« Prev Chapter 10 Next »



IV. The History of the Sons of Noah

Quite naturally we ask after the story of the Flood, "How did the human race develop?" It is not the purpose of the author of Genesis to trace out this development. But there may be important facts in this connection that should be transmitted to the human race, facts that have not been preserved elsewhere and that form a part of the revealed truth which God deigns essential for man’s well-being. These facts will be covered very briefly in chapters ten and eleven (in part). Then we shall be ready to proceed with the history of the chosen people.

First, then, we are to be shown what peoples or races came from the three sons of Noah. It would seem quite natural that before the earth again became densely populated men still preserved an accurate tradition of how the various races had derived their ancestry from the three sons of Noah. Since this "Table of Nations" is inserted just prior to the story of Abraham, it seems most reasonable to conclude that the table represents the state of the nations of that time. This assumption has far more in favour of it than have the suggestions of the critics who first divide the chapter into two parts, assigned to P and J respectively, and then with great hesitation, or else with unwarranted confidence, assign to P some time like the eighth century or the time of Solomon (eleventh century B. C.), and to J, about the seventh century. When the eighth century is suggested, it is because Cimmerians (Gomer) then first appeared south of the Caucasus and so came to notice. Solomon’s time is suggested because certain Semitic tribes of Arabia would not 1.356appear to have been met with by Israel before this king’s trade ventures were undertaken. Or again, the mention of certain of the nations of the Table by later writers like Jeremiah and Ezekiel is treated as an indication of the time of the composition of this document. Behind all such late dates lies the assumption that Israel (or Moses) could not have a valid tradition about any people, except such a people had recently forged to the forefront, or unless Israel had established definite contact with them. It may be of interest to submit a sample of critical dissection: Verses 1-7, 20, 22, 23, 31, 32 are assigned to P (Procksch); J receives 8 b-19, 21, 25, 26, 27-30; the rest are glosses.

Apart from all this the list is severely criticized for not being more complete; for actually asserting that the three sons of Noah were the fathers of all races; for actually assuming that whole nations sprang from one forefather—a course of development for which, it is asserted, no parallel is historically known; and, lastly, for advancing certain claims which are not supported by any other historical documents.

However, each of these criticisms could rather constitute a distinct merit of this Table. So its incompleteness. For it transmits no more than its author or its time actually knew. Such fidelity in transmission of tradition, as Herder already indicated, is the mark of veracity. Then, where Noah’s three sons are classed as the only fathers of the race and by implication, of course, Noah as the one father, that preserves for us the knowledge of the unity of the human race, as Israel alone of all nations had preserved this most essential truth. Whatever narrowness may have marked the later Israel, the Israelites of olden times had a distinct consciousness of the unity of the race. No nation had such a universalistic point of view. All nations had lost the sense of the solidarity of the human race except Israel. But as for the third objection, it must simply 1.357be noted that where other nations had largely lost the record of their beginnings, Israel had preserved its own record as well as those of others. When, then, one ancestor is assigned to a people, that fact need not exclude the gradual assimilation of other ethnic groups or tribes. But on the fourth objection we can only say that critics should prove grateful for this additional information derived from Israel’s sacred writings. None of the additional information offered has ever been disproved, and, besides, secular writers are not at once rejected if they happen to stand alone in a claim that they make. Consequently, we must regard this document as a true and reliable testimony to the unity of the human race as well as of the development of the race from the three sons of Noah, and must be thankful for this indication of the breadth of view and universalistic standpoint of the Scriptures. At certain points in the Table it will be impossible for us to determine whether the actual ancestor’s name is preserved or only the name of. the tribe (cf. v. 16, Jebusite, Amorite, Girgashite, etc.) or the name of the people (cf. v. 13, Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, etc., all plural nouns). But even the tribal or national name may be derived from the actual ancestor. But if names. like Sheba appear v. 7 under Ham’s descendants as well as v. 28 under Shem’s descendants, then we must allow either for two persons of the same name, or else for the possibility of intermarriage, whereby two different racial groups blended. Cf. also Havilah v. 7 and Havilah v. 28.

It would seem most reasonable to expect that the possibility of identifying all these peoples must needs be very slight. Nevertheless, since Samuel Borchart (1681) and Knobel (1850) made extensive investigations on the subject, a fair measure of certainty attaches to the study of the subject: Inscriptions on monuments have contributed substantiation.

1.358The claim that these names are eponymous, that is to say, that fabled ancestors are assigned to various nations, as Rome was wont to consider Romulus and Remus its founders—this claim, we say, is merely an attempt to measure the sound tradition of Israel by the legends of classical nations. As a sound testimony to the unity of the human race and as a strong bulwark against foolish racial prejudice, this chapter serves a most excellent purpose.

