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CAPHTOR (Heb. כַּפְתּוֹר, כַּפְתֹּר), place located either in the Aegean Sea area or on the southern coast of Asia Minor. According to Amos 9:7, Jeremiah 47:4, and possibly Genesis 10:14, the Philistines came from Caphtor prior to their penetration of southern Palestine. Deuteronomy 2:23 notes that the Caphtorim destroyed "the Avvim, that dwelt in villages as far as Gaza,, taking over their lands. In an Assyrian document, based upon an ancient Babylonian tradition, describing the empire of Sargon the Great, king of Akkad (24th century B.C.E.), Kaptara is located beyond the "upper sea," i.e., west of the Syria-Palestine coastline. In the *Mari texts the terms Kaptarû, Kaptarītum occur as names of precious goods apparently imported from the region of the Aegean Sea. According to Ugaritic texts, Kōthar (= Kōsar), the god of crafts, lived in Caphtor (Kptr). It is accepted that the Keftiu (Kftyw) mentioned in inscriptions of Egyptian kings and nobles in the second half of the second millennium is identical with Caphtor. Kftyw is known in Egyptian sources as a distant land accessible by ship.

The location of Caphtor or kftyw is in dispute. Most scholars consider Caphtor to be the ancient name for *Crete and the surrounding islands (cf. "islands" in LXX, Jer. 47:4). In Jeremiah 47:4 Caphtor is defined as an island. Furthermore, several verses place the origin of the Philistines among the Cretans (Ezek. 25:16; Zeph. 2:5), while elsewhere they are identified as coming from Caphtor. The descent of the Caphtorim from the Egyptians (Gen. 10:14) hints at the close relationship that existed between Egypt and Caphtor. Archaeological excavations in Crete have shown that the island was a center of Minoan culture in the second millennium B.C.E. and that the population traded with Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia. An Egyptian wall painting from the reign of Thutmosis III shows men from kftyw bringing gifts to the Egyptian king. The name Caphtor may be preserved in the name of the island Karpathos, near Crete. Those who reject the identification of Caphtor with Crete look for it on the southern coast of Asia Minor, near Cilicia, on the basis of the Septuagint and Targum Onkelos which use the name Cappadocia (Gr. Καππαδοκία) in place of Caphtor.


G.A. Wainwright, in: VT, 6 (1956), 199–210; Pritchard, Texts, 248–9; EM, S.V. (includes bibliography). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: R. Hess, in: ABD I:869–70.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.