (Geography 11.2.1).
Over 1.5 millennia before the Germanic tribe of the Rus conquered the land known now as Russia, Ezekiel wrote of Rhos as being the prince of Meshech and Tubal in the land of Magog (Ezekiel 38.2), nations which are aligned against Christendom/Israel during the last days. This is no mere coincidence, but rather it is a clear manifestation of the divine inspiration of the prophet Ezekiel. The prophet was certainly describing the future Soviet Union and the mixed Caucasian-Asiatic communist hordes of North Eurasia.
In Revelation chapter 20 Satan gathers “the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth” against Israel, notably Gog and Magog and they surround the “camp of the saints” (vs. 28). This prophecies the beginning of communism in Russia and Satan’s full-scale assault on Christendom, an attack which continues to this day. In light of the relationship which the Rus were destined to have with Magog, Meshech and Tubal, we may reasonably associate Mesech and Tubal with the early peoples inhabiting the regions surrounding the Russian cities of Moscow and Tobolsk.
Josephus identifies Magog as the ancestor of the Magogites who he says the Greeks called Scythians (Antiquities 1.6.1). While I would certainly agree that the Magogites settled in what was known in Josephus’ time as Scythia, it is certain that the Magogites were not the same as the people originally known as Scythians.
In the various chronicles of the Hungarians, Magor is given as the progenitor of the Magyars/Hungarians (Zoltán Kordé, Eneth, Hunor és Magyar; Menroth, Akadémiai Kiadó p. 275) and Magor is reckoned by some accounts to be a descendant of Magog (ibid., Miklós Molnár, A Concise History of Hungary, Cambridge University Press p. 10) while in other accounts Magor is a son of Japheth (Chronici Hungari 3.4). The “Scythians” who Josephus identifies as the Magogites must be the Magyars who inhabited Scythia before their migration to the Carpathian Basin.
According to Josephus “from Madai came the Madeans, who are called Medes, by the Greeks” (Antiquities 1.6.1). Throughout the Septuagint Maday (Strong’s H4074) is rendered as Μήδων or in one instance Μήδους (Isaiah 13.17), forms of the Greek name for the Medes. In Assyrian sources Media is refered to as Mada, cognate with Hebrew Maday. Medos was reckoned to be the ancestor of the Medes in classical Greek history. Christian scholars have proposed linking Hebrew Madai and Greek Medos since at least the time of Isidore of Seville in in the 6th century AD (Etymologiae 9.2.28).
Herodotus wrote that “The Medes were formerly called by everyone Arians, but when the Colchian woman Medea came from Athens to the Arians, they changed their name … This is the Medes’ own account of themselves.” (The Histories 7.62). The name Aryan was used as an endonym by the Indo-Aryans who invaded India in the early 2nd millennium BC and, according to Herodotus, Aryan was the original endonym of the Medes. We might reasonably infer that the Indo-Aryans were at least partially descended from Madai.
Diodorus Siculus, discussing the conquests of certain Scythian Kings, wrote “It was by these kings that many of the conquered peoples were removed to other homes, and two of these became very great colonies … the other was drawn from Media and planted along the Tanaïs [a river North of the Caucasus mountains which empties into the Black Sea from the North East], its people receiving the name Sauromatae [Sarmatians]. Many years later this people became powerful and ravaged a large part of Scythia” (Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 2.43.5-7). Pliny the Elder refers to the Sarmatians as “the Sarmatae, descended as they say, from the Medi” (Natural History 6.7.19).
Herodotus, writing of the remote Northern reaches of the known world, said “The only people of whom I can hear as dwelling beyond the Ister are the race named Sigynnae, who wear, they say, a dress like the Medes … Their borders reach down almost to the Eneti upon the Adriatic Sea [including perhaps the modern Carinthia in Western Austria], and they call themselves colonists of the Medes; but how they can be colonists of the Medes I for my part cannot imagine. Still nothing is impossible in the long lapse of ages.” (The Histories 5.9). So we see from one of the earliest European records of settlement in Central Europe that the settlers are said to be of Median extraction.
