Table of Nations — Genesis 10

You might have come this morning anticipating that the most exciting thing about Genesis chapter 10 will be how I will butcher some of the difficult-to-pronounce names as we study this genealogy chapter.  [Just like an umpire, you have to sell the call – pronounce them with confidence even when you don’t have a clue.]

Actually, this account proves to be significant on a number of levels.

  • Certainly from the standpoint of history it provides the only accurate account of the origin of so many of the ancient nations. There is no parallel to this document in the archives of any other ancient people.  This is a unique list.  Genesis is the Book of Beginnings.
  • This chapter serves as important preparation for the account of the Tower of Babel; chaps. 10-11 must be studied as a unit. Chiastic structure with Tower of Babel between 2 accounts of the Sons of Shem; look at the keywords in chap. 10 that anticipate the events of the Tower of Babel: territory, earth, divided, spread, languages; scattered
  • Maybe of primary importance, this chapter speaks to the global perspective of God’s program for mankind – He is not just the God of Israel; He has always been interested in a salvation program that would encompass all people, everywhere – in fact the mission of Israel was to bring blessing to the Gentiles throughout the world

                        Ps. 2:8  “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance and the                                     very ends of the earth as Your possession.”

Structural Elements:

  • Note 2 bookends of vs. 1 and vs. 3
  • Note common refrain in 5, 20, 31 – a growing diversity of ethnic, linguistic, geographical and political groupings

Parunak: Note summaries at vv. 5, 20, 32, and in particular the terms “families, tongues, lands, nations.” This expression is echoed later in scripture:

  • Pagan kings use it to claim their worldwide dominion: Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 4:1; Darius in Dan 6:25. They are the heirs of the spirit of Nimrod – Mighty warriors on the face of the earth who rebel against God and seek dominion for themselves

  • But the Lord shows Daniel that this dominion rightly belongs only to the Son of Man, who must receive it; Dan 7:13-14, the only one who can exercise his “might” “before the Lord.”

  • This is fulfilled in Rev. 5:9, 7:9; 11:9.

  • Numerical symmetry

Hughes: Actually, however, this Table of Nations has carefully structured symmetries.  For example, when we add up the nations that came from Noah’s sons, we discover that they total seventy – another example of the multiples of sevens, tens, and seventies that we have seen so often in Genesis.  Here it suggests totality – all the nations of the earth.

Look at Gen. 46:27 – 70 sons of Jacob end up going down into Egypt – quite the parallel

Waltke calls it a parallel microcosm to the macrocosm of the table of the nations;

God never intended to be portrayed as only the God of Israel; He is the God of all the nations

Difference between totality and completeness:

Griffith Thomas: [Selective record] — there is no attempt at completeness in the list.  Several of the more modern nations which came later into close contact with Israel, as Moab, Ammon, Edom, Amalek, find no mention here, while on the other hand not all the most ancient of the nations are included.

(:1)  PROLOGUE

Now these are the records of the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth,

       the sons of Noah; and sons were born to them after the flood.

A new toledot, generation section begins here [10:32 gives us another one; 11:10, 27]

Griffith Thomas: This is an example of the characteristic, already mentioned, of dealing with collateral branches first, and only after that considering the main stream in the descendants of Shem.. . . This table of nations show their kinship with the chosen race, out of which all spiritual blessing is to become.  Then the nations are dismissed from the Scripture record, and attention concentrated on the Semitic line.

THE GOD WHO CHOSE ISRAEL IS THE SOVEREIGN GOD OVER ALL THE NATIONS

THE 3 SONS OF NOAH PRODUCE 3 DISTINCT LINES OF NATIONS

I.  (:2-5) SONS OF JAPHETH – OUTER EXTREMITIES — GENTILES  (14 nations)

A.  (:2) Summary

The sons of Japheth were Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and  Meshech and Tiras.

Hughes: lived mostly to the north and east of Canaan and spoke the Indo-European languages.. gomer dwelt north of the Caspian Sea.  Tubal and Meshech settled around the southern shores of the Black Sea.  Tiras lived west of the Black Sea in Thrace.  Madai occupied the area south of the Caspian in what became Media.  And Javan populated Ionia, the southern part of Greece.  The sons of Javan spread around the northern Mediterranean as far west as Tarshish or southern Spain.

All the maritime coastlands and island areas surrounding the Mediterranean

Griffith Thomas: This early reference to “the nations” is very significant and shows that amid all the Jewish exclusiveness the Old Testament never loses sight of the great fact of universality and God’s purposes for all the world.

B.  (:3) Sons of Gomer

And the sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz and Riphath and Togarmah.

C.  (:4-5) Sons of Javan

  1. (:4)  Identification

And the sons of Javan were Elishah and Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim.

  1. (:5)  Diversity Refrain

From these the coastlands of the nations were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.

Parunak: The closing summary differs from the other two by emphasizing “the isles of the Gentiles,” lit. “coasts of the Gentiles.” Most of the nations whom the Israelites thought of as coastal nations were Japhethite. Their interactions with Hamites and Shemites were more often by way of land, at least until the time of Solomon’s voyages on the Red Sea.