No nation of antiquity has anything to offer that presents an actual parallel to this Table of Nations. Babylonian and Egyptian lists that seem to parallel this are merely a record of nations conquered in war. Consequently, the spirit that prompted the making of such lists is the very opposite of the spirit that the Biblical list breathes.

1. This is the history of the sons of Noah—Shem, Ham and Japheth—and (in fact) sons were born unto them (only) after the Flood.

On the word for "history" (toledôth) see Gen. 2:4. It is quite proper to call this tenth chapter plus the first part of the eleventh (v. 1-9)"the history" of the sons of Noah, inasmuch, as in brief form this account tells at least how these sons of Noah in their progeny spread abroad upon the face of the earth. History condensed is still history.

The names of the three sons of Noah are again appended so that we may be sure that only these three actually were the sons of Noah also after the Flood. For the possibility of the birth of other sons of Noah after the Flood might occur to us. This concise way of putting the matter indicates that none were born to Noah after the Flood. However, on the other hand, to the sons of Noah children were born only after the Flood. This fact may seem strange, but it was apparently so ordered by Providence. This is the meaning 1.359of the last clause, and therefore we have inserted an interpretative "only." The "and" connecting the two halves, of the verse is one of the many instances where it bears the meaning "and in fact" (und zwar).

(a) The Sons of Japheth (v. 2-5)

2. The sons of Japheth: Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and Meshech and Tiras.

We shall identify these various nations briefly without going into lengthy detail, for commentaries offer a fair measure of unanimity, especially since monumental inscriptions serve to confirm the historical character of many of the earlier names in the list. For details on identification Skinner presents much valuable material. Most reliable is Koenig (K. C.).

Now the Japhethites are the ones we are wont to identify with the Indo-Europeans. Just how the table of the Japhethites arranges itself is made apparent by the following outline.


At once it becomes apparent, as a comparison with the outlines for Shem and for Ham will suggest, that the author seems to know least about Japheth, or else there was no more about Japheth to report. This latter possibility is not so very remote. It is well known how certain families just keep subdividing to a certain point. So no further divisions are reported for Magog, Madai, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras. Three descendants of Gomer are listed and four of Javan.

"Gomer" is identified with the Cimmerians of the Greeks (Κιμμέϱιοι). They came from the Caucasus 1.360into Asia Minor settling south of the Black Sea. In the reign of Sargon they are mentioned as Gimirrai.

"Magog," according to Josephus, represents the ancient Scythian hordes, found originally southeast of the Black Sea. Perhaps they are the Massagetes who defeated Cyrus. Ezekiel mentions them Ezek. 38:2; 39:6.

"Madai" are the Medes, found southeast of Magog and southwest of the Caspian Sea. This name appears rather frequently in the Scriptures, as any concordance will indicate. The Assyrian has Madai too.

"Javan," distinctly related to the Greek Ἰωύαν, are the Ionians, which name, after Alexander the Great, was applied to all Greeks. It is found repeatedly in the Old Testament, being translated "Javan" in the parallel passage of 1 Chron. 1:5, 7, as also in Isa. 66:19; Eze. 27:13, 19, but translated as "Greece" or "Greecia" in Dan. 3:21; 10:20; 11:2; Zec. 9:13; and Joel 3:6 (plural). Western Asia Minor is the original seat of Javan.

"Tubal" is to be assigned to the eastern part of Asia Minor. The Assyrians knew this nation as Tabal. They are the old Tibarenians. In the Scriptures they are almost regularly associated with Meshech; cf. Eze. 27:13; 32:26; 38:2, 3; 39:1. In Isa. 66:19 with Javan.

"Meshech" are known to Herodotus as Μόσχοι. They dwelt at the southwestern corner of the Black Sea. The Assyrians knew them as Muskâya or coupled them on the monuments with Tubal, thus: Tabali and Muski (in Sargon’s inscription).

"Tiras" seems to refer to Pelasgians of the Aegean Sea, a pirate nation known as Τορσηνοί, who terrorized the whole neighbourhood. They might be identified with the later E-trus-cans of Italy.

Now, indeed, these are all names of individuals, who are to be regarded as founders of the various nationalities bearing their names.

1.3613. And the sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz and Riphath and Togarmah.

"Ashkenaz" might be identified with Ascanius, the name of a sea in Bithynia. Assyriologists point the name Asguza, people who settled near Lake Urumia. In any case, Jewish tradition identifies this name with the Germans, for whom (or for the German Jews) it is used to this day. Perhaps more truth inheres in this tradition than men are wont to admit. From their old seat in Asia Minor these Indo-Europeans may have migrated to Germany, a thought found even in Luther.

