Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 10


Generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, 10-11:9.

Under this head our author records, first, the genealogy of nations which sprang from Noah as a second root of the human race, (Genesis 10:1-32,) and next, the confusion of their languages, (Genesis 11:1-9.)


This chapter furnishes the most ancient and most valuable ethnological document in the world. Knobel says, “Progressive investigation will ever more and more confirm the credibility of this, our oldest description of the races of men. It is a priceless fragment of ancient history.” It is the great purpose of the inspired author to trace the history of redemption, which he knew, from the promise given to Abraham, would embrace all nations. While, therefore, his chief attention is given to the chosen family, as the channel of this salvation, he here points out their relationship to all the known nations of the earth, representing humanity as a trunk dividing into three great branches, and sprouting into the manifold peoples existing at the time. The great truth proclaimed by Paul to the haughty Athenians, that God hath made of one blood all nations of men, and that all men are essentially equal before him — a truth very unpalatable to the most advanced heathen nations, and unimagined by the most profound heathen thinkers, like Plato and Aristotle, yet a truth which lies at the roots of all true education, civilization, and religion — this truth was firmly grasped as fundamental by the writer of this chapter. See here the marvellous guidance of inspiration! No Hebrew prejudice, deep as we know it to have been, was allowed to tinge this ancient page. The children of Eber are but a twig on the mighty tree.

This description of the nations bears the clear marks of an antiquity far higher than Moses. Probably he received it from a writer of the time of Abraham. Tyre, which was a “strong city” at the time of the conquest of Canaan, was not yet founded, or it would certainly have been mentioned with Sidon. Sodom and Gomorrah were yet standing, (Genesis 10:19,) but they were destroyed in the time of Abraham. The whole style of the document indicates that at the time of its original composition the Hebrew people had as yet no distinct existence. (Furst.) The original authorship of this venerable chapter was not only pre-Mosaic, but pre-Hebraic; but, under inspired guidance, it is interwoven by Moses into his work to map out the dispersion of the nations, as described in the next chapter. Probably the original author obtained his knowledge of these nations from the Phenicians, who, even in the age of Abraham, had extended their commerce down the Red Sea, and along the coasts and through the islands of the Mediterranean, probably to the Atlantic.

Japheth, Shem, and Ham correspond, in a general way, to Europe, Asia, and Africa, respectively; to the white, brown, and black races of men, which are here all traced to a common ancestor, that they may hereafter be shown to be subjects of the same salvation. But it is only in a rough and general way that this distinction can be maintained, especially as the Hamitic Babylonians are found in Asia, and the Sidonians in Asia and Europe. The Japhetic family stretched from Armenia, east and south-east, into Media and Persia, west and north-west around the Black Sea, and along the northern shores of the Mediterranean; the Hamitic family skirted the south-eastern shore of the Mediterranean, and extended southward over the African peninsula; while the Shemitic occupied the intermediate territory — the irregular parallelogram stretching south-east through Arabia, having the Tigris Valley and the Persian Gulf on the east, and the Red and Mediterranean Seas on the west.

In this very ancient record the words “father” and “son” are used not in a genealogical, but in an ethnic, sense, as (Genesis 10:4) Chittim and Dodanim, plural national names, as shown by the ending im, are called “sons;” that is, nations sprung from Javan, who (see note) represents a national Japhetic family. So Mizraim (a plural national name) is said to have begotten the Ludim, the Anamim, etc., (Genesis 10:13-14;) and in Genesis 10:16-17, etc., the Jebusite, Amorite, etc., are represented as begotten by Canaan. The greater part of the names were regarded by the writer as national and geographical, not as individual.



Verse 2

2.Gomer — The word occurs elsewhere in the Scriptures only in Ezekiel 38:6, where it is, as here, associated with Togarmah. The name is undoubtedly preserved in the Homeric name Κιμμεριοι, the Gimiri in the cuneiform inscriptions of Darius Hystaspes, Cimmerians, Kymri or Kymbri, the original Kelts, (Celts,) and Gauls, who were found in possession of all northern and western Europe at the dawn of western civilization. This race settled first on the north of the Black Sea, where they have left traces of their name, as Crimea, Crim -Tartary; driven thence by the Scythians before the time of Herodotus, (Her., 4, 11,) they moved west and south-west to the sea. Traces of the original Celtic language are still preserved in Ireland, the Isle of Man, Wales, and the Scotch Highlands.

