THE TABLE OF NATIONS
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. (Genesis 10:1).
The book of Genesis does not suffer from a lack of popularity. Many have undertaken to read the accounts of creation and the fall, of the murder of Abel and the flood of Noah. But as they come to Genesis 10, they usually transform into speed readers and within seconds they have passed over this section of Scripture.
The table of nations as found in Genesis 10 is unique among the writings of antiquity. Most of the ancient literature we have found are interested primarily in their own origins. It is rare to find a work that even attempts to catalog the ethnic origins of the entire human race.
THE PURPOSE OF THE TABLE OF NATIONS
There are several important reasons for this chapter being in the Bible and for its inclusion in the book of Genesis.
1. To demonstrate the fulfillment of Noah’s Prophecy as found
in Genesis 9. That chapter closes with a
2. To give the background for the account of the
3. To follow the line of
Remember that the book of Genesis was written to the Israelites in the wilderness who would soon be going into the promised land. They would be commanded to destroy and displace the Canaanites. This chapter identifies who are the Canaanites.
4. To give a sense of belonging and identity to the people of
A COMPARISON OF GENESIS 9, 10 AND 11
9:24-27 gives the prophecy of the future descendants of Noah. It is a prophecy that foretold a curse upon
Genesis 10 gives the fulfillment of that prophecy in the table of nations. In verse 5 of this chapter we are told that the division of nations was based upon two criteria.
• After his language.
• After his people.
11 goes back and tells exactly how this division was accomplished in the
confusion that took place at
Prophecy of the nations
Table of nations
Division of the nations
Description of Nimrod
Though the sons of Noah are normally listed as Shem, Ham and Japheth (Genesis 5:32; 6:10; 7:13; 9:18; 10:1; 1 Chronicles 1:4), it is the sons of Japheth who are first presented to us. This is because, from the point of view of the author and his readers, Japheth is the least important. The focus of the narrative will lead us from Japheth to Ham and finally to Shem.
THE SONS OF JAPHETH
2 The sons of Japheth were Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and Meshech and Tiras.
3 And the sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz and Riphath and Togarmah. 4 And the sons of Javan were Elishah and Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim. 5 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. (Genesis 10:2-5).
For the most part, the descendants of Japheth make up the Indo-European peoples. The languages spoken by these people groups are related.
The descendants of Gomer
moved northward, skirting the Black Sea and then moved west into central
• Ashkenaz: The
people of Ashkenaz settled to the north of
Roman mythology had Ascanius
of Troy escaping the fall of
• Riphath: Josephus describes him as the ancestor of the Paphlagonians, a people who lived on the Black Sea to the
west of the
• Togarmah: Gave rise to the people of
The term “Magog” seems to
refer to the land or people of Gog. Josephus identified Magog
with the Scythians, but he seems to be using that as a general term for anyone
living north of
They settled to the east of
The descendants of Javan settled along the north Mediterranean coast and gave rise to a number of people groups.
• The Mycenaean Greeks.
• Early Italians and Latins.
• Later Hittites.
5. Tubal and Mechech: These two tribes settle in the mountains of
6. Tiras: Gave rise to the Thracians
THE SONS OF HAM
6 And the
sons of Ham were
7 And the
13 And Mizraim became the father of Ludim and Anamim and Lehabim and Naphtuhim 14 and Pathrusim and Casluhim (from which came the Philistines) and Caphtorim.
Canaan became the father of Sidon, his first‑born, and Heth 16 and the Jebusite and the
Amorite and the Girgashite 17 and the
Hivite and the Arkite and
the Sinite 18 and the Arvadite and the Zemarite and the Hamathite; and
afterward the families of the Canaanite were spread abroad. 19 And the
territory of the Canaanite extended from
20 These are the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, by their lands, by their nations. (Genesis 10:6-20).
While we can largely identify the sons of Japheth as being the Indo-European peoples, the descendants of Ham do not so easily fall into such a simple designation. There is not a single separate Hamitic language group that we find with the Indo-European or the Semitic languages. The languages spoken by the nations making up the sons of Ham are much more diversified.
This is the Hebrew term for
The name Nimrod seems to be derived from the Hebrew verb meaning, “to rebel.” If this is correct, then his name becomes indicative of his character and we can see a contrast between this man and Noah.
He built and ark and an altar.
He built a tower and a city.
He became a farmer.
He became a hunter.
His name means rest.
His name seems to mean rebel.
The Bible gives very little about Nimrod that is not
found in these verses. Micah 5:6 refers
Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it was through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers. (Antiquities 1:4:2).
