Fourth-listed son of Japheth and the father of Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim (or Rodanim). As post-Flood descendants of Noah, they are included among those populating “the isles of the nations,” which phrase can also refer to the coastlands and not simply to islands surrounded by water. (Gen. 10:2, 4, 5; 1 Chron. 1:5, 7) Historical evidence indicates that the descendants of Javan and his four sons settled in the islands and coastlands of the Mediterranean Sea from Cyprus (Kittim) to perhaps as far W as Spain.—See DODANIM; ELISHAH; KITTIM; TARSHISH No. 1.
Javan (Heb., Ya·wanʹ) is identified as the progenitor of the ancient Ionians, called by some “the parent tribe of the Greeks.” (Keil-Delitzsch, The Pentateuch, Vol. I, p. 163) The name I·aʹo·nes is used by the poet Homer (of at least the seventh century B.C.E.) as referring to the early Greeks, and, beginning with Sargon II (seventh century B.C.E.), the name Iavanu begins to appear in Assyrian inscriptions. Persian Emperor Darius also mentions them (as Iauna), and the name is to be found in a similar form in ancient Egyptian records referring to the Ionians.
In course of time the name Ionia came to be restricted to Attica (the region around Athens), the western coast of Asia Minor (corresponding to the coasts of the later provinces of Lydia and Caria), and the neighboring islands of the Aegean Sea. The sea that lies between southern Greece and southern Italy still retains the name “Ionian,” and this name is acknowledged to be of very ancient origin, supporting the view that this form of the name of Javan once applied to the mainland of Greece as well as the later smaller area designated Ionia.
Following the Genesis account, the descendants of Javan first begin to be mentioned about the latter part of the ninth century B.C.E. by the prophet Joel. The prophet there condemns the Tyrians, Sidonians and Philistines for selling the sons of Judah and Jerusalem in their slave trade with “the sons of the Greeks” (literally, “the sons of Javan”). (Joel 3:4-6) Isaiah, in the eighth century B.C.E., foretells that some of the Jews surviving God’s expression of wrath would travel to many lands, including “Javan,” there proclaiming Jehovah’s glory.—Isa. 66:19.
Slaves and copper articles were listed in the late seventh or early sixth century B.C.E. as items being supplied by “Javan, Tubal and Meshech [these latter places evidently being located in eastern Asia Minor or to the N thereof]” to the wealthy commercial center of Tyre. (Ezek. 27:13) Verse 19 of the same prophecy again mentions Javan, but the fact that the other places mentioned in the context are in Syria, Palestine and Arabia has led some to view the appearance of the name there to be the result of a scribal error. Rather than reading “and Javan from Uzal,” the Greek Septuagint renders Javan as “wine,” thus reading, “and with wine. From Asel [Uzal] . . . ” (LXX, Thompson-Muses) The Revised Standard Version reads “and wine from Uzal.” Others, however, suggest that Javan may here refer to a Greek colony located in Arabia or that it may perhaps be the name of an Arabian tribe or town.
In Daniel’s prophecy “Javan” is usually rendered by translators as “Greece,” since the historical fulfillment of Daniel’s writings makes this meaning evident. (Dan. 8:21; 10:20; 11:2) So, likewise, Zechariah’s prophecy (520-518 B.C.E.), foretelling the successful warfare of the ‘sons of Zion’ against Javan (“Greece”).—Zech. 9:13.