The Galatians of Asia Minor, the Celtic people to whom Paul wrote his famous epistle, were called Gomerites by Josephus. The Celts call themselves Kymr, and by orthoepic changes between the liquids L, M, R, as well as the palatals K and G, changes such as are constantly taking place in spoken languages, the names Gomer, Kymr, Gaul, Kelt, Galatae, Kimmeri, Crimea, Cambria, Cumberland, all come from the same root. Linguistic affinities show that these people, the earliest inhabitants of Europe of whom we definitely know, were Asiatic in origin, for the Keltic is an Indo-European language.

Magog — The name probably means “the place,” (or region,) of Gog, and appears in Ezekiel 38:2; Ezekiel 39:6, as the name of a people dwelling “in the sides of the north,” over whom Gog is king, identified by Josephus, Jerome, and most moderns with the Scythians, who in the time of Herodotus had their home north of the range of Caucasus, in what is now Russia. Furst interprets Magog as Great Mount, that is, Caucasus. The region between the Black and Caspian Seas was called Magog by the Arabians. They came into Europe after the Kelts, a fierce, formidable, nomadic race, who poured down upon Asia Minor and Egypt in the seventh century B.C. (Herod., 4. )

Madai — This word is nowhere else in the Bible rendered as the name of a person, but, whenever it occurs, it is translated Media, or the Medes, (see 2 Kings 17:6; Esther 1:3; Esther 1:18-19,) a powerful nation who once dwelt south and south-west of the Caspian, east of Armenia and Assyria. The Medes are here represented in close affinity with the Kelts (Gomer) and the Greeks, (Javan,) confirming Schlegel’s theory, now deemed established by linguistic researches, that the principal European and East Indian nations are of the same Aryan stock, having in a prehistoric period migrated westward and eastward from the high land of Ivan. This theory is embodied in the word Indo-European.

Javan יון, Yavan, translated Greece in Zechariah 9:13; Daniel 8:21, etc.; and its plural is rendered Grecians in Joel 4:6. Ionia, the name of a western province of Asia Minor, colonized at an early period by the Greeks, and applied by the Orientals to the Greeks in general. The Rosetta Stone shows that the Egyptians called the Greeks by the same name. The word occurs with the same meaning in Sanskrit and old Persian, showing that the name existed before the rise of the Aryan, Hamitic, and Shemitic families of speech. (Knobel.) The famous Greco-Italian races, which did not arise till many centuries after the composition of this narrative, inhabiting Macedonia, Thessaly, the Greek and Italian peninsulas, and west Asia Minor, are foreshadowed in this name.

Tubal, and Meschech — These peoples are constantly associated together by Ezekiel, (Ezekiel 27:13; Ezekiel 32:26; Ezekiel 38:1-2, etc.,) and by Herodotus, (Herod., 3: 94, 7:78.) They are likewise, according to Rawlinson, associated in the Assyrian inscriptions. Josephus identifies Tubal with the Iberians, who once dwelt between the Caspian and Euxine Seas. Knobel considers the Tibareni to have been only a branch of the widespread Iberians, some of whom settled in the east, some in the west. The Moschi were the ancestors of the Muscovites, builders of Moskwa, or Moscow, and still give Russia its name throughout the East. Ezekiel says that they came down from the “sides of the north,” and traded in copper and slaves in the markets of Tyre. Ezekiel 27:13.

Tiras — Thracians, who dwelt between Mt. Haemus and the AEgean, on the south-west shore of the Black Sea. They are associated with Meshech (Meshnash) on the old Egyptian monuments. (Rawlinson.)

Verse 3

3.Sons of Gomer — Sub-families of the Gomeridae, or Cimmerians, Kimbri.

