How the earth was peopled (Gen 10:1-10:32)

“These are the descendents of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  These children were born to them after the flood.”

This is an attempt to explain how the various people and countries came to be based on these three individuals.  Clearly some of the children were more important that the others.

 “The descendents of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.  The descendents of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.  The descendents of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim.  From these the coastland peoples spread. These are the descendents of Japheth in their lands, with their own language, by their families, in their nations.”

Japheth’s family included seven named individuals. Gomer, the eldest son,  is mentioned with his three sons, Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.  They may have migrated to Asia Minor, Armenia, or around the Black Sea.  That would make sense since the ark supposedly ended up in Armenian mountains.

Javan’s family is also mentioned with four sons, Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim.  His family may have been Phoenicians in Greece, southern Spain, the southern Mediterranean, Rhodes, and Tyre.

Magog may be identified as someone in the northern areas. Madai  and Tiras are not mentioned elsewhere.  Tubal and Meshech seem to have ended up around Tyre. Here they are referred to as the coastland people.  They are definitely not in the mainstream life of the authors.

“The descendents of Ham are Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The descendents of Cush are Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The descendents of Raamah are Sheba and Dedan.  Cush became the father of Nimrod.  He was the first on earth to become a mighty warrior. He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh.  Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before Yahweh.’  The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar.  From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehobothir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah. That is the great city.”

The family of Ham includes four sons, Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. However, no descendents of Put are mentioned, while the other three have descendents. Cush, the first born, was the father of Nimrod, the first great warrior, hunter, and city builder in the Babylonian and Syrian areas. Seba may be connected with Africa, around Ethiopia. Havilah, the same name as the place around the Garden of Eden, Sabtah, and Sabteca seem to have little importance as they are not mentioned again. Raamah and his two sons are barely mentioned again, but seem to be desert people.

“Egypt became the father of Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim  and Caphtorim, from which the Philistines come.”

Egypt, the second son, had seven sons.  As the name suggests, they were close in neighbors in northern Africa and somehow related to the Philistines. All the seven sons are rarely mentioned except here.

 “Canaan became the father of Sidon his first-born, and Heth, and 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.  The territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon, in the direction of Gerar, as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. These are the descendents of Ham, by their families, their languages, their lands, and their nations.”

Canaan was the fourth son of Ham.  Canaan became the name of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern desert, with Lebanon to the north and the wilderness on the south. Canaan was the primary enemy of the biblical authors.  Canaan had two sons, Sidon, who had a northern city named after him, and Heth, the forerunner of the Hittites.

Canaan also had a whole bunch of people descendent from him. The Jebusites were descendent from Jebus, the third son of Canaan and seemed to settle around what is now Jerusalem.  The Amorites were the mountain or hill people.  The northern Girgashites and Hivites were among the seven nations living in the Promised Land at the time of the invasion of Canaan.  The Arkites seem to have settled in the northern town of Arka.  The Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites seem to be obscure groups that are not mentioned elsewhere in biblical literature.  Note that Ham’s children will become the enemies of these authors.

“To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born. The descendents of Shem are Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram.”

Shem was the oldest son of Noah, and the favorite of the authors. Notice the importance of Eber.  Some believe that the word Semite comes from his name. Shem had five sons.  Elam had a powerful territory in lower Mesopotamia named after him. Asshur has the name of the first capital of Assyria. Arpachshad lineage becomes very important.  Lud was supposedly the ancestor of Lydia. There are other people named Aram in the biblical literature.  Perhaps this Aram gave the name to the territory northeast of Palestine.

“The descendents of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.”

There is no mention of the descendents of Elam, Asshur, and Lud.  Uz is a common name and there is an area called Uz in southern Syria.  The other three names are only mentioned in genealogies here and in Chronicles.

 “Arpachshad became the father of Shelah.   Shelah became the father of Eber.  To Eber were born two sons.  The name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan.  Joktan became the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab.  All these were the descendents of Joktan.  The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east.”           Arpachshad’s family seems to be the most important since he only had one son, Shelah, although there are other biblical characters with this name.  Shelah’s son was Eber, and he seems to be very important, although there are a couple of other people named Eber in biblical literature.  Eber had two sons, Peleg and Joktan, but once again only Joktan seems important as he seems to have an Arab connection.

The thirteen sons of Joktan are mentioned here.  Seven of them, Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Diklah, Obal, and Abimael are only mentioned here and in the Chronicles with Arabian names.  However, Hadoram, Uzal, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab are mentioned elsewhere in the biblical literature.  They probably lived in the land near the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

“These are the descendents of Shem, by their families, their languages, their lands, and their nations.  These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations.  From these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.”

There is never any mention of daughters.  Somehow the biblical authors of 2500-3000 years ago felt that this explained the world in which they lived, their world of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. They had no idea about people in Asia, India, Southern Africa, and Northern Europe or of course the Americas.

23 thoughts on “How the earth was peopled (Gen 10:1-10:32)

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