Genesis 10:1-11:26 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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The Nations of Mankind
Comments for Study 7

Genesis 10:1-11:26
Memory Verse 11:9


History involves nations not just individuals. The table of nations uses genealogical forms to describe the rise of international powers and rivals. Nations are not eternal realities but historical developments rising out of God's call to individuals to be fruitful. The table of nations (as chapter ten is called) witnesses to God's universal interest. No matter how narrow the Biblical story may appear as it focuses on the one family of Abraham, its universal context provides theological interpretation for the narrow focus.

I. The Descendants of Noah (10:1-32)

>1. How was the earth repopulated? (9:18-19, 10:1-32) In what way does the incident in 9:20-27 show the seed of the evil in men's heart and of Satan's work already budded through one of Noah's sons, Ham?

Genesis 10:1 "This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah's sons, who themselves had sons after the flood."

* Even though, as I pointed out in lesson 6, that God said to Noah (and his sons) to "be fruitful and increase in number" (9:1) this verse, 10:1, indicates that Noah did not have children after the flood. Several reasons why 9:1 was given to Noah as well as his sons is to indicate that all humans now are descendant of Noah.

* Some theologians have said that the table of nations that follows was recorded by Shem and kept up by his descendants. They say that after the flood the three sons of Noah departed and only come together again to bury Noah. Then, at Noah's burial, Shem recorded the descendants of his brothers as they were alive at the time and gave it to his descendants. This has not been verified by anyone, but does seem quit logical since Ham's and Japheth's genealogies are short compared to Shem's which is continued into chapter 11, after the account of the Tower of Babel. One can conclude that Shem recorded the genealogies in chapter 10 and chapter 11 and was continued by one of his descendants.

Even though the above statement seems logical. It is not the only one, or at least it should be believe with other factors in mind. First, the fact that chapters 10 and 11 are recorded such to keep in accordance with my theory on the phrase; "This is the account of." And second, connecting this with the other points, Shem's descendants are the most important, for from them comes Jesus Christ, the promised Savior of the world.

* "This is the account" -See lessons 1 and 2 on this phrase. This is the beginning of a new section (chapters 11 and on), done by closing the previous section (6:9 to and including chapter 9).

Genesis 10:2-5 "The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras. The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah. The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittim and the Rodanim. (From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.)"

* "The sons of Japheth" -Indo-European peoples. In other words, there is enough clear identification to recognize that the descendants of Japheth spread all over Europe, with one major branch heading eastward into Persia and India.

* "Gomer" -Cymry of Wales and Brittany in the district of Cimmeria, north of the Black Sea, a name surviving to the present in the form Crimea.

* "Magoa" -Scythians (so says Joshephus) and Georgia, a region near the Black Sea still known by that name.

* "Madia" -Medes in the land that is now Persia and perhaps were in part (along with the Semitic Elamites) ancestors of the Presians as well. It was evidently through this group of Japheth descendants that the Aryans developed, who later migrated into India to become the progenitors of the Indian peoples.

* "Javan" -The original form of the Ionians which is the Greeks. Thus Japheth and his son Javan are considered to be the original founders of the Greeks.

* "Tubal" -Known in the Assyrian monuments as the Tibareni, and probably has been preserved in the modern Russian city of Tobolsk. In Ezekiel 38:2 they are associated with "Rosh" a name from which modern "Russia" was derived.

* "Meshech" -Preserved in the name Mushovi (the former name of Russia) and Moscow.

* "Tiras" -Thracians according to Josephus. There is also a possibility that Tiras gave rise to the Etruscans of Italy.

* "The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah" -The Germans, Celts, and Armenians have been traced to these three.

* "The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittim and the Rodanim" -Elishah came to be applied to Greece as a whole, Tarshish is also Tartessos in Spain and with Carthage in North Africa. Both of these, however, were Phoenician cities and the Phoenicians were Canaanites. Tarshish must to have been first, and the Phoenicians came later and developed these cities better.

The Kittim is "inhabitants of the isles" that is Cyprus and possibly, to some extent, to the Greek mainland as well. It is just possible that the term "Ma-Kittim' (the land of Kittim) may have given rise to the name Macedonia. Dodanim is the same, evidently, as Rodanim (1 Chronicles 1:7). His name is probably preserved today in the geographical names Dardanelles and Rhodes.

* "into their territories" -This seem to say, either they were giving these lands to live in after the Tower of Babel. Or this is just where they happened to live and so in the time of the Israelite nation (when Moses composed these chapters) this is where their descendants now generally lived. The later is not very likely.

* "by their clans" -Here a clan is the third generation from Noah.

* "within thier nations" -Nations being according to physical features that were the result of people marrying only within their clan.

