The posterity of the sons of Noah; Shem, Ham, and Japheth; from whom all men sprung, and all countries were peopled.
Genesis 10:1. Now these are the generations, &c.— To give an exact and satisfactory comment on this chapter, would far exceed the bounds we have prescribed ourselves: we shall therefore beg leave only to insert as plain an exposition of the names as we can collect, and refer our learned readers for proof and fuller discussion of these matters to those writers who have treated of them at large, but especially to the Phaleg of Bochart, Calmet, the Universal History, Wells, Shuckford, and others. It may be proper to observe, that though this chapter be placed before the eleventh, yet in order of time it ought to follow; for the foundation of Nimrod's kingdom, and the dispersion of mankind through the different regions of the earth, are facts posterior to the confusion of Babel. And it should also be observed, that the design of the holy penman is not to present us with an exact enumeration of all Noah's descendants, (this would have been endless,) nor to determine who were the leading men above all the rest; but only to give us a catalogue or general account of the names of some certain persons descended from Noah, who were patriarchs and founders of such nations, as were more immediately known to the Hebrews in the time of Moses.
Genesis 10:2. Sons of Japheth— Japheth is here mentioned in his due rank, as the eldest, see Genesis 10:21. He was known to the Greeks, under the name of Japetus, whom they acknowledge to have been their father: more ancient than Japetus, was a proverb among them, for any thing whose origin could not be known. Japheth had seven sons: Gomer, who inhabited Phrygia; Magog,
Scythia; Madai, Media; Javan, Ionia and Greece; Tubal, Tibarene; Meshech, Moschiah; Tiras, Thrace.
Genesis 10:3. Sons of Gomer— Who were three: Ashkenaz, inhabited Bythinia and Troas; Ripkath, Paphlagonia and the Riphaean mountains; Togarmah, Cappadocia.
Genesis 10:4. Sons of Javan— Who were four: Elishah, inhabited Elis and Peloponnesus; Tarshish, Cilicia, whose capital was Tarsus; Kittim, Macedonia; Dodanim, or Rhodanim, Epirus. Bochart observes, that Rhodanim peopled France, and gave its name to the river Rhodanus.
Genesis 10:5. By these were the isles, &c.— By isles here we are not to understand merely countries encompassed round by the sea; for the Hebrews use the word to signify all those countries divided from them by the sea. Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 40:15. Jeremiah 2:10. Ezekiel 27:3. Besides, the word we translate isle, signifies a region, country, or province. Job 22:30. Isaiah 20:6. These descendants of Japheth, says Le Clerc, peopled by degrees, with their colonies, Europe and the adjacent islands, besides a large part of Asia; and being widely dispersed through the largest regions, so corrupted their original language, as neither to understand one another, nor to remember their common origin.
Genesis 10:6. The sons of Ham— Ham, there is great reason to believe, was the Ham, or Jupiter Ammon of the AEgyptians: his sons were four: Cush, who peopled Susiana, or some part of Arabia; Mizraim, AEgypt; Phut, part of Lybia; Canaan, the country so called, and places adjacent.
Genesis 10:7. Sons of Cush— Were five: Seba, Sabtah, and Sabtecah, there is great reason to believe, have peopled Arabia Felix: Havilah lived within the branch of the river Pison, which ran out of the Euphrates into the bay of Persia, and bounded Arabia Felix on the east: Raamah, with his sons Sheba and Dedan, peopled the parts adjacent to the Red-Sea.
Genesis 10:8. Cush begat Nimrod, &c.— Nimrod's impiety and apostacy are here marked out, as well as his tyranny and domination. The word Nimrod signifies an apostate or rebel. The word rendered hunter, ציד tzaid, is used as well for catching, or ensnaring souls, as for catching game. See Ezekiel 18:20-21. Great oppressors also are called hunters, Jeremiah 16:16. And the phrase, before the Lord, may signify, his opposition to the Lord, his own desertion of the divine presence and regard, as well as his endeavours to seduce others from it. So that, I conceive, he is called thus mighty, because of the tyrannical domination which he exercised over the men of his times; disregarding the worship and reverence of God, and totally apostatizing from it, oppressing and subjugating men to himself, as hunters do the wild beasts they have taken. See Lamentations 3:52. The versions confirm this interpretation: the LXX has it, "he began to be a giant hunter against the Lord God." The Arabic has it, "he was a terrible giant before the Lord." The Syriac, "he was a giant warrior before, or against, the Lord." In which places the word giant has probably a reference to the race of giants and their enormities before the flood; Nimrod having acted in the same spirit and manner as they had done before.
