Genesis 10 (NRSV)
Nations Descended from Noah
Here we have the second genealogy in the book of Genesis. The first genealogy (in chapter 5) detailed the generations from Adam to Noah. The genealogy in this chapter–the so-called “Table of Nations”–details the descendants of Noah and his sons, with the purpose of describing how Noah’s descendants were divided into the nations of the world. As Moses states in verse 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.” Given this stated purpose, it is worthwhile to look at the names in this genealogy and determine into what areas they settled and into what nations they evolved.
There are other Biblical references to the nations in this genealogy which provide a connection to the modern areas that correspond to where these nations resided. Because of the Biblical references, many of these nations are easy to locate. Modern archaeology gives us more evidence for locating these nations and confirms that this account is historically accurate. So, we find that this chapter (though it may seem, upon cursory reading, boring and useless to us) is important in establishing that the book of Genesis is a history and not a collection of fables. Many consider the Bible a collection of “cleverly invented stories” (2 Peter 1:16), but on the contrary, when the Bible depicts historical events, details cultural customs or describes locations and landmarks, it has been found to be accurate.
The Table of Nations tells us how the family of one man grew into a world of nations and languages. At the same time, it reminds us that we all have the same heritage. Though we do not at present speak the same or look the same or dress the same, we indeed all belong to the same family (trite though it may sound).
These are the descendants of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; children were born to them after the flood. 2The descendants of Japheth:
Japheth has traditionally been called the father of the Indo-European peoples — Caucasians, or the Gentiles.
Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 3The descendants of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 4The descendants of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim. 5From these the coastland peoples spread. These are the descendants of Japheth in their lands, with their own language, by their families, in their nations.
6The descendants of Ham:
The descendants of Ham have traditionally been thought to be those who populated Africa and the Far East.
Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. 7The descendants of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. 8Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to become a mighty warrior. 9He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.”
“He was powerful in hunting and in wickedness before the Lord, for he was a hunter of the sons of men, and he said to them, ‘Depart from the judgment of the Lord, and adhere to the judgment of Nimrod!’ Therefore it is said: ‘As Nimrod the strong one, strong in hunting, and in wickedness before the Lord.’ The great success that attended all of Nimrod’s undertakings produced a sinister effect. Men no longer trusted in God, but rather in their own prowess and ability, an attitude to which Nimrod tried to convert the whole world.”
–Rabbi Louis Ginzberg
10The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. 11From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, and 12Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. 13Egypt became the father of Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 14Pathrusim, Casluhim, and Caphtorim, from which the Philistines come.
15Canaan became the father of Sidon his firstborn, and Heth, 16and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the families of the Canaanites spread abroad. 19And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon, in the direction of Gerar, as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. 20These are the descendants of Ham, by their families, their languages, their lands, and their nations.
21To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born. 22The descendants of Shem:
Shem has traditionally been considered the father of the Semitic peoples, Jews and Arabs.
Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. 23The descendants of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.
Uz: Later, a region in Arabia was named after this son of Aram. Job came from the land of Uz (Job 1:1).
24Arpachshad became the father of Shelah; and Shelah became the father of Eber. 25To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan. 26Joktan became the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the descendants of Joktan. 30The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar, the hill country of the east. 31These are the descendants of Shem, by their families, their languages, their lands, and their nations. 32These are the families of Noah’s sons, according to their genealogies, in their nations; and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.
“Hence one must consider this chapter of Genesis a mirror in which to discern that we human beings are, namely, creatures so marred by sin that we have no knowledge of our own origin, not even of God Himself, our Creator, unless the Word of God reveals these sparks of divine light to us from afar . . . This knowledge the Holy Scriptures reveal to us. Those who are without them live in error, uncertainty, and boundless ungodliness; for they have no knowledge about who they are and whence they came.”
HERE is “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” sung by Marian Anderson. What a treat to hear such a wonderful voice!
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.