II.  (:6-20) SONS OF HAM – POWERFUL ENEMIES OF ISRAEL (30 nations)

A.  (:6)  Summary – Sons of Ham  [2 bookends – vs. 20]

And the sons of Ham were Cush and Mizraim and Put and Canaan.

Hughes: Ham’s four sons settled primarily in northeast Arica and Egypt, the eastern Mediterranean, and Southern Arabia.  Cush populated the territory of the upper Nile south of Egypt.

No tracing of the line of Put; most of emphasis is on Cush via Nimrod and Canaan

B.  (:7-14) Sons of Cush and Mizraim

  1. (:7-12)  Sons of Cush and Their Territory

a.  (:7)  Sons of Cush and Raamah

               “And the sons of Cush were Seba and Havilah and Sabtah and Raamah and Sabteca; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan.

Arabian nations

b.  (:8-12)  Kingdom of Cush

 “Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is     said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of  Shinar. From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

Nimrod’s leadership role at the Tower of Babel; name means “We shall rebel”

Borgman: Father of Babylonians and Assyrians

Connected back to 6:4

mighty hunter before the Lord” is not positive – not only a tyrant, but violent and oppressive

He is a city builder – godly line builds altars

Parunak:

Question: Why is he said to rebel?

Answer: civil government is one of the two forces that have always been opposed to God; the other being organized religion. People are not content to live directly under God’s rule, but insist on setting themselves up over one another.

Question: How was he first gibbor?

Answer: He was the first to exalt himself above others and organize political structures. The earlier giants had simply exalted themselves individually (6:4) and filled the earth with violence (6:11). Nimrod organizes people to legitimize this grasp for power. Compare Isa 3:2, which lists the gibbor as the first of the various people involved in leading a country successfully.

Question: Why the emphasis on his skill in the hunt?

Answer: Ancient rulers boasted of their skill in the chase to show their courage, and their ability to protect the people from wild beasts.

Griffith Thomas: Babylon henceforward stands for everything that is godless, and for the great opponent of the people of God.

Key Lesson: The world often exalts those who are leaders in rebelling against God and against His program of redemption; don’t be impressed by what impresses the world; seek to glorify and exalt the God who is sovereign over all

  1. (:13-14)  Sons of Mizraim (Egypt)

And Mizraim became the father of Ludim and Anamim and Lehabim and

               Naphtuhim and Pathrusim and Casluhim (from which came the Philistines) and Caphtorim.

C.  (:15-19) Sons of Canaan and Their Territory

  1. (:15-18a)  Sons of Canaan

And Canaan became the father of Sidon, his first-born, and Heth and the Jebusite and the Amorite and the Girgashite and the Hivite and the Arkite and the Sinite and the Arvadite and the Zemarite and the Hamathite;

Esau marries a Hethite;

Jebusite – associated with city of David and with Jerusalem = place of the Jebusites

  1. (:18b-19)  Their Territory

and afterward the families of the Canaanite were spread abroad. 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.

Key Lesson:

Remember the oracle of Noah that the sons of Canaan would end up serving the sons of Japheth and of Shem – doesn’t happen right away … it may appear like the godless have the supremacy … but in the end they will not be on the throne

D.  (:20)  Summary – Sons of Ham – Diversity Refrain

These are the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages,

       by their lands, by their nations.

III.   (:21-31)  SONS OF SHEM – ROOT OF GOD’S ELECT PEOPLE  (26 nations)

A.  (:21-22)  Introduction  — Sons of Shem

And also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, and the older brother of Japheth, children were born.  The sons of Shem were Elam and Asshur and Arpachshad and Lud and Aram.

The Semitic peoples

B.  (:23) Sons of Aram

And the sons of Aram were Uz and Hul and Gether and Mash.

C.  (:24-30) Sons of Arpachshad and Their Territory

  1. (:24)  Shelah and Eber

And Arpachshad became the father of Shelah;

               and Shelah became the father of Eber.

Hughes: The name Eber is related to the word Hebrew – so that Eber is understood to be the ancestor of the Hebrew people.

  1. (:25)  Sons of Eber – Peleg and Joktan

And two sons were born to Eber; the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan.

Name means division

  1. (:26-30)  Sons of Joktan

a.  (:26-29)  Identified

And Joktan became the father of Almodad and Sheleph and Hazarmaveth and Jerah and Hadoram and Uzal and Diklah and Obal and Abimael and Sheba and Ophir and Havilah and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.

b.  (:30)  Territory

                      “Now their settlement extended from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the hill country of the east.

D.  (:31)  Summary – Sons of Shem – Diversity Refrain

These are the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages,

       by their lands, according to their nations.

(:32)  EPILOGUE

These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies,

       by their nations; and out of these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.

Anticipates event of the Tower of Babel

CONCLUSION:

Acts 17:26-28

and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring.’”