Joktan or Yoktan (Hebrew: יָקְטָן, Modern Yoktan, Tiberian Yoqṭān, Arabic: قحطان Kahtan; literally, "aridity,sterility") was the second of the two sons of Eber (Gen. 10:25; 1 Chr. 1:19) mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. His name means "small" or "insignificant"
In Pseudo-Philo's account (ca. 70), 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. The traditional history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church also maintains that Joktan's sons would take no part in the tower building, and that they were thus allowed to preserve the original Ge'ez language — which their descendants, the Agazyan, carried across the Red Sea into Ethiopia as they mixed with the Cushitic and Agaw people to form the hybrid Habesha race.
In pre-Islamic 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 Arabic and Ethiopic sources: the Kitab al-Magall (part of Clementine literature), the Cave of Treasures, and the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan.
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."
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 (Sindh ?), 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."
|Wikisource has the text of the 1897 Easton's Bible Dictionary article Joktan.|