* "each with its own language" -Thus indicated that the descendants listed spread out and were recorded after the Tower of Babel. Thus the Tower of Babel (chapter 11:1-9) happened shortly after the flood.

>2. Who became Ham's son?

Genesis 10:6-7 "The sons of Ham: Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan. The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan."

* "Cush" -They apparently first migrated southward into Arabia, and then crossed the Red Sea into the land now known as Ethiopia. In the Bible they are called Cushites or Ethiopians. The Tell el Amarna tablets call this land "Kashi".

* "Mizraim" -Egyptians in Egypt which is also called "The land of Ham." (Psalm 105:23) suggesting that Ham accompanied his son Mizraim in the original settlement of the Nile Valley. Some writers have suggested that the semi-legendary founder of Egypt's first dynasty, Menes, was the same as Mizraim.

* "Put" -Lybia in the region of North Africa west of Egypt confirmed by Joshephus.

* "Canaan" -Those living in the land that the Israelites inherited were called the Canaanites.

Some theologians suggest that the Canaanites "spilled over" out of the African continent into Asia. This would be saying that each of the three sons of Noah had boundaries that they were to live in. The fact that they had boundaries seems to be what is meant by the phrases "in their territories" (4,20,31) and "in his time the earth was divided" (25). These two phrases seem to indicate that after Babble the descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth were to migrate to and live in certain lands. However, we are not told what areas they were to live in. Also, nowhere does it directly say that the Canaanites sinned in living in the land that they did.

Therefore, the Canaanites living in the land the Israelites were to inherit was not a sin that deserved disposition later by the Israelites. What did delegate them to be dispossessed of their land and life was other sins listed later in Genesis and the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit).

Also it should be noted that Noah's curse of Canaan in chapter 9 would indicate that that event was after Canaan's birth. How else could Noah have known his name? After all Noah did live 350 years after the flood.

One final note, justifying my idea of the phrase "This is the account of". With the fact just listed above it is easy to see the separation of Genesis by the phrases "This is the account of." If Genesis is a historical account then the genealogies would come first, before Noah's curse of Canaan. But since that is part of Noah's life, it is included before the phrase "this is the account" in 10:1, which marks the end of the account of his life and starts the account of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

* "The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteca." -Seba was one of those who migrated from south-western Arabia across the Red Sea, into the region now known as the Sudan, giving his name to the Sabeans (Isaiah 45:14)

Havilah, Sabtah, and Sabtechah all seem to have been located in Arabia. Sabtah has been identified with the ancient city of Sabatah in Arabia.

* "The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan." -Raamah also settled in Arabia, but is specially mentioned as the father of Sheba and Dedan. He is the only one of the sons of Cush whose own sons' names are listed. Presumably, in their day, Sheba and Dedan were unusually well known, a presumption which may account for the fact that, later, two of Abraham's grandsons through Keturah were apparently named after them.

>3. Who were Cush's descendants? What was Nimrod famous for? Where was his kingdom first located? What would Shinar be famous for? (11:2) Where did his kingdom spread to? What does this tell us about the nature of sin and sinful men?

Genesis 10:8-9 "Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, "Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD."

* "Cush was the father of Nimrod" -Possibly the Hebrew name of Sargon I, an early ruler of Akkad. (Erech is the Hebrew name for Uruk one of the important cities in ancient Mesopotamia.)

Nimrod was not included in verse 7 which listed the sons of Cush. Yet he is a son of Cush.

Some have suggested that his name means "we will rebel."

Nimrod moved out of Africa into Asia namely the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Most likely he remained in the area that the Tower of Babel was build even after the rest of the three Noahic families had been compelled, by the confusion of tongues, to move away.

Nimrod is the founder of the Babylonian empire, the conqueror of Assyria, and the builder of Nineveh (11).

He reminds me of Cain and his descendant Lamech.

Nimrod, who is of Cush, is in the list of Egyptian kings.

* "mighty warrior on the earth" -The Assyrian tablets of the royal successors of Nimrod furnish an explanation of his description as "a mighty hunter"-for this is the title given in them to the great conquering warrior-monarchs, as "hunting the people."

In this way (hunting the people) Nimrod was the first world conqueror and formed the first world empire. Thus he is the first to be bent on owning and/or ruling the world. This was truly against God's plan for man to spread out and fill the earth. More than that war and world conquering is against God's will with the exception that God used Israel to execute his judgment on the Canaanites.

* "mighty hunter before the LORD" -The meaning is not clear except that perhaps, the Lord knew what he was doing and allowed it to happen for he said after the flood that he would delegate judgement of evil men to men that he, God, had chosen.

Genesis 10:10-12 "The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city."

