Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
I am doing Genesis 10 a little differently. It looks like I will probably end up talking about this chapter for at least three posts. In the first post on Chapter 10, I covered the entire text of the chapter and started a discussion on the specifics of where Noah’s descendants settled and which groups they are thought to have become. Specifically we focused on the descent of Japheth and started looking at Ham’s descendants. If you want to understand a lot of the rest of the Old Testament (ex: Who is Magog?) then having a grasp of what is going on here is helpful.
In the second part of Genesis 10, we looked at Ham’s descendants, including Nimrod, Mizraim, and Canaan. We will be looking at Shem’s descendants in Part 3 of Chapter 10.
Chapter 10 and Chapter 11 represents something of a jump forward in time from the deeply remote past of Noah (from the perspective of Moses,) to the slightly less remote past of Abraham.
10 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.
Picking back up in Verse 21.
(21-23) shem . . . the brother of Japheth the elder.—Really, the elder brother of Japheth. Though the rules of Hebrew grammar will admit of no other rendering, it is remarkable that both the Syriac and the Vulg. make the same mistake as our own version. In designating Shem as “the father of all the children of Eber,” attention is called to the fact that the descendants of Peleg, his elder son, are omitted from this table, and reserved for the Tôldôth Shem. (See Genesis 11:10.)
The nations descended from Shem were:—
1. Elam.—According to Mr. Sayce (Chald. Gen., p. 196), “the primitive inhabitants of Elam were a race closely allied to the Accadians, and spread over the whole range of country which stretched from the southern shores of the Caspian to the Persian Gulf.” But just as the Semitic Asshur expelled a Hamite race from Assyria, so another branch of this conquering family occupied Elymais. It is now called Chuzistan, and was the most easternly of the countries occupied by the Semites. But see Excursus to Genesis 14 on the conquests of the Elamite Chedorlaomer.
2. Asshur.—This Semitic stock seems to have been the first to settle on the Tigris, as the Hamites were the first to settle on the Euphrates. Finally, as we have seen (Genesis 10:11), they conquered the whole country.
3. Arphaxad.—Heb., Arpachshad. We may dismiss the idea that he was connected with the region called Arrapachitis, for this correctly is Aryapakshata, “the land next the Aryans.” Really he appears as the ancestor of Eber and the Joktanite Arabs.
4. Lud.—Probably the Lydians, who, after various wanderings, settled in Asia Minor.
5. Aram.—As Asshur means plain, so Aram means highland. It was originally the name of the Lebanon ranges, and thus Damascus is called Aram in 2 Samuel 8:5. Subsequently the race so extended itself as to possess Mesopotamia, a lowland country, but called, as early as Genesis 24:10, “Aram of the two rivers.” The greatness of Aram will be best seen by examining those places in our version where Syria and Syrian are spoken of, and which, in the Hebrew, are really Aram.
To the Aramæan stock belonged also four outlying dependencies—(1) Uz, the land of Job, a district in the northern part of Arabia Deserta; (2) Hul and (3) Gether, regions of which nothing is known; and (4) Mash, a desert region on the western side of the Euphrates (Chald. Gen., p. 276).
Nations descended from Shem are:
- Elam – Spread out from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf; subsequently Chuzistan (this may mean the Khuzestan province within Iran.)
- Asshur – On the banks of the Tigris, this group became the Assyrian Empire
- Arphaxad –
Some ancient Jewish sources, particularly Jubilees, point to Arpachshad as the immediate progenitor of Ura and Kesed, who allegedly founded the city of Ur Kesdim (Ur of the Chaldees) on the west bank of the Euphrates (Jub. 9:4; 11:1-7) — the same bank where Ur, identified by Leonard Woolley in 1927 as Ur of the Chaldees, is located.
Until Woolley’s identification of Ur, Arpachshad was understood by many Jewish and Muslim scholars to be an area in northern Mesopotamia. This led to the identification of Arpachshad with Urfa-Kasid (due to similarities in the names ארפ־כשד and כשדים) – a land associated with the Khaldis, whom Josephus confused with the Chaldeans. Donald B. Redford asserted that Arpachshad is to be identified with Babylon.
4. Lud – Ellicott associates Lud with the Lydians in Asia Minor. For Western readers who might not be familiar, the people from Asian portion of Turkey are often referred to as Anatolian. Some scholars have also associated Lud with the Persians. See more below.
The descendants of Lud are usually, following Josephus, connected with various Anatolian peoples, particularly Lydia (Assyrian Luddu) and their predecessors, the Luwians; cf. Herodotus‘ assertion (Histories i. 7) that the Lydians were first so named after their king, Lydus (Λυδός). However, the chronicle of Hippolytus of Rome (c. 234 AD) identifies Lud’s descendants with the Lazones or Alazonii (names usually taken as variants of the “Halizones” said by Strabo to have once lived along the Halys) while it derives the Lydians from the aforementioned Ludim, son of Mizraim.
The Book of Jubilees, in describing how the world was divided between Noah’s sons and grandsons, says that Lud received “the mountains of Asshur and all appertaining to them till it reaches the Great Sea, and till it reaches the east of Asshur his brother” (Charles translation). The Ethiopian version reads, more clearly “… until it reaches, toward the east, toward his brother Asshur’s portion.” Jubilees also says that Japheth‘s son Javan received islands in front of Lud’s portion, and that Tubal received three large peninsulae, beginning with the first peninsula nearest Lud’s portion. In all these cases, “Lud’s portion” seems to refer to the entire Anatolian peninsula, west of Mesopotamia.
Some scholars have associated the Biblical Lud with the Lubdu of Assyrian sources, who inhabited certain parts of western Media and Atropatene. It has been conjectured by others that Lud’s descendants spread to areas of the far-east beyond Elam, or that they were identified with the Lullubi.
10th century Muslim historian Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Masudi writes in his widely acclaimed historical book The Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems that Keyumars, the first king of Persia, was the son of Lud, son of Shem.
The Muslim historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (c. 915) recounts a tradition that the wife of Lud was named Shakbah, daughter of Japheth, and that she bore him “Faris, Jurjan, and the races of Persia.” He further asserts that Lud was the progenitor of not only the Persians, but also the Amalekites and Canaanites, and all the peoples of the East, Oman, Hejaz, Syria, Egypt, and Bahrain.
5. Aram – As you might have guessed from his name, Aram is often regarded as the progenitor of the Aramean people of northern Mesopotamia and Syria.
The Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible uses the Hebrew word ארמי ărammì for Aramean (or Syrian, some translations). Bethuel the Aramean from Padan-aram is identified as the father-in-law of Isaac. Laban the son of Bethuel is also referred to as an Aramean who lived in Haran in Padan-aram (map, bottom). Deuteronomy 26:5 might refer to the fact that both Jacob and his grandfather Abraham had lived for a time in Syria, or to Jacob being the son of a Syrian mother: “Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: ‘My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous.’ ” (New International Version) The Hebrew word רמי rammîy is found at 2 Chronicles 22:5, also translated Aramaean or Syrian.
The land of Aram-Naharaim (“Aram of the Two Rivers”) included Padan-Aram and the city of Haran (or Harran), Haran being mentioned ten times in the Bible. This region is traditionally thought to be populated by descendants of Aram, as is the nearby land of Aram that included Aram-Damascus and Aram Rehob. David wrote of his striving with Aram-Naharaim and Aram-Zobah (Psalm 60, title). Aram-Naharaim is mentioned five times in Young’s Literal Translation
According to the Book of Jubilees (9:5,6), the portion of the earth to be inherited by the descendants of Aram included all of the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers “to the north of the Chaldees to the border of the mountains of Asshur and the land of ‘Arara.”
“The mountains of Asshur in the north, and all the land of Elam, Asshur, and Babel, and Susan and Ma’edai” (Persia, Assyria, Babylonia, and Media, i.e. the Medes the sons of Madai) were apportioned to sons of Shem (Jubilees 8:21) and, consistent with the statement of the Book of Jubilees on Aram, the Aramaeans have historically been predominant in the north here, specifically central Syria, where Aramaic was the lingua franca, or common language, before the advent of Christianity.
Islamic prophet Hud, a Prophet of ancient Arabia, is believed by Muslim scholars to have been a descendant of Aram. Hud is said to have preached in ʿĀd, in Arabia, according to the Quran. The town’s eponymous ancestor, Ad, is considered to have been the son of Uz, one of Aram’s sons.
The chapter of the Quran named Hud, Chapter 11, mentions the people of ʿĀd, and in verse 44, the ship of Noah is described as coming to rest on Mount Judi after “waves like mountains brought punishment upon wrongdoing people.”
More from Ellicott:
(24) Arphaxad begat Salah.—Heb., Shelah. The rest of the chapter is devoted to giving an account of the settlements of the Joktanite Arabs, who formed only one, apparently, of the races sprung from Arphaxad, as in this table even the Hebrews are omitted, although Eber’s birth is given with the view of showing that the right of primogeniture belonged not to Joktan, but to Eber. The name Arphaxad, as we have seen (Genesis 10:22), at present defies all explanation. For the rest, see the Tôldôth Shem, Genesis 11:10-26.
He notes in verse 24 something mysterious. The chapter focuses on Arphaxad from here forward despite Eber having the right of primogeniture. He also notes that the name Arphaxad is a mystery in and of itself.
(25) Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided.—This may refer to the breaking up of the race of Shem into separate nations, which severally occupied a distinct region; and so, while Joktan took Arabia, and in course of time expelled the Hamites from that country, Asshur, Aram, and Peleg occupied the regions on the north and north-west. But as Peleg, according to the Tôldôth Shem, was born only 101 years after the flood, Noah’s family could scarcely have multiplied in so short a time to as many as 500 people; and Mr. Cyril Graham considers that the name refers to “the first cutting of some of those canals which are found in such numbers between the Tigris and the Euphrates.” This is made more probable by the fact that Peleg in Hebrew means water-course.
(26-31) Joktan.—“The little one,” as being a younger son. Of the thirteen divisions of his family, few are of any importance, though several of the names are curious from their connection with the Arabic language. The Joktanite country was Arabia Felix, or Yemen, and as the people led a pastoral life without founding cities, the traces of their tribal names are insignificant. Those worth noting are Almodad, because it has the full form of the article, retained as Al in Arabic, but shortened in Hebrew into Ha. Hazarmaveth, “the court of death,” so called because of the unhealthiness of its climate, is now Hadramaut. Abimael means “the father of Mael.” While in Hebrew and Syriac men took the name of their father, in Arabic they often take the name of a son, with Abu or Abi (“father of”) prefixed. Sheba, the region afterwards famous for its commerce and its wealth of spices and precious stones. A Sheba also occurs among the race of Ham (see Genesis 10:7). Opbir: the name, probably, at first of a district of Oman in Arabia, but afterwards given to some port in India or Ceylon, from some fancied similarity. Havilah: some commentators consider that this is the same district as that previously occupied by the Cushites (Genesis 10:7); others argue that the two Havilahs are distinct, and that this is the region called Chawlân, in Northern Yemen. It is, however, certain that the Hamites possessed this country prior to its being occupied by the Joktanites.
Joktan – Yemen.
We also see a Sheba in this line – the same name as also occurs in the line of Ham.
Opbir is most likely – according to Ellicott – a district in Oman in Arabia.
We see the name Havilah comes up again. As noted above, there is an argument as to whether this Havilah is the same as the one mentioned in 10:7.
(32) After their generations.—Heb., according to their Tôldôth. This makes it probable that each family preserved in some way an historical record of its descent; and as this table is called the Tôldôth of the Sons of Noah, it was probably formed by a comparison of numerous Tôldôth, each showing the descent of various members of the three great families into which the sons of Noah were divided.
And here we wrap up the chapter with a verse telling the reader what they have just read.
If it feels as though, after reading this, that the sons of Noah and their various tribes are living intermixed with one another, that is because in many instances that is precisely what is described. Keeping track becomes even more difficult after factoring in tribal movement (Cush for example) or shared names (Lud, for another example.) History and region might also record one person under different names or record a line of descent in conflicting ways. I could probably spend weeks deep-diving the history of each name, their travels, how they intermixed with other tribes, etc., but I will leave that as a task for another day.
In any case, though, if you are reading an ancient text (including the Bible) and you cannot place the geography of a group of people in your mind, this chapter of Genesis might be a helpful place to begin.