Genesis 10 is called by many the table of nations, because the word nations is used five times in this chapter (Gen. 10:5; 20; 31; 32). Here the Scripture records for us where the children of Noah migrated to, and the nations that were formed from their descendants. These individual sons, grandsons, and great grandsons of Noah then formed the nations of the world. This chapter is also one of the greatest written historical documents that we have in our possession today. William F. Albright (1891-1971), who was one of the greatest Middle Eastern archaeologists of all times, said of Genesis chapter 10, “It stands absolutely alone in ancient literature without a remote parallel, even among the Greeks, where we find the closest approach to a distribution of peoples in genealogical framework… the table of nations remains an astonishingly accurate document.” William F. Albright was someone who didn’t even believe in the God of the Bible, but as an archaeologist and historian he was persuaded concerning the accuracy of the document recorded for us in Genesis 10. Why was he persuaded? Because of the factual proof he possessed from the study and archeology which he had done over a lifetime.
Many times, when people first see Genesis 10, they will just turn the page to the next chapter, because they see it as just a boring genealogy. However, there are some nuggets of truth inside this chapter which reveal God’s power. One of these nuggets is the fact that this chapter reveals that the Bible is not a collection of myths and allegories, because it talks about real people that actually existed, and lived their lives following the flood. This chapter reveals that there are cities, kingdoms, and nations that came from the real descendants of Noah. You will also see the linguistic similarities between the names of these individuals and the cities and nations that they founded.
Shem was most likely the one who recorded this particular genealogy, because he lived 502 years after the flood. Another reason that most commentators believed that Shem recorded this information, is that he wrote his genealogy last, even though he was the eldest son of Noah. As the firstborn of Noah, he should have put his genealogy first. Also, Genesis 10 and 11 should most likely be seen as one chapter for several reasons. First, there is a direct connection between the man Nimrod, who is referred to in chapter 10:8-10, and the rebellious city of Babel that he established in Genesis 11. Second, in Genesis 10:20; 31 there are references to different languages before the confusing of languages recorded for us in Genesis 11. Third, also in Genesis 10:5 there is a discussion of these people groups being separated in different lands according to their languages, before this separation occurred in Genesis 11. Shem recorded, “From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations” (Gen. 10:5). These are some of the reasons the two chapters should probably be considered together.
The Descendants of Japheth. Vs. 1-5
Scripture records: “Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood. The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations” (Gen. 10:1-5).
Japheth was the youngest son of Noah, and he became the father of the Indo-European peoples, which would cover the land mass that stretched from India to the shores of Western Europe. These people groups are each linked by linguistic similarities that are invisible to the layman, but are obvious to the linguist. From Gomer descended the Germanic peoples, also the French, Spanish, and Celtic peoples of England and Scotland, and Ireland. Magog, Tubal, and Meshech settled in the far north and east of Europe and became the Russian peoples. This is a very important understanding to have, because Magog, Tubal, Togarmah, and Meshech are all referred to later in many prophetic utterances in the Old and New Testaments (Eze. 38:2; Rev. 20:8). If you are unclear about where these people groups settled, then you won’t know who God is talking about. This is why this chapter is so important. Meshech settled around the area which is today where you will find the city of Moscow. Tubal settled in the area around the city of Tobolsk, in Siberia. Tirus, according to the historian Herodotus, said that he brought forth the Thracian tribes of central and southern Europe. These particular people are well known in history. The descendants Madai became the ancient Meads which now populate modern Iraq and Iran. The peoples of India also come from this branch of the Japheth family. Javan brought forth the ancient Greeks, who were the seafaring people referred to in verse 5 as Gentiles, where they are called “coastland peoples.” This Hebrew word means, “island peoples.” This is also the first use of this term “Gentiles” found in the Bible.
