The Land of Ophir is in Sumatera

A research by Dhani Irwanto

The renowned maritime skills of the Phoenicians amazed King Solomon (973 – 33 BCE) that he asked the King of Tyre to send him Phoenician carpenters and veteran sailors to join his fleet to the Land of Ophir in 945 BCE (Kings 1:9-26). There is no exact certainty though about the location of the Land of Ophir. The geographical location of Ophir is described in exactly the same way as the Land of Punt. Both countries lie “far away, to the south-east”; the ships set sail from a port on the Red Sea and the round voyage lasts three years. The goods brought from Ophir are more or less the same as those the Egyptians brought from Punt and their other ports. King Solomon received a cargo of gold, silver, “algum wood”, precious stones, ivory, apes and peacocks every three years.

In pre-Islamic literature, Ophir is mentioned in the three pre-Islamic Arabic and Ethiopic sources: The Kitab-al- Magall, the Cave of Treasure, and the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan. The Kitab al-Magall states that in the days of Reu, a king of Saba (Sheba) named “Pharoah” annexed Ophir and Havilah to his kingdom, and “built Ophir with stones of gold, for the stones of its mountains are pure gold”. The existence of the biblical Eldorado of the Land of Ophir (I Kings 10:11, II Chronicles 9:21) is believed to be the final destination of the Lost Tribes of Israel. In Genesis 10 (the Table of Nations) is said to be the name of one of the sons of Joktan. Joktan or Yoktan was the second of the two sons of Eber, the great grandson of Shem – the son of Noah.

Onycha is one of the components of the consecrated Ketoret (incense) which appears in the Torah Book of Exodus (Exodus 30:34-36) and was used in the Jerusalem’s Solomon Temple. The internationally renowned Bible scholar Bochart stated, at one point in his research, that onycha was actually benzoin, a gum-resin from the Styrax sp (Abrahams 1979), which is likely imported from Sumatera. Styrax benzoin was available via import to the biblical lands during the Old Testament era.

A passage may be cited from Josephus in his Antiquity of the Jews (93/94 CE) in speaking of the pilots furnished to Solomon by Hiram of Tyre. Solomon gave his command that they should go along with his stewards to the land that previously called Ophir, but then the Aurea Chersonesus identified by the author as a region in western Sumatera named Tanjungemas renowned in the ancient times for its gold mines, to fetch gold. From this he makes a definite statement, that Ophir and the Aurea Chersonesus are one. The 16th to 17th century maps mention Mount Ophir, which is the present-day Mount Talamau, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of Tanjungemas. The name Ophir was still in use until the Dutch colonial era to name a district which is now in the Pasaman Regency, West Sumatera Province. These are other evidence that Ophir is located in Sumatera.

The author concludes that the location of the Land of Ophir is the same as the Land of Punt or in the adjacent areas. Both locations concerned the Egyptian and Near Eastern kings because of their richness of precious metals, wood, precious stones, fragrances, animals and forest products. As the Land of Punt is the ancestral land of the Egyptians, the same thing can be applied to the Land of Ophir. The memories recorded in the Egyptian and biblical documentations are allegedly sourced from the Land of Punt, or the Land of Ophir, which is Sumatera.

Sumatera was known in the ancient time for producing gold, cinnamon, incense, camphor, spices and woods. Among those things, its flourishing gold mining industry is the most renowned so that Sumatera was referred to as Aurea Chersonesus, Chryse Insula, Aurea Insula, Suvarnabhumi, Suvarnadvipa, Ophir and Punt.

In the early centuries CE, Indians and Westerners called Southeast Asia the “Land of Gold”, and it was not long thereafter that the region became known for its pepper and the products of its rainforests, first aromatic woods and resins, and then the finest and rarest of spices. Terms of “Silk Route”, “Gold Route”, “Incense Route”, “Ivory Route”, “Cinnamon Route” and “Spice Route” among others were created referring to routes to East and Southeast Asia. From the 7th to the 10th centuries Arabs and Chinese thought of Southeast Asia’s gold, as well as the spices that created it; by the 15th century sailors from ports on the Atlantic, at the opposite side of the hemisphere, would sail into unknown oceans in order to find these Spice Islands. They all knew that Southeast Asia was the spice capital of the world. From roughly 1000 CE until the nineteenth-century ‘industrial age’, all world trade was more or less governed by the ebb and flow of spices in and out of Southeast Asia.

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