In Gen 10:1 we enter into a new section, the account (or generations) of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. In Gen 2:4 we had the account (or generation) of the Heavens and the Earth. In Genesis 5:1 we had the account (or generation) of Adam’s family line. In Gen 6:10 we had the account (or generation) of Noah.
Now we have account of Shem, Ham, and Japheth the sons of Noah who are the progenitors of all the peoples, tribes, race of the entire earth. Gen 10 is known by Bible scholars as the Tables of Nations.
These are the other neighboring nations near and far that are referred to in our reading of scriptures that feature to varying degrees in their dealings or relations alongside God’s covenant people Israel. Warren Wiersbe gives us some notes of caution as we read through this Genesis 10:
First, the listing is not a typical genealogy that gives only the names of descendants. The writer reminds us that these ancient peoples had their own “clans and languages … territories and nations” (Gen 10:31 NIV). In other words, this is a genealogy plus an atlas plus a history book. We’re watching the movements of people and nations in the ancient world.
Second, the listing isn’t complete. For example, we don’t find Edom, Moab, and Ammon mentioned, and yet these were important nations in biblical history. The fact that there are seventy nations in the list suggests that the arrangement may be deliberately artificial, an approach often used in writing such listings.
There were seventy persons in Jacob’s family when they went to Egypt (Gen. 46:27;Ex 1:5), and our Lord sent seventy disciples out to preach the Word (Luke 10:1).
Third, it’s difficult to identify some of these nations and give them “modern” names. Over the centuries, nations can change their names, move to different locations, modify their language, and even alter their racial composition through intermarriage.
The material that Moses puts in this Genesis 10 is highly selective and is mainly concerned with tracing out the lines of the prominent nations as at the time when he (Moses) penned down this book of Genesis; nations that we see feature in the remainder of Old and New Testament scriptures.
Again this is one of those chapters that most believers are prone to skip over in their reading of the Bible because they don’t see the point in all the genealogies in the Bible. The normal question is, “How will these list of names contribute to my spiritual life?” First of all, the author of this passage is trying to show us several very important facts that are worthy of our attention and note;
1) That God is the source and creator of all of the human race, cultures, and people groups of the earth. And as a universal (worldwide) creator, the scope of His care and salvation, and thus the scope of the biblical outlook is universal to the common problems ailing mankind;
2) That the entire race and populations of the world’s peoples are essentially originated from one family, which speaks to the issue of our common equality and value in the eyes of God; and hence our prejudice and bigotry against each other is purely from a human perspective. In God’s eyes we are all of the same essence and substance; children of Adam and Eve, and children of Noah.
3) All the genealogies in the Bible have one essence and purpose; to help us trace out the lineage of that seed of the woman who is expected throughout the Old Testament history to crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15), and bring mankind back into Eden which is the place of God’s fellowship and presence. And this is what our Lord Jesus has done in destroying the works of the devil in 1John 3:8.
4) The strategy adopted by the author of Genesis (Moses) in this genealogical arrangement is to first present the genealogy of Japheth, who is the least important of the biblical story. Notice that Japheth’s generation is the shortest. Japheth’s generation is followed by that of Ham. Ham is important because his descendants are the nations that are strategically Israel’s enemies that they have to deal with throughout Old Testament history. Last of this genealogical record gives us the genealogy of Shem because Shem is the son of Noah through whom Israel and Christ the Messiah come.
5) Last of all, and a note worth taking into consideration, the aim of each Bible genealogy is not to cram all the names of all the characters, even though over time and with practice and use, we can become familiar with the ancient family names of the principal characters and nations concerned in the story.
To make our flow of material both rich and interesting, we shall be borrowing material from Bob Melton’s blog titled His Word 4 His People because how they have simplified this section for the comprehension of the modern reader. A basic familiarity with world geography is needed to appreciate this reading. The intention is not to unnecessarily elongate our reading of this passage, but to place our reading of the names in this genealogy to the nations of the world that we hear of today:
2 The sons of Japheth were Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and Meshech and Tiras.
3 And the sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz and Riphath and Togarmah.
4 And the sons of Javan were Elishah and Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim.
Here are the descendants Japheth
he is known as the father of the Indo Europe Nations
Japheth’s descendants go north of Israel then west and east. From what we call Europe toward India.
Webster’s dictionary states that the dialects of the primitive Indo European language came from a migration that covered India – Persia – Greece and Rome.