Ashkenaz — Or Askenaz. Kenaz means family, family of the Asi, who lived in the north-west of Asia Minor, and from whom Asia derives its name. (Knobel.) By metathesis the name becomes Aksenaz, possibly the old name of the Black Sea, which the Greeks called αξενος, Euxine. (Lewis.) The Greek name is usually understood, however, to mean inhospitable.

Riphath — The portion of the Kelts who, according to Plutarch, crossed the Rhipoen (Carpathian) mountains, and poured over northern Europe, seem to have preserved this name.

Togarmah — The Armenians, who, according to their own historians, had Thorgon for their founder, and call themselves the house (family) of Thorgon. (Furst, Knobel.) They originally dwelt in Armenia and Asia Minor, but poured across the Hellespont into Europe before the dawn of history, and, according to Sallust, (Jugurtha, 18,) spread over the Mediterranean peninsulas even to Spain. They are mentioned by Ezekiel (chap. 27:14) as trading at the Tyrian markets in horses, horsemen, and mules, which they brought down from the Armenian highlands to the sea.

Verse 4

4.Sons of Javan — Rather, Yavan, the Ionian families.

Elishah — The AEolians, (Elis,) who occupied three fourths of Greece, and spread to the coasts and isles of Asia Minor. (Josephus, Knobel.)

Tarshish — A famous commercial people well known to the sacred and classic writers, (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Strabo, Herodotus,) whence the Greek Tartessus and Tartessis, a town and region in southern Spain at the mouth of the Guadalquivir. According to Herodotus, Tartessus was settled by a colony of Phocaean Greeks, (i, 163,) the word signifying in Phenician, younger brother, (Rawl.,) a very suitable name for a colony. Their ships were so celebrated for size and fleetness as to give the name “ships of Tarshish” to all large merchant vessels wherever sailing. The ships of Tarshish (Ezekiel 27:12, etc.) brought gold and silver, iron, tin, and lead to Tyre, and these are precisely the articles which the classic writers, Strabo, etc., make the staple products of Spain. Knobel and Furst understand the word to refer to that Pelasgic-Hellenic race called Etruscans, Tuscans, Tyrsenians, who before the Roman dominion peopled Italy and the Sicilies, and thus carried the name to Spain. (Knobel, p. 86.) Hence, perhaps, Tarsus in Cilicia. (Josephus.)

Kittim — Cyprians, who still preserve the name in the term Kitti. Josephus says (Ant. 1: 6) that the Helvens transferred the name Kittim to all the Mediterranean isles and coasts. The Cyprian Kittim is shown by its monuments to have been a Phenician colony, or at least to have had Phenician or Hamitic settlers. But there were also Hamitic Chittim, (Hittites, sons of Heth or Cheth, ) see Genesis 10:15, a widespread people in the age of Solomon; and the Japhetic Kittim seem to have mingled at Cyprus with the Hamitic Chittim. (Knobel.)

Dodanim — Dardanians, Trojans, or perhaps it should be Rodanim, ( interchange of ד and ר, in the first syllable,) as it is given in 1 Chronicles 1:7, and in some copies by the Septuagint and Samaritan. The Rodani, or Rhodians.

Verse 5

5.By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided — Rather, from these [Japhethites] have the [dwellers on the] islands of the [Gentile] nations divided themselves in their lands. “Islands,” in the Old Testament, means the isles, coasts, and peninsulas of the Mediterranean. The writer knew only of the “enlargement” of Japheth over the Mediterranean coasts and isles, but modern linguistic and monumental research shows that these ancient Hebrew names outline those vast pre-historic migrations of the Japhetic race from the great plateau of Iran eastward into Asia, westward and north-westward into Asia Minor and Europe, the traces of which may be found to-day from the Indian peninsulas to the Atlantic, and from the Mediterranean to the frozen ocean.

After his tongue’ their families’ nations — The peoples called Turanian (a linguistic, rather than an ethnic, name) were on the ground at the dawn of tradition itself, and their origin is yet obscure; successive families of the Indo-European (Aryan) race swept eastward and westward, wave after wave, each to a great degree obliterating the traces of its predecessor, yet, as Rawlinson expresses it, leaving detached fragments of the superseded race in holes and corners, as the Turanian Laps and Fins are left in their remote peninsulas — as the Keltic Welsh and Scotch are left in their highlands, mountains, and islands — scattered patches of peoples who once thinly covered the continent.

