Tim Alborn

Notes on the British search for Ophir

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This page originally appeared as a link to a blog post that accompanied an article I published in 2015 in the Journal of Victorian Culture (go back to my home page to access that article). Since the links on that post no longer work, I've pasted it in below, with the associated research notes immediately following.


The best historical writing rests on a canopy atop a dense forest of primary sources. Through hard work and determination, historians struggle through this foliage to reach the light of day, where they can gain a clearer perspective on the past. They then tell a story that makes sense of that past to other readers, who have not had the time or inclination to examine it leaf by leaf.  The art of writing history largely consists in giving the impression of a wealth of primary evidence without bogging the reader down in too much detail. There’s always a fine line between inducing boredom and creating a suspicion that too little evidence has been made to go too far.  The only real test is a largely subjective one, which requires a mutual trust and not a little artistry: do readers come away with feeling that they would be just as convinced of the article’s generalizations after carefully studying everything that wasn’t, as well as everything that was, included?

I’ve long toyed the thought of creating an apparatus to go along with one of my articles that would enable the reader to part the leaves in the canopy and delve more deeply into the vast amount of material I typically sift through in the course of my research. I accomplished one version of this in 2013 when I co-edited a three-volume primary-source anthology on Anglo-American life insurance, which roughly accompanied monographs my co-editor and I had respectively written on American and British life insurance in the nineteenth century.  In this post, and with much less destruction of actual (as opposed to metaphorical) trees, I’ve created a digital window onto my research notes. In the process, I’ve also provided some insight into how I organize my research, and how I choose which evidence to include in the final version of the article and which to keep concealed beneath the surface.

My article roughly covers two distinct time periods, the sixty years before and after 1850.  In the first period, Biblical scholars, explorers, and merchants engaged in a global scrum regarding the possible location of Ophir, a mysterious Biblical land from which King Solomon received prodigious supplies of gold and other exotic commodities; in the second, novelists, colonizers, and mining speculators joined in the hunt for Ophir, and by the 1880s mainly set their sights on South Africa.

The first of these periods corresponds to the period covered in a book-length project I’m writing on the cultural and economic meanings of gold in Britain between 1780 and 1850; the second is a period I’ve focused on extensively in my previous work.  In preparing this article, I first selected judiciously from the mass of material that I had gathered in the course of researching my book; indeed, the idea of writing a stand-alone article on Ophir grew directly out of that research. I then focused my attention (and my search engines) more narrowly on references to Ophir in the decades leading up to and beyond Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, which I assumed would be a useful framing device for my contribution. Since this latter period also has received much more attention from scholars than the decades before 1850 (which has received all but no attention), I also had a better sense of wheels that could safely be left un-reinvented. 

Looking over my “Ophir” folder on my computer, the result of this research strategy is apparent in the files: one very large file, simply called “Ophir,” sprawls its way through dozens of sources ranging from the eighteenth century through the 1840s, and ranging around the globe. Several smaller files, with titles such as “Ophir news 1863-73” or “Ophir news 1881-91,” or specific files devoted to late-Victorian books about Ophir, gather around this file like so many vines. At the bottom of this post, I’ve included links to several of these latter files, which can be viewed online or downloaded as pdf files.  The “BP” files consist in screenshots of pages from the British Periodicals Database; the “news” files include screenshots (with the highlighted search terms intact) from 19th Century British Newspapers and UK Periodicals.

Referees of my articles often comment that they have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees, or words to that effect.  As published, my hope is that “King Solomon’s Gold” is the beneficiary of astute pruning, both by myself in the revising process and by my editors. This blog post is a Borgesian effort to restore the forest in its lush wonder—or at least for the “main trunk” of my research, covering the period before 1850. The rest of this web page replicates, more or less faithfully, the “Ophir” file on my computer, with some bells and whistles: pictures of some of the Ophir-hunters and links to online editions of most of the sources cited. 

Ophir beyond 1850 (click dates to access pdf files):

Sources from British Periodicals: 1855-90    1890s    1898-1905
Sources from British Newspapers: 1850-62   1863-73   1874-80    1881-91   1892-99
Sources from the London Times

Ophir before 1850

The following quotations appear (more or less) in the order I originally transcribed them into my “Ophir” file on my computer, which includes sources from the mid-18th century through the 1840s. I have removed a few that add little or nothing to the variety of sources I found. In most cases full bibliographical information and context for the quote can be found by clicking the titles, which will take you to a page where the quote begins; or by following up the source in Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) where I’ve noted that. A handful of quotes come from subscription-only databases or hard-copy sources with no accompanying access on Google Books.

Jump to:
Biblical references       General commentary: Prideaux  Calmet   Stackhouse   Beawes   Vincent   Kitto   Other 
Specific locations:  Burma   Ceylon   Gold Coast   India   Malacca   Persian Gulf   Red Sea   Sofala   Sumatra   New World
Trade   Solomon's Wealth

Biblical references (King James version)

1 Kings 9: 26-28

And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent his servants with the fleet, sailors who knew the sea, along with the servants of Solomon. They went to Ophir and took four hundred and twenty talents of gold from there, and brought it to King Solomon.

1 Kings 10:12, 14

And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones… Now the weight of gold which came in to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold.

1 Kings 10: 21-23

All King Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold. None was of silver; it was not considered valuable in the days of Solomon. For the king had at sea the ships of Tarshish with the ships of Hiram; once every three years the ships of Tarshish came bringing gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks. So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.

2 Chronicles 8: 16

And Hiram sent him by the hands ofhis servants ships, and servants that had knowledge of the sea; and they went with the servants of Solomon to Ophir, and took thence four hundred and fifty talents of gold, and brought them to king Solomon.

General commentary (major writers)


Humphrey Prideaux, The Old and New Testaments Connected (1725; orig 1715): “there are great disputes among learned men, in what parts of the eastern world” Ophir and Tarshish lay. “Some suppose Ophir to have been the island of Socotra, which lies on the eastern coasts of Africa, a little without the straits of Babel-mandel.” Others say Ceylon. Concludes that “any place in the Southern, or great Indian Sea, … which can best furnish the Merchants with Gold, Silver, Ivory, Apes, and Peacocks” = Tarshish, and any place that with gold, Almug Trees, and precious stones (1: 13), “may be guessed to be the Ophir in the said holy Scriptures.” Adds: “if the southern part of Arabia furnished the world in those times with the best Gold and in the greatest quantity (as good Authors say),” such authors “have the best foundation for their conjecture” (14).

William Fleming, A Gazetteer of the Old and New Testaments (1838), entry Ophir: “Dr Prideaux, proceeding on the supposition that the voyage to Tarshish only, and not the voyage to it and Ophir together, occupied three years, concludes that Ophir might have been nearer Judea than the other place, and that the voyage might have been accomplished in a shorter time than three years going and returning, if it had not been necessary to sail to Tarshish for those commodities which Ophir could not supply; and he hence infers that Tarshish might be any place in the Indian Ocean, the distance to and from which required a voyage of three years, yielding ‘gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks;’ and that any place might be Ophir which produced the other commodities mentioned by the sacred historian. This theory induces him to place Ophir in Arabia Felix, where a town called Sophar or Taphar still seems to preserve the name.” Problem: ”the improbability that vessels would be employed for commercial intercourse, as a constant communication had from time immemorial been kept between Judea, the more distant parts of Asia, and the countries on the Mediterranean, by means of caravans; nor can it be proved that this part of Arabia produced at any time great quantities of the best gold” (2: 258). This is copied from Charles Thompson, Travels (1744).


Antoine Calmet, Dictionary of the Holy Bible (1759; orig. 1720, orig Enlgish transl 1732, entry OPHIR); “a country much celebrated in Scripture,      and about which critics have proposed a great number of conjectures” Most agree that it was settled by Ophir, son of Joktan; “and Moses lets us know, that the thirteen sons of Joktan dwelt from Mesha to Sephar, a mountain of the east” (Gen 10: 30). “But as Mesha and Sephar are as much unknown as Ophir itself, we must take another method to discover Ophir.” Ophir is also mentioned in 1 Kings 22: 48, 2 Chron 20: 36, 1 Kings 9: 28 and 10: 22’; and 22: 49, 9: 26 and 10: 22 say that the sma eships went to both Tarshish and Ophir and that these took 3 years and returned with gold, peacocks, apes, spices, ivory and ebony; and that “the country of Ophir more abounded with gold than any yet known. By these tokens interpreters have undertaken to search for Ophir, but almost all have taken different ways” (948).

Calmet continued: Josephus says Ophir was in the Indies and is called the Gold Country, i.e. Malacca. Lucas Halstenius says India in general, or Supar in Celebes. Others say Malabar, or Ceylon. Bachart favors Ceylon. Eupolemus favors “island of Durphe” in Red Sea. Masseus says Pegu, “and it is said the Peguans pretend to be descended from those Jews, whom Solomon sent to work the mines of this country.” Lipenius, “who has composed a treatise concerning the country of Ophie, places it beyond the Ganges, at Malacca, Java, Sumatra, Siam, Bengal, Pegu, &c.” Arias Montanus say Hispaniola. Columbus thought the caverns he discovered there were Solomon’s mines. Passel says Peru, “a country famous for its vast quantity of gold.” Others say Africa: Melinda or Sofala. John Dos Santos says Monomotapa “in a mountain called Fura,” where there’s a castle said to be residence of queen of Sheba and “excellent mines.” Others say Angola, others Carthage, “though this city was not built till long after Solomon.” Others say Spain. Grotius says Ophir is “a port of Arabia… called Aphur” or (by Pliny) Saphar, “on the coasts of Arabia that were washed by the ocean.” Indians brought gold etc there, and Solomon bought it. Huetius, “in his Dissertation on the navigation of Solomon,” says Sofala, via Ezion-geber in Red Sea. Editor adds that Bruce sides with this. Goropius Becanus and Bivarius say Ezion-geber was in Mediterranean, which Calmet disputes. Abbot de Choisy, “in his Life of Solomon,” says Ophir was in Siam, based on 3 years and other commodities found there… We have taken a new course in quest of Ophir. We think that Ophir the son of Joktan, with his brethren, peopled the countries between the mountain Masius and the mountains of Saphar, which are probably those of the Tapires or Saspires, towards Armenia, Media, and the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates.” Cites Eustathius of Antioch. “The Septuagint sometimes reads Saphir for Ophir… though the countries were not maritime, yet these might trade with [Solomon’s ships] by going up the Tigris and Euphrates.” Entry Uphaz, says this is the same as Ophir: cf Daniel 10:5, Jeremiah 10: 9.

John Robinson, A Theological, Biblical, and Ecclesiastical History (1815; entry OPHIR): “Calmet appears to, be singular in his opinion on this subject. He places Ophir in some part of Armenia, not far from the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates. To obviate the objections that this country does not border on the sea, and is not sufficiently distant for a three years' voyage, he supposes that Solomon's fleet sailed on a trading voyage, and that in no one place it obtained all the commodities which it brought home; on the coast of Ethiopia it procured apes, ebony, and parrots; in Arabia, ivory, and spices; and at Ophir, gold. Though this Ophir was not a maritime country, yet he thinks that the gold it produced might be brought by land to some parts of the Tigris and Euphrates.”

William Fleming, A Gazetteer of the Old and New Testaments (1838), entry Ophir: “Calmet… places Ophir somewhere in Armenia and Media, where the Euphrates and Tigris take their rise, rivers which he thinks are adapted for commercial enterprises, and this hypothesis, which he maintains with his usual learning and ingenuity, he founds on the eircumstance that Ophir, one of Joktan's sons, might give his name to the country. It is easy to see, however, that this supposition is altogether untenable, for if Ophir was the country at the source of the Euphrates or Tigris, the vessels of Solomon could not have reached it, and if the gold, silver, and other commodities, were brought to the ships at the mouth of these rivers, it could not be said that they had sailed to Ophir. In farther support of his theory, he argues that the three years mentioned by the sacred writer might mean only three summers and two winters, or six months” (2: 259). Copied from Charles Thompson, Travels (1744).


Thomas Stackhouse, A New History of the Holy Bible (1796; orig 1737): “Amidst the vast variety of opinions concerning the situation of these two famous places, Ophir and Tarshish, the learned Grotius has suggested a good expedient… how to find them out; namely, by considering what commodities were brought from thence, and then enquiring of merchants, who have been in the remoter parts of the world, where not only gold and precious stones, but ivory likewise, and almug trees, and whatever else we read of, was brought from thence, is now to be found. But this expedient will not do; not only because the seats of traffic are frequently changing, and any country may, in time, be exhausted of the commodities it once abounded with; but because it is no easy matter to tell (by the imperfect description we have of them) of what distinct species some of these commodities were. The almug tree, for instance, has been a puzzle to most interpreters… how then can those commodities, that are of so indefinite a signification, be any characteristic to the situation of any country? Nor is there much more certainty to be gathered from the names of the places we are in quest of; for though it be allowed that Ophir was the country which at first was peopled by Ophir, one of Joktan's sons, who are said to have inhabited the country from Mesha to Sephar, a mountain in the east; yet, where Mesha and Sephar are to be placed, we know no more than we do where Ophir lies” (4: 66).

Stackhouse continued: ““Josephus (and from him many others) places it in the Indies, in a country… known now by the name of Malacca, and a peninsula opposite to Sumatra. The learned Bochart contends hard for the isle Taphrobane, so famous among the ancients, which is now called Ceylon… because this place (as he tells us) abounds with gold, ivory, and precious stones. Arias Montanus will needs remove it into Armenia; and, when Christopher Columbus at first discovered the island Hispaniola in 1492, he used to make his boasts, that he had found the Ophir of Solomon, because he perceived deep caverns in the earth, from whence he supposed that prince might have dug his gold” (67). F. Calmet is no less singular in his opinion: He places Ophir somewhere in Armenia, not far from the sources of the Tygris and Euphrates; and, to obviate the objection of the country's not bordering on the sea, and not being at distance enough for a three years voyage, he supposes, that Solomon's fleet made a trading voyage of it,” touching at Ethiopia, Arabia, and the mouth of theTigrus, where Ophir gold was taken by land. Grotius agrees that Solomon’s ships only went as far as Arab coast, to which “the Indians brought down their merchandises… to be bought by Solomon's / factors” (4: 67-68). Huetius: “Ophir lay upon the east coast of Afric, and, more particularly, was that small country which is called Sophala; that Solomon's fleet went out of the Red Sea, and, from the harbour of Ezion-Geber, entered into the Mediterranean by a canal of communication which joined the two seas” (68). 1817 ed., 2:294 adds Bruce’s support of Huetius re Sofala, via Encyclopaedia Britannica; and contrats this with the Boetica (Spain) hypothesis, which locates Ophir on the Gold Coast. This was inserted by George Gleig, who updated this edition.

Stackhouse continued: “Which of these conjectures (for conjectures they are all) make the nearest approaches to truth, it is hard to determine; only we may adventure to say, (c) that if any part of Arabia did furnish the world, in those days, with the best gold, and in the greatest quantity (as some good authors seem to say), they who would have the Ophir of the Holy Scriptures to be there situated, seem, of all others, to have the best foundation for their conjecture; especially considering, that the use of the compass not being then known, the way of navigation was, in those days, by coasting, which would carry a ship into Africa much better than either into the East or West Indies” (4: 68). This is copied from Prideaux.


Windham Beawes. Lex Mercatoria Rediviva (1752): “the Treasures and Commerce of the Arabians, enriched the neighbouring Nations; Judea above all, felt it most, as may be judged by the Revenues and Wealth of Solomon, which the Scripture describes to have been so very great… that all the Kings and Governors of Arabia, brought him Gold and Silver, besides his annual Revenue, amounting to six hundred and sixty-six Talents of Gold”; also 120 talents from Queen of Sheba: either £613,200 (Calmet) or £864,000 (Prideaux)—“a plain Proof of the great Richness of this Queen's Country” and “the many Advantages that Judea reaped from Trade” (25). Also cites Dvaid’s store of treasure for his temple to show the “Benefits brought to this Country by Commerce, for none of this vast Treasure was the Produ?t of it, and consequently must have been imported, to the great enriching both of Prince and People, as plainly appears from the Magnificence of their Gifts… tho' we have not the Account of King David's Trade to the Land of Ophir and Tarshish, as materially remarked as we have that of his Son Solomon's, yet he undoubtedly commenced it, on his Conquest of the Kingdom of Edom, which made him Master of Elath and Eziongebar, two Sea-Port Towns on the Red Sea, from whence he might, and certainly did, direct his Trafick to the Coast of Africa westward, and to Arabia, Persia, and India on the East; and as he lived twenty-five Years after making that Conquest, we may account for his amassing, such, otherwise, an incredible Sum, by the long Continuançe and vast Profit of his Trade. I am not ignorant, that many learned Authors judge the Talents above-mentioned to have been less than they are there calculated at; yet supposing with them, that they were not above half the Value, the Sum still remains prodigiously great, and shews what I am contending for, that only Commerce could furnish such a Treasure.” Cites Malynes on David (26).

Beawes continued: “From the Trade of the Arabians, and in particular their Navigation, we will pass, as a Thing very a propos, to that of the Fleet of Solomon, which went to Ophir. – After what we have seen of the Navigation of the former, it will not be very difficult to make appear more clearly than has ever yet been done, which Way it took for performing this Voyage. First, there is a great Probability, that Solomon was informed by some Arabians, or by the Queen of Sheba herself, long before she came to see him, of the Maritime Places, from whence they drew their Gold, their Spices, and the other rich Merchandizes of their Commerce, as well as of the Rout which they had to go; and that it was in consequence of this Discovery, that he took the Resolution to main tain in some Port of the Red Sea, a Fleet for to proceed every three Years (according to the sacred Text) to the same Places which were frequented by that of the Arabians… Secondly, it cannot be doubted that Solomon, after this Discovery, and with the Design of drawing from India (according to his Wants) the same Treasures which the Ports of Arabia procured, did not take care to secure Pilots to conduct his Ships to those Places” from Hiram (26).

Beawes continued: “in regard of the Arabians, … the Islands of Ceylon and Sumatra, were the principal Places (that is to say, the richest) to which they/ sailed; the Fleet of Solomon ought certainly to do the same in holding the same Rout, I would say, in traversing the midst of the Sea” (26-27). “It cannot be positively affirmed, that the Isle of Ceylon has been formerly rich in Gold, as many of the Learned believed, and that this Fleet, which certainly went thither, drew its Gold from thence, as it did its Precious Stones, Caffia and Cinnamon; but it may be supposed with much greater Probability, that it got it from some Part of the Peninsula of Malacca, called anciently the Chersonese of Gold, or from the Island of Sumatra, since this has been always, as it still is, full of this precious Metal. The Sea is as easy, or easier, to pass from the Isle of Ceylon to that of Sumatra by the western Monsoon, than it is from Arabia to the Coast of Malabar, or to the Island of Ceylon… That which the Learned suppose, along the Eastern Coast of Africa to Sofala, is ten Times more difficult and dangerous, without reckoning that this last Place is two hundred Leagues more distant from Arabia, than the Isle of Sumatra is…. In a proper Season, a Passage is now made from Arabia to Sumatra in less than a Month, which cannot be done in four, from the same Place to Sofala (by coasting Africk) in any Time that may be chosen. It is then clear, that this is that dire?t Rout from Arabia to Ceylon and Sumatra, which the Arabians took, and which the Fleet of Solomon always chose, as the easiest and most profitable, or as the only one that could procure him the most precious Merchandizes of all the Earth, as well as all Sorts of Spices”; also almug (sandal) in Timor (27).

Beawes continued: all this “ought to draw the Curious from the Perplexities and Embarrassments, into which the Commentators on the Bible, by the Difference of their Opinions on this Matter, have thrown them. The ancient History of Commerce receives also a clear Light from this easy Demonstration, where the Navigation of the Indies has always been, and the Transport of the rich Merchandizes that have at all Times come from thence…. it is by no means necessary to make the Fleets of Solomon and Hiram, undertake the painful Tour of Africk, to fetch every time the Gold and Merchandize as far as Spain, as Mr. Huet has pretended, and yet more recently the Author of the Spe?tacle de la Nature [Noel Anton Pluche, 1732]…This is not a proper Place to enlarge, on explaining the Difficulties that there were for the Fleets to make this prodigious Tour along Shore, as these Authors have advanced: It is easier to imagine it in a Closet than to make it on the Spot, and to go to examine or prove the Dangers, if they had drawn for themselves an exact Picture of the Fatigues to be endured in risking to follow the Coasts of this great Part of the World, and had painted the unknown Shelves and Banks under Water, with which the Coasts are so well furnished; the contrary Winds and Currents which last long; and what is worse, the Wrecks which Tempests, almost continually, occasion, on being too near a Shore, they would without doubt have changed their Language” (27).

Beawes continued: “Africk has in Truth always produced Gold and Ivory, but it is a Mistake to think, that it has also yielded Spices and precious Stones... On the contrary, the Indies have always abundantly afforded these rich Productions… The learned Bochart has likelier found these Places in the Indies, notwithstanding the Opposition which the Abbe Pluche made against him. I am strongly led to believe, with Antoine du Pinet, (the Translator of Pliny) that Tarshis was Guzurate,” i.e. Gujarat, near present-day Karachi; “in respect of Ophir, it appears, that that Place must be Sumatra, because this Isle has always been the richest in Gold ; or else the Peninsula of Malacca, believed to be the Golden Chersonese of the Ancients, and where was found the odoriferous Woods, and other Aromatics, which the more remote Nations have always brought there, and even to Achin, the Capital of Sumatra” (28).

Beawes, History of Spain and Portugal (1793): where was Tarsis? Jerome said Carthage, Josephus said Cilicia, Eusebius said Spain. Carthage didn’t predate Solomon, nor did it possess any silver or gold; ditto Cilicia (1: 44). Spain? Basis = Phoenician voyages there: “In regard to the firstCommodities, there was no Region in Antiquity so celebrated as Spain, for the abundant Mines of these Metals (45). No elephants, but “they were in the meridional Coasts of Africa, where [Solomon’s ships] must stop in their Way to Spain.” Likewise India, “but there was not that Abundance of Gold and Silver as in Spain; and this was the principal Merchandise they sought after. How is it credible that so much gold and silver should be carried to Palestine from the ancient Indies, as to render the last to be discipable by its Abundance…?” Re Spain: “Is it not very likely that so much Plate might be extracted from a Province, where the Inhabitants had their household Goods and meanest Utensils of this Metal?” Bochartt only has linguistic evidence for Phoenician contact with Indies (46). Sofala “is probably the Ophir of the Scriptures”; cites Septuagint; it’s “abundant in Gold by means of the sands of this precious Metal brought down by the Rivers” (1: 50). This also helps his claim that Phoenicians sailed on to Spain after first stopping for gold in Sofala (50-52). This is followed by a fifty-page “Dissertation on the Voyages of King Solomon’s Fleets” (ch. 5).

Beawes 1793 continued: opens with year in which Solomon made voyages: “a little after receiving from God the Gift of Wisdom, and having begun to build the Temple,” i.e in the 4th year of his reign (1: 78). . Ophir and Tarshish were distinct destinations (79-86). Next, where was Ezion-Geber? Red Sea, not Mediterranean (vs Pineda) (86-91). Tarshish? Hard to tell, since Jews stopped sending ships there: “it is very probable that even Solomon himself, enchanted with his excessive Love of Women, abandoned this Trade in the last Years of his Reign”; Jehosephat tried to restore it but couldn’t; “if they preserved any Idea of this maritim…e Commerce, it was only confused, and void of all its Particularities… Certainly it is a surprizing Thing to consider, we have hardly any more Monuments or Records of a Nation which commanded almost all the World by its Commerce, than a few miserable Scraps, scattered in the Greek and Roman Histories”; here he’s taling about Phoenicia. Blames Greek envy for writing them out of history (92). Opts for Spain: Tartesus, in Spain (95), i.e. Cadiz (96). Even French writers call Bochart’s Ceylon thesis “an idle and groundless Fancy”; cites Pluche;: “vast riches” of Spain also proves it to be the same as Tarshish (98). Cites Diodorus etc (99), “the Desire almost all Nations had to possess it” (101), See Europe file for his answer to why no more gold in Spain today. Namely: decline of industry and agriculture in Spain means nobody has figured out how to find it; once that comes back, “the Abundance of Gold and Silver [will] demonstrate, that the Character of the ancient Tharsis agrees with this Kingdom” (106). Long argument for Tarsis = Spain, based on etymology and navigation (106-113). Finally, “Where Ophir was.” Four opinions are worth taking seriously: “The first confounds Sophir with Tarshish; the second says, that Ophir was in the East-Indies; the third, in the West, or America; and the fourth places it in Ethiopia.” Opts for Ethiopia; i.e. Sofala; cites Lopes’s account of natives calling their mine Solomon’s mines (113). Ctes Pluche on present gold trade out of Sofala (114).


William Vincent, The Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean (1807): near Benomotapa, “the ruins of great buildings fully authenticated, with the name of Afur, and the gold mines, … induced Dos Santos, and other writers, as well as Bruce, to place here the Ophir of Scripture, and the limits o the navigation from Eziongeber” (2: 230). According to Portuguese, there’s a gold mine in Benmotapa called Manica (243); “as the kingdom of Abyssinia in its more flourishing state certainly extended its influence to Magadoxo… so may we discover the means by which, in all ages, the gold dust of the south found its way into that kingdom. Bruce says it has no gold of its own, and yet gold by the ounce, and bricks of salt, are the current coin of the kingdom.” Suggests that Abyssinian gold prompted Solomon’s voyage to Ophir (if it was in Sofala). “In Sumatra, the native name for a gold mine is Ophir, and this is perhaps one reason for some of the learned placing Solomon’s Ophir there. But query, whether Ophir is not a name carried into Sumatra by the Mahomedans, as Adam’s Pike was conveyed to Borneo by them?” Cites Le Poivre’s Travels (244). Cites Prideaux’s claim that Ophir was in Ezion Geber; “David treasured up three thousand talents of the gold of Ophir… but this does not prove the voyage, for the gold of Ophir was a general expression” (cites Job 22, Psalms 45 as well as I Chron 29) (265).

Vincent continued: “the trade to Ophir… has so much divided the opinions of mankind, from the time of Jerom [sic] to the present moment”; offers “nothing decisive” (2: 265) but does add: “I neither carry Ophir to Peru with Arius Montanus, or to Malacca with Josephus, or to Ceylon with Bochart, because I consider all these suppositions to be founded upon no better evidence than the mention of gold in those countries; but our choice must lie between the coast of Africa and Sabéa.” Bruce, Montesquieu, d’Anville all support Africa. D’Anville plausibly traces the Arabic Ophir to Sopharah el Zange (Sophala), “but I by no means subscribe to the system of Bruce, which he has displayed with so much ingenuity and ostentation; and which he thinks established by the discovery of an anomalous monsoon prevailing from Sofala to Melinda.” Cites refutation of this in Gentleman’s Magazine (1793), p. 222, via Halley, Parkinson; Halley, in 1686 Phil Trans., says monsoon winds “are more southerly on the African side, and more westerly on the Indian, but adds that there’s a SSW wind between Africa and Madagascar that gets more westerly as it moves north (266). Bruce only cites a single account re easterly wind Oct-Apr, which “does not prove an anomalous monsoon, but a fluctuation in the regular one.” If “the irregular monsoon is annihilated, nothing remains in favour of his hypothesis but the duration of the voyage… the navigators were Phênicians, and we learn from Homer their method of conducting business in a foreign port… they anchored in a harbour, where they were their own brokers, and disposed of their cargoes by retail. This might detain them for a twelve-month, as it did in the instance to which I allude.” Also cites Micahelis, questions proposed to Danish Travellers, who “recommends inquiry to be made after native gold in Arabia. The account of the gold of Ophir in Scripture cannot be affected by the result. Silver is not now found at Carthegena in Spain, where the Phênicians, Carthaginians,a nd Romans, obtained it in great abundance” (267).

Vincent continued: sides with Prideaux and Gosselin b/c (1) “Ophir is mentioned with Havilah and Jobab, all three sons of Joktan” who all lived in Arabia Felix (2: 267), beyond straits; and (2) b/c/ “the voyage to Ophir seems in consequence of the visit of the queen of Sheba to Jerusalem: it is immediately subjoined to it in the same chapter; and Sheba is Sabéa, or Arabia Felix, as we learn with certainty from Ezekiel” (268). “The evidence that Solomon obtained gold from Arabia is express; and as our early authorities notice gold as a native produce among the Debae of Hejaz, so may we conclude that the gold of Africa always found its way into Yemen through Abyssinia, as it does at this day. The import of gold, therefore, we carry up as high of the reign of Solomon, and bring it down to the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus” (269). The question “has been more embarrassed by hypothesis, and distracted by erudition, than any other which concerns the commerce of the ancients. The participation of Hiram in this concern is founded upon necessity as well as policy; for if Solomon was master of Idumca, the Tyrians were cut off from Arabia, unless they united with the possessors; and whatever profit Solomon might derive from the import, the whole of the export on the Mediterranean would be to the exclusive emolument of Tyre. Here the Greeks found the commodities of the east, or received them in their own ports from the hands of the Phênicians: for they were not allowed to enter the harbours of Egypt till the reign of Psammétichus; and the very names of the articles they obtained were derived from the Phénicians”; cites Herodotus (270); “let us supposed that the advantages of Hiram were equal to those of Solomon”: though Solomon “enjoyed the profits of the transit, Hiram had the whole emolument of the commerce with the West.” Solomon earned 666 talents of gold (£3,646,350), “an extravagant sum at first sight! but not impossible, if we compare it with the revenues of Egypt, which, after the building of Alexandria, enjoyed the same commerce.” Even now, when most goods ship via Cape, Egypt takes in £4-5m/ year. “Let us reflect on these extraordinary sums, before we conclude upon the impossibility of the same commerce, and the same monopoly, producing a revenue of three millions and a half to Solomon, upon the import and transit; and the same sum to Hiram, upon the export” (271).


John Kitto, Palestine: The Bible History of the Holy Land (1841): “In another work [the Pictorial Bible] we have exhibited our reasons for concluding that the regions of Tarshish and Ophir lay not in different directions, but were visited in the same voyage; and further that this voyage embraced the southern shores of Arabia, the eastern shores of Africa, and possibly the isle of Ceylon, if not some points in the Indian peninsula. This being the case, we shall perceive that although the Phoenicians had the exclusive command of the westward traffic, on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, they could have had no share in this eastern traffic but on such terms as Solomon might think proper to impose. For he was in possession of the ports of the Elanitic Gulf, and of the intervening country, whereby he held the key of the Red Sea, and could at his pleasure exclude them from that door of access to the Indian Ocean. It is true that there was another door, by the Gulf of Suez; but its ports were in the hands of the Egyptians, who were by no means likely to allow unobstructed access to it. And then, as to the other channel, across the desert to the Euphrates and Persian Gulf, the key of this also was in the hand of Solomon, by virtue of his military stations on the Euphrates, and his complete command of the desert country west of that river. It may thus appear that since the Phoenicians could have no access to the Indian Ocean but with the consent and by the assistance of the Hebrew king, he was in a condition to stipulate for a profitable partnership in the enterprise” (1: 523).

J. F. Denham, “Ophir,” in John Kitto, A Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature (1845): “Ophir occurs first, as the proper name of one of the thirteen sons of Joktan” (descendent of Shem). “Ophir occurs also as the name of a place, country, or region, famous for gold, which Solomon’s ships visited in company with the Phoenician… The difficulty is to ascertain where Ophir was situated. Some writers, reasoning from the etymology of the word, which is supposed to mean dust, &c., have inferred almost every place where gold dust is procured in abundance. Others have rested their conclusions upon the similarity of the name in Hebrew to that of other countries, as for instance Aphar, a port of Arabia”; also Sofala and Peru. Candidates include: “Melindah on the coast of Africa, Angola, Carthage, St. Domingo, Mexico, New Guinea, Urphe an island in the Red Sea, and Ormuz in the Persian Gulf.” Bochart thinks David’s Ophir was “the Cassanitis of Ptolemy… on the coast of Arabia” and Solomon’s was Ceylon. “Others decide in favour of the peninsula of Malacca, which abounds in precious ores, apes, and peacocks; others prefer Sumatra.” Lipenius follows Josephus in saying Ophir includes “every coast and island from Ceylon to the Indian Arxhipelago.” The “three most probable theories” are Arabia, Africa, and India (2: 441).

Denham continued: Ophir is mentioned 13 times in the Bible: Gen 10:29, 1 Chron 1:33 and 29:4; 2 Chron 8:18 and 9:16; 1 Kings 9:28, 10:11 and 22:48; Job 22:24 and 28:16; Psalms 45:9, Isaiah 13:12; Eccl 7:18. Only three refer to its location. “We firther think that the situation of Tarshish is not in any way connected with this inquiry”: ships were made in Tarshish, or Solomon sent ships to both places, but not necessarily on the same journey. He thinks that “Solomon fitted out a fleet to obtain it at first hand,” unlike David, who purchased it from foreign merchants (2: 441). Solomon assembled this fleet in Ezion-geber on coast of Red Sea; manned by Hiram’s Phoenician “servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea” plus Solomon’s men. Genesis puts Ophir in Arabia, but it might have meant that it was an Arabian colony. Lee says it was Havilah, in Arabia, and ancient wrtiers say Arabia had gold. Others place Ophir in Arabia but say it was an emporium, trading gold from India and Africa. This could have been Aphar or El Ophir in Oman; Enc Londinensis objects that Solomon would have used caravans, not ships, in that case; but ships would have been more convenient, especially for timber (2: 442). Michaelis says Ophir was in Africa; that ships went to Tarshish (Tartessus in Spain), then back around the Cape, picking up gold etc from African coast on the way back; hence three years. Some extend this to Joppa, based on a quote from Herodotus (442-443). Denham calls these “on many accounts very plausible suppositions.” India: Champollion notes that India is Ophir in Coptic; Josephus says that Shem’s grandson settled in India, and places Ophir in “the Aurea Chersonesus, which belongs to India”; i.e. Malacca. Vulgate calls Ophir India. “It is worthy of remark that the native sof Malacca still call their gold-mines ophirs.” Cites P. Poivre on this, from his Voyage d’un Philosophe, 1797, in French. Heeren says Ophir was akin to East Indies, i.e. “the general name for the rich countries of the south lying on the African, Arabia, or Indian coasts, as far as that time known” (Heeren 1833, 2: 73-74 in Making of the Modern World; this isn’t on file). Uphaz (whence the gold in Daniel and Jeremiah) might also be Ophir. See also Wahner, De Regione Ophir Tychaen, De Commerc. Hebr. In Commentt Gott vol 16; Huetii, Reland, and Ugolini (443).

General commentary (other writers)

Universal History (2nd ed. 1740): “We are at a loss again about providing a settlement for Ophir; Arabia furnishes no place which resembles the name… Bochart attempts to squeeze Ophir in among the Cassanitae” on Red Sea. Apparently either Ceylon or Peru, but rejects Peru on the grounds that it’s “not the true name of the country” (1: 170). Index refers to this section as “groundless conjectures” regarding Ophir (1008).

Charles Thompson, Travels (1744): “Ophir has been sought for almost in every part of the world, and yet remains a terra incognita; though one would hardly believe the discovery to be so difficult, considering the various indices by which the scriptures seem to point out” (3: 370-371).

Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary for the Pocket (1767), entry on Solomon, with note by English translator. Voltaire opens the entry by asking: “Surely Solomon could not be so rich as he is said?”; the very long footnote starts with “This whole article is liable to great exceptions, and betrays a spirit of licentiousness in the author” (285) and proceeds to a point-by-point defense of the veracity of the Biblical account of Solomon’s life. “Various are the opinions of the learned in regard to the situation of Ophir; but the most probable conjecture places it in some of those remote rich countries of India beyond the Ganges, and perhaps as far as China or Japan. The latter still abounds with the finest gold, and with several other commodities imported by Solomon’s fleet; and by / its distance best answers to the length of the voyage. Thus by encouraging navigation and commerce, Solomon became the richest prince of his time, and his kingdom the most flourishing in the world” (288-289).

John Brown, Dictionary of the Holy Bible (originally 1769; quoted from 1800 ed.; link is from 1810 ed.): “we can hardly determine... where that country was.” Its “gold was renowned in the time of Job,” and Hebrews traded with it from David to Jehoshaphat; Uzziah revived trade. Solomon’s trade is mentioned in 1 Kings 9:28, 10:11, 22:48 and 2 Chron 26, 8:18, 9:10. “Some have placed it at Urphe, an island in the Red Sea; others justly reckoning this too near have placed it at Sophola, or in Zauguebar, on the south-east of Africa; and some at Carthage… others have still more fancifully removed it to Peru, or some other place in America. Reland and Calmet place it in Armenia, where Ptolemy mentions Oupara or Sophara: but to what purpose the Jews should carry on a trade with Armenians by the round about way of the Red Sea, we cannot conceive… Some will have Ophir to have been somewhere in East India,” either near Goa or Malabar. “Bochart, with great industry, labours to fix it at Taprobane, or Ceylon… Perhaps there was an Ophir in the south or east of Arabia Felix, whose fine gold was known to Job and David” (2: 249), “whither Solomon’s mariners pushed their trade, and called it Ophir, because they found gold in it as good as that in Arabia: or if there was no other than that in Arabia, the East Indians must have brought thither their apes, &c” (250). Parvaim, perhaps Tabrobane (Ceylon), is where Solomon got the gold “wherewith he overlaid the inside of his temple” (261). Uphaz had “fine gold” also; may have been same as Ophir. Calmet thinks it’s Phasis river, on Black Sea: Jer. 10:9, Dan. 10:5 (604).

Encyclopædia Britannica 1778 on Ophir and Tharsis, “where-ever these places were. Some writers will needs have them to be Mexico and Peru, which is certainly a wild and extravagant supposition; others believe that we are to look for Ophir on the coast of Africa, and Tharsis in Spain; but the most probable opinion is, that they were both seated in the East Indies.” One voyage yielded 450 talents of gold, or 51,328 pounds (3: 2121). Entry on Ophir repeats East Indies as likeliest: “but where there, is the question; many taking it for Taphrobana, now supposed to be Ceylon; others for Pegu, or for Sumatra.” Cites Kircher, who opts for “a great part of India: and, to obviate difficulties, perhaps it is best to take Ophir for India at large, without confining it to any particular country, not excluding even China and the Japanese islands” (7: 5475). (Link is to 1798 edition).