This family of language is divided into 2 types; the eastern:
India, Afghanistan, Iran, Armenian, Balkans, Yugoslavia, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Germany Lithuania
The Western: Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, England, Scandinavia ; That’s North of Israel and west and east
Webster agrees with Genesis 10
The Greeks trace their heritage back to someone they call … (Jop a toss) a form of Japheth, People in India and Persia have a flood account with a man named (Yap a Tee) as their father.
Go west you find Japheth – Go east you find Japheth
(1) His 1st born Gomer is just as interesting – He settled North of the Black Sea. In Assyrian he is called Gimmer, Greek Kimmer, English Cimmer,
(2) Magog – People around the Caspian Sea were called Gog they are the Tartars in modern Russia.
(3 – 4) Tubal and Meshech are easy to place because in ancient times to the present the classical historians have so spoken of them.
They are the Assyrians that migrate to Russia … Muski in the Assyrians history, Meshki of other Semite sources, Tubal and Meshech can be traced to migrations to Siberian and European Russia respectively from 700 to 900 A.D.
There is little doubt that the names survive in the names of Moscow and the Moscow River and Tobolsk and the Tubal River.
In Genesis 10:3 the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah.
Ashkenaza went north to settle and they did around lake Ashkenazais, people in this area are called by the Famous Greek playwright Homer as Ashkenazi. Jews in this area are still referred to as Ashkenazi Jews, and we don’t know anything about Riphath … but we do know about Togarmah.
Togarmah is the father of the Armeamian Turkic peoples. Turkey – Turkistan – Turkmania all are associated with Togarmah.
Let’s move to the East back in verse 2, were we have Madai is simply a translation of the Hebrew for Medes or Media. The nations included are Medes, Persians. Modern Iran continues the line.
Also in verse 2 and 4 is Javan is the Hebrew name for Hellenic nations we call Greek.
This area for centuries was known as Ionian. Notice the 2nd son Tarshish; we know that name, don’t we? That’s where the prophet Jonah didn’t want to go.
The descendants of Japheth who is prophesied to be enlarged spread across the globe.
In the East and North they cross the Bering Straight land bridge from Siberia into Alaska and then down into the Americas and become the native Americans in both North and South America.
In the West they go into Spain and England, and become the explores and colonizers of the New World.
This verse is a quick summary of this section of Japheth’s descendants. Notice that it is referring to their settling into their own territories and clans, with each of them speaking their own language. So these events actually span past the tower of Babel where God confuses the common human language.
We see other similar summary verses like this one in verse 20 for the Hammites, and verse 31 for the Shemmites. Lastly, let us take note that these genealogies are selective and not a complete listing of all the descendants of the children of Noah.
Again we will draw from Bob Melton:
Now Ham’s line quickly Genesis10:6-7 :
6 And the sons of Ham were Cush and Mizraim (EQYPT) and Put (LYBIA) and Canaan.
7 And the sons of Cush were Seba and Havilah and Sabtah and Raamah and Sabteca; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan. (NASB)
Now jump down to verse 13:
13 And Mizraim became the father of Ludim and Anamim and Lehabim and Naphtuhim
14 and Pathrusim and Casluhim from which came the Philistines and Caphtorim. Caphtorim.
15 And Canaan became the father of Sidon, his first-born, and Heth
16 and the Jebusite and the Amorite and the Girgashite
17 and the Hivite and the Arkite and the Sinite
18 and the Arvadite and the Zemarite and the Hamathite; and afterward the families of the Canaanite were spread abroad.
19 And the territory of the Canaanite extended from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; as you go toward Sodom and Gomorrah and Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.
Cush – 5 sons – 2grandsons
In the Bible Cush always refers to Ethiopia as a nation.
Mizraim, in all other places, is rendered Egypt in the KJV.
That Egypt is to be categorized under Hamitic nations is seen in Psalms 106:21-22, where speaking of the ten plagues the psalmist said
God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt,
22 Wonders in the land of Ham, And awesome things by the Red Sea.
Look down in Genesis10:8
8 Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth.
9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.”
Now while that sounds good scholars tell us what Nimrod hunted was man, and as we will see Nimrod will become the 1st world power
… and verse 10
the beginning of his kingdom was Babel
so Nimrod will begin building the tower of Babel
and so he is an idolatrous man
… and from there the Babylonians come on the scene … Nimrod built Babel.