* "The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar" -Some theologians suggest that Nimrod was trained from birth to be a leader in a planned and organized rebellion against God's purposes for mankind. Thus Nimrod "began to be a mighty one in the earth," and he soon had all the Hamites-and possibly many of the Semites and Japhethites -under his influence and leadership. They finally settled in the fertile plan of Shinar (a name probably later identified as Sumer) and began to build a great complex of cities, with "the beginning of his kingdom at Babel."

The earliest Babylonian kings bore a title which is supposed to mean "fur faces" in reference to "the quadruple groups of capitals of Babylonia and Assyria."

Babel is said to have covered at least one hundred square miles but no more than two hundred square miles.

* "Erech" -One hundred miles south-east of Babylon, was the legendary home of Gilgamesh, hero of the Babylonian flood story. Its excavation yielded examples of very ancient writing, long antedating the time of Abraham.

* "Akkad" -Immediately north of Babylon. Also spelled Accad and Agade in the monuments. The city gave its name to the Akkadian empire, essentially synonymous with the Sumerian empire.

* "Calah" -Not yet identified.

* "From that land he went to Assyria" -He conquered the land.

* "where he built"

* "Nineveh" -Known as early as 2800 B.C., it was later the center of the powerful Assyrian kingdom, which attained its height under Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal. It was situated on the Tigris River, about 250 miles from the city of Babylon, which was on the Euphrates. It was against this stronghold that Jonah and Nahum directed their prophecies.

The Assyrian legends speak of "Ninus" as the founder of Nineveh. This is evidently a form of "Nimrod."

* "Rehoboth Ir"-Not identified yet.

* "Calah" -On the Tigris about twenty miles south of Nineveh. It has been excavated. It is still called "Nimrud" after its founder.

* "Resen which is between Nineveh and Calah" -Not identified yet.

* "that is the great city." -All the cities Nimrod build together was called a great city for they functioned as one metropolitan area.

>4. Who was the ancestor of the people living in the land that God would give to Abram? What does this tell us about their life?

Genesis 10:13-20 "Mizraim was the father of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, Pathrusites, Casluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites. Canaan was the father of Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites. Later the Canaanite clans scattered and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations."

>5. Who were Shem's descendent? What does verse 25 mean? What land does Shem's descendants live in?

Genesis 10:21 "Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber."

* "Sons were also born to Shem" -Exclusively Asiatic nations.

* "whose older brother was Japheth" -I do not know why this is stated, unless to point out that Japheth's descendants were much more than Shem's at this time; if that were true. I do not know.

* "Eber" -The children of Eber comprised many different groups among the sons of Shem. The name Eber has been associated with the word Hebrew, the name by which Abraham (Gen. 14:13) and then the Israelites were known by other peoples. They were the ones who possessed the knowledge of the true God. The term "Hebrew" is racial, while "Israelites" is national. In later days, these words were used as synonyms.

Genesis 10:22-31 "The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram. The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshech. Arphaxad was the father of Shelah, and Shelah the father of Eber. Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan. Joktan was the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan. The region where they lived stretched from Mesha toward Sephar, in the eastern hill country. These are the sons of Shem by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations."

* "Elam" -Elamites were later lead by Chedorlaomer in Abram's time to conquered Canaan (Gen. 14:4,5). Susa or Shushan east of Mesopotamia, was their capital. They later merged with the Medes to form the Persian Empire.

* "Asshur" -Assyria, but was later invaded by Nimrod.

* "Arphaxad" -Little is known except he is the direct ancestor of Abram. A region known as Arrapachitis is Assyria may stem from his name.

* "Lud" -Ancestor of the Lydians, in Asia Minor, at least according to Josephus. A similar name, however (Ludim-Genesis 10:13), is listed as Hamitic in descent.

* "Aram" -The Aramean or Syrian people, made up the group around and within Damascus. they figured prominently in the history of the people of Israel. The Aramaic language became the language of trade and diplomatic relations. It gradually displaced the Hebrew language until, at the time of our Lord, Aramaic was the language of conversation and writing.

* "The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshech." -Uz is suggested to be the land where Job was from. However, there could be more candidates. See my notes on the book of Job.

* "Arphaxad was the father of Shelah, and Shelah the father of Eber." -Sheba is often mentioned in the Old Testament to denote a wealthy group of people whose principal work was to furnish gold, perfumes, and precious stones for export to Palestine and to Egypt. They are identified with the Sabaeans, who held a prominent place in trade and in governmental achievement. So far as Bible students are concerned, the queen of Sheba was the most famous of the people of Sheba.

* "Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan." -Peleg was born 101 years after the flood and thus lived in the time when the Tower of Babel was build and the people scattered. This is probably what it is meant by 'the earth was divided."

