This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
After the Flood, the peoples began to spread out upon the face of the earth. This chapter is often called the Table of Nations, because it lists the nations that descended from Noah through his three sons. A major problem is presented by this chapter. A handout that contains more details of the individual nations can be found here.
1 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.
The list of sons (and their descendants) begins with the youngest son, Japheth, in order to emphasize the oldest son, Shem, at the end of the list (through whom the Messiah would come).
2 The sons of Japheth were Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and Meshech and Tiras. 3 The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz and Riphath and Togarmah. 4 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.
The sons and tribes of Japheth seem to have moved north and west into the Indo-European parts of the world.
Ham is the next son of Noah that is listed.
6 The sons of Ham were Cush and Mizraim and Put and Canaan. 7 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 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 Mizraim became the father of Ludim and Anamim and Lehabim and Naphtuhim 14 and Pathrusim and Casluhim (from which came the Philistines) and Caphtorim.
The sons and tribes of Ham spread south out into Africa and east into Asia. There is a note that identifies Nimrod as a mighty one upon the earth. He was the first king who was building his empire in Babel and surrounding lands within the region of Shinar.
Of course, the Canaanites were settled in modern day Israel and Palestine, which is the Promised Land. Hence, the Israelites have often been at war with the Canaanites (cf. 9:26-27).
15 Canaan became the father of Sidon, his firstborn, 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 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.
The sons of Shem are listed last in the list.
21 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 The sons of Aram were Uz and Hul and Gether and Mash. 24 Arpachshad became the father of Shelah; and Shelah became the father of Eber. 25 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 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.
The Israelites were descended through Shem through Eber and Peleg. There is a note that identifies the time of Peleg as being when the earth was divided. This cannot refer to the breaking apart of the continents as some have supposed, for that would have been a world-wide disaster that few would have survived. It seems better to place the division of the continents during the Flood when the floodgates of the earth opened up. Most likely, the event that occurred during the days of Peleg was the division of the people of the earth due to the sudden development of languages (see next chapter).
32 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.
When we study the Bible, one of the questions we want to keep in mind is: why is this text here? Why did the Holy Spirit consider this important enough to be incorporated into Holy Scripture? If ALL Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that we would be adequate and equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17), then how is that true of this chapter?
This chapter introduces a problem. As the readers, we are awaiting a Savior, the Seed of the woman that God promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This seed was to come and deal with the sin problem. In just a few generations after the Flood, the earth was being repopulated and divided among the people groups. With people spreading all throughout the world, being grouped by their tribes and nations, we should be asking how the Seed will be found when He is born. How will they pick him out of all the masses of people spread throughout the earth? Chapter 11 will present another obstacle to the identification and proclamation of the Messiah.
Chapters 12-50 will begin to answer this question by identifying the line through which the Messiah would one day come and through whom all the world would come to worship God. God revealed Himself to Abram, and promised Him many things, including a nation of people descended from Him, a land for them to dwell in, and a King to reign over them. God promised to give Abram a Kingdom.
Indeed, God sent the Messiah, born of a woman, who died for the sins of everyone who believes in Him. God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand where He awaits the time when all things will be put in subjection under His feet (Psa 110:1). Jesus, the Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah is building His Kingdom in this age, saving all those who believe in Him so that they will partake of His Kingdom when He comes.
Read Chapter 9
Read Chapter 11