For a few thousand years mystery has surrounded the source of King Solomon‘s wealth, specifically that which came from the secret mine of Ophir. Most theories have placed Ophir in Southern Arabia, this makes sense since Arabia has long been a source of gold, gems, and exotic plants & animals; but I think it lies elsewhere on the globe. The story of the mines was popularized by the 1885 novel by Sir H. Rider Haggard, “King Solomon’s Mines,” and places the mines in Africa.
Solomon’s part of the story begins in First Kings, Chapter 9, Verse 28. But, Ophir is also mentioned in the Book of Job. The Book of Job is assumed to take place during the book of Genesis; Hebrew tradition places Job as an adviser to Pharaoh at the time of the killing of the baby Jews in Egypt, Job’s suffering is a result of his silence when given the opportunity to voice opposition to Pharaoh’s plan. The Book of Job does not support this theory directly, and is set in the land of Uz, but the time frame does fit given the people and tribes mentioned in the writings.
Let’s see what the text says:
1 Kings 9:28 – And they went to Ophir and brought from there gold, 420 talents, and they brought it to King Solomon.
1 Kings 10:11 – Moreover, the fleet of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought from Ophir a very great amount of almug wood and precious stones.
1 Kings 22:48 – Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber.
1 Chronicles 29:4 – 3,000 talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and 7,000 talents of refined silver, for overlaying the walls of the house,
2 Chronicles 8:18 – And Hiram sent to him by the hand of his servants ships and servants familiar with the sea, and they went to Ophir together with the servants of Solomon and brought from there 450 talents of gold and brought it to King Solomon.
2 Chronicles 9:10 – Moreover, the servants of Hiram and the servants of Solomon, who brought gold from Ophir, brought algum wood and precious stones.
Job 22:24 – if you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed,
Job 28:16 – It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire.
Psalms 45:9 – daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
Isaiah 13:12 – I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir.
To fully get the picture you also need to know who Ophir was:
Genesis 10:29 – Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.
1 Chronicles 1:23 – Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.
So, there is our Biblical background. What I really find intriguing is that people do not know where Ophir is. The reason I discount the South Arabia theory is that that area has been well populated and recorded, if that truly is Ophir, why isn’t it well known? I ascribe to the theory that Ophir was in India. The distance and lack of constant contact between people-groups will account for the sparse documentation.
Some facts and thoughts to support my theory:
1. The trip to and from Ophir took approximately three years. It does not take three years to travel the length of the Red Sea and back.
2. “Sophir” is the Coptic word for India. While this may not have played any role, since Coptic is an Egyptian language, it is interesting to note.
3. All the items brought back can be found in India “Almug trees, precious stones, gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks.”
4. Josephus agrees with me. Flavius Josephus is the most renowned Hebrew historian (living 38 – 100 AD), and in Antiquities of the Jews (1:6) he connects Ophir to “Cophen, an Indian river, and in part of Asia adjoining to it,” better known as the Golden Chersonese (now the Malay Peninsula).
5. Solomon and Hiram made sure to hire “servants familiar with the sea.” Often during those times sailing was done by skirting the coast, something that would be difficult and costly on such a long voyage in foreign territory.
6. Vedic texts (ancient Indian) point to the port of Sopara, Surpakara having steady trade with the Phoenicians starting in the tenth century B.C. Hiram, King of Tyre, was Solomon’s partner in the trips to Ophir (Tyre was the major Phoenician port-city).
It is not particularly important where Ophir is, as most valuable resources on the planet either have been or are in the act of being exploited. For a while I thought that Solomon was grave-robbing the Egyptians, but the time-lines don’t line-up and the fact that Job mentions it makes it a place renowned for treasure long before Solomon was born. Wherever the source, I am sure physical evidence of Kings Solomon and Hiram have been erased.
I was a lot more excited about this post as I theorized the grave-robbing scenario, but as that became apparently not the case then my excitement lessened. I wish I was presenting something more sensational. I just cannot present the Philippines or Peru as options, though that would be more sensational; I just don’t see enough evidence (circumstantial as it may be), for me to put faith in those theories. Though, it took Columbus less than three months to reach the America’s from Spain (~4,000 miles), maybe it took three years to skirt the coast around Asia to the Philippines (~10,000 miles) or sail “strait” to Peru(~17,000 miles (that includes skirting to New Guinea and then sailing on; which would explain the African descendants in Oceania and Australia)).
All this being said, I am not an expert, simply an inquisitive mind.