"Riphath," most likely, refers to the Paphlagonians who dwelt by the river Rhebas (Ῥῆβας). Others would place them farther west near the Bosphorus. "Togarmah" is identified by Delitzsch with Tilgarimmu in Cappadocia.

4. And the sons of Javan: Ellshah and Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim.

If Javan be the Ionians, then these are all kin to the Greeks. "Elishah" should then be referred to the district Elis. Many reject this; but "modern opinion is greatly divided." Alasia on Cyprus, referred to in the Tell-el-Amarna tablets, seems most satisfactory to some.

"Tarshish" must be the old city of Tartessus in southern Spain. The name occurs frequently in the Scriptures. Tarsus in Cilicia seems an ill-founded suggestion.

"Kittim" is a plural noun referring to those who dwelt on the east coast of Cyprus. This name, too, is found rather frequently in the Scriptures; cf. Num. 24:24; Jer. 2:10; Eze. 27:6 etc.

"Dodanim" is another plural noun. Perhaps the ancient seat of the oracle at Dodona gives us a clue to the locality, which we should then seek in northern Greece. It hardly seems that "Rodanim" (1 Chron. 1:7) needs 1.362to be considered, for the marginal Keri there too suggests "Dodanim."

So the Japhethites are seen to be spread abroad over a well-defined area extending from Spain to Media and pretty much in one straight line from east to west. The enumeration, however, does not proceed in geographical sequence, apparently for the reason that the descendants are listed according to their age.

5. It is of these that the islands of the nations were populated according to their countries, every man with his own language, according to their class among the nations.

This summarizing verse recalls what portion of the world was really held in possession by the Japhethites. As we said above immediately preceding v. 5, that the territory "from Spain (through Asia Minor) to Media" is involved, so the author says the same thing in the terminology of his day, For "the islands of the nations" are really the Mediterranean coast line (’iyyeyGestade, K. W.) including the Black Sea coast line, one broad strip from west to east. To complete this picture the author recalls for us how these Japhethites each had their country and separate language, and were still dwelling in tribal divisions or clans in the midst of their particular nation. Consequently, the be before the last word is rather to be taken in its usual sense "in" rather than as a "be of norm" as K. S. would make of it (332 r). The emphasis of the initial me’élleh is best retained by a rendering like: "It is of these," etc.

(b) The Sons of Ham (6-20)

The following diagram shows at a glance how this list subdivides itself.1.363


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

"Cush," whose various subdivisions are recorded in v. 7, represents the land of Ethiopia to the south of Egypt, but at the same time the Cushites are found extending eastward into Arabia. However, it seems rather to correspond primarily to the present-day Nubia, (Procksch, Jeremias) which lies north of the country of Ethiopia, as we now know it. Yet in days of old Cush extended indefinitely to the south. Just 1.364because we happen to know (2 Kings 19:9; Isa. 37:9) that the Ethiopians under Tirhakah (about 759 B. C.) clashed with Sennacherib and so definitely came to the notice of the Israelites, that does not exclude earlier knowledge of a people so prominent in antiquity and again offers no clue to a late date of the Table of Nations. The Tell-el-Amarna Tablets call the land Kashi.

"Mizraim" definitely is Egypt. The dual form is due to the division of that country into Upper and Lower Egypt. The name may not be of Egyptian origin, but about its meaning there is no doubt.

"Put" is commonly identified with the country known to the ancients as Punt, lying in East Africa (Somaliland) and extending over into southern Arabia. It was famous for its incense. Another land is chosen by some commentators (Keil, Skinner), who think of Libya on the northern coast of Africa, west of Egypt.

"Canaan" is, of course, the land of Canaan. The son is the same one referred to in 9:22, 25.

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

These must all be Ethiopian tribes.

"Seba" would seem to have been the land around the ancient city of Meroë, in upper Egypt on the Nile, for this city is known to Josephus as Σαβὰ πόλις, the city of Saba.

"Havilah," as a name, means "sandland." It would seem to cover certain Arabic tribes, some of Hamitic extraction, some of Semitic (v. 29), located near "Seba."

"Sabtah" must also be an Ethiopic group, though it is usually identified with the city in Arabia called Sabbatha, famous in days of old for its sixty temples and its trade in incense.

"Raamah" seems to be a tribe of Sabaeans in southwest Arabia.

1.365"Sabteca" represents that branch of the Ethiopians which lay farthest to the east, namely, east of the Persian gulf, where Samuthake (Σαμυθάκη) lay, a name which bears resemblance to Sabteca.

