The Table of Nations

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Genesis 10:1-32 These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood.

2 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 3 The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. 5 From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.

6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. 7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. 8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. 13 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 14 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.

15 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, 16 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. 19 And 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. 20 These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

21 To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born. 22 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. 23 The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. 24 Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber. 25 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. 26 Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan. 30 The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east. 31 These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

32 These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.


Good morning, it’s good to see so many of you. Thanks to Jen for reading this passage. You might be thinking, “great, another genealogy, what can we get out of this?” I would ask that you would join me as I pray for this passage. We as a church are convicted that the Bible is true and that all of it is breathed out by God, including genealogies. Further, all scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. Those are the things that scripture does to us. All of this is for the goal of being complete and equipped for every good work.

As I’ve studied this chapter, I’ve been able to see and profit from it. My prayer, and I ask you to join me know, is that we would profit from this passage and it would equip us for good works. Let’s pray:

Father of Heaven, we thank you this morning that we can gather. We pledge our allegiance to you as LORD. We gather with other churches around the world to proclaim your word, sing of your mercy and love. I ask that you would remind us of your presence this morning. Please remind those who can’t join us as well. Would you also give us increased chances to gather as one body with all of our members as soon as possible? Please comfort those who are unable to join us.

We also pray for Jen Blevins in Haiti and all of our missionaries around the world. Their jobs both exist and are harder as a result of things we see in Genesis. The nations need to the truth of the gospel. But Language and cultural barriers exist. Please strengthen our missionaries during this season. Give them power for endurance. May the gospel dwell deep in their souls and new hope that the gospel will prevail. Help us as a church to support and send well. May we be prayerful, generous and creative in finding other ways to support them well. Thank you for the men, women and families that have sacrificed much to be goers.

Lord, I ask you to help us this morning to understand this text. Your Word says that all of scripture is profitable. Hep us to see this. Help us to profit. Give us a greater desire to be equipped for every good work. May we understand Genesis 10. May we examine our own hearts and see our need for Jesus as a result. Thank you for loving us first, make us love you more this morning. Amen.

Intro

How did we get here?

It’s one of the questions Israel could ask as they sat on the verge of the Promised Land. It could also be a question you’ve asked in the last few weeks. All kinds of people and groups wanting their ways. All kinds of people and groups in conflict. All kinds of people and groups using their own might to ensure it. How did we get here?

Like the rest of scripture, Genesis can help us make sense of this world. Genesis 10 shows us how the nations spread from one family and also the futility of man’s desire for glory in his own might.

It’s a genealogy known as the Table of Nations. There is a lot contained within a list of Noah’s sons and their descendants. We see how people filled the earth. That sounds like a good thing to be fruitful and multiply, but it actually comes as a result of God’s judgment. As a result of people desiring to make their names great and mighty, God disperses people. We see one Son’s branch, Ham, become the origins of Israel’s enemies throughout the rest of the Old Testament. We see one son’s branch, Shem, become the focus of the story and the blessings that follow. We see lots of frustration, division, rebellion and a longing for someone to unite all tribes, tongues and nations in one glorious future land.

Remember that the audience, the Israelites, are on the verge of entering the Promised land. The Canaanites live in it, God is instructing Israel to conquer and possess the land. So we come to another genealogy setting up the next section of the book.

First, we’ll look at the genealogy as a whole and what that means to this chapter and Genesis, and then we’ll look closer at each of the three sons, Japheth, Ham and Shem.

When you look at a genealogy in the Bible, it can be easy to run through it quickly and view it merely as a list of names. It’s easy to get lost in the hard to pronounce names or lists of people or places that are unfamiliar to us. But there are a few things to pay attention to as we read.

Remember that Genesis is broken into large sections that are marked off by genealogies. Kids, do you remember the fancy name for generation that Pastor Dave has said before? Toledot. In Genesis when we see the words, “These are the generations of…”, that’s the word Toledot and it marks out the different sections in the book. It gives the structure of the book. Chapter ten gives us a new Toledot. It’s a summary of what chapter 11 will cover in more detail about the Tower of Babel and a larger genealogy of Shem’s line. These two chapters are closely related and understanding chapter 10 means keeping 11 in mind as well.

The theme of judgment should be fresh in the minds of the readers. We’ve just spent four chapters looking at God’s judgment on humanity in the form of the flood. Now in chapter 10, the first and last thing mentioned is the flood. Verse 1 says, Sons were born the them after the flood. That should catch our attention. Then in verse 32 it says, “These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.”

The text won’t let us forget that this is chapter sits in the shadow of the flood. While the previous generation was judged by waters covering the earth, we will now see judgment through people covering the earth.

Even within this genealogy, the author, Moses, designed it to help us focus on the most important things that he wants the readers to see. It doesn’t give equal space to each son or each descendent of each son. Rather, this genealogy focuses on things that were important for the original audience, Israel, to know and pay attention to. So for that reason, Japheth’s line is more of a footnote compared to Ham and Shem.

This genealogy is significant to Genesis and introduces this next section, but it also points to some larger themes of the Old testament: Israel’s relationship to the Promised Land, God’s judgment on both the other nations and Israel, and the ultimate hope for peace among nations.

As we look closer at chapter ten, here’s a few things we’ll look at:

First, what kind of pattern can we find? In this chapter, there is a repeated summary after each son. Each paragraph introduces the son, his offspring and then a summary statement that includes where their clan was located. And then each paragraph closes with this, “by their clans, their languages, their lands and their nations. The genealogy of each family provides the who, a little bit of what and the where.

Second, look for anything that breaks the normal pattern. Back in chapter 5, we saw a few breaks in the regular flow: flip to chapter 5 quickly and look at verse 18:

When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

Can you see how Enoch gets additional information that breaks the pattern? It’s a way to draw your attention to something that the author wants us to see.

The same thing happens a few times in this chapter as well. I’ll point them out as we work through the line of each son.

Before we look at each son’s genealogy, here’s a map that might be helpful to give us a reference. Notice the general location of each son. There is overlap because some of these tribes intermarried, some of these tribes were nomadic, and some of these tribes we simply don’t know for certain. But generally, Japheth is further away to the North and West and cover what is now Asia and Europe. Ham covers Africa and some of the Middle East and Shem is primarily the Middle East. We’ll look at this more when we get to Ham, but there is one little sliver in the Middle East that belongs to Canaan.

Japtheth

Genesis 10:2-5 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 3 The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. 5 From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.

Japheth’s line is pretty short. He gets 3 whole verses for his family, and only two of his sons, Gomer and Javan, get mentioned for having offspring. It doesn’t mean that Japheth’s line died out in some mysterious way. It is because the author’s focus is somewhere else.

Some of Japheth’s tribes get mentioned later in scripture. Gomer and Magog are mentioned in Ezekiel as the subject of God’s judgment.

This is a quick aside, but as you study the Bible and you come across places, or enemies of Israel, use Genesis 10 as a quick reference. For example, one of Japheth’s lands is Tarshish. While it’s not a huge part of the biblical storyline, it does provide some further context to the book of Jonah. So when you read your Bible and you come to a place or a name you don’t immediately recognize, check it against Genesis 10 and see if there are any helpful connections. Because of the large scope of the Bible’s story and the number of different books, authors and times in history, we can forget that this is all one story. The more connections we make will help us consolidate the story into one great story.

All of Japheth’s line is summed up with the name “Coastlands”. This also is mentioned throughout the Bible in different ways, especially in the major prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel. While not as integral to the Old Testament story, the prophets speak of a day when even the coastlands will hope in the LORD. Isaiah 60:9 says this:

For the coastlands shall hope for me,
the ships of Tarshish first,
to bring your children from afar,
their silver and gold with them,
for the name of the LORD your God,
and for the Holy One of Israel,
because he has made you beautiful.

One of the things you can notice on the map of the nations is that the coastlands are mainly around the Mediterranean Sea. It’s not much of a focus of the Old Testament, but once we get to Acts and the early church, suddenly these are the places where Paul and the apostles spend much of their time proclaiming the gospel and planting churches. While the coastlands aren’t as significant to Israel and the story of Genesis, they definitely point to a future time in the story when the gospel goes forth to all nations. There is a hope of Japheth’s line one day dwelling as God’s people.

