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Joktan (Hebrew: יקטן, Yoqṭān; Arabic: قحطان, Qaḥṭān; "Name means::little") was the second of the two sons of Eber according to Genesis 10:25 .


Joktan was the great-grandson of Arpachshad, and son of Eber. His brother was Peleg (he had many brothers and sisters—Genesis 11:17 ) whose descendants lived in Paliga, on the Euphrates, just above the mouth of the Khabur River. Concerning Joktan or Yoktan, himself, the southern Arabs of the Arabian peninsula claim descent from him,[1] calling him Qahtan in Arabic.

We are told that Joktan's descendant's "dwelling was from Mesha as thou goest towards Sephar, a mount of the east" (Genesis 10:30 ). Mesha has been identified as Mousa, a city of note on the western shore of Arabia, and Arab tradition identifies Sephar with Dhofar in Oman. Joktan's blood is infused with all Arabian tribes, and is held in high esteem. According the Arab tradition, Joktan's sons are the fathers of various tribes such as the Banu Lakhm, the Shammar, the tribes of Nejd, Ajman in the United Arab Emirates, Jiddat al Harasis region in Oman, as well as the Janibia, Al Kathir, and Al Murrah tribes.

Joktan's name is preserved in the modern tribal federation called Kahtan or Qahtan located in present day Saudi Arabia. Among the sons of Qahtan are noteworthy figures like A'zaal (Uzal, believed by Arabs to have been the original name of Sana'a) and Hadhramaut. Another son is Ya'rub or Yarab (Jerah), and his son Yashjub is the father of 'Abd Shams, who is also called Saba. All Yemeni tribes trace their ancestry back to this "Saba" (Sheba) either through Himyar or Kahlan, his two sons. The Qahtani people are divided into the two sub-groups of Himyar and Kahlan, who represent the settled Arabs of the south and their nomadic kinsmen (nomads).[2] The Kahlan division of Qahtan consists of 4 subgroups: the Ta' or Tayy, the Azd group which invaded Oman, the 'Amila-Judham group of Palestine, and the Hamdan-Madhhij group who mostly remain in Yemen.[3] The Kahlan branch includes the following tribes: Aus and Khazraj, Barig, Ghassan, Azd, Hamdan, Khath'am, Bajflah, Madhhij, Murad, Zubaid and Nakh', Ash'ar, Lakhm and Kindah.[4]

In Pseudo-Philo's account (c. 70 AD), Joktan was first made prince over the children of Shem, just as Nimrod and Phenech were princes over the children of Ham and Japheth, respectively. In his version, the three princes command all persons to bake bricks for the Tower of Babel, however twelve, including several of Joktan's own sons, as well as Abraham and Lot, refuse the orders. Joktan smuggles them out of Shinar and into the mountains, to the annoyance of the other two princes.[5] The traditional history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church also maintains that descendants of Joktan—the Agazyan—carried the original Ge'ez language across the Red Sea into Ethiopia as they mixed with the Cushitic and Agaw people to form the hybrid Habesha race.

The historian Josephus claimed that the Indians of India are descended from the sons of Joktan. Josephus explains that many Joktanites had settled in Afghanistan:

"Now Joctan, one of the sons of Heber, had these sons, Elmodad, Saleph, Asermoth, Jera, Adoram, Aizel, Decla, Ebal, Abimael, Sabeus, Ophir, Euilat, and Jobab. These inhabited from Cophen [a river where Kabul is], an Indian river, and in part of Asia adjoining it. And this shall suffice concerning the sons of Shem."[6]

This is modern Kabul and the valley of its river. The land further towards the Indus is Bactria. Thus, some of Joktan's descendants seemingly moved through the Arabian peninsula and went on to India. The part of Asia referred to here by Josephus is probably what is now Tajikistan—for its ancient capital was aciently known as Yotkan. Their having dwelt at one time in Afghanistan, leads to speculation that they were amongst the Aryans of northwestern India.

List of sons

Joktan's sons in the order provided in Genesis 10:26-29 .

  1. father of::Almodad
  2. father of::Sheleph
  3. father of::Hazarmaveth
  4. father of::Jerah
  5. father of::Hadoram
  6. father of::Uzal
  7. father of::Diklah
  8. father of::Obal
  9. father of::Abimael
  10. Sheba
  11. father of::Ophir
  12. Havilah
  13. father of::Jobab

In Pre-Islamic Christian Literature

Details about the three of Joktan's sons, Sheba, Ophir and Havilah, were preserved in a tradition known in divergent forms from three pre-Islamic, Christian Arabic and Ethiopic sources the Book of the Cave of Treasures, the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, and the Kitab al-Magall (part of Clementine literature):

Book of the Cave of Treasures:

"And in the days of Reu, the Mesraye, who are the Egyptians, appointed their first king; his name was Puntos, and he reigned over them sixty-eight years. And in the days of Reu a king reigned in Shebha (Saba), and in Ophir, and in Havilah. And there reigned in Saba sixty of the daughters of Saba. And for many years women reigned in Saba—until the kingdom of Solomon, the son of David. And the children of Ophir, that is, Send (Scindia?), appointed to be their king Lophoron (?), who built Ophir with stones of gold; now, all the stones that are in Ophir are of gold. And the children of Havilah appointed to be their king Havîl, who built Havilah, that is, Hend (India?)."

Conflict of Adam and Eve:

"And in those days Ragu [Reu] was 180 years old, and in his 140th year Yanuf [Apophis] reigned over the land of Egypt. He is the first king who reigned over it, and he built the city of Memphis, and named it after his own name. That is Misr, whose name is rendered Masrin. This Yanuf died; and in his stead, in the days of Ragu, one from the land of India reigned, whose name was Sasen, and who built the city of Saba. And all the kings who reigned over that country were called Sabaeans, after the name of the city. Then again Phar'an reigned over the children of Saphir [Ophir], and built the city of Saphir with stones of gold; and that is the land of Sarania, and because of these stones of gold, they say that the mountains of that country and the stones thereof are all of gold. Then the children of Lebensa of the country of India, made king over them, one called Bahlul, who built the city of Bahlu. Then Ragu died in his 289th year."

Kitab al-Magall:

"He [Nimrod] died in the days of Reu, and the third thousand since Adam was completed. In his days the people of Egypt set up a king over them called Firnifs. He reigned over them for sixty-eight years. In his days also a king reigned over the town of Saba and annexed to his kingdom the cities of Ophir and Havilah, his name was Pharaoh. He built Ophir with stones of gold, for the stones of its mountains are pure gold. After him there reigned over Havilah a king called Hayul. He built it and cemented it, and after the death of Pharaoh women reigned over Saba until the time of Solomon son of David."

See Also


  1. Douglas, J (1972). New Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity Press, London: p. 652
  2. O'Leary, De Lacy (2001) Arabia Before Muhammad: Trubner's Oriental Series, ISBN: p. 18.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Zaydān, Jirjī & Margoliouth, DS (1907) Umayyads and ʻAbbásids: Being the Fourth Part of Jurjí Zaydán,: p.45.
  5. Pseudo-Philo
  6. Josephus: Antiquities 1:6:4.

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