GENESIS 10:1-32


            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.





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 curse upon Canaan and blessings upon the descendants of Shem and Japheth.  As we turn the page, we are brought into the fulfillment of that prophecy.  This shows the faithfulness of God in always keeping His promises.


2.         To give the background for the account of the Tower of Babel as well as the rest of Bible history.  This serves as a reminder that the book of Genesis is not a fictional story of mythological events.  It is a historical narrative about real people in real places.


3.         To follow the line of Canaan.  In keeping with the prophecy of Genesis 9, we learn exactly who is involves in the descendants of Canaan.


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 Israel.  Everyone needs to know who he is and how he fits into the world.  The Israelites had been a race of slaves.  They need to know that they are much more.  They are a chosen people who have been called by God for a special purpose.





Genesis 9:24-27 gives the prophecy of the future descendants of Noah.  It is a prophecy that foretold a curse upon Canaan and blessings for Shem and Japheth.


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.


Genesis 11 goes back and tells exactly how this division was accomplished in the confusion that took place at Babel.  Therefore there is a sense in which the action of Genesis 11 takes place BEFORE that of Genesis 10.  This is the normal pattern that we have seen in Genesis.  First we are given the overview, then we go back to look at the details.


Genesis 9:24-27

Genesis 10

Genesis 11

Prophecy of the nations

Table of nations

Division of the nations

Curse on Canaan

Description of Nimrod

Focus on Babel


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.





            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.


1.         Gomer.


The descendants of Gomer moved northward, skirting the Black Sea and then moved west into central Europe.  They gave rise to the Germans, the Gauls and the Celts.  Three groups are mentioned as coming from Gomer.


           Ashkenaz:   The people of Ashkenaz settled to the north of Mesopotamia near a lake that still bears the name Ascanius.  Ashkuza was the Assyrian word for the Scythians, the rugged horsemen who roamed the lands to the north of Assyria.


Roman mythology had Ascanius of Troy escaping the fall of Troy and journeying to Italy where he gave rise to the Latins.


           Riphath: Josephus describes him as the ancestor of the Paphlagonians, a people who lived on the Black Sea to the west of the Halys River.


           Togarmah: Gave rise to the people of Armenia.  Tradition has it that Togarmah was the ancestor of the Turkic‑speaking peoples.  Ezekiel 27:14 makes reference to the people of Togarmah trading in war horses and mules with the inhabitants of Tyre.


2.         Magog.


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 Mesopotamia.  This family settled to the north of the Caspian Sea and included settlements along the northeastern shores of the Black Sea.


3.         Madai.


They settled to the east of Mesopotamia and gave rise to a strong mountain people known as the Medes.  One branch of the Medes joined with the Semitic Elamites to form the Persians.


4.         Javan.


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.

           Early inhabitants of Spain.

           Later Hittites.


5.         Tubal and Mechech:  These two tribes settle in the mountains of Armenia to the north of Assyria.


6.         Tiras: Gave rise to the Thracians in northeastern Greece.





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

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

            8 Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD." 10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth‑Ir and Calah, 12 and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

            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.

            15 And 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 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.

            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.


1.         Cush.


This is the Hebrew term for Ethiopia, the lands along the Nile to the south of Egypt from the first to the sixth cataract.  Around 730 B.C. the kingdom of Cush conquered Egypt and the two kingdoms were joined for a period of sixty years until Egypt was invaded by the Assyrians.


Nimrod is called a “mighty hunter” while Esau is called a “skillful hunter.”  Both of these men demonstrated a desire for independence from God.

2.         Nimrod:  Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth (10:8).


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 to “the land of Nimrod” as a reference to Assyria.  In spite of this, a great many ancient legends have grown up around the person of Nimrod.  Josephus describes him as a rebel against God.


            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 centered at Babel, we can assume that his might was manifested in rebellion against God.  The motif of a mighty hunter king is common in antiquity.  Kings and pharaoh regularly had themselves depicted as victorious hunters.


