Name of one of the seven sons of Japheth, given in the list of nations (Gen. x. 2, 4; comp. I Chron. i. 5, 7), and as such the progenitor of Elisha, Tarshish, the Hittim, and the Dodanim (Rodanim). The word corresponds to the Greek Ἰων, the plural of which is Ἰονες, with the digamma between the a and o (see Homer's "Iliad," xiii. 685). The Greek name denotes the Ionians, settled, when the list of Genesis was written, on the mainland of Greece and on the islands of the Ægean Sea as well as along the coast of Asia Minor. The Greeks were designated by this name in Assyrian ("Ya-wa-nu" [Greece], "Yawnai" [Greek]; Schrader, "K. A. T." 2d ed., pp. 87 et seq.) and in Old Persian, and the name was used in this sense by the Syrians, the Arabs, and the Egyptians. The question is still open whether in the Old Testament "Javan" connotes the Greeks, in keeping with this usage of other ancient peoples, or merely the Ionians proper. According to Stade ("De Populo Javan," Giessen, 1880), the term stands for the Ionians of Asia Minor in all pre-Persian passages of the Old Testament (e.g., Ezek. xxvii. 13; Isa. lxvi. 19, and therefore also in Gen. x. 2, 4). It has the wider significance in Joel iii. 6 (Persian age), Zech. ix. 13, and Dan. viii. 21.
In these passages the context shows merely that a distant country is meant (Isa. lxvi. 19) into which Israelites were sold as slaves (by the Phenicians and Philistines; Joel iii. 6). Something of this kind is certainly also referred to in Zech. ix. 13; in fact Ezekiel (xxvii. 13) speaks of "Ionian" (or Greek) slave-trading in the markets of Tyre. In Ezek. xxvii. 19 the word "Javan" is either a corruption of the text (in view of the circumstance that in verse 13 it is used in a clearly different meaning from that required here; see Cornill, "Ezekiel," pp. 351 et seq.), or it designates an Arabic people. Glaser ("Skizze der Gesch. und Geographie Arabiens," ii. 428) suggests that in this verse it is the name of the place called "Jain," not very far from Medina.
In Talmudic literature "Javan" stands unquestionably for Greece (e.g., in Yoma 10a); "lashon Yewanit" means the Greek language. In late Hebrew "Javan" denotes the Russians, because they belong to the Greek Catholic Church; therefore Nathan Nate Hanover calls his description of the Chmielnicki persecution "Yewen Meẓulah," punning on Ps. lxix. 3. In Yiddish literature and in the parlance of the Russian Jews "Javan" (pronounce "Yoven") denotes the soldier. So Perez in his sketch "Der Meshullaḥ": "Bei Yoven is a gut Cheder" = "Military service is a good training."
- Ed. Meyer, Die Heimat der Ionier, in Philologus, new series, iii. 479 et seq.;
- Fr. Lénormant, Histoire Ancienne de l'Orient, i. 296, Paris, 1881;
- idem, Les Origines de l'Histoire, etc., i., ii. 1-29, Paris, 1884;
- Fr. Delitzsch, Wo Lag das Paradies? pp. 248-250, Leipsic, 1881;
- W. Max Müller, Asien und Europa, p. 370, ib. 1893;
- Stade, De Populo Javan, Giessen, 1880 (now incorporated in Reden und Abhandlungen, ib. 1899);
- Ed. Meyer, Gesch. des Altertums, i. 490-494, ii. 433, 685 et seq., Stuttgart, 1883-84.