Ashkenaz was the son of Gomer referred to in verse 3, and he brought forth those people who settled in what is today southern Russia, also known as the Scythians people (Jer. 51:27; Col. 3:11). It is interesting that many Jews emigrating to Israel today still call themselves Ashkenazi Jews. In Jeremiah 51:27, the people of Ashkenaz are mentioned as coming against the Medes with the people from the area of Ararat, which is in Eastern Turkey today. Riphath settled in the Ural Mountains of central Russia. Togarmah refers to the Armenian people of eastern Turkey and the modern country of Armenia today. In verses 4 and 5, the sons of Javan also settled in modern day Greece. Elishah, according to Josephus, settled in southern Italy. Tarshish, according to Josephus, was the area of Spain or possibly England. Also, Kittim according to Josephus, established the town named Kittim on the island of Cyprus. Rodanim settled on the Greek island of Rhodes.
The Descendants of Ham. Vs. 6-20
Scripture records: “The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabtechah; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan. Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city). Mizraim begot Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, and Casluhim (from whom came the Philistines and Caphtorim). Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn, and Heth; the Jebusite, the Amorite, and the Girgashite; the Hivite, the Arkite, and the Sinite; the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite. Afterward the families of the Canaanites were dispersed. And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; then as you go toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. These were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands and in their nations” (Gen. 10:6-20).
Ham’s descendants populated Africa and the Middle East. The family of Cush divided into two branches early. Some founded the city of Babel (Nimrod) & others went into Ethiopia. For Mizraim, all ancient records refer to these people settling in Egypt. Put and his descendants settled in Libya and the regions of North Africa west of Egypt. Canaan populated the land east of Egypt that today is Israel and its surrounding regions.
The sons of Cush Vs. 7-12
Cush begot Nimrod: Scripture records that he was a mighty one on the earth, but not in a good way. He ruled over the city of Babel, which was the first city founded in an organized rebellion of humans against God. The name Nimrod itself means, “let us rebel.” The Septuagint renders this passage, “He was a mighty one against the Lord. Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.” The context clearly reveals that this statement is not a compliment to Nimrod. The idea is that Nimrod was an offense before the face of God.
The Jewish Targums are paraphrases and explanations given of the Hebrew Scriptures written by Jewish Rabbi’s for the common man. The Targum of Jonathan stated of Nimrod, “He began to be mighty in sin, and to rebel before the Lord in the earth.” The Jerusalem Targum recorded of Nimrod, “He was mighty in hunting (or in prey) and in sin before God, for he was a hunter of the children of men in their languages; and he said unto them, depart from the religion of Shem, and cleave to the institutes of Nimrod.” The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel declared, “From the foundation of the world none was ever found like Nimrod, powerful in hunting, and in rebellions against the Lord.” Nimrod is also the source of the Babylonian religious system that rebelled against God. This rebellion and false religious system continued and became, “Mystery Babylon the Great,” referred to in Revelation 17-18. Babel also was the beginning of all false religions. The continuation of this false religion is seen in Nimrod’s wife Semiramis (who was called the queen of heaven in Scripture, later called Ishtar in the Akkadian culture, and then called Asherah or Ashtoreth in the Canaanite religion, and who was the mother of the god Baal. See Jeremiah 7:18). In this false religion Nimrod supposedly was conceived through a virgin birth to bring forth Tammuz (Eze. 8:14). This is why I say that all false religions begin here in Babel.
The importance for us today is that we must be sure that we are not a part of any false religion or be in rebellion against the Lord. Rebellion against God will surely destroy any who choose to walk in that path. God told King Saul that, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam. 15:23). Because of Saul’s rebellion he was then rejected from being king in Israel. Stubbornness is sinful, because a stubborn person is setting themselves up as god, which is idolatry. Therefore, take this warning to heart that we find here in the Word of God.
The sons of Mizraim. Vs. 13-14
Mizraim begot Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, and Casluhim from whom the Philistines desended, and the peoples of Caphtorim who resided on the island of Crete.
