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Genesis study & commentary

Genesis 10

By Doug Ford
Table of nations; Nimrod

Genesis 10:1-5

This is the beginning of the 'table of nations'.  Every race and language will descend from the descendants of the 3 sons of Noah.   These 70 are just representative however, they represent the nations of the world in the times of Moses.  The names are associated with tribes, regions and cities.  Many, but not all, can be traced to a culture, city or region today.


Those descending from Japheth spread from India to the shores of Western Europe.

  • Gomer - Germanic peoples, from whom came most of the original peoples of Western Europe.
  • Magog, Tubal, Meshech settled in the far north of Europe and became the Russian peoples.
  • Madai became the Medes and they populated Iran, Iraq and India.
  • Javan became the ancient Greeks.
  • Ashkenaz became those who settled north of Judea into what we call the Fertile Crescent.
  • Togarmah became the Armenians.
  • Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim
  • Kittim is connected to Cyprus.

 We see these families starting to spread all over the world.  "Everyone according to his language."  This tells us what we are looking at is the scattering of the people after the tower of Babel that we'll study in chapter 11.


Genesis 10:6-7

This is the middle brother.  Ham was the brother that saw his father's nakedness.   Ham's descendants are the peoples Africa, the Middle and Far East.

    • Cush's descendants founded Ethiopia. 
      • Cush had Raamah.  Raamah had Sheba and Dedan.
        • Sheba and Dedan is present day Saudi Arabia.
    • Mizraim is Egypt.
    • Put is Libya and North Africa.
    • Canaan is the people who originally settled the land we know of Israel and countries around it.


Genesis 10:8-20

Cush had a son named Nimrod and he was a mighty one on the earth.  Nimrod itself means, "let us rebel."  Since Nimrod is associated with a list of Mesopotamian cities, it seems unlikely that Cush is the same one associated with Ethiopian region.  There are numerous theories and speculations in trying to link Nimrod to a famous king.  Yet, no solid links are found. 

  • It is tradition that makes him ruler over Babylon and Akkad of southern Mesopotamia as well as Nineveh in Assyria.  It is rabbinic tradition that says the Tower of Babel is the "house of Nimrod" .  Micah 5:6 refers to Assyria as the 'land of Nimrod'. 
  • His father could have been Kish, rather than Cush.  Kish was acquired much prestige as a ruler of Mesopotamia.  Kish became a title for future rulers over Sumer and Akkad. 
  • With Nimrod being associated with the ancient city of Uruk, one of the oldest cities associated with Sumerian culture, some believe he is actually Gilgamesh who ruled in Uruk.
  • Some look to Egypt and attempt to correlate Nirod to Pharoah Amenhotep III who was known as Nimmuri.  He claims to have ruled in Mesopotamia.

Note: Islamic tradition says that Nimrod persecuted Abraham and was thrown into a fiery furnace.


Nimod 'became' a mighty warrior on the earth; other translations see this as 'began to be' as in innovation and trending towards this.   It seems to rule out he was a deity as some might suggest.  The context seems to suggest he built up a reputation by being a mighty hunter before the Lord.  This man's fame was as a warrior so he wasn't hunting deer or quail.  His reputation became a Proverb, "Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord."  The term 'before the Lord' seems to be in the face of the Lord. The context shows that this is not a compliment.  Nimrod was an offense before the face of God; a tyrant.  The idea seems to be that through his ability to fight and kill and rule ruthlessly that his kingdom was created.  He seemed to be daring Heaven with his taunts, thumbing his nose at God as he founded cities that have all seem to have reputations linked to wickedness.


Jerusalem Targum speaks of Nimrod:

"He was powerful in hunting and in wickedness before the Lord, for he was a hunter of the sons of men, and he said to them, 'Depart from the judgment of the Lord, and adhere to the judgment of Nimrod!' Therefore it is said: 'As Nimrod the strong one, strong in hunting, and in wickedness before the Lord.' "


Nimrod brought himself to power by oppression and tyranny.  Then he distinguished himself as the eminent hope of the world.  He created kingdoms where none existed.  He built cities and ruled over them. 


Josephus said:

"Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power…


Nimrod changed the government to tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power."  Tyranny is defined as "a government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler." 


Nimrod set up his kingdom to serve him.  His first were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, an unknown location.  Then in Assyria, he built Nineveh and Calah, which is 20 miles south of Nineveh.  Both cities are on the Tigris.


The children of Israel would come to know of Canaan's offspring; the Hittites historically were from Asia minor.  This seems inconsistent with the offspring of Canaan.  Uriah was a Hittite (2 Samuel 11:6).  The Jebusites were the inhabitant of Jebus, which would become known as Jerusalem.  Many of these 'ites' show up in various regions of the Promised land, some remain unknown.  All were Canaanite tribes living in or near the Promised land prior to Israel.


Genesis 10:21-32

Shem was the father of the children of Eber.  Eber is Hebrew – Shem was the father of the Hebrews.  Hebrew means "crossing over".


From Shem comes Elam, who was an ancestor to the Persian peoples.  Asshur, was the father of the Assyrians.  Early on, these folks would apparently be ruled by Nimrod.  Lud was father to the Lydians who lived for a time in Asia Minor.  Aram was father to the Arameans, who we also know as the Syrians.


Uz was a region in Arabia named after this son of Aram. Job came from the land of Uz (Job 1:1).  Moses puts a spotlight on the Eber of the sons of Shem.  Eber is thought to be where the term Hebrew came from.  The sons of Joktan are all associated with the Arabic peoples.  Right in the middle of verse 29 we see one named Jobab.  Many believe this is Job of the Old Testament. 


Tucked right in the middle of this genealogy is the sentence "for in his days the earth was divided".  The word used for earth is 'erets' which always is used to speak of the physical earth.  The context seems to lean toward the division of people by language.  There are some who see this as the breaking up or moving of the continents.   


This is where all of mankind comes from.  We all descended from these 3 men and their wives.  We also need to remember that Moses is writing this account.  His focus is on the nation Israel and the friend and foe of Israel.  That's why some lines are vague and others are not.  Many of the lines are followed to establish cultures and geography.  But the line of Shem is the one that really matters to Moses.  This line will be followed all the way to Jesus Christ. 


These are 'the nations' at that time.  How did they get spread out over the earth?  How did they come to be divided by language?  Moses goes on to tell the faithful in chapter 11.


© 2019 Doug Ford