Genesis 10:10. The beginning of his kingdom was Babel— i.e.. Babylon was either the first city built by him, or the capital city of his kingdom: the former seems the most probable. Erech, there is great reason to believe, is the same with Arecca, mentioned by Ptolemy; Accad, with Sittace; and Calneh, with Ctesiphon upon the Tigris.
Genesis 10:11. Out of that land went forth Ashur, &c.— As Ashur was one of the descendants of Shem, see Genesis 10:22 it has been thought strange that he should be mentioned in this place; and therefore the reading of the margin of our Bibles has been preferred by many: Out of that land, he (Nimrod) went forth into Assyria, and builded Nineveh, &c. so called from his son Ninus. Of this city we shall have occasion to speak more hereafter. Rehoboth, there is reason to believe, is the Birtha of Ptolemy; Calah, the capital of Calachine; and Resen, Larissa, which Xenophon speaks of as having been a great city.
Genesis 10:13. And Mizraim begat Ludim— To return to the other sons of Ham: Mizraim was the father of eight sons, who became the heads of eight nations, or people: the Ludim, or AEthiopians; the Anamim, or Anumenians; the Lehabim, or Libyo-AEgyptians; the Naphtuhim, or people of Marmenia; the Pathrusim, or inhabitants of Pathros, or Thebais; the Casluhim, or inhabitants of Cashiotis, from whom descended the Philistines, who inhabited the maritime part of Canaan towards AEgypt; and the Caphtorim: these also are thought to be a branch of the Philistines.
Genesis 10:15. And Canaan begot Sidon, &c.— Eleven nations came out of Canaan, so frequently mentioned, and so well known in scripture, that no explanation is wanting. It is remarkable, that no mention is made of the descendants of Phut.
Genesis 10:21. Unto Shem also, &c.— It is observable that Moses introduces Shem in a particular manner, mentioning him as the father of the children of Eber, that is, more especially of that Hebrew race, Numbers 24:24 whose history he was about to compile. Eber, says Mr. Locke, signifies "beyond:" so that the sense of that text is, that Shem was the father of all those who dwelt beyond the river [Euphrates].
Genesis 10:22. The children of Shem— Were five: Elam inhabited Elymais, and so Persia; Ashur, Assyria; Arphaxad, Arrapachitis or Chaldea; Lud, Lydia; Aram, Syria.
Genesis 10:23. Aram— Had four sons: Uz, who peopled Damascene Syria, and is generally believed to have built Damascus; Hul, or Chul, possessed Chotobetene in Armenia; Gether, the country between Lycus and Cater, rivers of Mesopotamia; Mash, the country about the mountain Masius, in Armenia.
Genesis 10:24-25. Arphaxad begat Salah— Who established himself, as there is great reason to believe, in Susiana: he begat Eber, who begat two sons, the name of one of whom was Peleg, (division,) so called, because the earth was, by mutual compact, divided among these descendants of Noah in his days. This division was made, it is supposed, at the time of Peleg's birth, more than one hundred years after the flood, when there must have been great numbers upon the earth. Though others are of opinion, that there is no need to confine it to the time of Peleg's birth, as they think the name might be given him in a prophetic view, as Noah's and many others were; and consequently, any period of Peleg's life (suppose when he was a hundred years old, as he lived to be two hundred and thirty nine) may be assigned for that event; in which case there might have been some millions upon the earth at that time; that is, suppose the division to have been made two hundred years after the flood. And there is no reason to suppose, that all the persons here mentioned went to the several countries they possessed at one and the same time: the different plantations, most probably, were made at different times, and by a gradual progression.
Genesis 10:26. And Joktan— The other son of Eber, was the father of many sons, who were the heads of so many tribes in Arabia; inhabiting that tract of it, Genesis 10:30 which lies between Mesha, i.e.. Muza, a celebrated empire of Arabia to the Idumaean sea, and the mountains of the Sephorites, situated to the east of Muza.
Genesis 10:31. After their families, &c.— In Genesis 10:5 also it is said, that they were divided, after their tongues, families, and nations; whence it seems to follow, that they were first ranged according to their nations, and then every nation was ranged after its families; so that every nation dwelt, and had its lot, by itself; and in every nation the families also dwelt, and had their lots, by themselves: for the true import of this, and the like texts, seems to be, that the land or peculiar lot of each family lay within the general lot of each nation. "Whence may be inferred," as the learned J. Mede observes, "that this great division of the earth was performed orderly, and was not a confused or irregular dispersion, wherein every one went where he listed, and settled himself where he liked best." After this chapter, let us remark, that such genealogies are of singular advantage to confirm the truth of the Mosaic history, by giving an account of the succession of mankind from the creation to the flood, and from the flood to his own time, shewing from whom all nations were derived, and how they came to be dispersed. Besides, as Mr. Shuckford observes, it is by tracing these genealogies, that we come to know how exactly the predictions in the former chapter, relating to the sons of Noah, were fulfilled. The change of names and countries, with other revolutions, must indeed occasion some uncertainty in disquisitions of so great antiquity: yet the reader, who enters accurately into them, will find them supported by arguments much more favourable, than one who never considered the subject would expect to meet with, for a fact that happened so long ago, and which is but imperfectly described by the earliest writers. We may add, that antiquity gives in its evidence very strongly to the original of the nations here mentioned, while the Mosaic account should be particularly valued, as affording us the only clue in this intricate subject.
Genesis 10:32. By these were the nations divided, &c.— See Acts 17:26. From what hath gone before, it appears, that, to speak according to a general view of things, some instances excepted, the sons of Japheth peopled Europe; the sons of Shem, Asia; and the sons of Ham, Africa. But the question is, how came that fourth and late discovered part of the earth, America, to be peopled? For a full answer to this question we refer the reader to an excellent dissertation on this subject in the 20th volume of Anc. Univ. Hist. the authors of which have made it appear that, though it is very probable, the Phoenicians, AEgyptians, and Carthaginians might have planted colonies in that vast country, yet the bulk of the inhabitants must have come from the north-eastern part of Asia, particularly Great Tartary, Siberia, and the peninsula of Kamtschatka: and their remarks have been indubitably confirmed by the discoveries of that celebrated navigator, Captain Cooke. In the conclusion of their dissertation on this subject, they observe: "Thus have we endeavoured to evince, that the Americans were the descendants of Noah, as well as all the nations of the ancient world; which will likewise receive some further accession of strength from the traditions which the natives had about the flood, and the peopling of their country after that memorable event. The Peruvians believed, that there formerly happened a deluge, in which all the people of their continent perished, except a few, who escaped the common destruction by retiring into cavities or hollows upon the tops of the highest mountains, whose posterity at last re-peopled the world. Some traditional notions of that kind prevailed also among the ancient inhabitants of Hispaniola. There is likewise mention made in the ancient histories of Mexico of a general flood, which swept away the whole race of mankind, except one man and his wife. These two persons, according to them, had numerous issue; but all their children were dumb, till endued with the faculty of speech by a dove. To which they added, that the primitive language, spoken by the immediate descendants of the aforesaid pair, was split into such a variety of tongues or dialects, that they could not understand one another, and therefore were necessitated to emigrate into different regions, and these became the founders of different nations. Nay, some of the Americans expressly affirmed, that all men deduced their origin from four women, which seems to approach near the Mosaic history; all which traditional notions seem manifestly to imply, that some of the ancestors of the Americans were acquainted with the Mosaic history."
In confirmation, that all men are descended from one family, it has been observed, that there are many customs and usages, both civil and religious, which have prevailed in all parts of the world, and can owe their origin to nothing but a general institution; which institution could never have been, had not mankind been of the same blood originally, and instructed in the same common notions, before they were dispersed. Among these usages may be reckoned: 1st, the numbering by decads; 2nd, the computing time by a cycle of seven days; 3rdly, the observation of a seventh day as holy; 4thly, the use of sacrifices propitiatory and eucharistical; 5thly, the consecration of temples and altars; 6thly, the institution of sanctuaries, and their privileges; and, lastly, the universal tradition of a general deluge, and renewing mankind afterwards.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 10". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany