Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Toledoth IV (Genesis 10:1)
Christians should not ignore this chapter, the fundamental teaching of which is that all the nations of earth are descended from a single ancestor and that, therefore, all the peoples of the earth are of "one blood" (Acts 17:26). There are no critical difficulties whatever in Genesis 10, for this record is the only document that has descended through the centuries to shed light upon the particular facts here related. How does one contradict something with nothing? Satan did the only thing he could do, that is, resort to the imaginations of wicked men, those imaginations, of course, being the only source of such alleged prior documents as "P" and "J." Until Satan can produce those documents and submit them to the same kind of examination that the Bible has encountered, they should not enter in any manner whatsoever into the interpretation of these pages. We cannot believe that there ever were any such documents! It is impossible to prove the existence of documents that have never been seen, that have never received even one mention throughout the ages of human history, and the content of which has never been determined. In the light of such facts, and these facts cannot be denied, how futile and worthless is the pedantic gobbledegook concerning which verses of this chapter belong either to "P" or to "J" or to "RP" or to "XYZ." What is written here is the unique source of all the information humanity has concerning the origin of the nations.
Here we shall vary a little from our usual method. Instead of writing in full each of the 32 verses, we shall give a chart setting forth visually the descent of all nations from Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
"The isles of the nations ..." This does not mean merely islands but "maritime countries." Isaiah called Canaan an `isle' (Isaiah 20:6)." Jamieson stated that the Hebrews referred to all countries having a seacoast as "isles."
"Mizraim ..." There is a suggestion of the plural in this word, but Yates tells us that it is "the correct Hebrew word for Egypt," and that it means the two Egypts, the Upper Egypt and the Lower Egypt with their capitals Memphis and Thebes.
The critical writers, ever watchful to discover "contradictions" complain that Sheba and Havilah in this verse, where they appear as Cushites descended from Ham, appear again in Genesis 10:28,29 as Shemites! This only means however that some of the same names were used by various branches of Noah's family, a most natural occurrence. It is a characteristic of the Bible that many names appear again and again. Even in the Twelve, there are two Simons, two Jameses, and two Judases. There are two Josephs in the geneology of Jesus, also three Matthats, two Mattathiases, two Melchis and two Simeons! The poverty of the multiple document theory is evident in the use by its advocates of such a fact as the reappearance here and there of a familiar name in their vain efforts to sustain it.
"Nimrod, the mighty hunter ..." As the founder of both Babylon and Nineveh, both of which were noted for their rebellion against God, Babylon, in fact, having come to stand in all ages as the great symbol for opposition and rebellion against God, Nimrod must be considered to have exhibited the same evil qualities. Whitelaw wrote that:
"Eastern tradition has painted Nimrod as a gigantic oppressor of the peoples' liberties and an impious rebel against Divine authority. Josephus credited him with having instigated the building of the tower of Babel."
The unreliability of tradition is, of course, notorious; but there seem to be good reasons for accepting it in the case of Nimrod. Under his power there rose the first of the godless states that were to plague the existence of the human family throughout its whole sojourn on earth. The very name, Nimrod means "We will revolt." and the expression "mighty hunter" likely means, "one who hunts men to enslave them." Some scholars have translated it "tyrant" or "despot."
"Out of that land, he went forth into Assyria, and builded Nineveh, and Rehoboth-Ir, and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (the same is the great city)."
This extremely interesting passage explains the mystery of the great size of the city of Nineveh, which was actually a complex of the four cities: Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, Resen, and Nineveh. Thus, there is no reason whatever to deny the statement in Jonah that it was a "city of three days' journey," thus having a circumference of some sixty miles. The inner citadel of Nineveh itself, where modern excavations have uncovered some of the ruins, was, of course, much smaller. Keil pointed out that the proper translation and understanding of this passage are as follows:
Render the passage: "He built Nineveh, with Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah, this is the great city." From this it follows that the four places formed a large composite city.
"Casluhim (whence went forth the Philistines), and Caphtorim ..." The critics go to work on this to find some kind of a mistake in it, since in Amos 9:7, reference is made to the Philistines having come from Caphtor. So what? They went from BOTH places to the land of Palestine to which area they gave their name "Palestine." The first wave of immigrants to what would become later "The Holy Land" undoubtedly came from Casluhim, and a later group of Philistines from Caphtor followed. There can be no excuse for the denial of this.
"Canaan ..." This was the grandson of Noah whom that patriarch cursed for his despicable behavior during the event of Noah's drunkenness, and it should be noted that none of Canaan's posterity could be identified with the Negro race, who were actually descended from Ham, not from Canaan. Moreover, their homeland was not primarily Africa, but Palestine, from Sidon to Sodom and Gomorrah. They were the pre-Israelite Canaanites, notorious for their sexual debauchery, their vile sex gods, and the licentious worship services by which they served them. The Canaanites thus justified in their subsequent history all that Noah had prophesied of them. Also, in this connection, it should be noted that Noah's curse was no requirement that such debaucheries should mark the descendants of Canaan, but that they would do so. His prophecy was not a requirement but a prediction of what would happen. Also, that part about their being enslaved and subjugated by other peoples likewise came true. No great power ever rose out of Palestine until AFTER the Canaanites had been supplanted by Israel and the vast Hebrew monarchy under Saul, David and Solomon dominated the Mid-east. On the other hand, Canaan's brothers became world conquerors, Hammurabi probably being among the descendants of Ham.
"Shem ... father of all the children of Eber ..." Eber gave his name to the Hebrews. "Hebrew = Eberite." As Willis pointed out, it is the importance of Eber as the ancestor of the Hebrews that leads to the mention of his name at the head of the genealogy, despite the fact of his being, not the son, but the "great-grandson of Shem."
"Shem, the elder brother of Japheth ..." There is a marginal reference in the ASV on this place which reads "the brother of Japheth the elder." Willis and others have rejected this as incorrect, but the definite Hebrew tradition that Shem was the youngest of Noah's sons could be correct, as mentioned above in the quotation from Josephus. Of course, his name usually stands first in the mention of Noah's sons, and that is supposed to prove that Shem was the oldest. However, in this chapter, his posterity are given after those of Japheth and Ham. The pre-eminence given to Shem in most of the references is amply sustained by his importance as the head of the Messianic line, and is, of course, proper regardless of whether or not he was older than his brothers. We also agree with Aalders that, "The relative age of the sons of Noah is actually of no great importance."
"Amram ..." These were the Aramaeans who built the great city of Damascus which figured prominently in the history of the Hebrews. In time, their language, the Aramaic langauge, replaced the ancient language of the Jews, and in the times of Jesus Christ, it was the language of the people.
"Peleg, for in his day was the earth divided ..." This is one of the very interesting lines in the chapter; and, of course, men are not agreed on what is meant by it. The usual explanation of it is as a reference to the division about to be related in the next chapter, the confusion of tongues. Other interpretations, of which there are many, include:
(1) a reference to Noah's formally dividing the earth among his sons, an event traditionally assigned to a period more than a hundred years after the flood, and
(2) a reference to widespread landslips on the surface of the earth that divided and separated the continents. All such speculations are without foundation in proved events. The view that the division of the earth following the confusion of tongues is most likely the true meaning.
"Sheba ..." As Yates said, this rings a bell with all Bible students who instantly think of the queen of Sheba and her visit to Solomon, an event mentioned by the Saviour himself.
"Ophir ..." This was a famous name among the Jews, for it was to Ophir that Solomon's great triennial navy traveled to bring gold for the decoration of the temple. Strangely enough, we cannot tell exactly where it was located. Whitelaw located it "probably at Oman on the coast of Arabia," and Josephus, Delitzsch, and others have thought it must be identified with some coastal city in India. It is not really known.
The human family must not ignore this chapter. It teaches the oneness of all mankind, that we are all the children of the same parents, that we are therefore brothers and sisters each to all, and that we should compel our attitudes and behavior to conform to such a profound truth. Medical science in the current era has added a vital, living proof of the truth of all this, in that there is no distinction whatever among the races as to the types of blood, persons of any race being able to provide the material for a blood transfusion to persons of any other race.
Since then, we ARE brothers, why should we not behave like brothers? Why the hatreds, prejudices, animosities, fears, proscriptions, and intrigues that feed the fires of the world's savage and unreasonable conflicts? May God help humanity to find again the secret of their lost brotherhood! Indeed, that is what Jesus came to do, to build of all men, one new man "in Christ." We must add that no other device for achieving such a desirable end has ever been dreamed of. Only "in the Lord Jesus Christ" can any real brotherhood of mankind ever reach the fruition sought. May God help all people to find it and to know the joy of receiving every man as his brother "in the Lord"!
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