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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Does It Mean, the Earth Was Divided?

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Don Stewart
The Bible speaks of the earth being divided.

To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided (Genesis 10:25).

What does this mean? There have been several possibilities suggested.

Tower Of Babel

Some see it as referring to the division into the different languages at the tower of Babel.

The note on Eber's son Peleg. . . seems to pinpoint the Babel experience. The verb palag is used in the Old Testament to describe division into languages. So the Babel event occurred five generations after the Flood (Allen P. Ross in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Editors John Walvoord and Roy Zuck, Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1985, p. 44).

Genealogy Of Shem

The answer to this question seems to be in the genealogy of Shem. The list of his descendants is not like earlier genealogies that follows numerical schemes. It is highly selective. After the Tower of Babel incident, the genealogy of Shem is again recorded. The genealogy divides between the two sons of Eber-Peleg and Joktan.

Explains Genealogies In 10 And 11

The mention of Peleg and Joktan gives an explanation of the genealogies in chapters 10 and 11. The genealogy of Shem is traced to the sons of Joktan and the brother of Peleg (vs 31). After the account of the Tower of Babel the genealogy of Shem is taken up again and traced from Peleg to Abraham. Therefore part of Shem descendants ends in Babylon while the other line is with Abraham in the land.

Two Lines Diverge

Therefore two lines of humanity diverge at this point, those who wanted to make a name for themselves and those to whom God will make a name with the call of Abraham. Joktan's line went eastward where the tower of Babel was built.

Divisions Explained

In the last verse of chapter 10, the author explains the division of the nations. The nations listed in this chapter spread over the entire earth. Chapter 10 sets the stage for the story of the Tower of Babel in chapter 11. The explanation as to how they were spread over the earth will be found in chapter 11.

Continental Drift?

Others feel this hints at the theory of continental drift. There is the possibility that the Bible teaches the earth was one land mass before the Flood.

Then God said, 'Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together in one place, and let the dry land appear;' and it was so (Genesis 1:9).

Donald Chittick comments:

If the waters, or the seas were in one place, then it seems logical to conclude the land was also in one piece elsewhere. If that were not the case, water would have then 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 one giant continent and the multiple continents we observe today came some time after creation (Donald Chittick The Controversy, Portland, Oregon, Multnomah Press, 1984, p. 195).


The interesting statement made about the dividing of the world after the Flood has been subject to several interpretations. As to the exact meaning of the passage, we cannot be certain.

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