by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

Introduction | Genesis 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11| 12| 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30

31 | 32 | 33| 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41| 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50| PostScript


Table Of Contents:

Genesis 10:1 Genesis 10:15
Genesis 10:2 Genesis 10:16-19
Genesis 10:3 Genesis 10:20
Genesis 10:4-5 Genesis 10:21
Genesis 10:6 Genesis 10:22
Genesis 10:7 Genesis 10:23
Genesis 10:8-9 Genesis 10:24
Genesis 10:10-12 Genesis 10:25-30
Genesis 10:13-14 Genesis 10:31

Genesis 10:1-5 The Japhethite Indo-Europeans

10:1 Noah had three sons named Shem, Ham and Japheth born after the flood (Genesis 6:10). As was usual in these ancient genealogies, the lines which did not remain part of the continuing family genealogy were listed first and the main family line followed. This was the case with the line of Cain, 4:17-24; Abraham’s children other than Isaac, 25:1-18; and the Arab clans of Esau, 36:1-43, which precede the genealogies of the twelve tribes of Israel, 46:8-26).

In this Table of Nations people are not marked off by political or racial boundaries but by the language they speak. That meant that people of other races could be added to a nation by moving in as aliens, learning the language and adopting their customs. Aliens could become Jews by circumcision and keeping the Passover (Exodus 12:48, Numbers 9:14). In our day Arabs are people who speak Arabic as their mother tongue as opposed to Iranians and Turks who speak different languages.

10:2 Scholars have shown that the Indo-European languages share words in common and the same verb structure. German, Latin, Greek, Slav, Persian, and Sankrit all came from the one original root. So we can identify them with two or three of the nations from the line of Japheth. The Madai for example seem to have been the Medes and Persians. And Javan certainly refers to the people of Greece and the Greek Islands (as set out in 10:4). Some have connected Tubal (Isaiah 66:19; Ezekiel 27:13), with Celtic people who moved west. Meshech (Ezekiel 27:13; 38:2; 39:1) might refer to an area of Russia, and Tiras could be the Thracians who served as mercenaries with Alexander.

10:3 Gomer may be the name of a people who lived north of the Black Sea. Ashkenaz also seems to have been a northern tribe which later moved westward. We might wonder why the term Ashkenazi was adopted by the Jews who settled in Germany and Eastern Europe?

10:4-5 Javan (Ionia?) certainly refers to the Greek tribes. They had many contacts with the Jewish people (see Isaiah 66:19, Ezekiel 27:13, 19; Daniel 8:21; 10:20;11:2). Among the "coastland peoples" we can probably connect Tarshish with Tarsus, Kittim (Kition?) with Cyprus (Isaiah 23:1, 12; Ezekiel 27:6), and Rodanim with the island of Rhodes.

Genesis 10:6-20 The Hamitic Nations and Languages

10:6 Scholars have identified a second group of languages connected by common words and a quite different verb structure from the Indo-Europeans (10:2). They included ancient Egyptian, Ethiopic, Canaanite, Arabic, Assyrian, and Accadian (Babylonian). Unfortunately a German scholar named A. L. Schozer began the mistake (1781) of calling Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic ‘Semitic languages’and this has confused linguists for two hundred years. We assume that the writer of the Table of Nations was correct in naming people of this linguistic grouping as descended from one Hamitic source. They included the people of Cush (Ethiopia and the Sudan), Mizraim (Egypt), Put (Libya and other areas of North Africa), and Canaan (Amorites and Phoenicians).

Abraham clearly originated from the Shemites (10:21-31) through Arpachshad (10:22, 11:10-32), and he began speaking the Canaanite Hamitic language in Canaan. As a result both Hebrew (Canaanite) and Arabic should be called Hamitic, not Shemitic languages.

10:7 Cush was the area of the Sudan, the Horn of Africa, and stretching into what is now the Yemen. From Seba came the Sabean raiders who plundered Job’s family (Job 1:15). Havilah was not the Havilah of Armenia (2:11), but it was located to the east of Ishmaelite territory (Genesis 25:18). Sabtah may be modern Sabota in southern Arabia. Raamah and Sheba had merchants trading up the west coast of Arabia (Ezekiel 27:21-22). And the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1-2) came by the caravan route or by ship to Aquaba and then by land to Jerusalem. Dedan was one of the oases occupied by a grandson of Keturah (Genesis 25:1-3).

Note : In the Table of Nations Abraham is clearly a Shemite, whose mother tongue was probably Sumerian (10:24, 11:10-31). He would have learned Akkadian, which was a Hamitic language, which dominated Mesopotamia when the Babylonians took over the Sumerian cities (see Nimrod, 10:8-11). That would have enabled him to understand Canaanite which belonged to the same Hamitic group of languages. As a result both Hebrew and Arabic began as a pure form of Hamitic Canaanite. So when the tribes descended from Ishmael (25:12-18) moved east they would have understood the related Hamitic languages of South Arabia. And when Arab tribes were one by one united as children of Ishmael their Arabic language eventually dominated the Middle East. By a strange quirk of history when the Jews returned to their promised land they revived Hebrew which also originated from Canaanite, which is very closely related to the Arabic spoken by the Palestinians. All this and much else in later history makes sense if we take the Table of Nations seriously. It was perhaps collected from original clay tablets by Abraham, and put in its present form with additional historical and geographical notes by Moses.

10: 8-9 Nimrod was a brilliant general who took his army (10:9) from the area now called Yemen across the Arabian desert into present-day Iraq. His Hamitic language eventually displaced the Sumerian language of the cities on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

10:10-12 Nimrod took the Sumerian cities of Babylon, Erech, and Accad, and then went north to build the great city of Nineveh which was the heart of the later Assyrian empire.

10:13-14 Mizraim was the Hebrew word for Egypt (see Psalm 78:51; 105:23, 106:21-22). Having learned Accadian in Ur, and Canaanite in Canaan, Abraham would have been able to understand the more or less closely related Hamitic language of Egypt (Genesis 12:10-13:1). Put (10:6) was probably located in Libya and other areas along the south shore of the Mediterranean. Their original Hamitic languages survive to this day as Berber. But the whole area was taken over by the Arab armies who spoke the Arabic of the Ishmaelite tribes.

The Pathrusim were located around Pathros which is listed as near Egypt (Isaiah 11:11, 15; Jeremiah 44:1, 15; Ezekiel 30:14).

The Casluhim may have moved from North Africa into Crete in which case the undeciphered Minoan language of Linear A in Crete will turn out to be Hamitic (Cyrus Gordon guessed it might be West Canaanite). A group from Crete may have invaded Cyprus (Caphtor) and became known as the Philistines who settled around Gaza (Deuteronomy 2:23). Since their language was Hamitic and therefore related to Hebrew this would explain why the Jewish people in Canaan were able to communicate with the Philistines (Judges 14:1; 15:6; 16:4-5).

10:15 When Abraham moved south into Canaan he and his sons learned the Canaanite language which eventually became classical Hebrew and Arabic. This language was also spoken by the Phoenicians in the area of Tyre and Sidon.

10:16-19 The Jebusites and Amorites (Genesis 15:16) were listed among the other Canaanite tribes (Joshua 3:10; 10:3; 11:3). The Jebusites had their capital in Jebus, which held out till it was taken by King David and renamed as Jerusalem (Joshua 18:28; Judges 19:10; Numbers 13:29, 2 Samuel 5:6-9). The term Amorite was often used to include all the Canaanite tribes (Genesis15:16; Joshua 24:18; Judges 6:10).

10:20 All these Mediterranean people are clearly identified as belonging to the Hamitic group of nations.

Genesis 10:21-31 The Shemitic Group of Languages

10:21 Noah’s son Shem was born a hundred years before the flood (5:32, 7:11). Whereas the Japhethite (Indo-European) and Hamitic languages are easy to identify by the regularity of their verb structure, the Shemitic (not Semitic, as mistakenly named by scholars, see note on 10:7) group of languages is more problematical. We will work with the clue that Sumerian was the classical language of Mesopotamia for a thousand years, and it is unthinkable that the Sumerians would not be mentioned in the Table of Nations. There are more books and documents in Sumerian than any other language of the ancient world. We will therefore assume that Sumerian must be represented among the nations descended from Shem.

10:22 The Sumerian language was agglutinative (sentences are constructed by putting nouns together to form tenses. The Sumerian word dug for example means both speech and to speak). We therefore wonder about a connection between Sumerian and agglutinative languages such as the Ural-altaic, Finno-Ugric, Turkik and Chinese. There also seem to be connections between Sumerian and the Dravidian languages of South India. The Brahui of Baluchistan and Sindh spoke a variant of South Indian Dravidian. This suggests that before the Aryan invasions the undeciphered language of the Indus-Valley civilization in Pakistan was an agglutinative language also connected with Sumerian.

Now looking at the five Shemitic groupings (10:22) in the Table of Nations listing we wonder how the ancient agglutinative Elamite language of south-western Iran might was related to the Sumerians? We know that from 2700 BC to 2400 BC there were constant clashes between the Sumerians and their Elamite neighbors. A century before Abraham’s family left Ur of the Chaldees the Elamites took the city (c. 2000 BC). Jewish exiles were taken and settled in Elam (Isaiah 11:11). Medes and Elamites united to attack Babylon (Isaiah 21:2), but they were later scattered (Jeremiah 49:35-36). And the Elamites would be decimated and later restored (Jeremiah 49:35-39). There were Elamites speaking their own language on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9).

Asshur is clearly Assyria, and Nimrod established his Hamitic language (from the Horn of Africa) in the cities of Assyria (10:9-11). We will therefore guess that before Nimrod’s invasion the people of Asshur had an agglutinative language similar to Sumerian.

The Jewish people traced their ancestry to Arpachshad (11:12-31). Abraham’s parents and grandparents must have spoken Sumerian in Ur before the Hamitic Accadian language became dominant in the area. The Table of Nations clearly places Abraham’s origin among the Shemites. As we have noted, scholars were wrong to assume that Hebrew and Arabic were Semitic languages (note under 10:7).

The Table of Nations also places the Lydian language of Lud in the same group. The Ludim were known as fierce archers (Jeremiah 46:9). By the time of the Apostle Paul Lydians were living in Western Turkey around the city of Thyatira. Lydia came from there (Acts 16:14, 40). The city was famous for its purple cloth (mentioned in Mark 15:17; Luke 16:19). If our guess is right the original Lydian language would have been a Shemitic language connected with Sumerian. The last Lydian king was Croesus (reigned 560-546 BC), but he was defeated by the Persians under Cyrus the Great (546 BC). As a result of Persian control and the Greek domination of the area after the time of Alexander it seems Lydians began to speak an Indo-European dialect.

10:23 Aram was the area where Abraham’s father Terah settled his family in the city of Haran when they emigrated from Ur of the Chaldees (11:31). This is why Moses instructed Jews to say "A wandering Aramean was my ancestor" (Deuteronomy 26:5). Later, having moved into Canaanite territory, Abraham sent his servant back to the city of Nahor (24:10) to find a wife for Isaac. And that was where Jacob went to escape from the wrath of Esau, and he married women of the same family (28:2, 5). The area was called Aramnaharaim which means "Aram of the two rivers" (24:10) since Haran was between tributaries of both the Tigris and Euphrates.

If our guess is right, Terah and his family spoke Sumerian when they first settled in the bend of the Euphrates 39 km (24 miles) south-south-east of the later Christian center of Edessa, now called Urfa. There for a time they were safe from the Hamitic Assyrians and Babylonians. But when Haran fell to the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:12) their original Aramean language would have succumbed to the dominant Hamitic language of Mesopotamia. After the fall of Nineveh (612 BC) Haran became the Assyrian capital till it was sacked by the Babylonians (609 BC).

Later the Arameans moved south into Syria, and were constantly at war with the Jews (2 Samuel 8:6; 1 Kings 11:23-25; 20:1; 22:1; 2 Kings 6:8, etc.). But by then the Hamitic language they were forced to learn from the Assyrians and Babylonian had become known as Aramaic, which was the language of trade and diplomacy (see 2 Kings 18:26, Isaiah 36:11). It was used all the way along the Silk Road to China. Aramaic was probably Jesus’s mother tongue, and it became known as Syriac, the language of hundreds of Christian churches which flourished in the first five centuries in Iraq and Iran.

10:24 The line of Arpachsad, from which the Jews traced their lineage, is set out from Genesis 11:12.

10:25-30 The dividing of the earth may indicate the separation of the Joktan families descended from Arpachshad who moved to the south-east and settled in what is now the area of Oman and Yemen. After a long separation Muhammad (c. 570-732 AD) was able to unite these with the Ishmaelites to form one Arab people (see Ishmael the Arab).

10:31 The five groups of Shemitic people set out in the Table of Nations all became important for subsequent Jewish and Christian history. We will see in the next chapter how the Jews traced their ancestry to Arpachshad (Genesis 11:10-31). When Abraham was told to move south into Hamitic Canaan his family ancestral home continued in Haran (Aram-Naharaim Genesis 24:10). The Arameans who later took over Syria have continually fought against the Jews to this day. Asshur became the Hamitic center of the Assyrian empire, and it was the Assyrians who took Samaria and deported its inhabitants (2 Kings 17:6). Lydia was the location of churches in inland Asia Minor (Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Revelation 2:18-3:22). One of Daniel’s visions was in Susa, the capital of the province of Elam (Daniel 8:2). Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king there (Nehemiah 1:1). And the Jewish feast of Purim commemorates the time when Esther was able to save the Jewish people from extinction (Esther 1:2, 2:3, 9:11-12). All this can be understood if we take the tenth chapter of Genesis seriously.

Sadly many Old Testament scholars have dismissed as unhistorical the account of the Shemitic people recorded in the Table of Nations. It would be good if scholars began with this ancient framework and then see how it might relate to archaeological evidence from the Middle East.

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