In Genesis 10-11, we get a closer look at Noah’s sons and their descendants in the Table of Nations, as well as the beginning of modern civilization and the Tower of Babylon.
Chapters 10 & 11 of Genesis are difficult to study because they are primarily genealogical lists but there are some interesting and important pieces of information to gather from them.
Genesis 10 is referred to as the “Table of Nations” because Noah’s sons began building families who create the nations of the world.
First we are introduced to Japheth’s descendants, the coastland people. They settled in areas reachable by ship. (Gen. 10:2-5)
Next we are introduced to Ham’s descendants who settled in present-day Africa and Arabia regions. One of Ham’s descendants was Nimrod, son of Cush, the “first powerful man on earth”.
‘Cush fathered Nimrod, who was the first powerful man on earth. He was a powerful hunter in the sight of the Lord . That is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a powerful hunter in the sight of the Lord .” His kingdom started with Babylon, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, and Resen, between Nineveh and the great city Calah.‘ Genesis 10:8-12
Nimrod was a powerful hunter and king, with a large kingdom beginning in Babylon and including Nineveh. These two capital cities are two of Israel’s most formidable enemies located in present-day Iraq.
As you may be aware, Iraq and Israel continue to have problems to this day. Iraq has never recognized Israel as a diplomatic state.
Also from the line of Ham came the Canaanites and 11 different people groups.
Shem’s line leads directly to Jesus through Peleg. The list of descendants in Genesis 10: 21-30 lists both the chosen and unchosen lines of Shem. The unchosen lines are the descendants who do not lead to Jesus.
‘Eber had two sons. One was named Peleg, for during his days the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan. ‘ Genesis 10:25
In verse 25, the mention of the earth dividing during the days of Peleg possibly refers to God confusing the languages at the Tower of Babylon.
Genesis 11 covers the Tower of Babylon. Babylon was one of the kingdoms of Nimrod, located in the land of Shinar.
As more people populated the earth, they all began to congregate together around Babylon.
‘They said to each other, “Come, let us make oven-fired bricks.” They used brick for stone and asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”’ Genesis 11:3-4
- Man wanted to build a city and a name for themselves (selfishness)
- God’s command was to fill the earth (Gen. 9:1)
- The tower was possibly an attempt to elevate themselves above God
‘Then the Lord came down to look over the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said, “If they have begun to do this as one people all having the same language, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” ‘ Genesis 11:5-7
- Despite man’s attempts to elevate themselves, God still had to “come down to look over the city”
- God knew that if man could come together to build the Tower of Babylon, they could come together for more evil and disobedience
- Just as in Genesis 1:26, God referred to Himself in plural – “let Us go down there…”
- God confused their languages, scattered people across the earth, and the building of the city stopped.
In Genesis 11: 10-26, we get a closer look at Shem’s chosen descendants. Similar to Genesis 5:1-2 where we see the connection from Adam to Noah, in these verses we see the connection from Noah to Abram (later referred to Abraham).
Terah was the father of Abram, Nahar, and Haran, and Haran fathered Lot (who you may remember from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah).
- Abram (later Abraham) married Sarai (later Sarah) and she could not conceive a child
- Nahor married Milcah, his niece (Haran’s daughter)
- Terah, Lot, Abram, and Sarai migrated from Ur of the Chaldeans to Haran where they settled.
Chronologically, we will be taking a break from Genesis after chapter 11 to read through Job. This puts us at around 2200 BC, although exact timeframes are hard to determine.