How The Descendants Of Noah Repopulated The Earth
This chapter is known as “The Table of Nations” and is unique in the annals of ancient history. The purpose of the chapter is given at the beginning (v. 1) and the end (v. 32): to explain how the descendants of the three sons of Noah repopulated the earth after the Flood. You find a similar (but not identical) listing in 1 Chronicles 1.
Before we look at some of the details of this chapter, and then try to draw some spiritual lessons from it, we need to heed some warnings.
- The listing is not a typical genealogy that gives only the names of descendants. The writer reminds us that these ancient peoples had their own “clans and languages…territories and nations” (Gen. 10:31). In other words, this is a genealogy plus an atlas plus a history book. We’re watching the movements of people and nations in the ancient world.
- The listing isn’t complete.
- It’s difficult to identify some of these nations and give them “modern” names. Over the centuries, nations can change their names, move to different locations, modify their language, and even alter their racial composition through intermarriage.
This is the account of the families of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the three sons of Noah. Many children were born to them after the great flood.
Genesis 10:1 (NLT)
Descendants of Japheth
The descendants of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.
The descendants of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.
The descendants of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim.
Genesis 10:2-4 (NLT)
Seven sons are named and seven grandsons from only two of the sons.
Does this mean that the other five sons had no children born to them, or is it another evidence of the selective approach of the compiler?
Japheth is the ancestor of the Gentile nations who located north and west of the land of Canaan.
From these the coastland peoples spread. [These are the sons of Japheth] in their lands, each with his own language, by their families within their nations.
Genesis 10:5 (AMP)
Of course, this division didn’t take place until after the Tower of Babel and the confusion of the languages (Genesis 11:1-9).
Descendants Of Ham
The descendants of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.
The descendants of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan.
Genesis 10:6-7 (NLT)
Cush is ancient Ethiopia (not the modern nation), Mizraim is Egypt, and Put may be Libya. We’ve already touched upon the peoples of Canaan. The descendants of Ham located in areas we’d identify today as Egypt, Palestine, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first to be a mighty man on the earth.
He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.
The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar [in Babylonia].
Out of the land he [Nimrod] went forth into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah,
And Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah; all these [suburbs combined to form] the great city.
And Egypt [Mizraim] became the father of Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim,
Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom came the Philistines), and Caphtorim.
Canaan became the father of Sidon his firstborn, Heth [the Hittites],
The Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites,
The Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites,
The Arvadites, the Zemarites and the Hamathites. Afterward the families of the Canaanites spread abroad
And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon as one goes to Gerar as far as Gaza, and as one goes to Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.
These are the sons of Ham by their families, their languages, their lands, and their nations.
Genesis 10:8-20 (AMP)
At this point in the listing there’s a “parenthesis” to discuss a famous man, Nimrod, the founder of a great empire. He’s mentioned because the nations he founded played an important part in the history of Israel, and also because one of them (Babel) is discussed in the next section of Genesis.
In the Authorized Version, Nimrod is called “a mighty one in the earth” and “a mighty hunter before the Lord”. The word translated “mighty” refers to a champion, somebody who is superior in strength and courage. The image of Nimrod in the text isn’t that of a sportsman hunting game but rather of a tyrant ruthlessly conquering men and establishing an empire. He built four cities in Shinar (Babylonia) and four more in Assyria. Both Babylon and Assyria became the enemies of Israel and were used of God to chasten His disobedient people. We’ll learn more about Nimrod and Babylon in the next study.