Nimrod is described in the Biblical text as a
mighty hunter before the LORD (10:9).
Three different times in this passage, he will be called “mighty.” Judging from the fact that his kingdom was
Genesis 6:4 told of a time when there were mighty men who were of old. Now we read of one who is "the first to be a mighty man." What was the significance of Nimrod being a mighty hunter before the Lord?
• One possibility is that, after the devastation of the Flood, a great hunter would be acclaimed, both for being able to provide meat as well as for protection from carnivorous animals.
• The addition of the phrase "before the Lord" might simply be an old‑fashioned way of saying that he was considered the best in the land.
• It has also been suggested that Nimrod
was a hunter of men and that he was in rebellion before the Lord. In favor of this view is the mention of
In verses 10-11 we learn that Nimrod’s kingdom spanned
two great lands. It began in the
We have already described Noah as a second Adam who
goes out to replenish and fill the earth following its re-creation. We can also see Nimrod as a second Cain who
goes out from the presence of the Lord to build a city and a kingdom. The kingdom begins with
We can also see a contrast between Nimrod the mighty hunter versus the One who is still mightier, yet who chooses to call himself instead “the good shepherd.”
A mighty hunter
The good shepherd
He rules over
He rules over the New Jerusalem.
Rebellion against God.
Submission to God.
There is a sense in which you will find yourself serving one king or the other. You will either follow in the footsteps of the one who attempts to build up his own kingdom or else you will follow the One who gave His own life that we might enter His kingdom.
3. Mizraim: Mizraim became the father of Ludim and Anamim and Lehabim and Naphtuhim 14 and Pathrusim and Casluhim (from which came the Philistines) and Caphtorim (10:13-14).
Mizraim was the ancient name for the Egyptians. They settled up and down the
• Ludim. These
are the Lydians who lived in western
• Lehabim: Literally, “the flames.”
• Naphtuhim: This seems to be a reference to
• Pathrusim: Pathros is a reference to Upper Egypt and include the
• Casluhim (from which came the Philistines) and
The Casluhim and the Caphtorim
are both said to be the ancestors of the Philistines. Amos 9:7 describes the Philistines as being
from Caphtor. Caphtor is thought to be an ancient name for the
4. Put: This is thought to be ancient Lybia,
located to the west of
the territory of the Canaanite extended from
This narrow strip of land provided a land bridge from
• Heth (10:15). These are the forerunners of the original Hittites. However, these were eventually overrun and amalgamated with an Indo-European people who took for themselves the same name and eventually became the Hittite kingdom.
These were the original inhabitants of the city of
• The Amorites (10:16). Although the Amorites were a distinct people group, they grew so large that it became customary to speak of all Canaanites as Amorite.
THE SONS OF SHEM
also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber,
and the older brother of Japheth, children were born. 22 The
sons of Shem were
23 And the
24 And Arpachshad became the father of Shelah; and Shelah became the father of Eber. 25 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. 26 And Joktan became the father of Almodad and Sheleph and Hazarmaveth and Jerah 27 and Hadoram and Uzal and Diklah 28 and Obal and Abimael and Sheba 29 and Ophir and Havilah and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan. 30 Now their settlement extended from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the hill country of the east.
31 These are the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, by their lands, according to their nations. (Genesis 10:21-31).
The sons of Shem make up the Semitic peoples of the world. We tend to think of Semitic peoples and think primarily of Jews, but there are a great many others who would also be classified as Semitic.
Shem is said in verse 21 to be the father of all the children of Eber. The Israelites are told this so that they can be assured of their own place in this table of nations. The purpose of this account is so that they might know of their own place in the world.
2. Asshur: This was the ancient name
3. Arphachshad: We do not know the meaning of this name. Some have thought it to be related to the Hebrew word for “healing.” It is through him that Abraham and the Jews would be descended.
4. Lud: This may be a reference to
the Lydians who settled in southern
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. (Gensis 10:32).
are a total of 70 names given in this table of nations if we do not count the
three sons of Noah. This perfect number
will be significant later in the book of Genesis. When the Israelites enter into
7 Remember the days of old,
Consider the years of all generations.
Ask your father, and he will inform you,
Your elders, and they will tell you.
8 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
When He separated the sons of man,
He set the boundaries of the peoples
According to the
number of the sons of
9 For the Lord's portion is His people,
Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. (Deuteronomy 32:7‑9).
says that the boundaries of the peoples are according to the number of the
is seen in the ministry of Jesus when He appointed seventy disciples and sent
them out to every city and place where He Himself was going to come
(Luke 10:1). They were going out to the