"Sheba," descended from Raamah and thus representing the third generation from Ham, is also mentioned because the kingdom of Sheba was particularly famous; and the land does happen to be referred to rather frequently in the Bible. Southwestern Arabia must again be meant. Incense was also an outstanding product of this land.

"Dedan" is sought in different parts of Arabia, northwest, southeast, southwest. The last seems most likely.

8, 9. Cush begat Nimrod; he was the first tyrant upon earth. He was a mighty hunter in the sight of Yahweh; wherefore it is said: A mighty hunter in the sight of Yahweh as Nimrod was.

Here the type of presentation that has prevailed through the chapter to this point is abandoned and a digression is made by the author. Since the first half of the verse already allows itself a different mode of speech than the preceding (yaladh= "beget"), this half-verse is promptly stamped as interpolation, the assumption being that no author could have had the least of flexibility of style. For like reasons many hold that with v. 8b the material must be assigned to J.

In any case, we have here a set of facts about the origin of the Babylonian empire, facts found nowhere else among the records of antiquity. The strangest part about the whole account is that Babylonia and Assyria originated with men of Hamitic descent. When the Bible stands alone in reporting, a matter of history, the prevailing tendency is to discredit the Biblical statement. Yet in many other instances statements from other sources are accepted 1.366as satisfactory upon the testimony of a single witness. Why discriminate thus against the Scriptures?

The course that our interpretation of these two verses takes will be determined very largely by the meaning of the word "Nimrod." For the meaning of the verbform nimrodh, without a doubt, is "let us revolt." Now the other words employed are, if left by themselves, either good or evil in their connotation, depending on the connection in which they appear. Gibbor may mean "hero" or "tyrant." "Hunter" (gibbor tsáyidh) may be a harmless hunter of the fields, or he may be one who hunts men to enslave them. The phrase, "in the sight of Yahweh," in itself expresses neither approval nor disapproval. But each of these terms acquires a bad sense in the light of the name "Nimrod." The tendency of this Cushite must have been to rise up against, and to attempt to overthrow, all existing order. In fact, he must have used this motto so frequently in exhorting others to rebellion, that finally it was applied to him as a name descriptive of the basic trait of his character. If this be so, then gibbor must be rendered "tyrant," or "despot"—a use of the word found also Ps. 52:1, 3; and Ps. 120:4, for which passages K. W. justly claims the meaning Gewaltmensch. So this inciter to revolt (Nimrod) came to be the first tyrant upon the earth, oppressing others and using them for the furtherance of his own interests.

Now what follows might, perhaps, by itself be taken to refer to hunting in the customary sense, were it not for the phrase "in the sight of Yahweh." For a very questionable meaning results if this phrase (liphne Yahweh) be rendered "in the estimation of Yahweh," nach dem Urteile Yahwehs (K. C. and others). For such a rendering would in a measure constitute a kind of superlative (K. S. 309 1), but a superlative that bears the meaning that even Yahweh 1.367was impressed by this hunter’s prowess and achievements—a thought that strikes us as involving a rather trivial conception of God. For man’s little hunting exploits are hardly sufficient to rouse the wonder and admiration of the Almighty. Besides, in this case the name of Yahweh is used, i. e., the God of mercy and covenant. So the meaning, claimed also by B D B for this passage: "in the sight of (estimation)" will have to be abandoned and the other, offered by B D B under (c) or (d) will have to be applied here: either "in the full (mental) view of" as in Gen. 6:13 and Lam. 1:22, or "openly before" as in 1 Sam. 12:2 or in Gen. 17:1. Our objection above applies also to 2 Kings 5:1, which refers only to man’s esteem. What the phrase then means in this connection is that the gross violation of men’s rights, that this mighty hunter of men became guilty of, did not elude the watchful eye of Him, who in mercy regards the welfare of men, Yahweh, but the fact was openly before Him, even if He did not at once proceed to take vengeance upon the despot. So the expression "mighty hunter" does not refer to exploits in bagging game. In fact, since gibbor in v. 8 means "tyrant" (Meek correctly: "despot"), gibbor tsáyidh of v. 9 should be rendered as "a tyrant or despot of hunt," which plainly indicates that men and not beasts were hunted.

Consequently, also the proverbial expression (cf. 1 Sam. 19:24; 10:12; Gen. 22:14 etc.) that arose at this time when, apparently, others too began to engage in the sport of hunting men in order to tyrannize or enslave them, must be taken in the same sense.

