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The Table of the Nations

line The Table of the Nations

Pause and Consider

0616

10.18.17

‘The Table of the Nations’

 

Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood. (Genesis 10:1)

Reading the tenth chapter of Genesis might seem like reading the telephone book.  It appears dry and dusty.  But it is God’s Word, and serves a purpose.  In Genesis 10 we come to the second genealogy in the Bible.  It is known as the ‘Table of the Nations.’  Its purpose clearly is to show how the earth was repopulated by Noah’s three sons after the Deluge.  A similar but not identical list can be found in 1 Chronicles 1.

The phrase, ‘these are, or this is, the generation(s) of’ is found throughout Genesis, giving it real unity.  It is believed that Shem is the author of Genesis 10, 11.   This is the last section that treats historically the whole human race.  Only incidentally, in prophetic passages, do we again meet with mankind as a whole in the Old Testament. Beginning in Genesis 12 God deals almost exclusively with Abraham and his descendants, the nation of Israel.

As we approach this chapter, there are some things to keep in mind.  This is more than a genealogy.  It is also an atlas and a history book.  The listing is not complete: for instance, there is no mention of Edom, Moab or Ammon.  It is difficult to identify some of these nations with their modern counterparts: people moved, intermarried, and changed language and culture over the years.

First is mentioned the descendants of Japheth (2-5).  The sons of Japheth became the Europeans, the white man.  Most of my readers likely are sons and daughters of Japheth: we are Norwegians, Germans, Danes, Irish, English, etc.  The sons of Japheth are peripheral or unrelated to the experience of the Hebrews in the OT, because the entire OT takes place around the Middle East and this is not where Japheth’s people settled.  The sons of Abraham had little to no contact with them.

Next we have the descendants of Ham (6-20).  These settled in what we know today as Egypt, Palestine, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.  Many of them became the enemies of Israel.  There is special attention given to Nimrod the ‘hunter’ (8-12).  He was not a hunter of game, but rather, the word indicates that he was a tyrant who was seeking to establish an empire: he was a hunter of men.  He founded four cities which formed a composite city, Nineveh.  He is mentioned here, no doubt, because we will see him again in Genesis 11.  Nimrod was an early type of the coming Antichrist.  When he left the land of Shinar (Babylon) and “went forth into Assyria” it was probably due to the confusion of languages described in Genesis 11.  The cities that he founded (Babylon and Nineveh) became major enemies of Israel and thus the reason they are included here.

Finally, we have the descendants of Shem (21-31).  These are referred to as Semites, ‘Sem’ coming from its variation in the Greek language.  While five sons are mentioned, the emphasis is on the family of Arphaxad, from whom will come Abraham. Eber provides the source of the word Hebrew, and comes from the verb meaning ‘to pass over.’  The descendants of Shem settled in the northern and eastern parts of the Near East, often in areas close to the Hamitic people.

The family of Shem is that which is the focus of the rest of the OT, and we will look at its significance next time. [Please note our new email, ibcwestbrook@woodstocktel.net].


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