The sons of Canaan. Vs. 15-20
Sidon was his firstborn and fathered the people of Israel and Lebanon. Heth fathered the Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, and the Sinites, Arvadites, Zemarites, and the Hamathites. The Sinites became the people of China and the Far East. It is interesting that we still use the term Sino/American relations to describe treaties and the relationship we have today between China and America. Also, this term is used to refer to the Sino-Japanese war.
The Descendants of Shem. Vs. 21-32
Scripture records: “And children were born also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder. The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arphaxad begot Salah, and Salah begot Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan. Joktan begot Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were the sons of Joktan. And their dwelling place was from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east. These were the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations. These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood” (Gen. 10:21-32).
The descendants of Elam became the Persian people. Asshur became the father of the Assyrians which today cover the area of Syria and Iraq. Lud became the father to the Lydians who lived for a time in modern day Turkey. Aram was father to the Arameans who also live in modern day Syria. Arphaxad fathered Salah and Eber who were the ancestors of Abram and the Hebrew people (Luke 3:34-36).
The sons of Aram in Vs. 23, are all people associated with the tribes of the Arabian desert. Uz fathered Job who came from the land of Uz (Job 1:1). Hul, Gethe, and Mash also all settled in Mesopotamia.
The sons of Arphaxad in Vs. 24 also became the father of the Jewish people. Salah and Eber were the direct descendants of Abraham. The sons of Eber in Vs. 25 are all associated with Arabic peoples. Peleg is interesting because the Scripture declared that in his days the earth was divided. This is most likely a reference to the confusion of languages that divided the peoples of the world. Since Peleg lived in the days of Nimrod this does not refer to the separation of the continents or to continental drift. The continents were most likely separated during the upheaval of the flood. However, there were still land corridors that connected the continents because of different sea levels at the time. Joktan also fathered all the desert peoples of Arabia. Jobab, in Vs. 29, may be the one we know as Job in the Old Testament.
The sons of Joktan Vs. 26-30
Mesha settled on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea (Moab). Sephar settled east of Mesha and was thought to have lived on the coast of the Persian Gulf, because Scripture declared that “Their dwelling place was from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east.” The reason why most believe Sephar lived on the coast of the Persian Gulf is because if you look at a topographical map of the Arabian desert, there are basically no mountains as you go east until you get all the way over to modern-day Oman, on the Persian Gulf. There you find a large mountain range which would fit what the Scripture teaches.
Therefore, this is the incredible historical record that I believe is extremely important. What is taught in Genesis 10, is setting up the ultimate rebellion of mankind against God in Genesis 11. The rebellion against the Lord that you find in Genesis 11 is still going on today. The entire world is in rebellion against the God who has created all things. This is why there is such turmoil around the globe today. The men of this world have rebelled against the existence of God, His moral laws, and the Savior Whom He has sent. I don’t want to be a part of this rebellion, but I want to be a part of those who want to obey the Lord. I hope that this is your heart today as well. If Nimrod sought to turn people against the God of Shem, I want to be involved in turning people to the God of Shem, who is the God of the Bible. Why do I want to take this action? Because the God of the Bible is the One Who loves me, and has demonstrated His love by sending His Son to the cross for me!
As we conclude this chapter, you should also be left with the clear understanding that, “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). It is so clear that we have all come from one father and mother, Adam and Eve, which means that we are all of one blood and of one race, the human race. This truth should unite us together as one, and not divide us from each other. The Lord is not far from any one of us. He wants us to find the one God and follow Him, and love one another. There is no room in the heart of any true believer in Christ for bigotry toward any other ethnic group, because we are all distant cousins to one another. One day this truth will become crystal clear to us, when all who believe will come from every tribe and tongue, and we will fall before the throne of God as one people. As John reminded us all of this fact when he wrote, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen’” (Rev. 7:9-12). May we never forget this foundational truth! May all who read these words be found bowed before Him on that day!