The critical attempts to find Babylonian parallels for Nimrod are a bit amusing. It is admitted by the extreme critics, on the one hand, that "a perfectly convincing Assyriological prototype of the figure of Nimrod has not as yet been discovered." On the other hand, Jeremias is so sure that one ought to exist in 1.368the person of Gilgamesch, that he even invents a Babylonian name for him that the Babylonians could have used, nâmir-uddu, i. e., "shining light." What an absurd scientific method—manufacturing the desired evidence! Procksch veers into astral myths and makes Nimrod out to be a constellation, Orion—mirable dictu!

10-12. The beginning of his kingdom was Babylon, and Erech and Akkad and Calneh in the land of Shinar. From that region he went forth to Assyria and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-ir, and Calah and Resen, between Nineveh and Calah—this is that great city.

Here is the real story of the founding of empires, for that matter, of the first empires: Having the type of character that we find described in v. 8, 9 in the person of Nimrod, we must needs regard both Babylon and Assyria as exponents of the spirit of this world. This attitude over against Babylon is the attitude of the Scriptures in prophetic utterances (cf. Isa. 13, also Isa. 47) as well as in the book of Revelation (18:21). These early kingdoms or empires are, therefore, not to be regarded as useful institutions, guaranteeing law and order in a troubled world, but rather as the achievements of a lawless fellow who taught men to revolt against duly constituted authority.

His first undertaking in this direction is Babylon. Our chief difficulty is to determine the correct relation of this account to the account of the origin of the name Babylon ("confusion"), as set down Gen. 11:1-9. Our impression of the matter is this: since v. 11 distinctly says, "he built Nineveh," but v. 10 does not ascribe the building of Babylon to him, it may well be that Nimrod merely took over the existing city Babel and made it the beginning of his kingdom; then joined the other cities to this mother city. So, in reality, chapter eleven would antedate this portion of chapter ten. If it be claimed that the Babylonian name Bâbilu means "gate of God," we need not deny that the Babylonians may have built this more acceptable name upon the one that the Bible offers as connected with the confusion of tongues. Yet, for all that, the truth of the Biblical account on this matter may be regarded as unimpaired.

Now Erech lies southeast of Babylon, a distance of slightly more than one hundred miles. Akkad lies in Northbabylon; Calneh somewhere in the neighbourhood, but cuneiform inscriptions do not seem to have identified it. So these four cities in the land of Shinar mark a kind of initial empire. For such cities in days of old regularly had each its own king and therefore counted as so many separate kingdoms. "Shinar" is Babylon, perhaps allied to Shumir (Sumerians).

Now A. V. renders v. 11: "Out of that land went forth Asshur and builded Nineveh." Though this translation is grammatically possible, it fails to do justice to what is implied in v. 10, which speaks of the beginning of his kingdom as though it were leading up to the next step of his empire building, which now v. 11 offers. Our rendering of v. 11, then, presupposes that "Asshur" lacks the ending (ah) which usually indicates place to which, but is also frequently omitted. It shows Nimrod’s second venture in empire building and avoids bringing in a mysterious "Asshur" of whom the Scripture has nothing more to tell. The nucleus of this second undertaking was "Nineveh," known in cuneiform inscriptions as Ninaa or Ninua, and situated on the upper Tigris opposite the present Mosul. This city, we remark again, was actually founded by Nimrod: he "built" it. But similarly as in the case of Babylon there are sister or daughter cities that make a complex of cities around which the kingdom grows. Of these "Rehoboth-ir" is mentioned first. There is the possibility that this name is used to designate a suburb or suburbs of Nineveh, since the 1.370name signifies "broad places of the city"; then it might be the Assyrian rêbit Ninâ The next city of this aggregation is "Calah," identified in cuneiform writing as Kalchu, which lay near the confluence of the Tigris and the upper Zab. Then there is "Resen," which according to the text lay between Nineveh and Calah. The author’s concluding remark, written by him, no doubt, after Nineveh was already known as a metropolis of no mean proportion, runs thus: "This is that great city." Of course, this refers to Nineveh and shows what component parts went to make it such an outstanding city or city state. This concluding statement fits in so very naturally here, that there is no valid reason for calling these last three words a gloss. With these words the interesting bit of information about this famous Cushite or Ethiopian closes. A valuable bit of information as to the origin of the kingdoms of the world is thus supplied.

13, 14. And Mizraim begat the Ludim and the Anamim and the Lehabim and the Naphtuchim; and the Pathrusim and the Casluchim (from whom went out the Philistines) and the Kaphtorim.

Now Mizraim, as pointed out above in v. 6, is Egypt. Consequently, a statement like: "Egypt begat the Ludim," etc., must mean: "from the Egyptians sprang the Ludim," etc. These nations, then, kin to the Egyptians, may have played a more or less important part in days of old but can now in some instances scarcely be identified. The "Ludim" may have dwelt near Egypt, west of the Nile delta. The "Anamim" are usually thought of as having occupied an oasis west of Egypt. The "Lehabim" do seem to bear a name akin to that of the old Libyans, west of Egypt on the north coast of Africa.

