Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 10

Verses 1-32

The Nations descended from Noah

This section gives the origins and situations of the nations of the world, as their relationships were conceived by the early Hebrews. Before passing to the history of the chosen race, the author traces the ties by which the rest of mankind are united with his own people, and shows the position of Israel among the nations. Each nation is regarded as a unity, and is summed up in the person of its supposed ancestor. The nations being treated as individuals, it follows that their mutual relations are put in terms borrowed from family life; Gomer is the 'son' of Japheth, and so on. But this relationship is not to be understood literally. The names are in many cases plainly national (the Jebusite, the Canaanite, etc.). Others are well-known names of countries (Mizraim or Egypt, Asshur, etc.), and nearly all appear elsewhere in OT. in a geographical sense (see especially Ezekiel 27 and Ezekiel 38:1-13). We may therefore consider that the arrangement is determined chiefly by geographical considerations, nations in proximity to each other being regarded as related. Thus the races assigned to Japheth (Genesis 10:2-5) are all in the N., those to Ham in the S. (Genesis 10:6-20), whilst Shem's descendants (Genesis 10:21-31) are in the centre. These come last because it is this line which is followed out in the sequel. The classification of the nations is a rough and approximate one, made in far distant days when the science of ethnology was unknown. The limitations of the Hebrew author's knowledge of the extent of the world are also apparent. The nations mentioned are mainly those which were grouped round the Mediterranean Sea, and are generally known as Caucasian, no reference being made to Negro, Mongolian or Indian races. But it may be truly said that the list upon the whole proves itself to be an excellent historico-geographical monument of an age from which we no longer have other comprehensive sources of information. While the groundwork of the section is from the Priestly document, this has been combined with extracts from the Primitive document (Genesis 10:8-19, Genesis 10:21, Genesis 10:24-30), which do not perfectly harmonise with it. Thus Sheba (Genesis 10:28) and Havilah (Genesis 10:29) are descendants of Shem, while in Genesis 10:7 they are Cushites, descended from Ham. The identification of the following names is uncertain: Abimael, Almodad, Anamim, Casluhim, Diklah, Gether, Hadoram, Hui, Jerah, Lud, Ludim, Mash, Obal, Resen, Sabtechah, Salah. The notes on the names follow the groupings of the text.

2-5. The sons of Japheth. These are nations mostly N. or W. of Palestine.

Gomer] the Cimmerians, near the Crimea. Ashkenaz] perhaps, Phrygia. Riphath] perhaps Paphlagonia on S. borders of the Black Sea. Togarmah] Armenia. Magog] supposed to be Scythians, cp. Ezekiel 38:2, where they are associated with Gomer. Madai] the Medes. Javan] Ionian Greece. Elishah] some coast or island in the Greek seas (Ezekiel 27:7): Crete, Cyprus, and Greece (Hellas) have been suggested. Tarshish] Though often mentioned in OT., the identity is quite uncertain. Suggestions are either Tarsus in Cilicia, Tartessus in S. Spain, or the Etruscans of Italy. Kittim] Citium, the modern Larnaca in Cyprus. Dodanim] (in 1 Chronicles 1:7; Rodanim) Rhodes. Tubal] the Tibareni; Meshech] the Moschi, both SE. of the Black Sea. Tiras] uncertain. Perhaps the Turusha, a seafaring people mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions, or the Tyrseni, a people dwelling on the shores of the Ægean Sea.

5. It is likely that this v. in its complete form ran: 'Of these were the coasts and islands of the peoples divided. These are the sons of Japheth, in their lands, each according to his language, after their families, in their peoples.' Cp. Genesis 10:20, Genesis 10:31.

6, 7, 13-19 The sons of Ham.

6. Ham] a name for Egypt. The 'sons of Ham' means the nations connected with Egypt geographically or politically. They were all S. of Palestine. Cush] Ethiopia or Nubia, S. of Egypt. Phut] probably the 'Punt' of Egyptian inscriptions, on the E. African coast.

7. Seba.. Havilah.. Sabtah.. Raamah.. Sheba.. Dedan..] all countries bordering on the African or Arabian coasts of the Red Sea.

8-12. This paragraph interrupts the connexion. Before and after it are simple genealogies. The Cush of Genesis 10:8 is thought to be distinct from the African Cush of Genesis 10:7, and to stand for the Kashshu or Cossæi, who were the dominating power in Babylonia between the 16th and 13th centuries b.c.

8. Begat] was the progenitor of.

Nimrod] the one personal figure of the chapter. Here his name is proverbial as that of a mighty hunter (Genesis 10:9). He founds both Babylonian and Assyrian civilisation (Genesis 10:10-12). There is no trace of Nimrod as an historical character on the monuments, and it has been suggested that the name (as if from marad, 'to rebel') was a deliberate mutilation and corruption of that of Merodach, the god of Babylon, made by one who wished to deny his divine character. If this was the case, the heathen deity who caught Tiamat in his net has been transformed in the Bible story into a mere human huntsman, a creature of the true God (cp. before Jehovah, Genesis 10:9), and the ancient cities that boasted of their divine origin are traced to a human founder.

10. Babel] Babylon. Erech] Warka, on the left bank of the Euphrates. Accad] the ancient name of N. Babylonia; also a city, the capital of Sargon I, the earliest historical ruler of all Babylonia. Calneh] probably the same as Nippur, the modern Niffier, recently excavated by the Pennsylvanian expedition. Shinar] an ancient name for S. Babylonia.

11. Out of that land went forth Asshur] RV 'out of that land he (Nimrod) went forth into Assyria.' This v. correctly indicates that Assyria owed its civilisation to Babylonia: it was also politically dependent until the 10th cent. b.c. Nineveh] the modern Kouyunjik on the Tigris, the ancient capital of Assyria. Its ruins have been excavated in recent years, and numbers of tablets, inscriptions, and carvings collected from its palaces. The city Rehoboth] RV 'Rehoboth-ir' ('broad spaces of the city'): probably a suburb of Nineveh. Calah] the modern Nimrûd, 20 m. S. from Kouyunjik. Resen] not known.

The same is the (RV) great city] i.e. Nineveh and the other three together formed the 'great city.'

13, 14. The descendants of Mizraim.

Mizraim] the Hebrew name for Egypt. The plural form is supposed to indicate Upper and Lower Egypt. Lehabim] Libya, W. of Egypt. Naphtuhim] perhaps N. of Lower Egypt. Pathrusim] S. or Upper Egypt. The clause 'Whence went forth the Philistines' (RV) should be placed after Caphtorim, or people of Crete, with whom the Philistines are elsewhere said to be connected (Jeremiah 47:4; Amos 9:7). They settled on the SW. coast of Canaan, and gave the name Palestine to the country.

15-19. Canaan] Phœnicia and Palestine. The Canaanites were a Semitic race, speaking a language near akin to Hebrew. They are here assigned to Ham, perhaps contemptuously, or possibly because Palestine was a province of Egypt previous to the exodus. Sidon] the Phœnician seaport. Heth] The Hittites are now well known from Egyptian and Assyrian inscriptions to have been a powerful nation to the N. of Palestine, with Carchemish on the Euphrates and Kadesh on the Orontes as their chief cities. An offshoot of the nation is found at Hebron: cp. Genesis 23:3; Genesis 25:10. The Jebusite] the tribe in and around Jerusalem: cp. Joshua 15:8, Joshua 15:63; 2 Samuel 5:6-9. The Amorite] one of the most powerful Palestinian tribes. In Assyrian and Egyptian inscriptions they are called the Amurru, and “Amorite” seems to have been a general term for the old inhabitants of Canaan: see on 2 Samuel 12:5. According to Numbers 13:29 they dwelt chiefly in the mountainous districts. Sihon and Og were Amorite kings. The Girgashite] perhaps connected with Gergesa, near the Sea of Galilee. The Hivite] a petty tribe of Central Palestine. The Arkite] the tribe connected with the Phœnician city of Arka, 12 m. N. of Tripolis. The Sinite] probably connected with a city called Sin, near Lebanon. The Arvadite] Arvad was a city built on an island off the Phœnician coast (now Ruwad). The Zemarite] Sinsyra, S. of Arvad. The Hamathite] Hamath was a city on the Orontes. The 'entering in of Hamath 'was the northern limit of Palestine. Most of these tribes were afterwards driven out by the conquering Israelites.

19. The border of the Canaanite] from Zidon in the north, to Gaza, a Philistine city in the direction of Gerar. The other cities mentioned in Numbers 13:19 were probably, but not certainly, at the S. end of the Dead Sea.

21-31. The sons of Shem. The nations connected racially or geographically with the Hebrews.

Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber] Attention is thus called to Shem as the ancestor of the Hebrews ('children of Eber'). The Amarna tablets speak of a tribe called the Habiri invading Canaan in the days of Joshua, and many scholars identify them with the Hebrews. The brother of Japheth the elder] RV 'the elder brother of Japheth.' This is mentioned to show that though Shem is put last, he was not the youngest.

22. Elam] NE. of Babylonia. Its capital was Susa. Asshur] Assyria. Arphaxad] RV 'Arpachshad': uncertain. Some connect it with the Kasdim or Chaldeans who lived on the Persian Gulf and became rulers of Babylonia. Lud], uncertain, possibly Lydia in Asia Minor. Aram] Syria, NE. of Palestine. Damascus was a Syrian kingdom. The Jews in later times spoke Aramaic.

23. Uz] probably near Edom, see Job 1:1.

25. Peleg] 'divided.' In his days was the earth divided] alluding perhaps to the dispersion of man described in Genesis 11.

26-30. The sons of Joktan represent various Arabian tribes.

Hazarmaveth] Hadramaut in S. Arabia. Uzal] the capital of Yemen. Sheba and Havilah] See prefatory remark and on Genesis 10:7. Ophir] a famous region, the locality of which is still in dispute. Some place it in E. Africa in Mashonaland, where remarkable remains of ancient mining works have been found, some in India, and some in S. Arabia. Mesha] NE. Arabia. Sephar] SW. Arabia. Unto Sephar, etc.] RM 'toward Sephar, the hill country of the East.'

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Genesis 10". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.