Nebuchadnezzar built Babylon
By the way Nimrod’s name means rebel
In the Authorized Version, Nimrod is called “a mighty one in the earth” and “a mighty hunter before the Lord” (vv. 8-9). The word translated “mighty” refers to a champion, somebody who is superior in strength and courage. It’s translated “mighty men” in 1Kings 1:8 and 10 and refers to David’s special bodyguards. The image of Nimrod in the text isn’t that of a sportsman hunting game but rather of a tyrant ruthlessly conquering men and establishing an empire. He built four cities in Shinar (Babylonia) and four more in Assyria. Both Babylon and Assyria became the enemies of Israel and were used of God to chasten His disobedient people. – Warren Wiersbe
In our opinion more needs to be said about Nimrod, this prominent descendant of Cush whom wicked men today emulate in method and style (insatiable lust for power through brute force and bloodshed) without realizing; and we will refer to what Matthew Henry wrote about him.
Nimrod was a great man in his day; he began to be mighty in the earth, Those before him were content to be upon the same level with their neighbours, and though every man bare rule in his own house, yet no man pretended any further. Nimrod was resolved to lord it over his neighbours. The spirit of the giants before the flood, who became mighty men, and men of renown, Ge 6:4, revived in him.
Nimrod was a great hunter. Hunting then was the method of preventing the hurtful increase of wild beasts. This required great courage and address, and thus gave an opportunity for Nimrod to command others, and gradually attached a number of men to one leader. From such a beginning, it is likely, that Nimrod began to rule, and to force others to submit. He invaded his neighbours’ rights and properties, and persecuted innocent men; endeavouring to make all his own by force and violence. He carried on his oppressions and violence in defiance of God himself. Nimrod was a great ruler.
Some way or other, by arts or arms, he got into power, and so founded a monarchy, which was the terror of the mighty, and bid fair to rule all the world. Nimrod was a great builder. Observe in Nimrod the nature of ambition. It is boundless; much would have more, and still cries, Give, give. It is restless; Nimrod, when he had four cities under his command, could not be content till he had four more.
It is expensive; Nimrod will rather be at the charge of rearing cities, than not have the honour of ruling them. It is daring, and will stick at nothing. Nimrod’s name signifies rebellion; tyrants to men are rebels to God. The days are coming, when conquerors will no longer be spoken of with praise, as in man’s partial histories, but be branded with infamy, as in the impartial records of the Bible.
Before wrapping up this section, let’s get something interesting that Bob Melton adds to this section in his blog:
Someone might be thinking what about China, we believe Ham’s descendants populate China
Look at verse 17 and the last name
17 and the Hivite and the Arkite and the Sinite
When America and China talk they are called, Sino American discussion.
The word Sin is a common word in the Orient, it means pure bread.
Did you know that Chinese letters are pictures, the word – figure for ship is made of 3 components
1 is container
2 is person represented by a face
3 is the number 8
A ship is how 8 persons got into a container and survived the flood
Bob Melton again:
21 And also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, and the older brother of Japheth, children were born. (NASB)
Shem is listed last not because he was the youngest, he is listed last because it clears the path for us to get to Abraham.
And immediately in verse 21 we are told Shem is the father of all the children of Eber.
This is the 1st reference of a word we use all the time, in fact we have a book in the New Testament named from Eber we will watch the development of the Eber rew nation.
Down in Genesis10:22
22 The sons of Shem were Elam and Asshur and Arpachshad and Lud and Aram.
The people of Aram will speak Aramaic some of the Bible is written in Aramaic.
Then in verse 23:
23 And the sons of Aram were Uz
Do you know who lived in UZ – No not the ‘land of Oz in the Wizard of Oz movie’
JOB (the Bible Character) lived in UZ
1 more name down in verse 25 Genesis10:25;
25 And two sons were born to Eber; the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided;
Peleg means divided and that’s what happens at the Tower of Babel, so Peleg was named for the dividing.
31 These are the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, by their lands, according to their nations. (NASB)
26 families are listed from Shem:
30 from Ham;
14 from Japheth;
for a total of 70 families;
Like we have already noted, Shem’s genealogy comes last in this chapter because his line is the focus of the biblical story as we shall eventually come to see. The line of Shem who is the second son of Noah (Gen 10:21) is chosen for God’s great purpose on the earth instead of that of his elder brother (so that Japheth dwells in the tents of Shem – Gen 9:27); just like God chose Abel over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, and Jacob over Esau. David was the youngest of his brothers.
This seeming pattern of God in scriptures, choosing the younger over the elder is representative of the character of God’s method of grace throughout scriptures; to offer free mercy and grace to the undeserving (in order to exclude men’s boasting – Romans 3:27-28), and to warm and urge us to humility and trust upon Him alone, so we might hasten to accept His free gift of salvation so that no flesh in His presence (1Cor 1:29). So then It is not to him who wills, nor him who runs, but of God who shows mercy (Romans 9:16).
Gen 10:21 quickly tells us that Shem is the ancestor of all the sons of Eber – from whom the Hebrew people derive their name. Eber is the great-great-great-great grandfather of Abraham the patriarch whose seed is earmarked to bring a blessing to the entire family of humanity (Gen 12:3).
Gen 10:25 mentions Eber’s son Peleg, “in whose time the earth was divided.” This phrase has stirred a whole lot of conversation about its interpretation. At face value it is popularly accepted to refer to the confusion of human languages that occurs at Babel where God caused their rebellious work to cease and dispersed them across the face of the whole earth.
There are those Bible scholars (prominent among them is Finis Dake of the Dake’s Annotated Bible) who agree with the scientific community that this Bible phrase points to the time which is referred to the continental drift. And it is not beyond the omnipotence of the All Powerful God to split apart what once was the “super-continent” of the entire land mass of the earth into the several continents and islands of the world as we have them today.
These group of scholars interpret Gen 1:9 (And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together in one place, and let the dry land appear,” and it was so) to mean thus – If the waters, or seas were in one place, then it seems logical to conclude that the land was also in one place elsewhere.
If that were not the case, water would have been in several places, as today, with multiple continents. If the waters were in one place, then it is a hint that perhaps there was a giant continent and the multiple continents we observe today came sometime after creation (www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_751.cfm).
The scientific community further presents this case that all of the continental land-masses of the earth today can be approximately re-arranged in the form of a giant jig-saw puzzle to shown that the entire land mass of the earth used to be all joined together before this continental drift; and here again we see scripture echoing and pioneering the telling of this event thousands of years before the scientific community took notice. This may explain why we have similar vegetation, animals, and fossil records on different continents of the earth which match up when the continents are re-arranged in this jig-saw pattern.
Gen 10:32 – These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.
LIFE APPLICATIONS OF GENESIS 10
- This list of names and places carries with it some important theological truths, not the least of which is that Jehovah God is the Lord of the nations. Paul the apostle was right when he said that “God gave the nations their inheritance” (Dt 32:8) and “determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Ac 17:26). In spite of despots like Nimrod, Jehovah is the God of geography and of history; He is in control. What God promises, He performs, and Noah’s prophecy about his sons came true. So we need not fear the tyrants of the world today; for they are all actors and characters to carry out what God had before determined in the earth (Acts 4:27-28).
- In spite of external differences, all nations belong to the same human family. God made us all “of one blood” (Ac 17:26), and no race or people can claim to be superior to any other race or people. While in His providence, God has permitted some nations to make greater progress economically and politically than other nations, their achievements don’t prove that they are better than others (Pr 22:2).
- God has a purpose for the nations to fulfill. The account in Ge 9:24-11:32 makes it clear that God’s chosen nation was Israel. From chapter 12 on, Israel will be center stage in the narrative. But God also used Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Media-Persia, and Rome to accomplish His purposes with reference to the Jewish people. God can use pagan rulers like Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Darius, and even Augustus Caesar. God always works all things for the good of those who love Him. And even though sometimes we may not agree that the situation may be working for our good, let us take solace from the results of historical records that scripture gives us concerning God’s people that lived before us.
- God is concerned for all the nations. Frequently in the book of Psalms you find the phrase “all ye lands” or “all nations.” Ps 66:1-8 and 67 both express this universal vision that all the nations of the earth come to know God and serve Him. The church’s commission to go into all the world isn’t a New Testament afterthought; it’s written into the warp and woof of the Old Testament story.
- What was written in Ge 9-10 must have been an encouragement to the people of Israel when they conquered Canaan. They knew that they were the chosen people of God and that the Canaanites would be their servants. They also knew that their God was the Lord of the nations and could dispose of them as He pleased. The conquest of Canaan was a victory of faith in God’s promises, which explains why God admonished Joshua to meditate on the Word of God (Jos 1:8). Today we too can draw faith, encouragement, and strength by rightly appropriating God’s promises within scripture to us through our Lord Jesus Christ, and find in the scriptures encouragement to move forward with everyday life decisions.