Japheth was the oldest of the three sons of Noah. Born about 100 years before the Great Flood, he would take a wife to bring upon the ark sometime before the doors were closed. They would have seven children after the flood.
Some time after the flood, when his father had become a farmer, his younger brother Ham came to him and Shem, speaking evil of their father. Taking Ham at his word, his brothers devised a way of covering their naked father without having to look upon his unclothed body.
Based on the names of his sons and other descendants, his people migrated north away from Babel after the confusion of tongues. Theirs would be what would become known as the Indo-European languages.
There are two possibilities for the origin of this name: It could be from an Aramaic root פתה, meaning to extend. In which case, the name would mean may He extend. However, it could be from the Hebrew root יפה, meaning beauty. In which case, the name would mean beautiful. Most expositers prefer the Aramaic root.
The original version of the name would have been before languages were forced upon mankind, which would lead back to the people group among Shemites that came first (possibly at the time of Babel). Aram was a brother to Arphaxad, the grandfather of Heber, from whom came the Hebrews. Furthermore, Noah uses a play on his son's name in pronouncing his blessing to his oldest son.
Japheth was born in the sixteenth century of the world, a time of much evil, leaving his father the task of giving his firstborn a name with a double meaning: "Open" as in spacious or extended, or "open" as in open-minded, naive and easily persuaded. Though Noah preached the coming judgment and the need for righteous living, mankind had shown it preferred to make its own rules, leading to a very wicked place.
Young Japheth had the advantage of his grandfather and great grandfather being long lived companions to Adam himself. Lamech would die a few years before the flood at the age of 777, and Methuselah would die the year of the flood (see Chronology) , meaning the story of mankind's rise and fall was a family history learned in the shadow of the ark.
Building the Ark
After he and his younger brothers reached adulthood, it is assumed that their labors replaced any hired help as the ark was planned and built over the course of a century. Sometime before the Flood, he took a young wife, but they had no children until after the Flood.
Death and Legacy
Japheth's brother Shem, two years his junior, died 502 years after the flood, in the days of Abraham (c. 2160 AM). It can be assumed that Japheth went with his descendants to the wide open northern lands, fulfilling Noah's prophecy. Living to be nearly 600 years old, the patriarch became revered among his descendants. Forms of his name became incorporated into the celestial courts of the gods, usually as the king of them all. Biblical descendants of Japheth would be the Greeks (Javan), the Medes (Madai), and the Romans. Much of the ancient technology known in Ur and Egypt had to be reintroduced to the Japhethites centuries later. However, once the ancient Europeans had assimilated the technology, the Greeks and Romans ruled the world for a millennium after the fall of Jerusalem.