For "Naphtuchim" two explanations are given, which, however, arrive at the same result. It is claimed that naptah in Egyptian means "the people of Ptah," 1.371who was revered in Memphis and vicinity (Ebers). But Brugsch takes the Egyptian word p-to-(e)m-hitj, which means North-Egypt (cf. K. W. and BDB).

But the "Pathrusim" must have inhabited South or Upper Egypt, for p(ĕ)-tĕ-res means "south land" (BDB).

14. The "Casluchim" present difficulties. Some claim: "not identified." However, the suggestion that their land is to be sought near Mons Casius, east of the delta of the Nile, is not out of harmony with what preceded.

Special difficulty seems to grow out of the fact that the "Philistines" are now said to have gone out from the Casluchim. For Amos 9:7 informs us that the Philistines hail from Caphtor, that is to say, from the island of Crete. However, the remark of Amos need not rule out the claim of our passage. Most likely, Amos lays down the major fact: Crete is primarily the original home of the Philistines. For that matter, since according to our explanation the Casluchim are found just a bit farther along the coast of the Mediterranean, namely toward the southwest, they may originally even have come from Crete. Being near to the Egyptians, they may have assimilated enough of the Egyptian mode of life and intermarried with Egyptians sufficiently to deserve to be classed among the nations allied to the Egyptians. Then, however, their parallel affinity to those Cretans settled in the land of Philistia may have impelled them to "go out" from thence and settle in Philistia. If Moses reports this, the event naturally took place before his time. Nor is this assumption at all in conflict with the claim raised by a number of scholars, namely that both Casluchim and Philistines are a deposit resulting from swarms of "maritime nations" (Seevoelker, K. W.) that overran the eastern end of the Mediterranean and even Egypt 1.372in the twelfth century B. C. In fact, successive waves of these nations swooping down from Asia Minor to Crete and beyond are quite reasonably the greatest likelihood. Even more such surging waves may have come than history knows of. That would, then, also help account for the fact that the Philistines after disastrous defeats by Israel keep bobbing up always surprisingly strong. Moses seems to have a complete line of information on all these events involved in the early history of the nations. He also knows that Caphtor (Crete) is chiefly the home of the Philistines and he knows whom they displaced in Canaan: The Avvim (Deut. 2:23). Criticism places too much confidence in its own precarious reconstruction of history and too little confidence in the Biblical records, when it remarks, that this assumption of J that already in Abraham’s time (21:32) the Philistines are in the land "is, of course, an anachronism, since they first came there in the twelfth century" (Procksch).

15-19. And Canaan begat Sidon, his first-born, and Heth and the Jebusite and the Amorite and the Girgashite and the Hivite and the Arkite and the Sinite and the Arvadite and the Zemarite and the Hamathite. And afterward were the families (tribes) of the Canaanites scattered abroad, so that the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and over toward Sodom and Gomorrah and Admah and Zeboiyim, even unto Lasha.

Now the Canaanites are treated, because Moses knew that Israel’s associations with these people were destined to be many (cf. Gen. 15:16; 46:4 etc.), and Israel must also definitely know who were Canaanites and who not, because of Israel’s duty to drive them out of the land of Canaan (Deut. 20:17 and parallels). Statements like the first need not be pressed, where Moses says "Canaan begat Sidon." This may mean that there 1.373actually was a son by that name, or that the Sidonites are descended from one of the descendants of Canaan. In this instance the issue is settled by the fact that "Sidon" is described as the "first-born." That clinches the fact that he was an individual and makes it most likely that "Heth," too, was an individual. However, in the list that follows we shall never be able to determine whether names like "Jebusite" involve an ancestor with the actual name of Jebus.

"Sidon" appears as the great Phoenician city of later date. Josh. 11:8; 19:28 it is still "great Zidon" (or "Sidon"). Later Tyre, twenty miles to the south, distinctly overshadows Sidon.

"Heth" is the father of the famous Hittites, who first appear around Hebron in Abraham’s time, but the greater number of whom seem to have concentrated around the Orontes River and thence extended over toward the Euphrates, holding the famous city Carchemish. This is the nation whose existence was doubted, though claimed apparently only by the Bible. More recent discoveries have proved not only that the nation existed but that it was a formidable one.

The "Jebusite" (singular, collective, as throughout the rest of the list, K. S. 256e) centred about Jerusalem.

The "Amorite" dwelled mostly in the mountains, especially around the Lebanon range. The Assyrians called them Amurri. They are so prominent at the time of the Conquest that oftentimes all Canaanites are simply called Amorites (cf. Exod. 3:8; 3:17, 13:5 etc.).

The "Girgashite"—not definitely located in Canaan. The "Hivite" mostly in the central portion. The "Arkite" may have dwelt in Arke to the north, Tell ‘Arka, north of Tripolis, which again lay north of Sidon. The "Sinite" should, no doubt, be placed near the Arkites. The "Arvadite" belongs apparently in the vicinity of the island city Aradus, also north of 1.374Tripolis. Likewise the "Zemarite" may have a remnant of its name in Tsumra, north of Tripolis. "Hamathite," without a doubt, must be identified with the ancient and well-known Hamath on the Orontes River; Assyrian: Emû.

18 b. While we have thus far seen the original Canaanite tribes and approximately their place of settlement, which was mostly along the coast, we are now informed that they spread out or "were spread abroad" (BDB), naphótsû, Nifal from pûts. These original "families" or "clans" (mispechôth) now do not seem to have maintained their strength to the north. For the so-called "territory of the Canaanites" extended only from Sidon southward in the direction of the famous stronghold "Gerar," but not entirely toward Gerar but only to Gaza. For "toward Gerar" the Hebrew has an idiom with impersonal use of the second person, namely "as thou goest toward Gerar," (bo’akhah, Kal participle: "thou going," K. S. 324 b; 402 a; G. K. 144 h). The suffix of this participle appears written plene. But toward the east and south the Canaanite territory extended in the direction of the cities to the southern end of the Dead Sea; "Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiyim." The last two of these are not identified but are merely associated with the overthrow of the whole group in their destruction.

"Lasha" may be on the west shore of the Dead Sea, Jerome, at least, placed it at Callirhoë, on the east of the Dead Sea, the site of the later famous "Baths of Herod."

20. These are the sons of Ham according to their clans and languages in their countries among the nations.

See v. 5 above. This summarizing verse for the Hamites, differing slightly from v. 5 in its arrangement of terms, is essentially the same as that verse. The original stock to which the parts belonged 1.375("clans") as well as "the languages" were the principles determining the division.

(c) The Sons of Shem (v. 21-31)

21. Children were born also to Shem, the father of all the sons of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth.

According to his custom Moses disposes first of all the matters less relevant to his purpose. His book from this point forward is concerned almost exclusively with Shemites, therefore they must come last in the Table. At once, however, we are also informed of the fact that for the writer the most prominent branch of the Shemites are "the sons of Eber," that is to say, the Hebrews. Yet Hebrews must be regarded as a much broader term than Israelites. For "Eber" as a term primarily means "across" or "the region across the Euphrates River," for it was from this place that Eber himself came (thence his name), even though later such as the Edomites and Ishmaelites bore this name. The term, as we believe Koenig rightly contends (K. W. p. 312), is not identical with the term "Chabiri" mentioned in the Tell-el-Amarna tablets and found making incursions from the south into Canaan in the pre-Israelite days. Besides, though Shem’s descendants are mentioned last, we are not on that account to suppose that Shem was the youngest son of Noah. Therefore we read that he was "the elder brother of Japheth." Japheth is mentioned by way of comparison because Shem really had more affinity with Japheth than with Ham.

Shem’s descendants are to be graphed as follows:1.376


22-24. The sons of Shem: Elam and Asshur and Arpachshad and Lud and Aram. And the sons of Aram: Uz and Hul and Gerber and Mash. And Arpachshad begat Shelah, and Shelah begat Eber.

"Elam" is the country east of the Tigris River. The Assyrians speak of it as Elamtu meaning "highland." Its ancient capital was Shushan.

1.377"Asshur," used in the Bible sometimes for the personal ancestor, sometimes for the people, sometimes for the land, is Assyria, called Asshur by the old Assyrians themselves. The land originally lay east of the Tigris at the Upper Zab.

"Arpachshad" is usually regarded as referring to the country Arrapachitis on the Upper Zab northeast from Nineveh; Assyrian Arbacha.

"Lud" may refer to the Lydians in Asia Minor, of whom Herodotus already reports that they counted themselves to have sprung from Nineveh, a Semite City. Procksch merely makes an untenable statement when he says that for the Lydians in Asia Minor "Semitic origin is simply out of the question."

"Aram" represents the later Aramaeans who dwelt northeast of Palestine. They are in the Bible usually referred to by the name "Syrians." K. C. points out that none of the divisions which later became known as being Aramaeans are listed here, such as: Aramdammeseq, Aram-Soba, Aram-beth-rechob, Aram-ma-acha. We should consider this fact an indication of the great age of this table.

