Genesis 10

Genesis 10
Pastor Mark Hudson

In Genesis 10, we read another genealogy.  This is fashioned as somewhat of a second creation.  Since everything was destroyed by the flood, God is, from the living beings on the ark, populating the earth.  We saw how in chapter 9:1ff, the phrases echo the account of creation in Gen. 1 and 2.  That theme continues in chapter 10.  But there is a narrowing of the focus from animal, birds, creeping things to nations.

Here we see all the nations, 70 in all, from the sons of Noah.  Of course, we all are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.  But Noah and his family are the sole survivors of the flood.  So, from the line of Shem, Ham, and Japheth come all of mankind.

For most of us we see many races of people in the world, but this list underscores the common lineage of all humanity.  Are there different races or is there just one race?  Isn’t part of this genealogy stressing the unity of all these nations?  The author is pointing to the face that there is more in common with us than things that differentiate us.   We are all derived from the same brothers.

We remember Ham since after his father Noah became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent, Ham saw the nakedness of his father and told his brothers.  So, Shem and Japheth took a garment and walking backwards covered Noah being careful not to look upon their father’s nakedness.  You will find with this act that there are those who do what is right (Cain and Abel’s offerings) and those who do what is wrong.  We find divisions in families or even in marriages.

Let me add these observations from book I have on my shelf.  While general, it may provide more context and understanding when you read genealogies.  (Dictionary of N. T. Theology vol 3, p. 653.)  These are some of the purposes of genealogies in the Old Testament:

  1. Demonstrates existing relationship between Israel and neighboring tribes -similar (common father) to them in some areas, and dissimilar or distinction to Israel only.
  2. Interrelate previously isolated elements concerning Israelite origin by a coherent and inclusive genealogical system.
  3. Establish continuity over periods of time not covered.
  4. Vehicle for chronological speculation for greater events
  5. Demonstrate legitimacy of an individual for office and to provide connections to worthy families or individuals of the past.
  6. In Ezra-Nehemiah (only) establish and preserve the homogeneity of the chosen nation (author uses the word `race’).
  7. Assert importance of continuity of the people of God through a period of national disruption.
  8. Divide history up in epochs, meaningful outworking of plan of God in history – most frequent use in priestly writings.

You will notice a commitment to the number 7 frequently in this genealogy with the effect that some offspring are not included so the grouping of 7 still stands.  All this serves the purpose of the author. In Genesis 46:26-27, seventy persons of the house of Jacob went into Egypt. The nation of Israel eventually came forth from this group, so the number signifies the beginning of a “new” nation. (

You will notice that the descendants of Japheth covers 10:1-5 and, if we had a map covers the area from Italy through modern day Turkey and past Iran.  The descendants of Ham covers 10:6-20 and Ham’s map would cover Egypt and south as well as Canaan.  Then the descendants of Shem in vs. 21-32.  Shem’s map would cover modern day Saudi Arabia and north in east of the Jordan.  Japheth could be listed first, not because he is the oldest but because Japheth’s descendants are the most remote and least important.  In fact, Keil & Delitzsch consider the birth order at Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

So, since the descendants of Shem are what the Moses follows, they are listened last.  A final thought.  This chapter reminds us that for all the following conflicts, and there are many, these nations share a common heritage.  You see this as you read both Testaments.  There are so many ramifications from this observation.  We have conflict with those who are the closest to us; to those who are related to us.  That kinship ought to be predominate as we express our conflict.  That family relation should make us more tenderhearted when we disagree.

Dear Father, we have conflict with those close to us often and sometimes we go for years without talking to family members or close friends.  But we remain related in spite of our differences.  Lord, help me to remember there is one race but many skin colors, different languages, and different ways to view family, community, and friends.  Remind us that our most important family is what we have in Christ.  We pray this in the power of the Spirit for the honor of Jesus the Son and the glory of God the Father.  Amen.