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Havilah (Hebrew: חֲוִילָהḤawilah) refers to both a land and people in several books of the Bible.

Biblical mentions[edit]

Havilah is mentioned in Genesis 2:10-11

And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

In addition to the region described in chapter 2 of Genesis, two individuals named Havilah are listed in the Table of Nations, which lists the descendants of Noah, who are considered eponymous ancestors of nations. They are mentioned in Genesis 10:7-29 and 1 Chronicles 1:9-23. One is the son of Cush, the son of Ham; the other, a son of Joktan and descendant of Shem.

Another land named Havilah is mentioned in Genesis 25:18, where it defines the territory inhabited by the Ishmaelites as being "from Havilah to Shur, opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria"; and in 1 Samuel 15:7-8, which states that king Saul smote the Amalekites who were living there, except for King Agag, whom he took prisoner.

One passage mentions Israelite being sent to Assyria and Halah. Halah most likely indicates Havilah.[1]

Extra-biblical mentions[edit]

In extra-biblical literature, the land of Havilah is mentioned in Pseudo-Philo as the source of the precious jewels that the Amorites used in fashioning their idols in the days after Joshua, when Kenaz was judge over the Israelites.

An extra-biblical tradition found in the Kitab al-Magall (Clementine literature) and the Cave of Treasures holds that in the early days after the Tower of Babylon, the children of Havilah, son of Joktan built a city and kingdom, which was near to those of his brothers, Sheba and Ophir.

Possible location[edit]

Several locations for Havilah are shown

W. W. Müller, in the 1992 Anchor Bible Dictionary, holds that the "Havilah" of Genesis 2 must refer to a region in southwest Arabia.[2] He locates the reference to a "Havilah" in Genesis 25:18 as referring to a northern Arabian location.[2] Some have said Havilah were of Cushite background who colonized Arabia, even linking them with the Macrobians.[3][4]

Saadia Gaon's tenth century Arabic translation of the Hebrew Bible substitutes Havilah with Zaila in present day Somalia.[5] Benjamin Tudela, the twelfth century Jewish traveler, claimed the land of Havilah is confined by Al-Habash on the west.[6]

In 1844, Charles Forster argued that a trace of the ancient name Havilah could still be found in the use of Aval for what is now known as Bahrain Island.[7]

Augustus Henry Keane believed that the land of Havilah was centered on Great Zimbabwe and was roughly contemporaneous with what was then Southern Rhodesia.[8] Havilah Camp was the name of the base camp of a group of British archaeologists who studied the Great Zimbabwe ruins from 1902-04, although in the end they rejected any biblical connection with the settlement.[9]


  1. ^ Calmet, Augustin (1852). Calmet's Dictionary of the Holy Bible. Crocker and Brewster. p. 276.
  2. ^ a b Müller, W. W. (1992). "Havilah (Place)." In the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Volume 3, p. 82.
  3. ^ Flood, Theodore (1881). "The Chautauquan". 1: 107.
  4. ^ Rice, Michael. The Archaeology of the Arabian Gulf. Routledge.
  5. ^ Arnaud, Eugene (1868). La Palestine ancienne et moderne. Berger-Levrault. p. 32.
  6. ^ Adler, Elkan (4 April 2014). Jewish Travelers. Routledge. p. 61. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  7. ^ Forster, Charles (1844). The Historical Geography of Arabia. Vol 1, pp. 40-41.
  8. ^ The Gold of Ophir - Whence Brought and by Whom? (1901)
  9. ^ Richard Nicklin Hall, Great Zimbabwe, Mashonaland, Rhodesia: An Account of Two Years' Examination Work in 1902-4 on Behalf of the Government of Rhodesia. London: Methuen & Co., 1905.