Josephus writes “Thiras also called those whom he ruled over Thirasians; but the Greeks changed the name into Thracians.” (Antiquities 1.6.1). Tiras is written in Hebrew as Thiyrac, and so it is hardly a great change that Josephus alleges. In the Jerusalem Targum and the Targum of Jonathan Thiyrac (H8494) is rendered as Thrace (Gesenius’ s.v.). Hippolytus of Rome also identifies Tiras with the Thracians (Chronica 63).
According to Strabo the Phrygians of Anatolia were a colony of the Thracians (Geography 7.3.2, 10.3.16) and Herodotus said that the Phrygians were formerly called Bryges, a tribe he elsewhere refers to as Thracians (The Histories 7.73, 6.45).
The Thracians were a prolific people, so much so that Herodotus considered them the most numerous people in the world after the Indians (The Histories 5.3). Despite Hellenization and repeated invasions of the Balkans some Thracians retained their identity, with a single tribe, the Bessi, persisting until the 4th century AD. Undoubtedly today the Thracians remain as a substantial ancestral group among South Eastern Europeans.
Javan, Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim.
Javan is traditionally associated with the Ionian Greeks following Josephus (Antiquities 1.6.1) and Hippolytus (Chronica 60). In the Septuagint Yavan (Strong’s H3120) is rendered in some instances as Ελλάδα/Hellasa (Isaiah 66.19), Ελλάς/Hellas (Ezekiel 27.13) or Ελλήνων/Hellenon (Daniel 8.21, 10.20, 11.2, Zechariah 9.13). In the Old Persian text of the Behistun Rock inscription they are called Yavana where Sir Henry Rawlinson has “Ionians”.
Elishah can be identified with the early Cypriots, as in ancient times part of the island of Cyprus was known as Alashiya in Egyptian, Hittite, Akkadian, Mycenean and Ugaritic inscriptions. Josephus identified Elishah with the Aeolian Greeks (Antiquities 1.6.1), a likely identification, though no other source substantiates this claim.
Josephus says “Cethimus [son of Javan] possessed the island Cethima: it is now called Cyprus … and one city there is in Cyprus that has been able to preserve its denomination; it has been called Citius [or Citium] by those who use the language of the Greeks, and has not, by the use of that dialect, escaped the name of Cethim.” (Antiquities 1.6.1). Given the proximity to Elishah there should be no doubt of this identification.
Dodanim in the Masoretic Text is a scribal error by the Hebrew copyists, the dalet and resh in Hebrew being easily confused. This is evident in the Septuagint which translates the ancient Hebrew text of Genesis 10.4 with Ῥόδιοι/Rhodians instead of Dodanim. In Ezekiel 27.15 where the Masoretic Text has Dedan (Strong’s H7719) bene (H1121), meaning “the men of Dedan” the Septuagint has Ροδίων/Rhodians.
Many scholars have conjectured a Japhetic Javanite origin for the Dorian and Danaan Greeks. There is no clear basis for this, and in fact history attests that this is certainly not the case. Greek civilization was formed from a number of tribes of differing ancestral origin who coalesced into a relatively unified culture and so we ought not to be surprised to find that there were Greek tribes not descended from Javan. This is indeed the case and it can be proven through Scripture, history and archaeology that the Danaan and Dorian Greeks were Israelites from the tribe of Dan and the Manassehite city of Tel Dor.
Josephus identifies Tarshish as the region of Cilicia, relating this to the city of Tarsus (Antiquities 1.6.1) and in Hittite inscriptions part of Cilicia is refered to as Tarza. The Septuagint, Vulgate, and the Targum of Jonathan all translate Tarshish as Carthage, presumably referring to the region geographically rather than ethnically, Carthage being a colony of the distantly related Phoenicians.
In their Greek-English lexicon, Liddell & Scott readily identify Tartessus as “the Tarshish of Scripture” and Gesenius identifies Tarshiysh as Tartessus. It is not at all implausible that the Tarshishites settled on both sides of the sea, and so we need not assume there is conflict between the identifications of Tarshish with regions in both Anatolia and the Western Mediterranean.