Peter Oliver, The Scripture Lexicon (1784), entry Ophir: “A celebrated country for gold, but uncertain where: some suppose it to be the island Taprobance, now Ceylon, in East India; others suppose it to be the peninsula opposite the island Sumatra in East India—also the name of a descendent from the patriarch Shem” (189).

John Seally, A Complete Geographical Dictionary (1787): “Ophir, a country mentioned in scripture, from which Solomon had great quantities of gold brought home in ships which he sent out for that purpose; but where to fix its situation is the great difficulty, authors running into various opinions on that head. Some have gone to the West and others to the East Indies, and the eastern coast of Africa in search of it. The generality suppose Ophir to be the East Indies” (vol 2). Available on ECCO. Paraphrased in J. Ouiseau’s Practical Geography (1794), entry OPHIR.

William Russell, The History of Ancient Europe (1793): “The vast abundance of the precious metals in Palestine, during the reign of [Solomon], … has afforded occasion of triumph to infidel writers, and given much trouble to christian commentators. But a certain degree of candour is only necessary on one side, and a competent share of historical knowledge on the other, to admit and establish the credibility of the Jewish records. The countries conquered by David, and subject to Solomon, as well as those to which he traded, have always abounded in gold” (2: 6). The “grandeur of the Israelites… was of short continuance”; civil discord “weakened the Hebrew nation” and led to plunder by Syrian kings (7).

Charles Taylor, Scripture Illustrated by Means of Natural Science (1814; orig 1803): “The contradictory opinions on the subject of that Ophir, whence Solomon's ships imported gold, shew the difficulty of determining geographical questions, when only the names of places are recorded. Indeed, in this instance, the other articles brought by the fleet are mentioned in addition, together with the duration of the voyage; nevertheless, the main question is not easily determined.” Summarizes at length Bruce’s “very ingeniously stated” opinion first (104). “Another opinion has fixed Ophir on the western coast of Africa; but this is not so likely to become popular, as that which looks eastward. Indeed, the major part of learned men have rather looked to the East Indies for this land of gold, and many things said in favour of this opinion are exceedingly strong” (105). Cites Calmet to support his own view (India), and concludes with Major Rennell, who mainly focused on the peacock/parrot problem (107). David also used gold from Ophir (1 Chronicles 29: 2), obtained “by land traffic,” to build his temple: “so that we are sure Solomon was not the first prince who trafficked at Ophir” (121).

Joseph Skinner 1805, The Present State of Peru (1805): “In the time of Solomon, how many regions did not the earth contain, felicitous in the wisdom of their legislature, in the flourishing condition of their agriculture, or in the pastures which afforded nourishment to their useful and numerous flocks? Their sites, and even their names, have, notwithstanding, been forgotten, because they were poor; and we bear in our remembrance Ophir alone, on account of the gold with which it abounded” (305).

Richard Cumberland, John de Lancaster: A Novel (1809): “One evening, whilst the Colonel and Squire Philip were engaged at chess, and De Lancaster was tracing out for the edification of Edward Wilson the route of Solomon's ships to Ophir for / gold, Llewellyn came into the room to announce his bulletin of the patient above stairs” (1: 277-278)

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 4th ed. (Edinburgh: Andrew Bell, 1810), includes a five-page entry on Ophir; “where to fix its situation is the great difficulty.” Starts with Bruce, who to “the satisfaction of most of his readers he has determined Ophir to be Sofala” (15: 165; long excerpt, 165-66). Next, Doig (see Gold Coast below). “Whether Mr Bruce's hypothesis, or Dr Doig's, respecting the long disputed situation of Solomon's Ophir, be the true one, it is not for us to decide. Both are plausible, both arc supported by much ingenuity and uncommon erudition; but we do not think that the arguments of either writer furnish a complete confutation of those adduced by the other” (170). Doesn’t mention any other hypotheses. Same entry in 1823.

John Robinson, A Theological, Biblical, and Ecclesiastical History (1815; entry OPHIR): ”a country which is much celebrated in Scripture, and about which critics have proposed a great number of conjectures… Josephus says, that the country of Ophir is in the Indies, and is called the Gold Country. It is thought he means Cberaonesus Aurea, known now by the name of Malacca, a peninsula opposite to Sumatra. Lucas Holstenius… thinks we must fix on India in general, or the city of Supar in the island of Celebes. Some place it in the kingdom of Malabar, or of Ceylon, or in the isle of Tapobrana, so famous among the ancients. Bochart has laboured to support this opinion. Eupolemus has placed Ophir in the island Durphe, in the Red sea. Maffeus believed it was Pegu; and it is said that the Peguans pretend lo be descended from those Jews, whom Solomon sent to work the mines of this country. Lipenius, who has composed a treatise concerning the country of Ophir, places it beyond the Ganges, at Malacca, Java, Sumatra, Siam, Bengal, Pegu, &c. Some have sought for Ophir in America, and have placed it in the island Hispaniola. Postel and some others have placed it in Peru, a country famous for its vast quantity of gold. Some have searched for it in Africa, on the eastern coast of Ethiopia. Some place it at Angola, on the eastern coast of Africa, some at Carthage, and others in Spain.  Grotius guesses, that Solomon's fleet did not perhaps go to the Indies, but only to a port of Arabia, by Arrian called Aphar, by Pliny Saphar, by Plolemy Sapphera, and by Stephanus Saphiniri. This city was situated on the coasts of Arabia that were washed by the ocean. That the Indians brought their merchandizes thither, and that Solomon's navy went thither to bring them home. Huetius in his Dissertation on the navigation of Solomon, says, the land of Ophir was on the eastern coast of Africa, which the Arabians call Zanguebar; that the name Ophir was given more particularly to the small country of Sofala, which is on the same coast; that Solomon's fleet went out of the Red sea, and from the harbour of Ezion-geber, entered into the Mediterranean sea by a canal of communication; that it doubled the cape of Guardafui, and coasted along Africa to Sofala.... Mr. Bruce has endeavoured to support this opinion by a variety of very ingenious arguments; especially the names of places on the coast, and the courses of the winds" (unpaginated).

William Ouseley, Travels in Various Countries of the East (1819), in a long note attached to his description of Ceylon, which he visited in 1810, cites Edward Wells, Historical Geography of the Old Testament (1711), Ophir “was on the Eastern coast of Africa, according to Montesquieu, who thinks that the imperfect construction of their vessels would not allow the sailors employed by Solomon to venture far at sea” (Spirit of Laws), book 21, ch 6). “We have seen that Bochart regarded Ceylon or Taprobane as the ancient Ophir; but against this opinion Bruce’s words are positive. Reland… would seek Ophir in the Peninsula of India… Ophir was the golden Chersonese of India, according to Josephus… But it would be a laborious task, and unnecessary here, to notice more particularly the various conjectures offered on this subject by Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, Philo Judaeus, Rabbi Abraham Peritsol, R. David Kimchi, Volaterrannus, Ortelius, Varrerius, Vertomannus, Montanus, Salmasius, Grotius, Pr»deaux, D'Anville, Michaelis, Gosselin, and many other learned men, who place Ophir in Arabia, in India, at Sofala in Africa, in the island of Sumatra, and of Socotra, on the European continent in Spain, and even in South America, and the island of Hispaniola!” (1: 47).

John Ranking, “An Attempt to Prove that Ava was the Ophir of Solomon” (1828) calls Ophir “one of the most interesting and remarkable of the uncertainties in historical literature… Peru, Hispaniola, Guinea, Armenia, South Arabia, Sofala, Ceylon, Malacca, Sumatra, have all had their advocates… Mr. Bruce…, following D'Anville and others, contends for Sofala [which Robertson supports in his book on India]… The author of the article "Ophir" in Rees's Cyclopaedia does not agree with that eminent historian; and the writer of the dissertation in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, [is] equally in doubt” (141). “Bruce's laborious calculations regarding the monsoons are / found to be blunders [Rennell on Herodotus, 676]; and he has confined the cargoes to gold, silver, and ivory: omitting peacocks, monkeys, precious stones, spices, almug-trees, and ebony. Buffon insists positively that peacocks were not wild in Africa till they were introduced by the Portuguese, and that therefore Ophir could not be in Africa… As to the first five places mentioned above, there are obvious insuperable objections to them all. The three last have, neither of them, ever been known to possess such abundant riches and ivory as were imported by David and Solomon” (142). See below for his claim that Ophir is in Ava (Burma).

History of Navigation,” Imperial Magazine (Methodist) 1831: it’s clear that Solomon’s ships passed through the Red Sea, but not clear where they ended up: “as these articles are not peculiar to any part of the eastern world, the proper situation of Ophir remains a question; nor is the doubt more likely to be cleared up by the help of etymology and verbal criticism” (1: 562).

William Fleming, A Gazetteer of the Old and New Testaments (1838), entry Ophir: “a country to which Solomon's ships traded, about the situation of which there has been considerable discussion, and which will always remain a subject of conjecture” (2: 257). Cites Josephus, Prideaux, Calmet, and Universal History (see below; this closely follows Gentleman’s Magazine 1786, with more details). “To these hypotheses it may be also added that Java, Siam, Bengal, Cabul at the head of the Indus, and other countries, have all had their several advocates as the greatly disputed Ophir of the Scriptures” (259); “in whatever way the / reader may determine in favour of this disputed point in ancient sacred geography, it certainly appears that the coast of Africa below the Gulf, not to mention Sofala in particular, was the nearest country at which the fleet of the Hebrew king could arrive, to obtain those commodities of native produce, as nearly as we can define the articles mentioned in Scripture, with which the fleet was freighted on its return. It does not sufficiently appear that the same vessels which made the voyage to Ophir also went to Tarshish; and it may even be doubted whether Solomon sent ships to that place, or, if he did, whether it was not very near Judea, and merely a depot for the merchandise of more distant countries, brought there by vessels belonging to that place. Perhaps the best elucidation of the difficulty is given by Heeren”; i.e. Ophir is similar to East Indies. “This explanation refers equally to Tarshish, and is by far the most probable which has been advanced. By adopting it we are relieved from all unnecessary and unintelligible conjectures, and we can easily imagine the fleet of the wisest of kings proceeding on its voyage, trading to various places, and collecting the different commodities required for the decoration of the Temple or for the pleasure of the Hebrew monarch” (262-263).

On the Age of the Book of Job,” Biblical Review (1846; Congregational): Ophir “occurs twice in the book of Job” (22:24, 28:16) and never “in the Pentateuch, though it often makes mention of gold… At any rate there was no trade to Ophir, and no gold from Ophir, in Israel before the time of Solomon; and on that account we find it first mentioned in the later Psalms… No one, at least, can very well deny that the two passages, 1 Kings ix. 28, and 1 Kings x. 11, express the first acquaintance of Israel with this distant land. If, then, the book of Job is an Israelitish production, as is now universally acknowledged, the very circumstance that the gold of Ophir is mentioned in it,—gold which first became known in the time of Solomon,—is a striking proof that the composition of the book of Job cannot fall before the time of Solomon, to say nothing of the many other objections, which stand in the way of an earlier authorship” (2: 95).

Francis William Newman, A History of the Hebrew Monarchy (1847): “The celebrated Ophir, the most distant point of the course, was / possibly in the province of Oman in Arabia, where Seetzen has pointed out the name as still existing. Although it was outside of the straits of Bab Elmandeb, the three years allowed for the voyage was long enough to enable the navigators to wait quietly for the month in which they could safely commit their frail vessels to the Indian Ocean. The return-merchandize which the Hebrews regarded as characteristic of Ophir,—gold and silver, ivory, monkeys and peacocks,—do not all agree equally well with Arabia; and were not Ophir generally named by the Hebrews in connexion with places in that great peninsula, this might make us incline to the opinion that it was on the east coast of Africa. But we have no proof that the ivory was produced round Ophir: it may have come thither from India. The chief wealth however which this traffic conferred depended on a power of selling again, such as the Phoenicians possessed. Spices in great abundance, whether from India, Arabia or Africa, were to be had in the marts of Sheba; and in the whole basin of the Mediterranean the consumption of incense for religious worship was enormous. To the carriers of this commodity a good profit always accrued; and although the Egyptians perhaps made their full share of it, as certainly did the land caravans of Syria, Solomon and Hiram also found their account in the trade. Ivory, almug and other scented woods, precious stones,—besides gold, in which Sheba was very abundant in those times,—received a new value by being transported into the Grecian seas” (119-120).

Specific locations


Robert Kerr, A General History and Collection of Travels (1813), quoting John Davis’s 1598 voyage to India, written by Davis in 1600: describes Acheen, with “plenty of mines of gold and copper” (8: 55). “The people boast of being descended from Abraham… and can distinctly reckon the genealogies in our Bible. They follow the Mahometan religion, and use rosaries, or strings of beads, like the papists” (58). “The people who trade to this port are from China, Bengal, Pegu, Java, … Arabia, and Rumos. Rumos is in the Red-Sea, whence Solomon sent his shops to Ophir for gold; which Ophir is now Acheen, as they affirm upon tradition.” In note: Purchas says Rumos really means Turkey, or New Rome; but that “their tradition of Ophir is more to be marked than this conceit of Rumos in the Red-Sea” (59).

William Lisle Bowles, The Spirit of Discovery (1804), Book I = Noah; Book 2 = “Egyptians and Phoenicians”:
“The bord’rers of Erythrean launch’d
Their barks, and to the shores of Araby
First their bried voyages stretch’d, and thence return’d
With aromatic gums, or spicy wealth
Of India. Prouder triumphs yet await,
For lo! where Ophir’s gold unburied shines
New to the sun; but perilous the way,
O’er Ariana’s spectred wilderness” (51).
“Hence Asia slow
Her length unwinds; and Siam and Ceylon
Through wider channels pour their gems and gold
To swell the pomp of AEgypt's kings, or deck
With new magnificence the rising dome
Of Palestine's Imperial Lord.”
In note: “Temple of Solomon” (55).
Bowles prefaces this poem with a summary of its narrative: “The Book opens with the resting of the Ark on the mountains of the great Indian Caucasus, considered by many authors as Ararat” (xv). Follows Bruce in tracing descendents of Ham from Ethiopia to Egypt. “Ophir is not long afterwards discovered. This Bruce places, with most respectable authority, at Sofala: I have ventured to place it otherwise, but still admitting one general idea, that when the way to it is over land was attended with difficulties, an easier course was at last opened by sea” (xvii).

Bowles, note to “where Ophir’s gold unburied shines”: “When I first wrote this part, I was inclined to follow the received opinion, that Sofala, on the coast of Africa, was the ancient Ophir” (90); cites Huet, Milton, Montesquieu, D’Anville, Vincent, Bruce. “Nothing can be more plausible than Bruce's account of the voyage of Solomon, as performed by monsoons, to Sofala, and taking up the exact time mentioned in Scripture, three years. He says very justly, at looking for Ophir we must abide by the words of Scripture; the voyage to it must take up three years, neither more nor less; it must abound with mines of gold and especially silver. Sofala produces peacocks, ivory, and apes; but Bruce says nothing of a peculiar tree, the algutn-tree, which must have been of very extraordinary value, as it was brought from so great a distance.” Lists “what I should think absolutely necessary to be required to mark the situation of Ophir”: 3-year voyage, “must exhibit the marks of great mines and excavations,” and “must abound with gold, silver, precious stones, peacocks, apes, and the algum-tree” (91). Also “should be inhabited by people possessed of certain arts and civilization, from high antiquity. That it should have some great temples, or remains of such, if possible, correspondent with those that are described by the Scripture in the country whither the gold of Ophir was carried. That it should also have something correspondent in customs and in manners with the earlier race of mankind who peopled the earth after Noah” (92). “Bruce's opinion, I confess, had the greatest weight with me, as his account of the monsoons is so clear and plausible. But I considered, that for a fleet to take / advantage of them, it would he necessary to go three leagues off shore … that the crossing the line must have been a most formidable barrier,” so that “it is probable some hint would have been given of it in Scripture; and that Sofala… is not the peculiar country of peacocks, nor does it more than several other countries abound with elephants. There is, moreover, no appearance of ancient magnificence; no marks of former arts and civilisation; no correspondence in character, customs, antiquities, and traditions with the Eastern countries,” and no algum tree. “All these things, and many other singular and corroborative circumstances, are to be found in Ava, and the Birman empire, of which we have so particular and interesting an account by Colonel Symes” (92-93) Cites Purchas on Pegu and Siam as Ophir (94).

Bowles places Ophir “on the sea-coast between Point Negrais (the Temala province of Ptolemy) and Junkceilon; or it might have extended to Malacca. But all the commodities from Ava and the inland countries might be conveyed down the rivers Ava and Pegu … and the communication would not have been remote from Siam” (94). Cites Herbert, “the early English traveller,” who places Ophir in Malacca (95). “This opinion at one time pretty generally / prevailed, but I hasten to the consideration of some remarkable circumstances in Colonel Symes's book” (Account of Ava, 1800), re “many peculiarities, … in the manners, antiquities, and customs of the people, which seem to me to corroborate the idea that this, after all, may be the country of Ophir; and if Tarshish do not signify the sea in general, I should be inclined to place it at Junkseilon,” i.e. Ceylon (95-96). Ava is “a great and powerful empire; people comparatively in a high state of cultivation, boasting a period of great antiquity, yet unconnected in a great degree with the more civilized part of the world” (96); with “hieroglyphical representations of the same nature with those of Egypt” and “magnificent edifices of a peculiar character and appearance… all gilt, or overlaid with gold, in a more sumptuous and singular manner, than we read of in any other temples, except the temple of Solomon.” Also peacocks, apes, elephants, and teak (97). “All these things put together seem to mark the country as the very region of gold, the Ophir of Solomon” (98). Teak = almug. Re time of voyage: “Ceylon has been considered too near, and the country of Pegu too distant, for I do not think a moment of America or China. But might / not a vessel, with the North wind, proceed down the Arabian Gulf … wait the change of the monsoon, and receive the Soutlt-West to carry her to the coast of Malabar and Ceylon; wait six months till the next monsoon, which would take her to the coast of Ava; she would wait there till the change of the regular wind, which would be a year and a half; and in the same time make her return” (99-100). “If Hippalus, by accidentally discovering the regularity of the monsoons, boldly stretched across the bay of Bengal, why might not the same discovery have been made before, and have suggested the same course” (100). “Whether these observations are well founded or not, there is, however, sufficient verisimilitude for poetry” (101).

John Ranking, “An Attempt to Prove that Ava was the Ophir of Solomon,Quarterly Journal of Science (1828) “Alexander the Great, when he entered India, is said to have been much struck with the beauty of the peacocks, never before having seen one… Ophir, or Afer, was no other than Ava; and if that country has always borne the name, which it now does, of Ava, and if it has formerly contained, or does still contain, all the articles described as forming the cargoes imported, is it not quite astonishing that that consideration and the name have never led one of the host of critics to the discovery of the undisputed truth?” (142). Ava “was probably known to, and invaded and conquered, by land, by the Turks, not many years after the death of Solomon.” Cites Purchas on Pegu (1: 33-40) re elephants, apes, parrots, peacocks, gold, jewels (Purchas thought Pegu was Ophir); Rees’s Cycl says Ava has almug wood and ebony (143); ditto on spices (143-4). Cites Wars and Sports of the Mongols and Romans on elephants and precious stones; and cites Ptolemy’s map, on which Ava and Pegu are named Argentea Regio and Aurea Regio (144). “By the above short essay, some perhaps may be induced to conclude that Ava was the true Ophir. With regard to the navigation, it was more approachable than some of the places mentioned; and on that point those who have contended for Malacca and Sumatra will have nothing to oppose. The facts are too remarkable not to attract the attention of literary gentlemen in Bengal and Ava; and further enquiries in those countries will very probably lead to curious discoveries on this question” (147).