However, other scholars say that this is when the great land mass was divided to become the continents.

* "Joktan was the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan." -Ophir was famed for its fin gold. Solomon sent his men along with Hiram's to extract it and to transport it to Palestine. In addition to gold, they found precious metals and gems in great abundance. Soon Solomon's kingdom rivalled all the surrounding lands in wealth. Ophir was probably a seaport on the coast of Arabia. It has been located as far away as the mouth of the Indus. much of the gold overlay of the Temple of Solomon came from Ophir.

* "These are the sons of Shem by their clans and languages" -by saying languages it shows that this was written after the Tower of Babel. This phrase was also in verse 20. See note there.

Genesis 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."

* Thus ends the summery of the table of nations. Now the author will focus on an event, significant to mankind and an indication that sin was not wiped out with the flood. In fact what transpired is similar to what happened before the flood.

II. The Tower of Babel (11:1-9)

>6. What compelled men to build the tower of Babel? Why was God so displeased with them? How did God deal with the problem? In what way does the unsolved sin problem - even after the flood judgment - and God's promise in 8:21 foreshadow God's new plan of salvation?

Genesis 11:1-2 "Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there."

* "Now the whole world" -That is all of mankind.

* "had one language" -Thus being descendants of one man Noah.

* "and a common speech" -That is no dialect. Therefore this event happened not long after the flood. Peleg was born when this happened (See note "Two sons were born to Eber...Peleg..." above.)

* "Eastward" -Could mean east of the ark or east of the promised land (As in every part of the Bible so that the Israelites who received this book could understand it.).

* "a plain in Shinar" -The Hebrews used the name Shinar, originally a region in northern Mesopotamia, to designate the whole region of Mesopotamia. Migrating nomads moved along the mountains of Ararat to the well-watered plains of Babylonia.

* "and settled there" -A direct violation of God's command in 9:1, "fill the earth."

Genesis 11:3 "They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.

* "bricks instead of stone" -This seems to indicate that all building up until this time was of stone. If this is true then it is possible that some of the temples in Egypt were built, or started to be built before the Tower of Babel.

Stone and mortar were used as building materials in Canaan. Stone was scarce in Mesopotamia, however, so mud brick and tar were used (as indicated by archaeological excavations).

Genesis 11:4 "Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

* "us...ourselves...we...ourselves" -The people's plans were egotistical and proud.

* "tower" -The typical Mesopotamian temple-tower, known as a ziggurat, was square at the base and had sloping, stepped sides that led upward to a small shrine at the top.

* "reach to the heavens" -A similar ziggurat may be described in 28:12. Other Mesopotamian ziggurats were given names demonstrating that they, too, were meant to serve as staircases from earth to heaven: "The House of the Link between Heaven and Earth" (at Larsa), "The House of the seven Guides of Heaven and Earth" (at Borsippa), "The House of the Foundation-Platform of Heaven and Earth" (at Babylon), "Thouse House of the Mountain of the Universe" (at Asshur).

* "name" -In the Old Testament, "name" also refers to reputation, fame, or renown. At Babel rebellious man undertook a united and godless effort to establish for himself, by a titanic human enterprise, a world renown by which he would dominate God's creation.

Genesis 11:5-7 "But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

* "But the LORD came down to see" -God sees all. He knows man's workings. But this seems to indicate that God took special notice of this city. He was going to interview directly as he did with the flood.

* "The Lord said...let us" -Obviously the trinity.

* "If...then" -If the whole human race remained united in the proud attempt to take its destiny into its own hands and, by its man-centered efforts, to seize the reins of history, there would be no limit to its unrestrained rebellion against God. The kingdom of man would displace and exclude the kingdom of God.

Genesis 11:8-9 "So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel--because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

* "scattered" -God dispersed the people because of their rebellious pride. Even the greatest of human powers cannot defy God and long survive.

* "Babel" -The word is of Akkadian origin and means "gateway to a god" (Jacob's stairway was similarly called "gate of heaven" 28:17).

* "confused" -The Hebrew word used here "balal" sounds like "babel" the Hebrew word for Babylon and the origin of the English word "babel."

III. Shem's Descendants (11:10-26)

>7. Make a chart comparing the death and births of Shem's descendants. What can you learn from this?

Genesis 11:10 "This is the account of Shem. Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad."

* "This is the account of" -Again this is the ending of the previous section and the beginning of the next in the book of Genesis. (See note above at the beginning of this lesson.)

Genesis 11:11-26

* A ten-name genealogy, like that of Seth. Unlike the Sethite genealogy, however, the genealogy of Shem does not give total figures for the ages of the men at death and does not end each paragraph with "and then he died." It covers the centuries between Shem and Abram as briefly as possible. See attached chart.