23. Under the persons (or lands, or peoples) derived from Aram are listed:

"Uz," concerning which name we know practically only that it represents a division of Aramaeans. Concerning "Gether" and "Hul" the situation is the same. "Mash" might, be Mons Masius, "north of Nisibis (between Armenia and Mesopotamia)."‘

Then the line of Arpachshad is traced through several successive generations apparently: "Shelah," of whom we know nothing, "Eber," discussed above on v. 21. Eber has two sons. The first is Peleg, the second Joktan.

25. And unto Eber there were born two sons, the name of the one was Peleg—for in his time 1.378the earth was divided—and the name of his brother, Joktan.

A verse such as this makes it highly probable that in the lists of the various descendants, that we have had thus far, the names used actually were the names of individual persons. For here Peleg and Joktan are distinctly called "sons," and one is said to be the "brother" of the other. "Peleg" means "division," for he lived at the time when the earth was divided (niphlegah) and the name given to the man is in memory of this event. The event referred to in chapter eleven must be the one under consideration—the Confusion of Tongues. Nothing more is told about Peleg. He may have been the father of a people, he may not. However, "Joktan" was the father of numerous offspring, all of whom appear to be founders of Arabic tribes, especially those of Yemen. Aside from this fact very little is known concerning the tribe names about to be given in v. 26-29.

26-29. And Joktan begat Almodad and Sheleph and Hazarmaveth and Jerah; and Hadoram and Uzal and Diklah; and Obal and Abimael and Sheba; and Ophir and Havilah and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.

"Almodad" is some south-Arabic people. The "al" may represent the Hebrew "el," i. e., God. So the name may mean Modad is God. "Sheleph" belongs into the same neighbourhood. "Hazarmaveth" seems to be a form derived from Hadramant, which lies in southeastern. Arabia, a region from which myrrh used to be exported. "Jerah" again may be another name for the moon, and so the name of a tribe that worshipped the moon-god.

27. "Hadoram" must have represented some other group in Arabia, toward the south. "Uzal" is claimed to have been an old name of the capital city of, the district Yemen. Since "Diklah" is allied to the 1.379Arabic name for a date-palm, this name may refer to a tribe that dwelt in a region where date-palms abounded.

28. About "Obal" and "Abimael" we know nothing except that they must belong somewhere in Arabia. "Sheba," as to form, is identical with the Sheba of v. 7. Since we there located it in southwestern Arabia, though involving a Hamite group, we must admit the suitability of this location for a Semitic tribe. In some manner that we cannot now determine there must have been a blending of the Hamitic and the Semitic in this people.

29. "Ophir," then, would seem to belong, as do all these other sons of Shem, into southern Arabia, not in India, as is commonly conjectured, nor in East Africa. "Havilah," mentioned in v. 7 also, must present a situation analogous to that of Sheba—a blending of the Hamitic and the Semitic element. "Jobab," not located, is the last member of the group. Since thirteen descendants of one man is a surprisingly large number, the verse closes by reassuring us that these all actually were descended from Joktan.

30. The section inhabited by them extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar, to the eastern mountains.

The Hebrew expression literally runs thus: "And their dwellings were from Mesha as thou goest to Sephar." In present-day English that must mean something like what our rendering presents. On "as thou goest" see v. 19. Though both "Mesha" and "Sephar" must lie in southern Arabia, we know too little about their location to be able to understand the bearing of the verse.

31. These are the sons of Shem according to their clans and languages in their lands according to their nations.

1.380In substance this verse agrees with v. 20.

32. These are the tribes of the sons of Noah according to their branches among their various nationalities. From these were the nations of the earth spread abroad after the flood.

This final summary binds together the three main branches (tôledôth) of the human race. Apparently, the last statement leaves us under the impression that all the nations of the earth spreading abroad after the Flood came from this stock. How such racial groups as the Mongolians or Chinese or North American Indians and the like fit into this picture has not yet been discerned. Some count exactly seventy descendants of Noah in this list (Delitzsch). Others arrive at a total of sixty-eight. Koenig counts seventy-one. To insist on the symbolical number seventy is hardly warranted.


It may very well be questioned whether a man should ever preach on a chapter such as this. It could be expounded in adult Bible class study, and even then a summary view of the whole chapter and its purpose might meet all needs. Perhaps the section v. 8-11 could be used on occasion to set forth the story of the origin of the kingdoms of this world and their basic character. But such a sermon might have too little gospel content and be largely negative in character, showing what the kingdom of God is not.

« Prev Chapter 10 Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection