Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Genesis 10

Verse 1

GENESIS CHAPTER 10

Noah’s posterity, Genesis 10:1. Sons of Japheth, Genesis 10:2-5. Of Ham, Genesis 10:2-14; among whom Nimrod the first monarch and tyrant; he reigns in Babel, &c., Genesis 10:10. Asshur builds Nineveh, &c., Genesis 10:11. Sons of Canaan, Genesis 10:15. Their border, Genesis 10:19. Of Shem, Genesis 10:21-31.

This chapter, though it may seem to some unprofitable, as consisting almost wholly of genealogies, yet hath indeed great and manifold uses.

1. To show the true original of the several nations; about which all other authors write idly, fabulously, and falsely; and thereby to manifest the providence of God in the government of the world and church, and the truth and authority of the Holy Scriptures.

2. To discover and distinguish from all other nations that people or nation in which God’s church was to be, and from which Christ was to come.

3. That Noah’s prophecy concerning his three sons might be better understood, and the accomplishment of it made evident.

4. To explain divers prophetical predictions and other passages of Scripture, as will appear in the sequel. For the better understanding of this chapter, compare with it 1 Chronicles 1:4-24. And consider these three things.

1. In the search of these genealogies we must avoid both carelessness, for the reasons now mentioned, and excessive curiosity about every particular person here named, and the people sprung from him; which is neither necessary nor profitable, nor indeed possible now to find out, by reason of the great changes of names, through length of time, loss of ancient records, differences of languages, extinction of families, conquest and destruction of nations, and other causes. It may suffice that divers of them, and those the most eminent, are evident and discernible at this day, as will appear in the progress, by which we may and ought to presume the truth of the rest, whose names are lost in the public confusions of the world in former ages, of whom I shall therefore be silent, and only speak of the principal persons, and that briefly.

2. The same people which were originally seated in one place did ofttimes shift their places, or at least sent forth colonies; and that sometimes into places far distant from their brethren, as appears from the ancient and famous expeditions mentioned in sacred and profane story. So you must not wonder if you meet with the same people in divers countries.

3. In general, the world was divided into three parts, whereof the more eastern parts were allotted to Shem and his issue, the more southern parts to Ham, and the more northern parts of it to Japheth.

Verse 2

Japheth’s portion was at first Asia the Less, and afterwards by degrees all Europe, and the northern parts of Asia. This is he so much celebrated among the Greeks by the name of Japetus.

Gomer’s posterity are reckoned among the northern people, Ezekiel 38:6, and were seated in the northern parts of the Lesser Asia, and afterwards about Thracia; and from him were called Gomari, and by an easy change Cimbri, or Cimmerii.

Magog was the father of the Scythians, as may be gathered from Ezekiel 38:2-3, Ezekiel 38:15, Ezekiel 39:3, Ezekiel 39:6.

The posterity of

Madai, wheresoever they were first placed, in Macedonia or elsewhere, afterward were fixed in Media, and were called Medes, and in the Hebrew by the name of their father Madai, as appears from 2 Kings 17:6 Isaiah 13:17 Jeremiah 25:25, Jeremiah 51:11, Daniel 5:28, Daniel 6:8.

From

Javan came the Grecians, who are called by themselves Iaones, or Iones, and in the Hebrew Jevanim, and their country Greece, Javan. See Isaiah 66:19 Ezekiel 27:13, Ezekiel 27:19, Daniel 8:21, Daniel 10:20.

Of

Tubal came the Iberi, anciently called Thobeli, a people of Asia, near the Euxine Sea. See Ezekiel 27:3, Ezekiel 32:26, Ezekiel 38:2-3.

Meshech was father of the Moschi, i.e. the Muscovites, or rather, as others think, the Cappadocians, who were anciently called Meschini, and Moschi, and their chief city Maraca.

And

Tiras was father of the Thracians; amongst whom is a river and haven called Athyras, and who worshipped their god Mars under the name of Thuras.

Verse 3

Ashkenaz, whose seed possessed Pontus and Bithynia, and the neighbouring parts, from whom they took the names of the lake and haven called Ascanius, and the sea called Axenus, or Euxinus.

Riphath is called Diphath, 1 Chronicles 1:6; the letters Daleth and Resh being oft interchanged, as we shall see in other instances. His posterity dwelled in or near Pontus and Bithynia, where Mela and Pliny and Solinus place the Riphaei, or Riphaces, and the Paphlagonians, who were anciently called Piphataei.

Togarmah, whose posterity are joined with Gomer’s; see Ezekiel 27:14, Ezekiel 38:6; and were, as some think, the Phrygians and Galatians, and of them the Gauls and Germans; or, as others, the Armenians, and of them the Turks.

Verse 4

Elishah, the father of the Grecians properly so called, who have preserved his name and remembrance in the cities Elis and Elissus, in a tract of ground called Elias, and in the Elysian fields. And from these came the Æolians, a people of the Lesser Asia, where many of the Grecian colonies were seated.

Tarshish was father of the Cilicians, from whom their chief city Tarsus, in Hebrew Tarshish, took its name; see Ezekiel 27:12 Jonah 1:3 Acts 22:3; and from whom the whole Mediterranean Sea is called Tarshish, because the Cilicians were in a great degree masters of that sea.

Kittim, or, Chittim, the father of the Macedonians, and Italians too, as may be gathered from hence, because both their countries are called by the name of Chittim; Macedonia, /APC 1Ma 1:1 8:5, and Italy, Numbers 24:24 Daniel 11:30. See also Isaiah 23:1 Jeremiah 2:10. Besides that there are other evidences in profane writers that the Italians came from the Grecians.

Dodanim is called also Rodanim, 1 Chronicles 1:7. See Riphath in. { Genesis 10:3} His posterity is uncertain. Most probably he was seated near his brethren in some part of Greece. And the Greeks seem to have worshipped him under the name of Jupiter Dodonaeus, whose famous oracle was in the city Dodona.

Verse 5

The isles of the Gentiles; not isles properly so called; for why should they, having their choice, forsake the continent for islands, and thereby cut off themselves from their brethren? And where had they ships to transport them? But the word isles here and elsewhere signifies all those countries that had the sea between them and Judea, as it doth Isaiah 11:10-11, Isaiah 40:15, Jeremiah 2:10, Jeremiah 25:22, Ezekiel 27:3, Zephaniah 2:11. And isles are here put for the inhabitants, as the words earth and land are commonly used. This division of the world among them being a work of great weight, was doubtless managed with great care and consultation, and the advice of their heads and governors, and above all by the wise and special providence of God, which at this time did particularly determine the bounds of their several habitations, as it is recorded Acts 17:26.

Every one after his tongue, i.e. according to their several languages, into which they were divided at Babel. By which it appears that this division, though mentioned before, was not executed till after the confusion of languages at Babel.

After their families. Here observe the wise and gracious providence of God mixed with this judgment, that God distributed the languages according to the difference of families and nations, that each several nation, and all the families or branches of that nation, should have one and the same language; whereby both union and love were preserved among themselves, and the several nations were distinguished one from another, which was very fit and necessary for many reasons as that the church of God, which was confined to the Hebrew nation, might neither be mixed with nor infected by the idolatrous nations; and that it might be evident to the world, that the Messias was born of the seed of Abraham according to God’s promise, &c.

Verse 6

The posterity of

Ham were disposed into the parts south from Babel, both in Asia and Africa. See 1 Chronicles 4:40 Psalms 105:27.

Cush was father both of the Ethiopians and the Arabians; who, as it seems, sent forth a colony from themselves more eastward, even near to India. See Genesis 2:13 2 Kings 19:9 Job 28:19 Jeremiah 13:23, Jeremiah 46:9.

Mizraim was father of the Egyptians, who are generally known in Scripture by that name.

Of

Phut sprung the Libyans, among whom is the river Put, and the Moors. See Jeremiah 46:9 Ezekiel 27:10, Ezekiel 30:5, Nahum 3:9.

Canaan was the cursed parent of that accursed race of the Canaanites, well known in Scripture, Genesis 10:15.

Verse 7

Seba; or, Saba, or Sheba, whose seed were the Sabeans in Arabia the Desert; see Psalms 72:10 Isaiah 43:3; and, as some think, the Abyssines in Africa.

Havilah, the father of the inhabitants of the land of Havilah, mentioned Genesis 2:11; a land in the most eastern part of Arabia, this being opposed to Shur, a desert near Egypt, as the two remotest bounds of Arabia, Genesis 25:18 1 Samuel 15:7.

Sabtah was father of those people who were seated in the lower part of Arabia the Happy, near the Persian Gulf, who also sent forth a colony into Persia. For in those parts we meet with the Sabateni in Josephus, the Stabaei and Messabathi in Ptolemy and Pliny.

Raamah, from whom descended another people dwelling in the same Arabia. See Ezekiel 27:22.

Sabtechah, the father of another people adjoining to them.

Sheba was father either of that people which inhabited Ethiopia, who were known by that name; see 1 Kings 10:1, Ki_10:4, ze_27:22, Matthew 12:42 Acts 8:27; or rather of another people in Arabia. So the several sons of Cush are conveniently seated one near another. And those Ethiopians in Africa might be a colony either of these, or rather of the posterity of the former Seba.

Dedan; of whose posterity see Ezekiel 27:15, ze_38:13.

Verse 8

Cir. 2218 Whom he placeth last of all his sons, because he was to say more of him.

Verse 9

He was a mighty hunter, first of beasts, and by that occasion of men. For when men were few, and lived dispersedly, and wild beasts abounded, and most of all in those parts, by hunting and destroying of those beasts he got much reputation and favour with men, who thereby were secured in their dwellings. In confidence hereof, and having this occasion to gather great companies of the youngest and strongest men together to himself, by their help he established a tyranny and absolute power over men, insnaring, hunting after, and destroying like beasts all those men who opposed his dominion. Tyrants and persecutors are oft in Scripture called fowlers and hunters, as Psalms 91:3 Jeremiah 16:16 Lamentations 3:52, am_4:18.

Before the Lord; an aggravation of his crime, that it was done in of God’s presence, impudently and in contempt both God, who had so lately manifested his detestation of this sin, by the destruction of the world, amongst other sins, for this very sin of violence, Genesis 6:13, and of his great-grandfather Noah, then living and preaching, who probably did admonish him of the wickedness and danger of this practice. Thus he showed that he neither feared God nor reverenced man, if they withstood him in his unsurpation of dominion. It became a proverb, when any man was haughty, and cruel, and tyrannical, and that joined with impudence and obstinacy, That he was another Nimrod.

Verse 10

The beginning of his kingdom, i.e. either his chief and royal city, or the place where his dominion began, and from whence it was extended to other parts.

Babel; which being not built till the confusion of languages, Genesis 11:4, showeth that this, though here mentioned upon occasion of the genealogy, was not executed till afterward; it being very usual in Scripture to neglect the order of time in historical relations.

Calneh, called Calno, Isaiah 10:9; and Canneh, Ezekiel 27:23; and as it is here, Cabneh, Amos 6:2; where it is mentioned amongst the eminent cities.

The land of Shinar, i.e. in Mesopotamia. This clause belongs to all the cities here named; and is added for distinction sake, because there is a Babylon in the land of Egypt, and there might be other cities of the same name with the rest in other countries.

Verse 11

Asshur; a man so called: either,

1. Asshur the son of Shem, who forsook the land, either being forced by or weary of Nimrod’s tyranny and impiety, and erected another kingdom. But it is not probable either that Moses would here relate an exploit of a man whose birth is not mentioned till Genesis 10:22, or that one single son of Shem would be here disorderly placed among the sons of Ham. Or,

2. Another Asshur of Ham’s race. But it seems most likely that Asshur is the name of a place or country, even of Assyria, which in the Hebrew is called Asshur; and that the words should be thus rendered, he, i.e. Nimrod, went forth out of his own land to Asshur, to war against it, and add it to his empire; for to go forth is commonly ascribed to those that go to war or to battle, as dg_2:15, dg_11:3, 2 Samuel 11:1 Psalms 60:10; and the particle to is here understood as it is 2 Samuel 6:10, Sa_10:2, compared with 1 Chronicles 13:13, Ch_19:2.

Nineveh, a famous and vast city near the river Tigris, but so ruined by time, that the learned are not agreed about the place where it was situate.

Of Rehoboth, see Genesis 36:37 1 Chronicles 1:48.

Verse 12

Either,

1. Nineveh, which is called a

great city, Jonah 3:3, on_4:11; and indeed was so, being sixty miles in compass. Thus it is a trajection, and the relative is referred to the remoter noun, as sometimes is done, though this seems to be a little forced. Or,

2. Resen; so the meaning is, though this city be much inferior to Nineveh, yet this also, if compared with most others, is a great city.

Verse 13

Of

Ludim and the following names here and Genesis 10:14, observe two things:

1. They are not the names of persons, but of people or nations; and the word father is here understood; Ludim, for the father of the people called Ludim, and so the rest.

2. That they are the several nations dwelling in Africa, springing from the Egyptians, which, as they multiplied, went further and further westward and southward from Egypt.

Verse 14

Pathrusim, the inhabitants of Pathros; of which see Isaiah 11:11 Jeremiah 44:1, er_44:15, ze_29:14.

Out of whom came Philistim: the meaning is, they came out of his loins, or were his offspring, which might be true; though afterwards we find them seated amongst the offspring of Canaan, having driven out the former inhabitants, as was usual in those ancient times.

Object.

The Philistines are elsewhere said to come from Caphtorim: see Jeremiah 47:4.

Answ. Therefore some make a trajection here, which is not unusual; and read the words thus, and Casluhim, and Caphtorim, out of whom me Philistim. But this seems forced, nor is it necessary; for the place may be thus read without any parenthesis, and Casluhim, out of whom came the Philistim and Caphtorim, which two latter were brethren, both the sons of Casluhim; and so might at first dwell together, whence their names are promiscuously used one for another; and the Caphtorims are said to dwell in Azzah, or Gaza, the known seat of the Philistines, Deuteronomy 2:23. Afterwards they might be divided, first in their dwellings, then in their affections, and war one against another; and the Caphtorims seem to have subdued and enslaved the Philistines, and carried them into their country, whom therefore God is said to bring and deliver from Caphtor, Amos 9:9; and the Caphtorims either then or afterward might be destroyed and extirpated by the hand of God or men, whence the Philistines, in after-times, are called The remnant of the country of Caphtor, Jeremiah 47:4.

Verse 15

Sidon his first-born, the father of the people, and builder of the city of Sidon, Joshua 11:8 19:28.

Of Heth came the Hittites, Joshua 1:4 9:1, &c.

Verse 16

Of these and the other people following, see Joshua 18:22,28 2 Chronicles 13:4 Isaiah 49:12 Ezekiel 27:8,11 Am 6:2,14, &c.

Verse 18

Dispersed in the several quarters of the land, who, before they grew so numerous, dwelt together in the same place.

Verse 19

From Sidon, i.e. the city and country of Sidon, on the north-west.

Unto Gaza, on the south-west.

Zeboim, on the south and south-east.

Lasha, on the north-east.

Verse 21

Of all the children of Eber, i.e. of the Hebrews, the only church and people of God when Moses wrote, who are called

Eber, Numbers 24:24, as here, the children of Eber. And he is here called the father of them peculiarly, though he had other children, because he was their father not only by natural generation, but also in respect of the promise of God, which was conveyed to them through Shem’s hands, and of that faith and holiness wherein he was their predecessor and eminent pattern; even as Ham, though he had other sons, is specially called the father of Canaan, Genesis 9:22, because his father’s curse rested upon him, Genesis 10:25.

Object. Eber had many other children here recorded, and therefore in that sense Shem was not the father of all the children of Eber.

Answ. Though Eber had other children, yet none are called in Scripture the children of Eber, or, which is all one, the Hebrews, but Abraham’s posterity; even as though Abraham had divers other children, yet the Israelites are in many places peculiarly called the children of Abraham. And the ungodly Jews, when they degenerate from God and godliness, God takes away their name, and denieth them to be Jews, Romans 2:28, and calls them Sodomites, Isaiah 1:10. And therefore no wonder if Joktan and his posterity, having, as it is probable, forsaken their father’s God, and turned idolaters, be here disowned as bastards, and blotted out of the honourable catalogue of the children of Eber: see Romans 9:8.

Japheth alone is here mentioned as his brother, and not Ham, because he was deservedly shut out from Shem’s blessing pronounced by Noah, and was accursed of God, whereas Japheth was partaker with Shem, both in the piety exercised towards their father, and the blessing thereupon pronounced; the word brother being often applied to persons alike in condition, disposition, or manners: see Genesis 49:5.

The elder. Though the words in Hebrew may seem ambiguous, yet other texts make it probable that Japheth was the elder. For Noah began to beget children in his five hundredth year, Genesis 5:32. And Shem was but a hundred years old two years after the flood, Genesis 11:10. Therefore he was not the eldest. And Ham is concluded not to be the eldest, from Genesis 9:24; of which see Poole "Genesis 9:24"; if so, Japheth must be the eldest. And Shem is generally named first, not because he was the first-born, but because he had the privileges of the first-born, and was chief in dignity and authority in the church of God.

Verse 22

Of Elam came the Elamites or Persians: see Genesis 14:9 Isaiah 21:2 Jeremiah 49:34 Daniel 8:2 Acts 2:9.

Asshur was father of the Assyrians: see Genesis 10:11.

Of Arphaxad the Chaldeans, as many conceive; or, as others, the inhabitants of that part of Assyria, from him called Arphaxitis, which Ptolemy corruptly calls Arrapachitis.

Lud was father of the Lydians, a well-known people in Asia the Less.

Of Aram the Syrians, known by the name of Aramites, both in sacred and other authors: compare with this Genesis 22:21.

Verse 25

In his days; either,

1. In the time of his birth, whence he was so called. Or,

2. Afterwards in the time of life. So his father gave him this name by the Spirit of prophecy, foreseeing this great event, and the time of it; this being no unusual thing in Scripture, as we shall hereafter see, to give prophetical names to children. And thus there is a longer and more convenient space left for the peopling of the world, and ripening of things for the general dispersion and habitation of the earth.

The earth was divided, first in language, and then in habitations.

Verse 26

From

Almodad and the rest of Joktan’s sons here mentioned, come either,

1. The various nations of India, as most think; or rather,

2. The several people that live in the innermost parts of Arabia, who profess themselves the posterity of Joktan, and have a city near Mecca called Jectan. And the Homerites, one sort of them, are deduced from him by divers writers.

Verse 28

A different person from him Genesis 10:7, and the father of another people, having only the same name with him.

Verse 29

Ophir; either that in India, of which see 1 Kings 9:28 10:11 22:48; or the other in Arabia, of which see Job 22:24 28:16. See also Psalms 45:9 Isaiah 13:12.

Havilah, a distinct person from him Genesis 10:7.

Verse 30

These places were either,

1. In India, where there are places called by Ptolemy and Pliny, Maesae, and Saparum, and Sabara. Or rather,

2. In Arabia, where there was a noted port called Musa; and near it, and eastward from it, a people called Sapharitae, and a royal city called Saphar; from whence this famous and long mountain doth here receive its name. If it be said Arabia is not east but south from Judea, it may be answered,

1. That Arabia, as it is not east in respect of Egypt, where the Jews long dwelt, and part of it is so to Judea also; so it is not seldom in Scripture reckoned as a part of the east country, as appears from Genesis 25:6,18 Jud 6:3 1 Kings 4:30 Job 1:3 Isaiah 11:14 Jeremiah 49:28. And Tacitus describing Judea, saith: It is bounded on the east by Arabia.

2. That this mountain is said to be easterly, not simply, but in respect of the city Mesha, on the east whereof Ptolemy placeth this mountain, though he call it by another name, Climax; add to this, that Moses speaks of these places as known to the Jews, and therefore not so far distant from them as India, a place wholly unknown to them, and wherewith, as yet, they had no communication. If it be further objected, that if these people had been so near and well known to the Jews, we should have had more mention of them in Scripture; I answer, there is mention of some of them; and for others, it is no wonder if by the following wars among nations, and mixtures and confusions of people, some of them were extirpated, and others lost their names, though not their beings, as oft happened.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Genesis 10". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/genesis-10.html. 1685.