Asiatic Journal, art. “Ophir and Ava” (1828): Ranking tried “to prove that Ava was the Ophir of Solomon. Many are the efforts which have been made, at different times, and in different languages, to fix the site of this place, either in the old or the new world (for some writers have conducted the fleet of Solomon to America); but no hypothesis was ever built upon slenderer grounds, or shewed less pretension to ingenuity, than Mr. Ranking’s. It is hardly worth the trouble of demolition.” Ranking is struck by “the astonishing fact that the few articles enumerated as the products of Ophir (and which are common throughout the east) are to be found in the Burmese empire, leaves no room for doubting…” First, Ava was never called Ava by Burmese; rather, Aungwa or Aeenwa; Burma itself is known to them as Myamma. Also, Ophir in Henrew is pronounced Aupeer; nothing like Ava. “The ingenious individual, who demonstrated the identity of the name of Ophir with that of Peru, because they were both composed of the same letters, differently arranged, had more reason on his side.” Blames Dr Doig, who located Ophir in Guinea and turned it into Afer (9: 572). “A vivid imagination, prompted by an inaccurate ear, might / find a resemblance between Afer and Ava (572-3). Cites Pinkerton, who thinks Ophir was the source word for Africa. “Thus it is with mere etymological inquirers and polyglottists; they exhibit names or words, belonging to languages utterly dissimilar in character, in Roman letters… and if any ocular resemblance appears (although the real sounds may be totally different) they note the fact as a mark of identity.” Most of the stuff came from Tarshish, not Ophir, in any case. Gold and precious stones (from Ophir) “are absolutely not so common in Burmah as in many other parts of the east… Mr. Ranking makes frequent reference to gold and golden, terms which are universally applied to whatever belongs to the monarch of the Burmese. But these epithets are used as the type or symbol of excellence,” which indicates that gold “was not a very common production in the country” (573). See Asia for rest of this: not much gold in Burma. This author values 450 talents at £2,463,750 (1 talent = £5475). Ranking says Ptolemy identified Pegu and Ava as Auria Regio and Aregntea Regio; but former was clearly a mistake—should have been Malacca. Also disputes his identification of Burmese and Egyptian architecture. Other writers have already suggested this: Hofmann in Lexicon Universale locates Ophir in Ultra-Gangetic India; he cited Maffaeus, who placed Ophir in Pegu, “because it appears from the letters of Father Bomferre, that Peguers are descended from Jewish exiles, who, being condemned by Solomon to dig in the fold mines of Ophir, took up their abode there!” Writer agrees with Marsden: we’ll never know (574).

Ranking, "Ophie and Ava" (1828) writes to Asiatic Journal to contest above review. Ava was known by that name in 1503, and Doig confirms that Ophie is spelled Afer in Hebrew. “Triglytpon, now Pegu, was, no doubt, the capital, and probably the port, of Ava, in very ancient times. “This geographical critic, like the blind guides in St. Matthew, swallows all Africa rather than not strain at Ava!” (655). Cites discovery of elephant fossils near Irawaddy (656).

Asiatic Journal 1829: A.B. (original critic of Ranking) responds: challenges Hebrew pronunciation; in any case, we can’t speculate how it was pronounced in Solomon’s time. 1503, fine; what about 1000 BC? And what Portuguese called Ava was really pronounced Ayngwa: “The misnomer of early travellers, who were exceedingly ill-informed, as to the names of places especially… is thus made the foundation of a theory!” (43). Repeats claim that Ranking misplaced Pegu (43-44). Josephus (Ranking’s source on almug wood) is “extremely vague” (44). Peacocks: the Hebrew might mean parrots or pheasants; and there are more peacocks in India than in Ava, in any case (44-45). Purchas, whose “learning is deteriorated by a vast deal of absurdity,” identified Ophir with the region from Bengal to Siam, including Sumatra — not just Ava (45). Ends with long quote from Rees’s Cyclopaedia, art “Ophir” (qv).

Wredenhall Pogson, Narrative during a Tour to Chateegaon (1831): “If, as I have read, I think in Maurice's History of Hindoostan, that the ships which Solomon sent for gold to the land of Ophir, went to no other part of the world than the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal, celebrated now as it has been in all ages for the production of that metal, it fully accounts for the existence of a version of the Psalms among a race of Jewish origin: as Solomon's fleet returned only once in three years, it is evident that he must have established a settlement in that land of wealth; the Jews therefore, must have colonized, become naturalized, and formed the distinct race the Mugs now appear; as in distant ages, the dominion of the Moosulmans and the sovereignty of Britain in India, may, in like manner, be only traceable by two classes, totally distinct from the Aborigines. 1 have noticed in ancient / maps the alleged tracks of Solomon's ships to the eastern coast of Africa, which is not now, I believe, remarkable for producing gold; and if he sent for it to the coast of Guinea, he might have shewn his wisdom better, by dispatching, or getting his friend Hiram king of Tyre, to send, his ships direct to the western coast. I am therefore inclined to think assigning the locality of Ophir to Africa to have been delusive, in order to place a flimsy veil of ignorance before less enterprizing people, and prevent their participating in the well known production of Arakan, Ava, Pegue, Sumatra, &c.” (70-71); “that part of the world which Providence adapted for the production of spices—has supplied them in all ages. As they are natural to the eastern Islands, some of which are also celebrated for their gold, the quarter to which Solomon's ships must have proceeded is obvious. He also obtained peacocks, apes, and ivory; now the peacock pheasant or the pea fowl in its wildest state, is indigenous to the hills of Chutgaora and Arakan. We have all seen curious specimens of the apes and monkies sent from Arakan to the Menagerie at Barrackpore, and every one knows / Chutgaon to be celebrated for elephants and consequently for ivory. All therefore that is recorded in the Bible is abundantly corroborated by the. productions of Chutgaon, Ava, and Pegue, and leads to the conclusion that the land of Ophir was situated in that tract of country. I had written this before I had access to Robinson’s Theological Dictionary, from which I cite the following corroborative information” (72-73). Cites Robinson at length (73-78).


Edinburgh Magazine 1761, article on a fountain in Ceylon, which the author interprets as involving an origin story with parallels to Judaism: some think “the original descendants of the sons of Noah” settled there. “Others think, that this island is the Ophir mentioned in scripture, and that the inhabitants learned the imperfect account they have of the origin of the world, from the servants of Solomon, who came hither for gold and other precious commodities” (5: 459).
Evening Mail 18 May 1796: “Ceylon, according to Bochart, who has adduced a variety of reasons in support of his opinion, is the Ophir of Scripture, the country to which Solomon sent his ships for gold, and whence he brought away 450 talents of it, above two millions sterling (2 Chron. viii.) The riches that Holland has derived from the possession of it are incalculable; and though the magnificence of the King of Israel, and the minute pillage of the Dutch, must have left little for the gleaner, we may entertain reasonable hopes of deriving great commercial advantages from its conquest.”

James Stanier Clarke, The Progress of Maritime Discovery (1803) cites Bochart re Ophir = Ceylon (lxxx-lxxxi); also cites George Costard’s History of Astronomy (1767) re Ophir = Ceylon based on linguistic similarity between Taprobane or Thophar and Arabic word Wophar; Hadrian Reland “thinks Ophir should be placed in the country where the city of Oupara… was situated on the Indian Chersonesus, within Ganges, 112°E and 15°S (this is south of Java): “Such have been the most plausible accounts of this celebrated and mysterious country.” He sides with Bochart, “and have therefore prefixed a view of the coast of his Ophir, as a frontispiece to the present volume. But for those readers who cannot subscribe to his sentiments, it may be necessary to mention the opinions of other writers” (lxxxi).

Annual Review… for 1803 (1804), review of Clarke: “Mr. Clarke enters into a discussion concerning the situation of Solomon's Ophir; he enumerates the various opinions of the thousand and one authors who have discussed the question; and ‘after much consideration’ he inclines to give the preference ‘to that distinguished scholar, Samuel Bochart, who in his valuable work on sacred geography, entitled Phaleg and Canaan, demonstrates with equal ability and reason, that Ophir was the great island Taprobana, since called Zeelan and Ceylon, which produces gold, ivory, precious stones, and peacocks.’ He has therefore given a view of the Ophir, that is, of Columbo harbour: this is a perfectly flat shore, with a few trees and fortifications, being no doubt the batteries erected by the Jews; and to fill up the plate, an English man of war brig is added, representing, we presume, one of the fleet sent, in conformity to treaty, by his present Majesty, to protect the possessions of his good ally, King Solomon, against the machinations of Tippoo Saib, Bonaparte, and Nebuchadnezzar” (20).

Critical Review3rd ser. 1 (1804), review of James Stanier Clarke, The Progress of Maritime Discovery: “The voyages of Solomon, or rather under the direction of Solomon, to Ophir, are objects of peculiar consequence to the historian of the ‘Progress of Navigation’… Mr. Clarke, with some other authors, is willing to fix Ezion-geber on the western branch of the Red Sea; which is still rendered more probable from the effects of the east wind, which destroyed the fleets of Jehoshaphat in that port. Ophir is now generally believed to have been situated in the Mozambic channel, either at Soffala or Benomopata; and Tarshish was probably at no great distance, at least the ships of Tarshish are said to have sailed with the fleets of Solomon to Ophir; and the ships of Jehoshaphat, designed for Tarshish, were stationed at Ezion-geber when the fatal east wind destroyed them. The gold and ornaments of the temple were certainly brought from Ophir, &c. through the Indian Ocean; yet David appears to have made considerable efforts to obtain a nearer and more secure track to India, than by the Red Sea. Eupolemus, an ancient historian, quoted by Mr. Clarke, has given an account of the victories of David in Arabia” (246); “our author agrees with Dr. Vincent, and the first authorities, that, neither from the Red Sea nor the Atlantic, was the Cape of Good Hope passed by the ancient navigators” (247).

James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs (1813; writing on India) quotes scripture re Ophir and adds: “It is not yet decided whether the island of Ceylon was the Ophir of Solomon, as well as the Serendib of the Persians and Arabians, or whether the vessels of Hiram traded to other parts of India: but from that period the commerce of the East has been a most interesting and productive source of wealth” (1: 100)

William Ouseley, Travels in Various Countries of the East (1819), on Ceylon: “Some Greek and Roman authors have noticed the gold and silver, the beryls, hyacinths, and gems of every sort, abounding in Taprobane. And the learned Bochart considered it as the Ophir, whence algum-trees (or almug trees) and precious stones, gold and silver, ivory and apes, and peacocks, were brought, once every three years, in the ships of Tarshish, to decorate the temple and royal palace at Jerusalem” (1: 46). “Whether Ceylon was the Ophir of Jewish history, has been disputed by many ingenious Europeans” (47). “The Arabian and Persian writers whose works have fallen into my hands, seem unacquainted with the triennial navigation of Solomon’s / fleet, and do not offer, amidst the numerous traditions which they preserve concerning that mighty sovereign, any confirmation of Bochart's opinion, nor indeed of the conjectures made by other antiquaries” (47-48). See above for his long note on debate.

Gold Coast

The True Site of Ophir Ascertained,” Gentleman’s Magazine 1786: Ophir was son of Joktan, descended from Shem, who colonized all of Africa; “and, it being celebrated on account of the gold, gave name to the whole peninsula of Africa… Africa, therefore, is the part of the globe where we are to look for Ophir, which in all reason must be Guinea. Guinea, and Negroeland, still resorted to from Europe for gold, &c. was then likewise visited for the same. In the succeeding barbarous ages war put a stop to it, till revived by the Portuguese in the 15th century, and made true Solomon’s words, there is nothing new under the sun!” Guinea gold is mostly dust, which accords with scriptural account; almuz-wood might be coral or red ebony; “Circumcision being in use among the Negroes of the Gold Coast is thought by some to have been introduced there by the Hebrews” (cites Maimonides). Solomon’s ships went there via Cape of Good Hope, then returned via Gibraltar and Mediterranean, ending at Jaffa, “where Hiram’s mariners and pilots were paid off”: cites Herodotus re Phoenicians having made this voyage by this point. Salmon says no, but: “both Sacred and Profane writers agree, that the Phoenicians had traffic all over the known globe,” including England, where they mined tin: “the tracks of the antients are forgotten; astonishing changes are wrought by time; and Cicero’s barbarous and ignorant Britain is now the mistress of Sciences and Arts” (29).

Johann Reinhold Forster, History of the Voyages and Discoveries Made in the North (1786): “It is at present proved almost to a demonstration, that the Phœni/cians and Egyptians have more than once undertaken and happily accomplished the circumnavigation of this quarter of the globe” (6-7). “Even the celebrated voyages to Ophir of the Phœnicians and Hebrews in Solomon's time, were nothing else than circumnavigations of Africa, and yet they were all forgotten; and when Vasco Gama in the years 1497 and 1498 sailed round Africa to the Indies, it was considered as an absolutely novel undertaking, and a voyage that had never been attempted before.” In note: “The land of Ophir is, in my opinion, the same with that which was otherwise called Africa. The Phœnicians … gradually discovered, together with the Egyptians who were joined with them, the coasts of all Africa: hence we meet with such admirable, and, in fact, comprehensive accounts of the natives of Africa so early as in Moses's time, in the xth book of Genesis. Now gold and other precious commodities being found in many parts of Africa, this newly discovered country became celebrated and got a great name” (Ophir). “The third epocha of the circumnavigation of Africa fell in the time of Solomon, nearly 500 years later” (7).

Monthly Review 1787, review of Forster (NB: pounces on Ophir, despite the fact that this is just mentioned in passing by Forster): “the Doctor has not produced one authority; not even the casual mentioning of a single name in the Scriptures, to prove his position” (76: 614). Instead , “we think it highly probable that the land of Ophir was in Asia rather than in Africa; and if this position of the Doctor’s fall to the ground, one, at least, of his circumnavigations of Africa must fall with it” (615).

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed. 1794 (link is to 1797 ed.)., quotes at length from Doig’s “Letters on the Savage State, addressed to Lord Kames” (not yet published, abstracted here for first time): traces Ophir to Gen 10:29; this “original Ophir” was near Havilah; also appeared in Job. Doig rules out East Africa because Solomon’s ships went to Tarshish on same journey; instead, Solomon’s Ophir was on the west coast of Africa (13: 223), which lay within “usual course of Phœnician navigation” (224). “Spain was the modern Tarshish, and that very country from which Solomon imported his silver, and the Tyrians their silver, iron, tin, and lead”; and “Edomites and Tyrians had doubled the Cape, and almost encompassed Africa, long before the era of Solomon… This being the case, the traders might easily enough collect the gold on the coast of Guinea, or on what is now vulgarly called the Gold Coast. The ivory they might readily enough procure on the Barbary coast, opposite to Tarfhisli. In Africa, too, they might hunt apes, monkeys, baboons, &c.” Namely, Tarshish = Hispania Baetica, or Andalusia. After this, they returned back around the Cape and touched in Eloth or Ezion-geber” (225). This was published in 1792; hence entry must be reprinted from 1793 ed: Gentleman’s Magazine 1794 (75: 530) confirms this in notice of EB’s “copious disquisition” on Ophir in vol 13, and implies that if Doig did publish his Letters in 1792 few people read them. Continues: “the original Ophir, which is really Aurir or Aufr, was situated on the south of Arabia Felix, between Sheba and Havilah… the name Ophir, i.e. Aufr, was, in consequence of its resemblance, in process of time transferred to a region on the coast of Africa and that from it first Afir and then Africa was denominated… The practice of adapting the name of an ancient country / to a newly discovered one, resembling the other in appearance, in situation, in figure, in distance, in the nature of the climate, productions, like has ever been so common, that to produce instances would be altogether superfluous. The newly discovered region on the coast of Africa abounded with the fame species of commodities by which the original one was distinguished; and of course, the name of the latter was annexed to the former” (13: 226).

William Hutton, A Voyage to Africa (1821) cites Isert: “it is not improbable, that, in the golden age of Egypt, she had communication with the Gold Coast; indeed it has been thought, that the Gold Coast is the Ophir of Solomon” (212). Also quoted by Thomas Bowditch in his "Account of a Mission to Ashantee," Philosophical Magazine 53 (1819) identifies Issert as a Danish visitor to the Gold Coast, whose travels weren’t published in English (446). Paul Ermann Isert: in Gold Coast 1783-4, letters published 1788.

William Fleming, A Gazetteer of the Old and New Testaments (1838): “M. Huet supposes that the fleet of Solomon, in its voyage to Ophir, actually sailed round the Cape of Good Hope, and came to Joppa by the Mediterranean. He thinks that Ophir was a general name for all the eastern coast of Africa, and of Sofala in particular, agreeing with Bruce in this respect; and that Tarshish was also a general name for all the western coast of Africa and Spain, especially that coast near the mouth of the Guadalquivir, which abounded in silver mines. This writer farther maintains that the Cape of Good Hope was well known, frequented, and often doubled, in Solomon's time, and many years afterwards. This hypothesis is supported by a writer in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1786” (2: 261), which he calls “very fanciful and untenable illustrations. As to the etymological argument, it only shows on what fantastical grounds hypotheses may be built; and as to the Negroes practising circumcision, it by no means follows that they were taught it by the crews of Solomon's ships, for we nowhere read that the Hebrews had settlements either at Ophir or Tarsiiish, and it yet remains to be proved whether the fleet was manned by Hebrews, or by sailors of other nations engaged by Solomon for the purposes of commerce. The learned Dr Doig, of the Grammar School of Stirling, also contends that Solomon's fleet circumnavigated Africa. He maintains that there were several places called Ophir, the original of which, named after the son of Joktan, was near Judea, and that it was from this Ophir the gold mentioned in the Book of Job was obtained. As this Ophir, which must have been in Arabia, abounded in gold, the name was applied to other places where that metal was found in abundance. He argues that the Ophir of Solomon was not where Bruce assigns it at Sofala, because the fleet in the same voyage touched at Tarshish, which lay in a different direction. Dr Doig then proceeds to fix the situation of Tarshish before he ascertains the real Ophir, and the former he alleges was in Spain, near the mouth of the Guadalquivir, namely, Spanish Boetica, celebrated for its mines of silver, where there were a city, a lake, and a river, called Tarlessus by Aristotle, which is simply another name of Tarshish. Having discovered what he imagines to be the situation of Tarshish, Dr Doig concludes that Ophir was on the coast of Guinea; and in reply to the objection that Solomon's fleet would not have sailed so far as the west coast of Africa for gold, he maintains that in those times there was no gold found on the east coast, thus taking for granted his own hypothesis” (262).


Ann Murry, The Sequel to Mentoria (1799), Lady L. asks Mentor: “Where is Ophir, or the Land of Gold? I imagine many persons resort to it.” Mentor: “Respecting where it was situated, the learned differ in opinion; the most probable conjecture appears to be, that it was in some part of the East Indies, as those regions abound with the purest gold, silver, precious stones, ivory, / ebony, and other curious wood, spices, peacocks, monkies” etc” (189-190). She thinks three years is a long time to get to India and back; he says “voyages were undertaken with extreme caution” back then (190).

George Stanley Faber, The Origin of Pagan Idolatry (1816): “Ophir, one of the sons of Joktan, is often mentioned in Scripture as inhabiting a land abounding in gold, to wliich voyages were made by ships that sailed from the ports of the Red sea. Now Moses tells us, that Ophir, in common with the other sons of Joktan, settled far to the east. The voyages therefore from the Red sea to the land of Ophir must have been made in an eastern direction. But the whole sea-coast of Persia as far as the Indus was inhabited by Cush mingled with Elam. Hence it will necessarily follow, that the land of Ophir must have been beyond the Indus. And this will bring us to the great peninsula of Hindostan, for the seat of Ophir and his brethren: to which, accordingly we find, that regular voyages have in the earliest times been made from the mouth of the Red sea across the Indian ocean” (3: 453).

Quintin Crauford, Researches concerning … Ancient and Modern India (1817): 1015 years “before our aera,” Solomon “sent ships to Ophir, which / brought back gold, silver, and ivory” (1: 50-51); cites Josephus re 450 talents; “supposing the Jewish and Attic talent to be the same” = £1.485m (51). Note: Bruce says Ophir is Sofala (across from Madagascar). Solomon’s ships sailed from Ezion-Geber, at bottom of Elanitic gulf, down Red Sea into Indian ocean (50); voyage took 3 years, “which, when contrasted with the present state of navigation, seems a wonderfully long space, even allowing for the time required to procure the commodities. This, with other circumstances, may have led to the conjecture, that the ships of Solomon visited India. Amongst the things brought back by them, apes and peacocks are mentioned…: the former might be procured in Africa, but the peacock is properly an inhabitant of India, when it was brought into other countries. Cites Buffon (51).

Indo-Chinese Gleaner 1820, “Descent of the Hindoos,” letter in response to a Hindu who was “anxious to know from which of Noah’s sons his country men are descended” (2: 439). Ophir was one of Joktar’s sons, and the source of the name of “the land of Ophir.” It “was certainly some where in the country of the Hindoos. The circumstance, that Solomon built a navy of ships on the Red Sea, to bring gold and precious stones, &c. &c. from it, points out clearly in what region of the world it must have been situated. By comparing the several accounts we have of this trade, we / find that Ophir was also called Tarshish” (444-445). Three years’ journey means it was farther than Ethiopia or Persia (445).

William Howitt. A Popular History of Priestcraft (1833): “The posterity of Shem were confined to southern Asia; founding by his sons Elam or Persia, Ashur, or Assyria, a province of Iran… whose son Gush appears to have subdued these descendants of Shem. Arphaxad became the father of the Hebrews and other kindred nations; his descendant Peleg founded Babylonia; and Joktan, stretching far towards the east, probably became the father of the Hindoos. Ophir, one of the sons of Joktan, is often mentioned in Scripture as dwelling in a land of gold, to which voyages were made by ships issuing from the Red Sea, and sailing eastward; but Elam and Gush occupied the whole sea-coast of Persia, as far as the Indus. This, therefore, brings us to the great peninsula of Hindostan for the seat of Ophir” (18).

William Fleming, A Gazetteer of the Old and New Testaments (1838), entry Ophir: “Josephus and others suppose Ophir to have been the ancient Taprobana in the Indian Ocean, which is now understood to be the Island of Ceylon, and this hypothesis is founded on the circumstance that the ships of Solomon sailed from Ezion-geber on the Red Sea. To this it has been properly objected that Ophir had no affinity to Taprobana, even though Taprobana were not the Island of Ceylon but the peninsula of Malacca; and also, if Ophir had been situated on the Indian Ocean, there was no necessity to reach it by ships, as a commercial intercourse could have been carried on by caravans, which has been the Oriental custom from the most remote ages of antiquity” (2: 258). Quotes “the authors of the Universal History” who located Ophir "in some of those remote rich countries in India beyond the Ganges, and perhaps as far as China or Japan, which last still abounds with the finest gold, and with several other commodities in which Solomon's fleet dealt, as silver, precious stones, ebony, and other valuable sorts of wood, to say nothing of spices, peacocks, parrots, apes, and other such creatures, and by its distance best answers to the length of the voyage." Fleming: “if the commodities obtained by Solomon came from the remote parts of India, they might have been brought by caravans; nor is it likely that in Solomon's time, which was long before / the period and direction of the monsoons were ascertained in sailing across the Red Sea to Malabar, such a distant voyage could have been undertaken, in the course of which the usual mode of navigation practised by the ancients could not have been practised, namely, sailing along the coast” (258-259).


David Dickson, Truth’s Victory over Error (1684); from 1725 (5 eds 1760-1790), available on ECCO:
“As Ophirs Gold, which from Malacca came,
Made Solomon on Earth the richest Man,
So will this Book make rich thy Heart and Mind,
With Divine Wisdom, Knowledge of all Kind” (preface).

Thomas Pennant, The View of India extra Gangem (1800): Malacca (on Malay Peninsula) “was celebrated among the antients for its gold, for which reason it was called by them Aurea Chersoesus; still, at no great distance from the city of Malacca, is a hill called the Golden Mount. Some imagine this to have been the Ophir of Solomon. I shall mention [in a later volume] the supposition that Ophir was a place in AEthiopia. I will not enter into the dispute, and only say, that if the birds which we know at present by the name of peacocks, were those intended, this, or some other part of India, might have been the place from which Solomon drew his wealth, peacocks being found in plenty here, and unknown, at least in these days, in any part of Africa” (3: 28). Port of Pabang is on the mouth of a river that “washes the foot of the hill of Malacca, and contains a vast deal of gold.” Hamilton reported in 1719 “that lumps of five or six ounces weight have been found”; these are discovered by divers ten fathoms deep in the river. “Well may this country have been supposed to have been another Ophir. Josephus seems to have been right in fixing it here, … the antient name of this part of India was Sophora, now the land of gold, which comes very near to that of Ophir. Possibly the word is the Malayan name for the pretious metal” (30). Marsden reports that there’s a hill in Sumatra called Mount Ophir, “possibly from its having been once rich in gold” (31).

Thomas Stamford Raffles, History of Java 1817: “In the remarkable account of the rich commodities conveyed to ancient Tyre, it would appear that there were many articles the peculiar produce of the Malayan States” (1: 191); “and the same desire to obtain them, which prompted European nations successively to make themselves masters of these islands, must in all probability have operated, in a very remote period, on the merchants of Hindustan, and even of countries lying farther to the westward, who had already found their way into the gold regions; and if the hypothesis, which places Mount Ophir on Sumatra or the peninsula of Malacca, cannot be maintained, it will at any rate be admitted, that previously to the discovery of America, no country was known more rich in gold than the Malayan islands, and that, on that account, they were peculiarly attractive to foreigners, who could not be supplied from any other quarter” (192).

J.T. Newbold, “A Visit to the Gold Mine … and Summit of Mount Ophir… in the Malay Peninsula,” Journal of the Asiatic Society (1833): Whether this mountain, “or its namesake on Pulo Percha or Sumatra,” or the one in Sofala, “or Jameson’s Ophir on the S.E. coast of Africa, be the Ophir of Scripture, or not, must still remain matter of doubt.” In note: “In justice to the mountain I have visited, suffice it here to quote two passages from Dr. Robinson’s Theological Dictionary, Art. ‘Ophir’” (502).

Robert Montgomery Martin, China: Political, Commercial, Social (1847), chapter “Jews Early in China” cites Basnage’s claim that “the Ten Tribes retired to the East Indies and China” and that Tyre and Solomon traded with Ophir (to the east). “I visited Sofala … in 1824; and Malacca, in 1844, in Her Majesty’s steamer, ‘Spiteful;’ my opinion is in favour of Malacca being the true Ophir. There is a large mountain so named, and it abounds in gold. In sailing close along the shire at night, the air was perfumed as if with spices and frankincense. The whole country teems with rich and rare products. Sofala, on the contrary, is a low, swampy territory; no mountain is visible; gold-dust is certainly obtained there, brought from the interior, but there are no spices.” And from Malacca it’s easy to travel on up to China (1: 240)

The Navigation of the Ancients,” Sharpe’s London Journal 1850 (review of James Smith, Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul; link is to reprint in North American Review): “As to the identity of Ophir, there is almost a world-wide difference of opinion. The three years consumed in making the voyage, and the identity of the radical letters of Ophir and Peru, have given rise to the irrational hypothesis that the New World furnished gold for the Hebrew temple.” Gesenius says Arabia (12: 333); but in that case the gold must have come from somewhere else. Eastern Africa lacks the precious stones and sandal wood. “Josephus, who probably was not without traditional authority, speaks unhesitatingly of Ophir as having been the Chersonesus Aurea, now known as the peninsula of Malacca.” Malacca had all the right commodities. “Nor will the voyage appear unreasonably long, when we consider that the ancients coasted where they could, transacted much business from port to port, and had not vessels so rigged as to enable them to cross the Indian ocean except under favour of the monsoons.” Tarshish was in Spain (334).

Roderick Murchison, “Siberia and California,” Quarterly Review (1850): Carl Ritter might be right that Ophir was “in the axis” of the Indian peninsula, “where a small quantity of gold is still found, as well as the diamonds of Golconda; but we cannot coincide with the eminent Prussian, that it could have been in the environs of Bombay; for our recent conquests have demonstrated that all the Punjaub, as well as the Hala and Suleiman ranges,—nay, all the country of the Affghans and the valley of Cashmere,—are composed of rocks some a little older and others younger… than our chalk, in none of which, most certainly, has any veins of gold ever existed.” Length of journey points to “the Malayan peninsula or adjacent countries, crystalline and granite, which still furnish a considerable amount of gold” (405).

Persian Gulf

Walter Kelly, Syria and the Holy Land (1844) on Palmyra: Solomon’s “commerce extended to India, and the Persian Gulf was the principal point of union. Various points concur in corroborating this last assertion; nay, necessarily force us to acknowledge the Persian Gulf as the centre of the commerce of that Ophir, concerning which so many false hypotheses have been framed. For was it not in this Gulf that the Tyrians carried on a flourishing trade from the earliest ages, and are not the isles of Tyrus and Aradus sufficient proofs of the settlements they made there? If Solomon sought the alliance of the Tyrians—if he stood in need of their pilots to guide his vessels, must not the object of their voyage have been those places which they already frequented, and to which they repaired from their port of Phaenictsm oppidum on the Red Sea, and perhaps from Tor, in which name we may discover traces of that of their own city? Are not pearls, which were one of the principal articles of the commerce of Solomon, almost the exclusive produce of the coast of the Gulf, between the isles of Tyrus and Aradus (now called Barham) and Cape Masandoum? Have not peacocks, which were so much admired by the Jews, been always supposed natives of that province of Persia which is adjacent to the Gulf? Did they not procure their monkeys from Yemen, which was in their way, and where they still abound? Was not Yemen the country of Saba (or Sheba), the queen of which brought frankincense and gold to the Jewish king? And is not the country of the Sabians celebrated by Strabo for producing great quantities of gold?” (235).“Ophir has been sought for in India and in Africa; but is it not one of those twelve Arabian districts or tribes mentioned in the genealogical annals of the Hebrews? And ought it not, therefore, to be looked for in the vicinity of the countries they inhabit, since this genealogical geography always observes a certain order of situation, whatever Bochart and Calmet may say to the contrary? In short, do we not distinctly perceive the name of Ophir in that of for, a town of the district of Oman, on the pearl coast? There is no longer any gold in that country; but that is of no consequence, since Strabo positively asserts that in the time of the Seleucidaa, the inhabitants of Gerrha, on the road to Babylon, obtained considerable quantities from it. On weighing all these circumstances, it must be admitted that the Persian Gulf was the centre of the most extensive commerce of the ancient eastern world, and that it was with a view of communicating with it by a shorter or more secure route, that Solomon turned his attention towards the Euphrates; and that, from the convenience of its situation, Palmyra must from that period have been a considerable city. We may even reasonably conjecture, when we reflect on the revolutions of the following ages, that this commerce became a principal cause of those wars in Lower Asia, for which the barren chronicles of those early times assign no motives. If after the reign of Solomon the Assyrians of Nineveh turned their ambitious views towards Chaldea and the lower part of the Euphrates, / it was with the intention of approaching that great source of opulence, the Persian Gulf” (235-236).

Red Sea

John Wetherall, Sixteen Orations on Various Subjects (1803), on Sheba’s visit to Solomon: “It seems, at this time, that king Solomon stood in the good graces of all the neighbouring kings: And the king of Edam, had given Solomon leave to build a navy, at a place called Ezion Geber, a harbour at the upper end of the red sea, in order to go to / Ophir for gold; and, as the Israelites were entirely ignorant of navigation, that nothing might be wanted to aggrandize king Solomon, we find that his old friend, Hiram, king of Tyre, who had before afforded him such ample supplies of cedar and fir wood, from mount Lebanon, to build the temple, now furnished his ships with sailors, who had knowledge of the sea” (47-48). “And the place, for which they were bound, was Ophir, a country in Arabia Felix, bordering upon the red sea or Arabian gulph. And, though our modern geographers are in dispute about the situation of Ophir, yet it is very clear, that it must have been between Eloth and the Indian ocean; for the whole length of that gulph, which divides the Arabian from the Ethiopian coast, is not many hundred leagues. Yet, so little was the art of navigation then known, that they were three years in making this voyage; by which it seems most likely, they coasted / it all the way, and were seldom out of sight of land. Now, this Ophir, so famous for gold, was in the queen of Sheba's dominions; and, upon their arrival, we find that Solomon's merchants were introduced to the audience of the Queen” (48-49).

William Carpenter, Scripture Natural History (1828): “Arabia had formerly its gold mines. ‘The gold of Sheba’ (Ps. lxxii. 15.), is, in the Septuagint and Arabic versions, the gold of Arabia. Sheba was the ancient name of Arabia Felix. Mr. Bruce, however, places it in Africa, at Azab. The gold of Ophir, so often mentioned, must be that which was procured in Arabia, on the coast of the Red Sea. We are assured by / Sanchoniathon, as quoted by Eusebius, and by Herodotus, that the Phoenicians carried on a considerable traffic with this gold, even before the days of Job, who speaks of it” (585-586).

Thomas Campbell, “Remarks on the Geography of the Ancients,” Metropolitan (1831), paper read at Literary Union: “where was Ophir? In Bengal, says Gaspard Vererius; in Sumatra and Ceylon, say others.” Stephanus saus St Domingo, Becanus says Peru. “The geographer D’Anville saw that it was a hopeless task to shove it beyond the shores of the Arabian Gulf; but he took it over from Arabia to the African side of the Gulf, and placed it on Sofala.” But this is “opposed to … the most respectable of the Arabian historians, who insist that Ophir was on the Arabian” side. He misquoted scripture, which never says “three years”; rather, “within three years. Gosselin is the best authority on this. Whether we side with D’Anville or Gosselin, “it will be giving the traders of Solomon the most superfluous trouble to send them all the way round to India for the articles which they imported… if we consider the tedious and timid coasting navigation of antiquity, as well as the monsoons that blow six months of the year in the same direction, the time taken up by their voyage [which he puts at one year] makes sense” (4). He sides with Gosselin, re Tarshish = Red Sea (5).

John Howison, European Colonies, in Various Parts of the World (1834), chapter on India: “The notices which we possess respecting the ancient Ophir and its productions are so obscure and indefinite as to apply to almost any tropical region yielding gold; and hence some writers have placed this celebrated land on the west coast of Africa, which others have referred it to the eastern side of the same continent; a third class of authorities respectively identify it with Arabia Felix, with Hindustan, and with Serendiep or Ceylon; and latterly, a theorist, bolder than any of his predecessors, has pronounced Bencoolen, in the island of Sumatra, to have been the seat of Ophir and the scene of Queen Sheba’s glory. It seems in the highest degree improbable that a people so little enterprising as the Jews were in the time of Solomon, and so occupied by internal dissensions, should have made long voyages, and discovered new countries; and we may therefore suppose that they obtained their gold and spices at as little distance from home as was possible” (1: 381): namely, Arabia Felix. “The Arabs were doubtless the first foreign nation that ventured to traverse the great Indian Ocean” (382).

George Smith, Sacred Annals (1850): “It is amusing to read the speculations of the learned as to the geography of the port to which this commercial fleet of Solomon sailed. The coasts of Asia, Africa, and even Europe, from Ceylon to the western part of Spain, have been searched for the purpose of finding it, and many places have been selected as the probable port. If the learned and laborious researches of Mr. Forster are received with the attention and confidence which generally they appear to merit, this perplexing question will be regarded as settled”; Forster (qv) identified Ophir as Ofor, on south coast of Arabia; i.e. Oman (558). “The vessels would sail down the Red Sea, and coast the Arabian peninsula to the mouth of the Persian Gulf: this would place them in contact with Ophir. Here might be a mart for oriental produce; or, while a part of the navy remained here to conduct commercial operations, another part might cross the bay, and coast the peninsula of India, as far as was necessary for their purpose, and in this way the produce of southern India, and even of Ceylon, might be obtained.” Refers to Michaelis on monsoons and currents to account for such a short trip taking three years (559). Forster = Charles Forster, Historical Geography of Arabia (London, 1843). “Forster on Arabia,” Quarterly Review 74 (1844), 184, also supports this, as does English Review 3 (1845): 43-44.

Arabia and the Arab Tribes,” Wesleyan Methodist Magazine (1851), article on descendents of Noah, notes that Ofor (Ofir) was “near the mountains of Oman,” and was “supposed by several writers” to have been Solomon’s Ophir. “But, though gold was found in that locality, yet it is probable that Ophir was an emporium for the trade, and that gold was brought thither from Africa and India.” Cites Heeren re all of the above (7: 350).


Jerónimo Lobo, A Voyage to Abyssinia, ca 1620 (translated from French by Samuel Johnson, 1789), on Menomotapa: “We are informed by the ancient tradition of the country, that these ruins are the remains of the magazines of the queen on Sheba; who, it is said, received all her gold from the mines in this mountain” and shipped them to Ethiopia (264). Dos Santos “produces the testimony of the Abyssins, who are firmly persuaded that this celebrated queen was of their / country” (264-265). Others think these were Solomon’s mines. Dos Santos accounts for the three-year trip on the grounds that today (1620s), ships on Mozambique coast spend a year “selling their freight or collecting what is owing to the merchants” before returning to Europe. Navigation was in ancient times more difficult” etc (265). “If we add to these obstacles the time which was spent in collecting the gold and silver,” three years make sense. “As to the other lading of thise fleets, we find upon this coast ivory, all sorts of woods, fowls, and monkies of various kinds” (266).

Tobias Smollett, The Present State of All Nations (1768) on Sofala’s gold production: “From hence Moquet concludes, that this is the Ophir whither Solomon sent ships, every three years, from Eziongaber, to fetch gold; Eziongeber being thought by many to be the town now called Suez… This conjecture is supported by several edifices that seem to have been built here buy foreigners; some think it is also confirmed by the authority of the Septuagint, in which Ophir is translated by the word… Sophrirs”; also, “Thomas Lopez, in his Indian voyage, relates, that the inhabitants of this country boast, that they have books which prove that, in the time of Solomon, the Israelites made a voyage thither, every third year, to fetch gold” (8: 111). Copied by Bankes 1788, 1:326. Moquet = Jean Mocquet, Voyages (1617). Lopez visited Sofala in 1502 as part of Vasco da Gama’s crew.

Luis de Camöens, The Lusiad (1572); translation with editorial comment by William Julius Mickle (1776) re the verse:
“Through waves all foam, Sumatra’s isle was riven,
And mid white whirlpools down the ocean driven.
To this fair isle, the golden Chersonese,
Some deem the sapient Monarch plow’d the seas,
Ophir its Tyrian name.”
Mickle: “Sumatra has been by some esteemed the Ophir of the Holy Scriptures; but the superior fineness of the gold of Sofala, and its situation nearer the Red Sea, favour the claim of the latter”; cites Bochaert (465).

James Bruce. Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1790): “Many doubts… have arisen about a port called Ophir, whence the immense quantities of gold and silver came… when provision was making for the building of the Temple of Jerusalem.” Likewise Tarshish. Trade went through Elanitic Gulf through Indian Ocean; returns were gold, silver, ivory “but especially silver”; journey took three years (1: 433). Must have traveled with monsoon winds, not variable winds, since latter would have added or subtracted time from journey (433-34). Hence not Peru or Spain; neither Ceylon, since monsoon winds only take a year, and in any case it has no gold or silver. There was lots of silver in Spain, but that would have been an overland journey from Tyre; and no Spanish elephants. None of the above feature “great traces of excavation” (434). Cites Dominican John Dos Santos, who was in Sofala 1588: “in the kingdom of Sofala, the mainland opposite to Madagascar, there are mines of gold and silver, than which none can be more abundant… They bear the traces of having been wrought from the earliest ages. They were actually open and working when the Portuguese conquered that part of the peninsula, and were probably given up since the discovery of the new world, rather from political than any other reasons.” Dos Santos sailed up Cuama to Tetè, “where, always desirous to be in the neighbourhood of gold, his Order had placed their convent.” Gold mines at Asura were 200 leagues to the west; silver mines of Chicoua were further inland; “at both places there is great appearance of ancient excavations,” which tradition holds to date back to Queen of Saba for Red Sea trade (1: 435).

Bruce cites Eupolemus (via Eusebius): David built ships in Eloth, Arabia, and sent miners / to Orphi, or Ophir, “an island in the Red Sea. Now, by the Red Sea, he understand the Indian Ocean; and by Orphi, he probably meant the island of Madagascar,” or perhaps mainland (1: 435-6). “Let us now try these mines of Dos Santos by the laws of the monsoons,” Northern monsoon in June would take ship from Ezion-gaber to Mocha (436), then summer monsoon to Babelmandeb; then meets contrary southwesterly wind (437): “having no sails, being upon a lee-shore, a very bold/ coast, and great swell” (437-38). At last they figured out; sailed to Cape Gardesan, waited through November for winds to subside (in the process stocking up on ivory, frankincense, myrrh), then sailed with NE wind (438); in early December contrary winds force shelter in Tarshesh through April of year 2; May wind takes her to Sofala; wind forces stay through October, used to bring gold aboard. SW monsoon pushes ship back to Arabian gulf “in a very few weeks” in Nov. but NE monsoon forces stay at Mocha until May of third year (439). “In short, she changed the monsoons six times, which is thirty-six months… and there is not another combination of monsoons over the globe… capable to effect the same”; refers to map showing this by Douglas, Bishop of Carlisle (440). “The celebrated Montesquieu conjectures, that Ophir was really on the coast of Africa; and the conjecture of that great man merits more attention than the assertions of ordinary people. He is too sagacious, and too enlightened, either to doubt of the reality of the voyage itself, or to seek for Ophir and Tarshish in China” (1: 440). Dismissed argument that they were papyrus ships, and hence only able to go to Red Sea and back in three years, by saying that Solomon was able to go to India and back in a year. Solomon’s ships were “Tyrian and Idumean vessels, the best ships and sailors of their age” (441). Goes over similarity of names on journey to Sofala and in biblical account (441-5).

English Review 1790 faults Bruce’s “loose, disjointed, inconclusive, and insufferably tedious” queries on other topics (e.g. peopling of Abyssinia) (16: 48) but makes an exception for his discussion of Ophir, which is “a more extensive as well as a closer com/bination of ideas” (48-49); they “commend his ingenuity,” although the “truth or plausibility of his system is a different question.” Runs through his monsoon theory; “this is his theory: Because the ships of Tharshish came once in three years, therefore Solomon’s fleet set out from Eloth to Sofala, and retruned in three years precisely, i.e. in some months short of three years. Whoever doubts of the justness of this conclusion may avoid the trouble of reading the dissertation upon it. The reason also why he fixes upon Sofala for Ophir is not satisfactory / to us. In very ancient time gold was not sought in large excavations, but procured by streaming” (49-50).

Thomas Maurice, Indian Antiquities (1800; orig 1793-4), on “the golden Sofala” which was “the Ophir of Scriptures,” whence “David and Solomon obtained those immense treasures, which animated the former to project, and enabled the latter to complete, the stately Temple of Jerusalem with all the various golden ornaments used in its public worship.” 450 talents of gold in one ship alone (7: 451), i.e. ca £3 to 4 million if this is the talent then used at Tyre; I Chronicles 22 says David left 100,000 talents of gold in gold, which can’t be the Tyre talent, since that would mean £547m, “an enormous and incredible sum, which the treasury of no sovereign or nation on earth ever contained.” John Arbuthnot (Ancient Coins, 1727) says this must have been reckoning with “the most ancient Phoenician talent” (452).

Carl Wadström, An Essay on Colonization (1794; link is from 1795 edition): “The sands of the river of Sofala have a very considerable admixture of gold dust… On the west of Sofala, is the kingsom of Mongas, cheifly remarkable for the quantity of gold it yields, particularly at Massapa, Maninas, and the mountain of Ophir, whence, it is believed, Solomon’s treasures were brought”; in note cites Bolts on Sumatra, “on the south end of which there is likewise a mountain which to this day is called Ophir” (117).

Monthly Review (1814), in a review of George Hill, Lectures upon Portions of the Old Testament, quotes Hill: “It was long a matter of uncertain conjecture where Tarshish and Ophir lay… But here, as in many other instances, the progress of knowledge, and that intimate acquaintance which we are acquiring with all the regions of the globe, have vindicated Scripture from objections which ignorance had suggested, and have placed, in the most accurate light, the accuracy of the sacred historians.” Bruce, “in directing our attention to the course of the winds in those areas, to the manner of navigation in ancient times, and to various circumstances of the voyage, has confirmed what former researches had rendered probable,” viz Sofala = Ophir. “It abounds with gold and silver mines, which appear to have been wrought from the earliest times; and Tarshish is the name of a place situate near these mines.” The navy “was obliged to touch at other places for some of the articles which constituted its cargo” on return voyage (74: 211).

Henry Salt, A Voyage to Abyssinia (1814): “From the observations made in the course of this voyage up the coast of Africa, it appears that no natural obstacles exist to have prevented early navigators from making a direct voyage from Sofala to the Red Sea. I shall not attempt at any length to discuss the question, whether Sofala corresponds to the Ophir of the Hebrews, as I am of opinion. that the Old Testament does not supply sufficient data to enable any one to decide upon the matter, and I shall therefore content myself with merely pointing out the extreme inaccuracy of the statements on which a late celebrated author, Mr. Bruce, has founded his theory on the subject. The principal argument on which he seems to rely depends on “ the time of the going and coming of the fleet” (99). “His first position relative to the winds prevailing in the Red Sea is strikingly incorrect, as the ‘monsoon’ there (if it may be so termed) does by no means continue for six months steadily" (100). “The common track pursued by the Arab traders is as follows: they depart from the Red Sea in August, (before which it is dangerous to venture out of the gulph) then proceed to Muscat, and thence to the coast of Malabar. In December, they cross over to the coast of Africa, visit Mugdasho, Marea, Brava, Lamo, Melinda, and the Querimbo Islands; they then direct their course. to the Comoro Islands, and the northern ports of Madagascar, or sometimes stretch down southward as far as Sofala; this occupies them till after April, when they run up into the Red Sea, where they arrive in time to refit and prepare a fresh cargo for the following year. This is the regular course of the trade… the concurrent testimony of the Portuguese and Arabs, together with our own voyage, proves that the same winds continue without intermission till the end of September. Thus ‘the change of the monsoon six times,’ and the assertion that there is not another combination of winds over the globe capable to effect the same voyage, falls totally to the ground. As to the map given by Mr. Bruce ‘to remove the difficulties of his reader,’ it is absolutely unworthy of notice, were it not for the errors to which it may lead from its extreme inaccuracy and from its being founded entirely on visionary principles” (103).

George Thompson, Travels and Adventures in South Africa (1827): “Captain Owen seems to have obtained strong evidence of the commerce of the Phoenicians having extended from the Red Sea, much farther down the eastern coasts of Africa than is generally imagined; and to have pretty clearly ascertained that the celebrated gold mines of ancient Ophir were situated in the vicinity of Inhamban,—where it is remarkable, that a place of the name Ophir, still rich in gold and ivory, exists at the present day” (2: 320).

W.F.W. Owen, Voyages to Explore the Shores of Africa (1833), reporting his visit to Sofala, which “had excited the strongest interest amongst us; in olden times, it was the Ophir of Solomon… the spot whither the early but venturous Phoenician navigators steered their cumbrous barks, and where, in later years, Albuquerque and the last heroes of the Portuguese race had distinguished themselves.” In note: it has “escaped the numerous inquirers into the truth of this being the Ophir of Scripture, that the Arab name for Sofala was Zofar or Zofaal. The great similarity between these sounds must be considered as a convincing, if not decisive, proof that the Ophir of Solomon and the Zofar of the Arabs are one and the same place, especially as the license in our translation of Oriental orthography offers no obstacle to error or guide to truth” (1: 318).

Hugh Murray, Encyclopedia of Geography (1834): “The name of Ophir, combined, as it always is, with the most precious of metals, and the most coveted of all commodities, ranks among the distant countries known to the Jews, almost superior in splendour to Tarshish, though not equal in greatness and commercial importance. The voyages of Solomon to Ophir for gold, form the greatest naval enterprise in which the kingdom of Judea was ever engaged. Yet this name has been attended with little less difficulty, and produced scarcely less controversy, than that of Tarshish. The belief that Ophir was in Arabia has certainly not a little to urge in its favour. In the genealogical chapters it is always combined with … which was undoubtedly situated at the south-west angle of Arabia. It was from Sheba that gold (doubtless, the gold of Ophir,) was regularly brought to Judea and Phoenicia. Even Bochart, who thinks himself obliged to seek in India a more distant Ophir, clumsily compounds the matter by making another Ophir in Arabia. He is followed by M. Malte Brun. M. Gosselin, with his usual zeal to restrict ancient knowledge, insists, that there never was any Ophir except the Arabian, and places it in the modem interior district of Dofar. There appear to me, I confess, vast improbabilities in this Arabian Ophir. As an interior district, it must have been nearer, or certainly as near, to Judea as Sheba; and it appears strange, that no direct land communication should ever have been opened with it. Let us consider the mighty oper/ ations of Solomon,” i.e. his shipbuilding etc. “What a waste of labour and expenditure to obtain a commodity which could have been conveyed across Arabia in two months on the backs of camels!” (6-7).

Murray continied: “In the voyage from Ophir, also, we find new articles never mentioned in relation to Sheba or Arabia, but characteristic of equatorial Africa—ivory, apes, and peacocks. With regard to the close combination in which Sheba and Ophir are always found, it will appear natural enough, when we consider that, unless during the short expedition of Solomon, Sheba appears to have been the channel by which the gold of Ophir was transmitted to Judea and Phoenicia. This … might readily lead the inhabitants of those countries to consider the two as closely connected, though Ophir might be beyond Sheba, and even be separated from it by seas and territories of considerable extent. The hypothesis which places Ophir in India, though supported by great names, appears quite untenable. The trade of Ophir bears not the least resemblance to an Indian trade. It does not include the fine manufactures and rich spices which India has always furnished; and its staple is gold, which never, at any time, was an article of export from that quarter of Asia. India has, on the contmry, always demanded a large balance of specie, and has formed a gulf in which the gold of the west has been absorbed. If we reject India, we shall not certainly, with some savans, travel as far as Peru in quest of our object, notwithstanding the slight resemblance of name” (7).

Murray continued: “The eastern coast of Africa is the quarter to which all the indications appear very clearly to point. In the voyage to Tarshish by the Red Sea, its name and that of Ophir are always combined; nay, the voyage, which in the Book of Kings is called the voyage to Tarshish, in the Chronicles is called the voyage to Ophir; so that it is evident the two are one and the same voyage; and, if Tarshish was Africa, Ophir must clearly be in Africa. There is, however, on this coast no abundant supply of gold till we reach as for south as Sofala; thus implying an extent of navigation which is certainly somewhat startling. M. Gosselin particularly urges, that in the time of Alexander there was no longer any knowledge of eastem Africa; and that even the Romans never appear to have penetrated beyond Cape Delgado. On the other hand, it is to be considered that the alliance of Hiram and Solomon united advantages which never existed again in an equal degree. The wealth, naval skill, and ample materials which those great princes could command were scarcely equalled, even by the Ptolemies. After the death of Solomon, the kingdom, split into two, and weakened by continued dissension, abandoned entirely these distant commercial enterprises. … In the calamities which afterwards befel Israel and Judah, and the revolutions which subverted the whole political system of western Asia, it is not wonderful that every trace of this distant intercourse should have been obliterated; and that the successors of Alexander should have had to enter on a new field of discovery. In support of the supposition of Sofala, there may also be.noticed a certain resemblance of name; and the duration of the voyage, stated at three years, would afford very ample time to reach the Zambese, even under all the imperfections of ancient navigation” (7).

William Fleming, A Gazetteer of the Old and New Testaments (1838),, entry Ophir: “Bochart informs us that Sofala, a territory or town of Africa in Caffraria, opposite the Island of Madagascar, has been asserted to be the Ophir of the Scriptures, and the Sopheira of the Septuagint. We are told by Lopez, in his Indian Voyage, that the inhabitants of a country near Madagascar—and the continent of Africa where Sofala is situated is separated from that Island by the Mozambique Channel—boasted that in the time of Soiomon the Israelites made a voyage thither every third year to obtain gold, and mines of gold and silver have been found near Sofala, which appear to have been extensively worked in ancient times, and this country is designated in an old French work the Golden Sofala.” Cites D'Anville’s Dissertation on the country of Ophir in his "Memoires de Literature"; also Bruce on Abyssinia and Robertson on Ancient India. Bruce got all his info from the Portuguese missionarty Jon dos Santos; Fleming quotes from the original (2: 259). “It would be tedious to follow all the conjectures and arguments of Bruce in favour of this hypothesis of Dos Santos, his supposition respecting the season of the year when the fleet would sail, and his theory respecting the trade-winds and monsoons. We may here observe, that if Bruce's account of the direction and period of the monsoons, when the fleet was outward-bound, be compared with the account of their direction and continuance when it was returning homeward, the two statements will be found to be inaccurate”; long quotes from Bruce (260) and Robertson (261).

James Hough 1839, History of Christianity in India: “Ophir was early / supposed to be situated in some part of India, and the Jews were thought to be one of the nations which traded with that country” (1: 9-10). “But the opinion now more generally adopted is, that Solomon's fleets, after passing the straits of Babelmandel, held their course along the southwest coast of Africa, as far as the kingdom of Sofala, a country so celebrated for its rich mines of gold and silver, that it has been denominated by Oriental writers—the Golden Sofala. It abounded also in all the other articles which composed the cargoes of Solomon's ships. The Jews, then, we may conclude, have no title to be reckoned among the nations which carried on intercourse with India by sea “ (10).

John Ramsay McCulloch, A Dictionary, Geographical, Statistical, and Historical (1841): “Ophir is another country [along with Tarshish, which JRM thinks meant Africa] much celebrated in the Jewish scriptures, particularly for its gold. Many learned men have sought it in India, though gold was not then an article of export from that country, but the contrary; and no one staple of Indian trade is mentioned as brought from Ophir. Indeed its position seems clearly fixed, when we find the Red Sea voyage to Tarshish described elsewhere as one to Ophir. The latter, then, was on the eastern coast of Africa, where gold is no where found north of the Zambeze. Here accordingly we find Sofala, long the chief emporium of that river; and it may be observed that Ophir is called in the Septuagint Soopheira, while the modern Arab term is indifferently Zofar or Zofoat” (1: 34).

Foreign and Colonial Quarterly Review 1844, on W. Cornwallis Harris, The Highlands of Aethiopia (qv): “Major Harris concurs with Bruce in supposing Sofala to have been the Ophir of Solomon. Nor do we think, incorrectly; for it by no means follows that Ophir was in the same country as Tarshish” (3: 420). “At a time when gold was so abundant in the Sofala mountains there could not have been a reason for sending to a greater distance for it… Nor is it improbable, that when the fleet performed the whole voyage [to Tarshish], they on their return may have stopped at some Aethiopian port to receive the gold” (421). The “Indian Sofala” mentioned by Arabic translators “is not recorded to have been productive of gold” (422).

Anti-Slavery Reporter and Aborigines' Friend
1847 on US trade with Sofala, including gold and gold dust; “Sofala being the Ophir mentioned by Solomon, whence the Tyrian merchants derived most of the valuables in use at that remote day.” Citing Hunt’s Merchants’ Magazine, “the author of this paper thinks… that the slave-trade which there exists to such a horrible extent… would be done away with by the combined efforts of merchants in that quarter” via “legitimate commerce” (2: 159).
Sharpe’s London Magazine 1851, “Africa”: “Whatever she may be now, [Africa] once enriched the world, and will again be received into the communion of civilization… When commerce flourished in its vigorous infancy at Tyre, ships sailed from that opulent city in search of the rich products of Africa… The gold of Ophir, believed by some to have been brought from the Malayan Peninsula, was collected on the eastern coast” of Africa (13: 129).


William Bolts, Considerations on Indian Affairs (1772): “We shall enlarge no farther here on the ancient state of Hindostan than just to observe, that among the descendants of Shem, named in the tenth chapter of Genesis, there is mention made of an Ophir, in the fourth generation; who probably gave his name to the place from whence Solomon afterwards obtained his large returns of gold. All those generations from Shem, mentioned by Moses, are said by him to / have been peoples of countries in the eastern parts of the world; which, even according to the Jewish and Christian systems, makes the population of those regions extremely ancient, though infinitely short of the fabulous ages supposed by the Hindoos” (1: 6-7). In a note, uses the eastern migration of Ophir to refute the claim that Solomon got his gold from Sofala, which is west of where Ophir settled. Instead, Sumatra: “there is a mountain on the north end of it, which is to this day called Ophir, where much gold ever has been and is yet found; the distance of which likewise better agrees with the time Solomon’s fleets took to perform those voyages” (6).

John Macdonald, “On the Gold of Limong, on the island of Sumatra,” Asiatic Researches 1801 (paper delivered in 1794): “It is more than probable that Sumatra must have been the Ophir of Solomon's time. This conjecture derives no small force from the word ophir being really a Malay substantive of a compound sense, signifying, a mountain containing gold. The natives have no oral or written tradition on the subject, excepting that the island has in former times afforded gold for exportation” (338). “We have certain accounts that the vessels that imported this article were long detained, or did not return in much less than a year. It is therefore probable that they wintered, during the violence of the SW. monsoon, either at Ceylon, or on the north-east coast, and compleated their voyages during the moderate part of the other monsoon” (339). This is cited in Gentleman’s Magazine 1794 (i.e. must have originally appeared then), with additional comments re cedar (mentioned among imports) which grows in Sumatra (64: 396).

New World

Jonathan Carver, Travels through the Interior Parts of North-America (1778): George De Hornn, Dutchman, thinks “that after the deluge, men and other terrestrial animals penetrated into [America] both by sea and by land” (189); first Scythians, then Phoenicians and Carthaginians (190). “He supposes also another migration of the Phoenicians, than those already mentioned, to have taken place; and this was / during a three years' voyage made by the Tyrian fleet m the service of King Solomon. He asserts on the authority of Josephus, that the port at which this embarkation was made in the Mediterranean. The fleet, he adds, went in quest of elephants teeth and peacocks to the Western Coast of Africa, which is Tarsish; that to Ophir for gold, which is Haite, or the island of Hispaniola; and in the latter opinion he is supported by Columbus, who, when he discovered that island, thought he could trace the furnaces in which the gold was refined” (191-192). Hornn‘s theories are also mentioned by Lewis and Clark.

Juan Munoz, History of the New World (1797) on Columbus’s discovery of gold in Hispaniola: some from banks of the River Hayna, and “gold grains in Cibao… The earth was so richly mixed with this metal, that it was supposed every workman might collect, with moderate industry, three drachms a day. They discovered some traces of cavities, made after the manner of ancient wells. The Admiral conjectured, that these, perhaps, might be the sources from whence the fleets of Solomon were laded with gold, which was made use of in the creaction of the celebrated temple, and which enriched the treasury of the monarch. This fancy has occasioned several improbable, and very ridiculous opinions, concerning the situation of Ophir. The enthusiastic discoverer has a claim to indulgence, partly on account of the novelty of the things, and partly owing to the deficient state of geography on those days, and partly out of a wish to discover / wonderful things, to encrease his importance at the court” (1: 415-416).

William Drysdale, The Sacred Scripture Theory of the Earth (1798) cites 2 Chronicles 3:6, re temple decorated with “the gold, gold of Peru” (Peruim), which “alludes to the mountainous country of Peru, where the gold was and is yet got… And, since this gold was brought to Solomon, by Hiram king of Tyre’s subjects, and his shipping hired for that purpose, this positive assertion, in the sacred text, puts it beyond all dispute, that, the Tyrians traded to the now Spanish America, in the reigns of David and Solomon”; likewise Carthaginians in Pliny’s time. This “might have informed our modern, atheistical theorists, and sacred scripture denying sceptics, and others of such / class, how America might have been peopled from Tyre, or Carthage” (197-198); “and, so have prevented those and other writers, from insulting the world with juggling; by hiding people in America from the universal deluge, in order to preserve some human seed in it; till either the Welshman, Madon Ap Owen Gwineth; or, the Portuguese advetnurer, should land there.” This (like Huron) is a rebuttal of people who deny that Noah and his family were the only humans to survive the flood (198). Available on ECCO.

Washington Irving, A History of New York from the Beginning of the World (1825; originally 1809) on claims that Israelites had settled in the New World: “Of the claims of the children of Noah to the original population of this country I shall say nothing, as they / have already been touched upon in my last chapter. The claimants next in celebrity are the descendants of Abraham. Thus Christoval Colon (vulgarly called Columbus), when he first discovered the gold mines of Hispaniola, immediately concluded, with a shrewdness that would have done honour to a philosopher, that he had found the ancient Ophir, from whence Solomon procured the gold for embellishing the temple at Jerusalem; nay, Colon even imagined that he saw the remains of furnaces of veritable Hebraic construction, employed in refining the precious ore. So golden a conjecture, tinctured with such fascinating extravagance, was too tempting not to be immediately snapped at by the gudgeons of learning; and accordingly there were divers profound writers ready to swear to its correctness, and to bring in their usual load of authorities, and wise surmises, wherewithal to prop it up. Vetabius and Robertus Stephens declared nothing could be more clear—Arius Montanus, without the least hesitation, asserts that Mexico was the true Ophir, and the Jews the early settlers of the country” (18-19). “Scarce, however, have they completed their goodly superstructure, than in trudges a phalanx of opposite authors, with Hans de Laet, the great Dutchman, at their head, and at one blow tumbles the whole fabric about their ears. Hans, in fact, contradicts outright all the Israelitish claims to the first settlement of this country, attributing all those equivocal symptoms, and traces of Christianity and Judaism, which have been said to be found in divers provinces of the new world, to the Devil, who has always affected to counterfeit the worship of the true Deity” (19). Link is to 1821 edition.

William Fleming, A Gazetteer of the Old and New Testaments (1838), entry Ophir: “Some place it in Peru, and this opinion has been adopted because Solomon is said to have garnished the Temple ‘with precious stones, and the gold was the gold of Parvaim,’ 2 Chron. iii. 6. It is hence alleged that Ophir and Parvaim mean the same country, which is not improbable, if we consider Parvaim the name of a place; but the hypothesis that Parvaim, otherwise Ophir, means Peru, simply on account of the supposed similarity in sound and letters, or because the word Ophir and Peru, when expressed in Hebrew, are composed nearly of the same letters, is / extremely fanciful. There is not the slightest proof that any knowledge of America, especially such a knowledge as would cause a commercial intercourse, existed in the time of Solomon, and Sir Walter Raleigh informs us that Peru is not the true name of the country so called, but was given to it by the Spaniards in consequence of their mistaking the answer of the natives to a question they did not understand” (2: 257-258).


London Journal 1849: “A writer in Pennsylvania undertakes to prove that Solomon obtained his gold for the temple from California—that this was the placed called Ophir in the Book of Kings. He also thinks the Queen of Sheba came from that region” (9: 79).


Examiner 11 Oct 1851 calls Australia “the Ophir of the antipodes” and “an El Dorado where assuredly Raleigh never dreamed of seeking for it” (both figurative); and again as “The Austrlian Ophir” 22 Nov 1851.


William Robertson, An Historical Disquisition concerning the Knowledge which the Ancients had of India (1791): “The Jews, by their vicinity to Tyre, had such an opportunity of observing the wealth which flowed into that city from the lucrative commerce carried on by the Phenicians from their settlements on the Arabian Gulf, as incited them to aim at obtaining some of it.” King Hiram of Tyre “enabled Solomon to fit out fleets, which, under the direction of Phenician pilots, sailed to Tarshish and Ophir. In what region of the earth we should search for the these famous ports which furnished the navy of Solomon with the various commodities enumerated by the sacred historians, is an inquiry that has long excited the industry of learned men” (8). Initially thought to be India (8-9); now southwest Africa: “Sofala, a country celebrated for its rich mines of gold and silver, from which it has been denominated the Golden Sofala by Oriental writers).” D’Anville has confirmed this by researching ancient navigation and monsoons. In any case, “the commercial effort which they made in the reign of Solomon was merely a transient one, and… they quickly returned to their former state of unsocial seclusion from the rest of mankind” (9).

Charles Taylor, Scripture Illustrated by Means of Natural Science (1814; orig 1803): since “Solomon did not pretend to any royalty over Ophir, … he therefore obtained his gold, &c. in a mercantile manner, by exchange. Now, if Ophir was in an uncivilized country, what commodities had he to give for its natural productions?” Oil and wine of Judea, Tyrian articles, of doubtful value to “barbarous people” (105). Solomon’s navigators were from Tyre, which was on the Mediterranean, not the Red Sea (105-6). “It is likely that other princes, beside Solomon, traded also to Ophir; for, how came he, if the first, to think of the enterprize? Most likely, he only put in for a share of that trade which he already knew to be lucrative.” Havilah’s brother is Ophir (Gen 10: 28), hence Ophir probably settled east of Havilah, hence (quoteing Moses) “‘Sephar, a mount of the East’—or Bactria.” Finally: “It is not certain that Solomon's fleet cast anchor in Ophir, as in a port, but rather, that the commodities they fetched were brought by them from a public mart, or emporium, where they procured them without trouble; much in the same manner as we scud to China for tea; but the tea does not grow near the port, from whence it is shipped, it is only brought there for exportation…. From these hints we infer, that Solomon having had communications by laud, with the East, desired more direct intercourse with it, which he proposed to effect by sea. We know also, that the Egyptian kings maintained an intercourse with India during many ages: and what they did from one side of the Red sea, Solomon might do from the other. Perhaps their navigation was the subsequence of his” (106). Cites Calmet in his favor (re Ophir = India) (106-7).

Robert Ingram, Disquisitions on Population (1808) appeals to Ophir to prove that population density in Judea during David’s reign “appears to have exceeded that of any country we know of in modern times” without being accompanied by “extreme misery and suffering” (22). “Solomon’s ships imported from Tarshish and Ophir, not provisions, but immense quantities of gold, silver, precious stones, choice woods, and other objects of luxury, which were not, however, expended in the purchase of food for the support of a famishing population, but were employed solely in works of uncommon splendour and magnificence. The enumeration of the daily provisions for Solomon’s table, does not seem to indicate any tokens of scanty subsist/ence: and… these ample stores were not extorted from a wretched population” according to the Bible (23-24).

James Caulfield, The Antiquity, Honor and Dignity of Trade (1813; updated version of William Perry’s edition from mid-18th century), on “the Honor and Dignity of Trade”: “As Trade is the grand object the British Nation has in view… an attempt to shew how honorable commerce has been deemed in all ages and times, in respective flourishing states, is neither a work impertinent nor useless”; starting with Jews (1). Cites 2 Chron 9 re Solomon’s trade with Tarshish, then quotes Josephus: ”Solomon’s ships returned from Ophir, (otherwise called the land of Gold,)… This plate-fleet brought the king, six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, over and above the merchant’s adventure, and what the governors and kings of Arabia sent him for presents. Of this gold, he caused to be cast two hundred targets” weighing 600 shekels each, which he hung in hall of Grove of Lebanon (3). Solomon gave 3000 talents of Ophir gold to “the house of God… by the great returns from this traffic; for the gold alone amounted to about one and twenty millions of our money” plus 7000 talents of refined silver (4). “The prophet Isaiah speaking of this trade of Tarshish and Tyre, calls it the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose trafficers are the honourable of the earth. And our Lord himself likeneth the kingdom of Heaven to a merchant-man seeking goodly pearls [Matth 17:45]… It being thus evident that Solomon lived in greater pomp than any other king, before or since; whose very utensils were gold, and all whose amazing spendour accrued from a flourishing trade” (11).

William Brown, Antiquities of the Jews (1820): “Had we heard nothing more of these fleets we should naturally have supposed, that the fleet to Ophir sailed down the Red Sea, somewhere to the south; and that the fleet to Tarshish sailed from Tyre at the east end of the Mediterranean, to Tartessus in Spain, near the ancient Gades, now Cadiz, at the mouth of the Baetis or Guadalquivir, without the straits of Gibraltar: but 1 Kings xxii. 48, goes against this idea, for it tells us, that ‘Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold; but they went not, for the ships were broken, at Ezion-geber.’ Now this Ezion-geber is at the foot of the Elanitic gulf in the Red Sea, and was the place to which the Israelites returned, when God sware that they should not enter immediately into the land of Canaan” (2: 411). Hence the ships “were to sail up the Red Sea, pass the straits of Babelmandeb, and go round Africa by the Cape of Good Hope, taking Ophir, which lay somewhere in that direction, in their way. This was certainly a circuitous passage, and might well take three years to accomplish, in their coasting way of sailing, before the discovery of the compass. Unless, therefore, one had strong reasons to the contrary, he would be led to explain the word rendered Tarshish, not as a city, but as descriptive of the ships engaged in that enterprise” (412); a debate remains re whether they rounded the cape to get to Ophir or traded in Indian Ocean (412-13). The fact that “Jewish fleets brought gold and silver as a part of their cargo from Ophir… corresponds with the trade with Africa, where these metals abound, but not with Arabia and India, where they are deficient.” Hence Tarshish and Ophir = “somewhere between the mouth of the Red Sea and the Cape of Good Hope” (2: 415); quotes Bruce at length (415-18). “We have been thus long on the voyage of Solomon's ships to Tarshish and Ophir, as being the only one which the Jews seem to have made; for, although Elath and Ezion-geber are sometimes mentioned, it does not appear that the commerce carried on at these ports tended to enrich the Jewish nation. Indeed, Josephus says, in his Book against Appian, that his nation, being entirely employed in agriculture, knew little of navigation. The Jews, therefore, traded only occasionally in the Red Sea. They took from the Idumeans Eloth and Ezion-geber, from whom they received this commerce: they lost these cities, and with them lost their taste for navigation and foreign trade” (418).

Republican 1825: “We are told, that [Solomon] sent ships to Tarshish and Ophir to be laden back with Gold, Ivory, and Precious Stones. But what did he send in exchange? … Let our merchants send out empty ships and see if they can get them laden back with gold, ivory, and precious stones… Judea never produced any thing by its soil, or by the skill of its inhabitants that could have accumulated such riches as were requisite for the building of such a temple” (12: 196).

Isaac Taylor, The Book of Commerce by Sea and Land (1830): “Solomon saw the advantage of commerce, and employed his wealth in endeavouring to obtain a share of it. Hiram, king of Tyre, assisted him with ship-builders and seamen… The ships sailed to Ophir, which seems to have been on the eastern coast of Africa; and they brought back gold, silver, ivory, curious woods, apes, and peacocks… One voyage to Ophir brought him in two millions of our money, in gold only” (1: 318). Link is from 1834 edition.

William Jacob, An Historical Inquiry into the Production and Consumption of the Precious Metals (1831): ‘The metallic wealth which was collected at the time of Solomon's greatness had not arisen solely from the spoil of the nations which the Hebrews had subdued, or the profits arising from their agricultural pursuits. We find that they had already entered into commercial operations in the reign of David; and the extension of them seems to have opened channels by which gold and silver flowed in more copious streams, or at least at a more rapid pace, than they could have done by the rude operations of war, or the calm pursuits of agriculture” (1: 121). “At first the Hebrew nation was simply an agricultural people; all the institutions of their legislator, Moses, were calculated to preserve them in that state. They had none but domestic manufactures. Little or no division of labour, such as manufactures and commerce require, could take place where each family was fixed on a small portion of land” (121). “As the whole population was devoted to the labours of the field, the cultivation / must have been well executed, and in such circumstances much more of corn, wine, and oil must have been produced than the inhabitants could consume. Though in their progress from Egypt, and at their first settlement in Palestine, they had been a warlike and even an exterminating people, yet they had become at the accession of Solomon a settled nation, and formed those social ties with the surrounding kingdoms which led both to commercial intercourse and conjugal unions. The king himself married a daughter of an Egyptian monarch, and formed alliances of a commercial nature with Tyre and the other neighbouring states of Phoenicia” (121-122). “This view [in Kings] of the intercourse between Phoenicia and Judea may enable us to account for a circumstance otherwise so strange, as that Solomon, the monarch of a country which afforded no articles for distant foreign trade, who had neither ships nor sailors in his dominions, and only the port of Ezion-geber, on the eastern branch of the northern part of the Red Sea, which had been conquered by his father, and the inhabitants destroyed, should have undertaken distant commercial expeditions. As the ships he sent on such expeditions were manned with Phoenician sailors, so it is probable they were loaded with the goods which he had received from those people in exchange for the cattle, the corn, the wine, the oil, and the other productions of the soil which he furnished to them” (124). “We are informed of the amount of the precious metals which the fleets brought back to Solomon at the termination of a voyage of three years' duration, but whether it far exceeded the value of what they carried with them appears at least doubtful; and if we may judge from the / circumstance of the trade ceasing with the reign of him who began it, and that long before his death, we shall perhaps conclude that it was not found beneficial, or in so small a degree as not to induce the continuance of it. It was never resumed, though one attempt at it was planned about a hundred years later, in the reign of Jehoshaphat1, who built the ships for it at the same port of Ezion-geber” (124-125).

Samuel Wilberforce, Agathos, and other Sunday Stories (1841), “The Storm at Sea” (story read to children). Prior to the storm, “Every one was busy in their work. You might see [the captain] walking as sailors do, / up and down the deck, talking to the chief of his crew under him. Perhaps they were talking about the cargo he had got on board; and what would be the state of the market at Tarshish, and how much he should make by the wheat and the fine cloth he had got on board; and whether he should find plenty of ‘gold and sivler, and ivory and apes’ (I Kings x. 22) at Tarshish, which he could bring back again in his ship to Joppa” (42-43).

William Shrewsbury, Christian Thoughts on Free Trade (1843) cites 1 Kings 9: 26-28 re Solomon’s “splendid commercial navy” and proceeds of gold from Ophir. “The sovereign of Judea manifested no mean spirit of jealousy towards a neighbouring prince, but availed himself of the skill of Hiram’s mariners… This was true reciprocity” (24). “Who then can doubt of its being the duty of Christian rulers in every Christian land, to adopt as a prime maxim of their respective governments: let trade and commerce every where be free” (25). Available in Making of the Modern World.

Tarshish/ Tyre

William Ibbotson, Agricultural Distress: Its Cause and Remedy (1837; defending free trade) compares England with Tyre: i.e. it owes its greatness to trade, not to land): Tyre’s “merchants are princes by the abundance of her traffic” (from Bible). “If such were the means by which she became great and renowned, in like manner has England become so” (160); “and so sure as the Egyptians, by attempting to enslave the Israelites, / perished themselves in the Red Sea, so sure will the landholders of England perish, by attempting to cripple commerce” (160-61).

William Fleming, A Gazetteer of the Old and New Testaments (1838), entry Tarshish: “From those passages of Scripture where Tarshish occurs in conjunction with Ophir, we learn successively that Solomon's navy, navigated by his allies the Phoenicians, went to the latter country for gold—that the Hebrew monarch had ‘at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram’—and that ‘once in three years came the navy of Tarshish bringing gold and silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks,’1 Kings x. 11, 21.” Ditto in 2 Chron. 9: 10, 21. Without repeating the observations and arguments which the reader will find under the article Ophir… we here state the reasons for the conclusion that Tarshish and Ophir are not synonymous terms. It by no means follows that, because the Hebrew-Phoenician fleet could only make one voyage to and from Ophir in three years, it took the same time to reach and return from Tarshish” (2: 474). “Tarshish had been the emporium of the most distant trade of the Phoenicians westward, and the ships engaged in this trade, having to make the longest voyage then known, were probably distinguished by peculiarities in their size and construction… It is indeed true that while in the Book of Kings it is said that the ships went to Ophir, in the Chronicles it is said that they went to Tarshish, without any reference to Ophir, and we must come to something like the conclusion that these two names denote the principal intermediate and ulterior points of the voyage. The opinion that Tarshish was the Phoenician emporium at the mouth of the Guadalquivir has found many learned advocates, who contend that Spain is literally the Tarshish mentioned by Ezekiel in his enumeration of the trade of Tyre”; e.g Heeren (475).

Cyrus Redding, An Illustrated History of the County of Lancaster (1842): “It is impossible to contemplate without a smile the history of the ancient trading voyages of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and the king who sent his ships to Ophir for gold, so magnified and extolled for ages… and not to feel that Liverpool must become the Tyre of modern history” (125).

John Kitto, Palestine: The Bible History of the Holy Land (1841): “The fleet returned in the third year, laden with the rich and curious treasures of the south and the remote east. There were vast quantities of gold and silver, while the bulk of the cargo was composed of elephants' teeth, and various sorts of valuable woods and precious stones. Nor were the supercargoes which the king sent in the ships unmindful of his / peculiar tastes, and probably his special orders, for they took pains to collect examples of the more curious animals, and doubtless other products, of the countries to which they came. Among these, monkeys and peacocks are particularly named—probably from their more singular difference from the forms of animal life with which the Hebrews were previously acquainted. Without doubt, a large portion of the commodities thus obtained were sold at a great profit” (1: 523-524).

“Tarshish,” in John Kitto, A Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature (1845; link is from 1851 ed.): it was “an old, celebrated, opulent, cultivated, commercial city, which carried on trade with the Mediterranean and with the sea-ports of Syria, especially Tyre and Joppa, and that it most likely lay on the extreme west of that sea… Such was Tartessus in Spain, said to have been a Phoenician colony… a fact which of itself would account for its intimate connection with Palestine and the biblical narratives.” Not clear exactly where in Spain it was, but not far from Gibralter. Probably not just one city: rather, “the district of south-western Spain, comprising the several colonies which Tyre planted in that country,” or “what we might designate Phoenician Spain.” Also possibly “the opposite coast,” i.e. present-day Morocco. Together, “these countries were to Tyre what Peru was to Spain” (2: 830). This entry is signed “J.R.B” (J. R. Beard).

Tarshish = Spain

William Jacob, An Historical Inquiry into the Production and Consumption of the Precious Metals (1831): “It is necessary… to have recourse to the ancient profane writers to arrive at certainty; and the examination of them has led, with most / persons, to the conclusion, that the Tarshish of the Jews and the Tapnjwdc of the Greeks was a country in the southernmost part of Europe1. We read in the ancient writers of the river Tartessus—of the island Tartessus—of a city Tartessus—and of a province Tartessus. From these various objects to which the name is applied, as well as from the uncertainty of the names given by ancient geography, we may, perhaps, safely infer the little dependence which can be placed on the name of the precise place. It may not be unnatural to suppose that the first visitors gave a general name to a large country, in the same manner as the discoverers of America gave to that continent, and the islands collectively, the name of the Western Indies. Tarshish, which was in the westernmost part of Europe, according to the Greeks, may then comprehend the whole of the division of Spain and Portugal, from the mouth of the river Ebro to Cape St. Vincent, or it may have included the whole of both the modern kingdoms of the peninsula, as far as they were known to the Phoenicians and Carthaginians” (1: 90-91).

James Finn, Sephardim: or a History of the Jews in Spain and Portugal (1841), recounts discovery by Jesuits in 1630 of a tomb in Murviedro, Valencia, which allegedly proved the existence of “Jews in that region, residing and paying tribute to Jerusalem in the days of king Solomon”; its Hebrew inscription read: “This is the tomb of Adoniram/The servant of king Solomon;/Who came to collect the tribute” (2); “if the facts thus elicited fail to demonstrate that Solomon collected tribute from Spain, we may and ought to make use of these subsidiary considerations”; including: “treasures of gold and silver in Spain, were vast in ancient times beyond general credence, even abating much from the report of Posidonius (apud Strabonem) who describes the natives as using mangers and barrels of pure silver. It is / known that Marcellus exacted at one time from the Celtiberi the sum of 600 talents. The Phoenicians did unquestionably trade to Carthage and Spain; and Hiram king of Tyre was a personal friend of Solomon” (5-6).

Elias Lindo, The History of the Jews of Spain and Portugal (1848): “The first settlement of the Jews in the Iberian Peninsula is lost in the obscurity of ages; but no doubt can exist of its having been at a very early period; for if Tarshish was, as is supposed by many learned writers, the ancient Tartessus, a city of the Peninsula, some may have established themselves in this part of Europe in the time of Solomon, upwards of seven centuries before the Christian Era, or even earlier”; quotes Bible re “triennially came the fleet of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver” (1). “The closest friendship and connection existed not only between the two kings, but likewise between their subjects, the Hebrews and Phoenicians. The immediate vicinity of the kingdoms, their similarity of language, habits and dress, contributed to render them, as it were, one people. Jews appear to have resided at Tyre, even before the reign of Solomon” (2).

Tarshish = Great Britain

Beere 1790 (Lincolnshire clergyman), Second Epistle to the Chief Priests and Elders of the Jews: “We are led to think, from some expressions in the holy writings, that when the Lord shall begin to turn your captivity, then England shall stand foremost among the nations, to convey you home to your own country… For the Holy Spirit, in the writings of the prophet Isaiah, when it is predicting of your final restoration and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, speaks by a figure of speech, as having a fore-view of the fleet of ships, bringing you home to your own land”: viz, the Isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them” (37). Cites Ezekiel re Tarshish possessing tin among other metals, and only England produces tin (38). Available in ECCO.


James Bicheno (Italian Zionist), The Restoration of the Jews (1809), calling for a repatriation of Holy Land, from lower Egypt to the Dead Sea. “Abyssinia and Ethiopia, those rich countries which furnished Solomon with so much gold and ivory, and so many precious stones, will trade the more willingly with us, that the greater part of their inhabitants / still practise the law of Moses” (61-62). Excerpted in Missionary Magazine 1809.


St. James’s Chronicle 6 Jan 1784: “The great Reformers of the ancient Jews were not averse to the Gold of the East; and why should the Reformers of the modern Jews deviate from the Principles of their Predecessors? We may, therefore, very naturally conjecture, that the omnipotent and omniscient Coalition expected large Presents of Purple and fine Linen from the East—heavy Loads of Gold from Ophir—valueable Chests of Diamonds—and a Visit from the Queen of Sheba”; this is directed against Fox, and in defense of Pitt.

Solomon’s wealth

J. Murray, Fast-Day Sermons (1781), “The Folly of Kings”; on Rehoboam (Solomon’s son): “Though money was plenty in the days of Solomon, the people were poor; gold and silver were plenty in Jerusalem, and near the king’s court, but it does not seem to have circulated as far as Shechem, and the extremities of Palestine. The real wealth of nations does not consist in a large quantity of specie, but in a proper balance of the value of money with the price of useful commodities. Solomon was rich, but his subjects were poor and oppressed. The misfortune of Solomon’s government, for all the wisdom that he had, was, that he brought more luxuries into the nation, than commodities profitable for the service of the people. He was also very extravagant in his household expences, and the / charges of his government” (26-27).

Hugh Mitchell, Strictures on the Political Condition of the Jews (1794): Solomon “was a wise and peaceful prince. But although he did not enter into unnecessary and destructive wars, he / pursued measures which produced effects scarce less prejudicial to the interests of his subjects” (8-9). “His passion for magnificence and show was extravagant… the sacred record informs us, that, during this reign, ‘gold and silver were as the stones of the street for abundance.’ A superficial reader might thence infer, that the body of the people were prosperous and happy. To say however that the Jews were a happy people, because their king was rich, and their nobles rich, and their priests rich, were hardly / less ridiculous than to pronounce that man possessed of a sound and vigorous constitution, who is covered with ulcers from the sole of the foot to the nape of the neck” (9-10). “The riches brought to Solomon by his Indian fleet” plus annual tribute and gifts “might shed an artificial glory round him; the solid glory of a Prince however consists in making a whole people happy, by opening the sources and rewarding the exertions of industry.” Instead, Jews under Solomon “laboured hard at the furnace of slavery and oppression” (10).

Joseph Reeve, Practical Discourses upon the Perfections… of God (1796): Solomon “heaped together prodigious treasures of gold and silver, the wealth of kings and provinces, such as none ever possessed before him in Jerusalem. But when he reviewed the works he had wrought, and considered what painful labours they had cost him, he was forced to own, that he had been labouring in vain: for he saw in all things vanity and vexation / of mind, and that nothing was lasting under the sun” (1: 219-220). Available in ECCO.

Walter Anderson, Lectures upon…the Psalms of David (1797) contrasts Jews in Judea under David with those under Solomon: “Shut up within land, and having no sea-port until the reign of Solomon, the tribes of Israel were to consider themselves as placed in a better condition than if, as in the days of that king, the gold of Ophir had been poured in upon them, and silver so abounding as to be of no more account than the stones of the earth, while despising the labours of the field, or thinking themselves exempted providentially from them, they had to purchase precariously, and at the will of other nations, what God had made the first and most general requisite for the subsistence of mankind.” Instead, they grew wealthy “fertilizing the ground” and had “satisfaction and comfort” in the fruits of their labor—“which the greatest heaps of gold and silver, collected around [them] by avarice and usury, could never have afforded” (66).

James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs (1813): “We cannot easily imagine a more splendid monarch, nor a happier people: heaven and earth united to exalt them in the face of the nations: but alas! how soon did the gold become dim, and the fine gold changed! Solomon forgot the guide of his youth; and, in his old age, bowed down to Ashtaroth, the goddess of Zidon, and to the abomination of Ammon; and built altars, and sacrificed unto the gods of his strange wives. His example was followed by many of his successors, until their idolatry became so abominable in the sight of JEHOVAH, who had peculiarly styled himself the G0D of Israel, that, after a succession of heavy judgments, blended with signal mercies, he finally withdrew his protection from the ungrateful tribes of Israel and Judah” (1: 332).

Francis Cox, Female Scripture Biography (1817, chapter on Queen of Sheba): “The inspired description of Solomon's magnificence may justly excite astonishment—a magnificence which extended to ‘all his drinking vessels, which were of gold; and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.’ It is natural to imagine, that the fame of so remarkable a prince, concurring with the comparative ease with which gold and silver were procurable, would contribute to establish that taste for splendor which has ever distinguished the potentates of the East. It is stated by Sir J. Chardin, that the plate of the king of Persia is of pure gold, originally made by Shah Abbas, the most glorious of the princes of the Sefi royal family; who, for this purpose, melted seven thousand two hundred marks, or nearly thirty-six thousand English troy ounces of the purest gold. But Solomon, according to the testimony of Scripture, was the most opulent prince that ever sat upon a throne” (1: 372). Solomon’s palace contained “a most glorious dining-room… full of gold, and such other furniture as so fine a room ought to have for the conveniency of the guests, and where all the vessels were made of gold. Now it is very hard to reckon up the magnitude and the variety of the royal apartments… to say all in brief, Solomon made the whole building entirely of white stone, and cedar wood, and gold, and silver. He also adorned the roofs and walls with stones set in gold, and beautified them thereby in the same manner as he had beautified the temple of God with the like stones. He also made himself a throne of prodigious bigness, of ivory, constructed as a seat of justice, and having six steps to it; on every one of which stood, on each end of the step, two lions, two other lions standing above also; but at the sitting place of the throne, hands came out, and received the king; / and when he sat backward, he rested on half a bullock, that looked towards his back, but still all was fastened together with gold” (1: 388-389). “If human happiness were uniformly proportionate to the degree of elevation in the scale of society, and the extent of worldly riches, some plausible pretence might be framed for that eager ambition which characterizes so large a part of mankind; but, if Solomon may be congratulated as remarkably happy, this arose not from his being unusually rich, but pre-eminently wise. In vain does any one expect substantial enjoyment, who despises or neglects religion; while he who possesses it can never be miserable” (389).

William Goode, Essays on all the Scriptural Names and Titles of Christ (1822): “The kingdom of Solomon was famed for its riches and its glory.— And in this also, it was a further type and emblem of the kingdom of Jesus” (4: 134). Lists several examples. “What an exorbitant description! Nothing could possibly be devised, to give us a greater idea, of the glory and flourishing state of the Jewish nation in Solomon's time, and of the fulfilment of God's promise, to multiply and exalt his people Israel. But all this magnificence, glory, wealth, / and honour, are but faint and fading emblems of the infinite and eternal glory, and the unbounded and heavenly majesty, of Him who is King of Sion” (135-136). “The beautiful attire of the lilies of the field is far beyond the clothing of Solomon, in all his glory; but our Jesus shines in robes of light and celestial glory—the antitype of all excellency, beauty, and glory, in the earthly or the heavenly world. His riches are riches which never fade nor fail: his majesty is the majesty of eternal power ; his honours are the honours of the Divine nature; his glories, the glories of the Godhead, his praise is above heaven and earth ; and all the powers and principalities in heavenly places offer before bim their worship and their services. By him and for him, and therefore for his-glory, all things were and are created. He is Lord of all, who is our Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. In him, therefore, there is an infinite sufficiency for the wants and for the happiness of his people. All things are theirs, who belong to Christ; because all things are his, and must be his, to dispose and order them as he sees best. He giveth grace and glory, and withholds no good thing from his people. He can clothe and enrich the poor, the blind, the naked, with gold tried in the fire, and that shall never fail… His presence in the second temple, though appearing in his humiliation, gave a greater glory to that inferior building, than all the gold and silver that blazed round the walls of the temple of Solomon, and dazzled the eyes of the astonished worshippers within its courts” (136).

Ralph Wardlaw, Discourses on the Principal Points of the Socinian Controversy (1822) on Solomon: “The abundance of his wealth, in ‘great and small cattle,’ and in ‘silver and gold,’ was a fulfilment of the express promise of God to him at the commencement of his reign, to add unprecedented riches to unexampled wisdom” (61). “The wealth which the king acquired, was an object about which, in the best days of his reign, when he first first mounted the throne of Israel, his heart had been very indifferent. He had sought the higher gifts of ‘wisdom and understanding,’ to fit him for the happy discharge of his Royal functions. But the riches which at first, in the exercise of an enlightened and upright mind, he employed for advancing the glory of God, and the best interests of his people, qualified him afterwards, during the period of his backsliding, when ‘his heart departed from the Lord,’ for prosecuting to the utmost advantage his experiments on happiness. They were not lodged in his coffers with the avarice of a miser; but were profusely expended on all that they could procure of sensual gratification” (62). “He conducted his ex/periments on a large scale ; sparing upon them no pains and. no expense, and not restrained, by any of the overdelicate and inconvenient scruples of a tender conscience, from satiating his heart in all its most extravagant and capricious desires” (62-63).

David Friedrich Strauss, Helen’s Pilgrimage to Jerusalem (1824; translated by John Kenrick), conversation between Myron, “a young and lively Greek,” and Helon, a Jew, a century before the birth of Christ, regarding Judea’s “glorious days” under Solomon. Myron: "It is not to be denied…that it must have been a joyful time in Jerusalem, and the whole land of Judea under Solomon. And yet your nation seems to me better fitted for a wandering life through the wilderness, such as was yesterday described to us." Helon: "Why so?" Myron: "Because you knew not how to improve your good fortune…. I pity a people, so destitute of all taste and skill in the fine arts as yours. They want to build a temple and a house of the forest of Lebanon—gold and silver they have in abundance, but they are obliged to send for artists from Tyre; they come, execute their works, and leave these behind them, without having communicated to your nation the smallest portion of their dexterity" (1: 80). Helon: "There have not been wanting amongst us in all ages… excellent artificers." Myron: "Single instances decide nothing… but a nation which, in its most flourishing period, is obliged to engage artists from foreign kings, and can do nothing by its own ingenuity and dexterity, is surely a poor and helpless race. How different from the great Hellenic people! Poetry in abundance I have indeed heard from you, but this is the only branch of art in which you have done any thing. No painting, no statuary, no drama!" (81).

Thomas Toller, Sermons on Various Subjects (1824; dissenting minister): “Go into some fertile part of the country, ascend some little eminence, and look about you; what an amazing scene opens before you! ... What was Solomon, arrayed in his richest robes, seated on a throne of ivory and gold, in a palace of cedar and pearl;—what are the grandest buildings, the artificial representations of a theatre, or the splendours of a royal birth-night, when compared with what the poorest labourer may see every day!” (2: 41). “Not Solomon, nor all his successors, in all their glory, made an appearance to be / compared with this” (41-42).

J.E. Smith, The Antichrist: or, Christianity Reformed (1833): The authors of the Bible “pass over almost unnoticed, the philosophical character of the son of David,” but provide “a full account of his buildings, his vessels of gold and silver,” etc. “It does not appear from the account of the historian [i.e. he Bible] that Solomon loved wisdom for its own sake but merely for the yearly revenue which it brought him. He seems to have been as cunning as he was wise, as fond of the yellow guineas as of the pleasures of the understanding” (58).

Robert Evans, Scripture Biography (1834): “It is singular that three cardinal statutes of those described to the king by Moses, were violated by Solomon. He was not to multiply silver and gold to himself, nor to multiply horses to himself, nor to multiply wives to himself. The two first perhaps were not violated in spirit. God himself promised him riches. The law of Moses seems to have had reference to the king scraping together and laying up money for the selfish purposes of arbitrary power. But Solomon's wealth, in the days of his glory, was his share as head of a wealthy nation, and not concentrated from scanty coffers. For his maintaining such a body of horse we have already seen what excuse may be made. But is it sufficient, even supposing that the service of this force was appointed beyond the limits of the tribes? Would it not have been more reasonable to throw himself, in strict obedience to this law, on the hands of God, with the assurance that what he had given, he would also help him to keep? Thus would have been avoided the stumbling-block of even an apparent breach of law. The breach of this commandment might have imperceptibly led to that of the next. One precept broken on ever so good grounds, if knowingly and wilfully broken, weakens the power of conscience, takes away from grace, and leaves the offender unarmed against the temptation of breaking another” (156). His real sin was “taking to himself wives from among the idolatrous nations”; this subjected him to “to the grossest of human appetites, to that which swallows up and extinguishes as in a furious whirlpool all intellectual, all moral, all spiritual good” (157).

Lady Morgan Sydney, Woman and Her Master (1840): “Although the Rabbins assert that the wealth amassed and left by David to his son was so immense, as to render his very tomb an exchequer to future governments, yet no means, merely human, / can account for the astounding disbursement of treasures, recorded between the beginning and the close of a reign, the most magnificent ever registered, in the royal fasti of any age or region. Between the simple ‘curtained ark’... and that mighty Temple, the world's wonder, and the age's miracle, (whose lofty domes were ‘overlaid with pure gold,’ whose marible and cedar chambers were 'partitioned with chains of gold,’ whose columns were chaptered with clusters of golden fruit and flowers…) what an interval of progress in art and sumptuousness! Between the predatory life and warfaring vicissitudes of Saul and of David, and the pompous state, and voluptuous repose of him, who legislated from a ‘throne of ivory, overlaid with pure gold,’ amidst provincial satraps and tributary princes—what a contrast!” (172). “The most cunning artists of Tyre and Egypt were invited and munificently rewarded, to perfect the great works of Jerusalem, public aad domestic, which soon surpassed those of the ancient and polished cities, whence Israel borrowed her sudden influx of civilization” (173).

George Smith, Sacred Annals (1850): Solomon’s “accumulation of silver and gold was so great, that it became proverbial; its display was prodigious… these transgressions operated prejudicially, not only by drawing down the Divine malediction, but also by their natural influence and effect. The riches thus acquired by Solomon proved injurious to his public character, and inimical to the interests of his country. It may be fairly questioned whether any of the productive causes are calculated to be as extensively useful to a people as that of commerce. But this result can only be where trade is in the hands of a people, and not a royal monopoly, as it was in Judea… dealers and chapmen were tolerated; but as these were subject to a taxation which was not likely to be light, their trade was probably not very extensive. It is, however, certain that the most important and productive branches of trade were carried on for the benefit of the king” (220). “Instead of standing out as the governor, protector, and ruler of the nation, he appeared as one who, at fearful odds, competed with his subjects in the attainment of wealth, His success, therefore, must have engendered ill-will, while the gorgeous display of his abundant riches rendered the people impatient of the ordinary taxes which were levied for the maintenance of the government” (221).


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