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Havilah (Hebrew: חֲוִילָהḤăwîlāh, "Circular"[1]) 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, which states that king Saul attacked the Amalekites who were living there.

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]

The region in Genesis is usually associated with either the Arabian Peninsula or north-west Yemen, but in the work associated with the Garden of Eden by Juris Zarins, the Hijaz mountains appear to satisfactorily meet the description. The Hejaz includes both the Cradle of Gold at Mahd adh Dhahab and a possible source of the Pishon River — a biblical name that has been speculated to refer to a now dried-out river formerly flowing 600 miles (970 km) northeast to the Persian Gulf via the Wadi Al-Batin system. Archaeological research led by Farouk El-Baz of Boston University indicates that the river system, now prospectively known as the Kuwait River, was active 2500–3000 BC.[2]

The Adal region located in East Africa, and its port city Zaila is believed to take its name from Havilah.[3][4] Benjamin Tudela, the twelfth century Jewish traveler, claims the land of Havilah is confined by Al-Habash on the west. Local traditions also assert Furra, a queen of the Havilah Gadire clan ruled in East Africa.[5][6]

Augustus Henry Keane believed that the land of Havilah was centered on Great Zimbabwe and was roughly contemporaneous with what was then Southern Rhodesia.[7] 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.[8]


  1. ^ Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, entry 2341.
  2. ^ The Pishon River - Found. by C.A. Salabach at Focus Magazine
  3. ^ Smith, William (1888). "Dr. William Smith's Dictionary of the Bible". Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History. 2: 1010. Retrieved 30 November 2017. 
  4. ^ Gifford, William (1844). "Forster on Arabia". The Quarterly Review. 74: 338. 
  5. ^ Adler, Elkan (4 April 2014). Jewish Travelers. Routledge. p. 61. Retrieved 1 January 2018. 
  6. ^ Hameso, Seyoum (1997). "Furra Legend in Sidama traditions". The Oromo Commentary. VII (2): 16. 
  7. ^ The Gold of Ophir - Whence Brought and by Whom? (1901)
  8. ^ 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.