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 Babel as the beginning of his kingdom and it subsequent history given in the next chapter.


Erech is 100 miles southeast of Babylon and was the legendary home of Gilgamesh, the hero of the Sumerian Epic.

In verses 10-11 we learn that Nimrod’s kingdom spanned two great lands.  It began in the land of Shinar and also took in the land of Assyria.  These lands encompass both southern and northern Mesopotamia, called thus by the Greeks because it was “the land between the two rivers.”


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 Babel, but it does not stop there.  It takes is a number of city-states throughout Mesopotamia.


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 Babel.

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 Nile River, for the ancient boarders of Egypt did not extend past the Nile River Valley.  This passage tells us of a number of other people groups that descend from Mizraim.


           Ludim.  These are the Lydians who lived in western Anatolia.




           Lehabim: Literally, “the flames.”


           Naphtuhim: This seems to be a reference to Lower Egypt.  The land of Egypt is divided into two parts.  Lower Egypt is in the north and takes in the Nile Delta.  Upper Egypt is in the south and involves the length of the Nile River.


           Pathrusim:  Pathros is a reference to Upper Egypt and include the cities of Luxor and Thebes.  The lands of upper and lower Egypt were considered by the Egyptians to be two separate lands joined under a single pharaoh.  Thousands of years later, this distinction would be maintained as the pharaoh’s crown would bear the symbols of both upper and lower Egypt.


           Casluhim (from which came the Philistines) and the Caphtorim:  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 island of Crete.  This was the home of the Minoan civilization and their colonies are in evidence throughout the Mediterranean world including the lands along the southern coasts of Israel.


4.         Put: This is thought to be ancient Lybia, located to the west of Egypt.


5.         Canaan: He is the son of Ham who had been cursed by Noah in the previous chapter.  This was especially sigificant to the Israelites to whom Moses wrote the book of Genesis, for they would soon be facing the Canaanites when they came into the land.  It is for this reason that we are told the specific boarders of the lands of Canaan.


            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. (Genesis 10:19).


This narrow strip of land provided a land bridge from Mesopotamia to Egypt.  It was strategically located at what was in that day the center of the world.  In addition to this territory, descendants of the Canaanites also gave rise to a number of other people groups.


           Sidon (10:15).  Sidon was a city located on the Mediterranean to the north of Israel.  It was the chief of the cities of the Phoenicians.  They went on to become a race of sailors whose ships traveled the length and breadth of the Mediterranean, planting colonies in Sicily, Spain and Africa.


           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.


           The Jebusites (10:16).  These were the original inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem.


           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.





            21 And 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 Elam and Asshur and Arpachshad and Lud and Aram.

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

            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.


1.         Elam: The Elamites settled to the east of Mesopotamia.  They later combined with the Medes to produce the Persians.


2.         Asshur: This was the ancient name of Assyria.  This is different from Syria.  The Assyrians lived in the northern part of Mesopotamia along the Tigris River.

Josephus maintained that Arphachshad was the ancestor of the Chaleans. (Antiquities 1:6:4).


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 Anatolia.


5.         Aram: Gave rise to the Aramaens.  Their capital city was Damascus and they spread out over the plains of Syria to the northeast of Canaan.





            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).


There 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 Egypt in the days of Joseph, we read that all the persons of the house of Jacob, who came to Egypt, were seventy (Genesis 46:27).  Is this merely a coincidence?  Not according to Moses.


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 Israel.

9 For the Lord's portion is His people,

            Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. (Deuteronomy 32:7‑9).


Moses says that the boundaries of the peoples are according to the number of the sons of Israel.  This means Israel will eventually be seen as a microcosm of the entire world.  What is true of Israel will also eventually be true for the world.  The blessing given to Israel in the Abrahamic covenant will extend outward to be a blessing to all men.


This 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 land of Israel, but that was only a precursor of the day when the disciples would be sent out to the whole world.


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