Ham

With Japheth’s shorter description, the emphasis of the chapter focuses on the two other sons: Ham’s line and shem’s line. Now we see two competing lines, one cursed, the other receives blessing. It picks up on what was promised in Genesis 3:15 when God speaks to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.” It’s a theme we see through the whole Old Testament, and definitely in Genesis: The seed of the serpent versus the seed of the woman. Humanity not only has enmity with God, but enmity with one another.

Look at Ham’s sons: It’s a who’s who of the enemies in the Bible: Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Canaan, even the Philistines are mentioned as a footnote. There are a few other thorns in Israel’s side that come on the scene later, but this is a pretty impressive list of Israel’s enemies.

The original audience would have been familiar with some of them already: Israel was enslaved by Egypt and then wondrously rescued by God through Moses. They’ll show up a few chapters from now in Genesis as well. Another future story in Genesis will focus on Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities listed in Ham’s lineage.

The Philistines are noted. They won’t show up in the biblical story until Judges and Samuel, but will be a continual thorn in Israel’s side during the kingdom.

There are two more of the major enemies of Israel that come through a man named Nimrod.

Nimrod, the great hunter and great city

Verse 8 gives a short break from the list of sons and people and introduces Nimrod. Look at verses 8-10:

8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

On the surface, it looks like he could be a noble guy. He’s mighty. It mentions that he is a mighty hunter before the LORD. That seems pretty good. But when we look at the further context, it’s clear this is not meant as a good thing. First, he’s from Ham’s line which should give us a clue.

Secondly, Nimrod’s name means rebel.

Third, as we’ll see more closely in chapter 11, Nimrod created the great city of Babel, which incurred God’s judgment. This also explains the phrase, “before the LORD”. Nimrod’s actions are seen by the LORD, but there’s no indication of God’s approval in chapter 10. But chapter 11 it’s clear that God did not approve.

Here is a man named rebel, being a mighty hunter and building his own kingdom. And whether Nimrod is aware of it or not, the LORD is watching all of it happen.

Nations grappling for power and to make their own mighty kingdoms. This helps explain lots of things that happen in the Bible and lots of things that have happened in world history and the things that are currently happening in our world. Our sinful heart’s desire to be great in our own power. Our desires for our own kingdoms instead of seeking God’s kingdom.

We see it at the global level where nations war against one another. A nation wants to make their name great and invades another country in their own might.

We see it at the national level where groups and movements demand their kingdoms are established. Notice how much of what people want is based on threats and might. If you don’t agree with everything we believe, we’ll turn on you. That’s might. That’s seeking a name for yourself through power.

We also see it in our hearts. Ask yourself, what do I want? What do I want my kingdom to look like and what am I willing to do to build my kingdom? Like Nimrod, how do you use your might to get what you want? Maybe it’s protecting the stuff you’ve accumulated. Maybe it’s curating that perfect appearance. Maybe it’s making sure your kids are quiet by yelling at them.

Kids, you might not think of yourself as mighty, but do you do things to get your way? Do you ever call someone else bad names to make your name look better? Maybe it’s blaming someone else? We all have kingdoms that we are interested in protecting. And too often we do it through use of our own power and might.

And in all of this, the LORD watches.

Nimrod’s story goes on in verses 11 and 12.

11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

First he builds the city of Babel and then moves on to build a kingdom in Assyria. when the story of Israel gets further developed, they become a nation ruled by a king. And two of the biggest enemies to Israel and Judah were Assyria and Babylon.

In Ham’s line, and especially through Nimrod, we see the spreading of nations as a result of God’s judgment. People tried to make great cities for themselves. And this applies not only to Ham’s sons, but also to Israel. Throughout the Old Testament, God uses enemies as judgment against Israel. Let this be a warning to anyone who reads this chapter. If you seek God’s glory through God’s power, you will be blessed. But when you seek your own glory in your own power, you will receive judgment. Even though Babylon and Assyria aren’t on the scene yet in Genesis, they will both be instruments of judgment on Israel and Judah in later ages.

Next, we come to Canaan, which we know from chapter 9 that they are cursed because of what Ham did to his father, Noah. This part of the line also foreshadows what will happen later in the story when God promises Abram and Israel that they will live in the land that the Canaanites possess. Again, remember that the original readers of Genesis were preparing to take the Promised Land. And here it is. After listing the sons of Canaan, the text describes the territory of Canaan in verse 19. Think back to the map I showed, it’s that tiny little sliver in the Middle east, which will become the focus of the Bible’s story. It hasn’t been promised at this point in the story, but the readers would have known exactly what this little strip in Canaan meant.

Shem

Now we move to the third of Noah’s sons, Shem. Notice that up to this point in Genesis, Shem is mentioned first as the oldest son of Noah, but now he is moved to third. This is because Shem’s family line is the one that the rest of Genesis will follow. This is the line that the story will focus on. This is true with each of the genealogies in Genesis. The person or family that is last is where the story will continue with.

Like Ham’s line, there are a few noteworthy pieces to look at. The first is in verse 21. It introduces Shem’s line, but it’s different than the other sons’ intros: To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born.

It mentions one of Shem’s children in the intro: Eber. Right off the bat, the author wants us to focus more narrowly on Eber’s children. Eber means Hebrew. This is the line that will be the focus of the Old Testament and Moses is highlighting that through this name.

We know that Shem was blessed by Noah, but we don’t actually see anything in this passage that indicates blessing. What we see is dispersion and nations spreading out over the earth as a result of judgment rather than blessing. The text makes this clearer in verse 25.

25 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.

It appears that Joktan and Peleg lived during the Tower of Babel, which is why the text mentions ‘when the earth was divided’ in verse 25. This division again is the result of God’s judgment and the resulting spread of the nations. Peleg is the son who will carry the line that leads to Abram. He will get mentioned more in chapter 11’s genealogy. Instead, chapter 10 mentions the offspring of his brother, Joktan and some of his offspring.

Shem’s line will continue on in the story as the main character. Blessing has been promised. The other son will show up at different points in the story as well. We can look ahead at Luke’s genealogy in the New testament and recognize that Shem’s line ultimately leads to Christ. But before we look at Christ, I want to point out a few observations from this chapter.

Observations

    1. All people come from Noah, and as a result, Adam. That means we all are created in the image of God. It also means we all have Adam’s sinful nature. We saw last week that Noah, despite his righteousness, had Adam’s sinful nature.

      And all of Japheth, Ham and Shem’s descendants were made in God’s image and were born with Adam’s sinful nature. All people born today, whatever color, ethnicity or language, were created in God’s image.

      Whatever else we might say about what is happening int our world right now, we have to start with these two truths: All of us are Made in the image of God and all of us have the same nature as Noah, which is the same as our first father Adam.

    2. The diversity of languages, clans and nations all fall under the larger category of human race. Celebrating diversity and

differences is a good thing, but we have to do this in the context of the human race.

  1. We continue to see divisions throughout the Bible, right up to today.
  2. Seeking reconciliation through power and in the hopes of creating man’s kingdom will not work before the LORD.

So in light of these things, what is our hope? Hopefully it’s obvious. Our only hope for a great name (Shem means name) is to look to the future son of Shem, Jesus Christ. He is our only hope for true reconciliation both between us and God, but also between our fellow man:

Eph 2:12-14 addresses the Nations:

12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

Through Christ, and Christ alone, can we experience true peace. But this isn’t just for Shem’s descendants. This isn’t only for the Hebrew sons and daughters.

Let’s look again at that summary statement after each son: these are the sons of [blank] by their clans, their languages, their lands and their nations. Clans, or families, or another word would be tribe.

Languages. Or tongues. And nations. Tribes, tongues and nations.

And that Rev 5:9-10

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

The slain lamb died for every tribe tongue and nation. Japhethites, Hamites, and Shemites. Canaanites, Assyrians and Babylonians. Through his death we are reconciled to God, and also with the hope of being reconciled to one another too.

And notice that they will reign on the earth, in the land. God is building this kingdom and preparing a place for his people to dwell forever. And this kingdom is for any and all who will repent and believe in this good news. We belong to a new kingdom that is not earned through our might or our great name, but solely through calling on the mighty name of Jesus.

In light of Genesis 10 and the realization that true reconciliation comes through Christ’s blood alone, it’s fitting that we take communion together.

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