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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Genesis 10

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The Table of Nations

The tenth chapter of Genesis … stands absolutely alone in ancient literature, without a remote parallel, even among the Greeks, where we find the closest approach to a distribution of peoples in genealogical framework … The Table of Nations remains an astonishing accurate document. (William F. Albright, cited in Boice)

A. The descendants of Japheth.

1. (Gen 10:1) The three sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.

2. (Gen 10:2) The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.

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

a. The sons of Japheth: He was the father of the Indo-European peoples, those stretching from India to the shores of Western Europe. They are each linked by linguistic similarities that often seem invisible to the layman but are much more obvious to the linguist.

b. Gomer: From this son of Japheth came the Germanic peoples, from whom came most of the original peoples of Western Europe. These include the original French, Spanish, and Celtic settlers.

c. Magog … Tubal, Meshech: These settled in the far north of Europe and became the Russian peoples.

d. Madai: From this son of Japheth came the ancient Medes and they populated what are now Iran and Iraq. The peoples of India also came from this branch of Japheth’s family.

e. Javan: From this son of Japheth came the ancient Greeks, whose sea-faring ways are described in Genesis 10:5.

3. (Gen 10:3) The sons of Gomer.

The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.

a. Ashkenaz: From this son of Gomer came the peoples who settled north of Judea into what we call the Fertile Crescent.

b. Togarmah: From this son of Gomer came the Armenians.

4. (Gen 10:4-5) The sons of Javan (the ancient Greeks).

The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.

a. The sons of Javan were: Geographic names that spring from these names in this chapter abound. Linguists have no trouble seeing the connection between Kittim and Cyprus, Rodanim and Rhodes, Gomer and Germany, Meschech and Moscow, Tubal and Tobolsk.

B. The descendants of Ham.

1. (Gen 10:6) The sons of Ham: Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.

The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.

a. Ham: The descendants of Ham are the peoples who populated Africa and the Far East.

b. Cush: Apparently, this family divided into two branches early. Some founded Babylon (notably, Nimrod) and others founded Ethiopia.

c. Mizraim: This is another way the Bible refers to Egypt. Put refers to Libya, the region of North Africa west of Egypt. Canaan refers to the peoples who originally settled the land we today think of as Israel and its surrounding regions.

2. (Gen 10:7-12) The sons of Cush.

The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabtechah; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan. Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.” And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).

a. Cush begot Nimrod: One son of Cush worthy of note is Nimrod. He was a mighty one on the earth, but not in a good way. He ruled over Babel, which was the first organized rebellion of humans against God. The name Nimrod itself means, “let us rebel.”

b. Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord: The context shows that this is not a compliment of Nimrod. The idea is that Nimrod was an offense before the face of God.

i. “This is not talking about Nimrod’s ability to hunt wild game. He was not a hunter of animals. He was a hunter of men – a warrior. It was through his ability to fight and kill and rule ruthlessly that his kingdom of the Euphrates valley city states was consolidated.” (Boice)

ii. A Jerusalem Targum says: “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.’ ”

iii. Ginzberg quotes from a Jewish legend: “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.”

iv. “Hence it is likely that Nimrod, having acquired power, used it in tyranny and oppression; and by rapine and violence founded the domination which was the first distinguished by the name of a kingdom on the face of the earth. How many kingdoms have been founded in the same way, in various ages and nations from that time to the present! From the Nimrods of the earth, God deliver the world!” (Clarke)

3. (Gen 10:13-14) The sons of Mizraim.

Mizraim begot Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, and Casluhim (from whom came the Philistines and Caphtorim).

4. (Gen 10:15-19) The sons of Canaan.

Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn, and Heth; the Jebusite, the Amorite, and the Girgashite; the Hivite, the Arkite, and the Sinite; the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite. Afterward the families of the Canaanites were dispersed. And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; then as you go toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.

a. Canaan begot Sidon: The family of Sidon, the son of Canaan, went north and is related to the Hittites and Lebanese.

b. And the Sinite: Many people believe the Oriental peoples descended from the Sinites.

5. (Gen 10:20) The spread of the descendants of Ham.

These were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands and in their nations.

C. The descendants of Shem.

1. (Gen 10:21-22) The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram.

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

a. Children were born also to Shem: From Shem comes Elam, who was an ancestor to the Persian peoples; Asshur, who was the father of the Assyrians; Lud was father to the Lydians who lived for a time in Asia Minor; and Aram was father to the Arameans, who we also know as the Syrians. Arphaxad was the ancestor to Abram and the Hebrews.

2. (Gen 10:23) The sons of Aram.

The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.

a. Uz: Later, a region in Arabia was named after this son of Aram. Job came from the land of Uz (Job 1:1).

3. (Gen 10:24-30) The sons and descendants of Arphaxad.

Arphaxad begot Salah, and Salah begot Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan. Joktan begot Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were the sons of Joktan. And their dwelling place was from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east.

a. All these were the sons of Joktan: The names under the son of Joktan (son of Eber, son of Salah, son of Arphaxad) are all associated with various Arabic peoples.

b. And Jobab: The one named Jobab may be the one we know as Job in the Old Testament.

4. (Gen 10:31) The spread of the descendants of Shem.

These were the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations.

5. (Gen 10:32) Summary statement: the nations after the flood.

These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood.

a. “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.” (Luther, cited in Boice)

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

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