Verse 6

6.Ham — Or rather Cham, is from a root signifying to be hot, and hence burnt, black. The Hamites are dark-skinned peoples, dwelling mainly in the torrid zone. Ham is used frequently in Scripture for Egypt and the Egyptians, an Hamitic country and people. It, or its Egyptian equivalent, was also the common name for that land and people among the Egyptians themselves. It is written with two letters in the hieroglyphic language, K M, and occurs in the form Ch M E more than ten times on the Rosetta Stone.

The Hamites are presented here, 1) as Cushite Ethiopians, Assyrians, Babylonians; 2) Egyptians; 3) Lybyans; 4) and Canaanites.

Cush Ethiopia in the Sept. and Vulg., and so often rendered in our version. Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 45:14, etc. Monumental and linguistic research has now established the long-disputed theory that there was an Asiatic as well as an African Cush. Lepsius finds the name in Egypt on monuments of the sixth dynasty, and Rawlinson proves an ethnic connexion between the Ethiopians and the primitive Babylonians. The later Babylonians were Shemitic in origin, but Knobel shows (Volk., p. 246) that the Cushites primarily peopled Babylonia and spread eastward to India. Thus has it been shown by the research of our own day that the Asiatic kingdoms of Nineveh and Babylon are Hamitic in origin. The African and the Asiatic Cush freely communicated with each other through Meroe, on the upper Nile, and the Red Sea, by caravans and ships.

Mizraim — This is the Hebrew name for Egypt and the Egyptians. It is primarily a geographical word, in the dual number, well rendered by Lewis the Narrows, a designation singularly descriptive of Egypt, which is a narrow strip of verdure threaded by the Nile, hundreds of miles in length and only a dozen or so in breadth, stretching from Ethiopia to the Mediterranean, and separating the deserts of Africa and Asia. The name was naturally imposed by the first Hamite settlers, and afterwards transferred from the country to its inhabitants.

Phut — Lybyans, in the wide sense of the word inhabitants of the North African coast west of Egypt. Ptolemy and Pliny mention a river Phtuth, (φθουθ,) in north-western Africa. The Egyptian designation of Lybya is Phet, from Pet, Coptic Phit, a bow, by which symbol it is represented in the hieroglyphics. (Knobel, p. 296.) Jeremiah (xlvi, 9) associates Phut (Lybyans) with Cush, (Ethiopians,) as rising up against Pharaoh-necho; and Nahum (Nahum 3:9) makes Phut an ally with Nineveh in connexion with Ethiopia and Egypt.

Canaan — Rather, Kenaan, from a root signifying to be low.

Hengstenberg supposes that Ham thus named his son in a tyrannical spirit, to denote the obedience which he exacted from him, though so irreverent himself, while God’s secret providence had a national humiliation in view in permitting the child to receive this name. Comp. Genesis 9:25, and the note. Some understand Kenaan as geographical, signifying Lowland, but this is not in harmony with Noah’s prophecy in Genesis 9:25, etc. Herodian states that the ancient name of Phenicia (Palm-land) was Χνα, or Kenaan.

Verses 6-20

SONS OF HAM, Genesis 10:6-20.

The three first sons of Ham settled in Northern Africa. 1) The Ethiopians (Cushites) of the Upper Nile. 2) The Egyptians (Mizraim) of the Lower Nile. 3) The Libyans (the Phutites) west of the Egyptians, in the east of Northern Africa. The Cushites appear to have removed from the high North-east, (of Central Asia,) passing over India, Babylonia, and Arabia, in their course towards the south. The Canaanites settled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan, and gave their name to the country.

The name Poeni (Φοινος ) blood-red, denotes the original Hamitic colour of the Phenicians. Eastward from these the various families of the Hamites occupied the whole country of Arabia to the Persian Gulf; and under Nimrod they became the people of the first great empire, Babylonia. See Lange.

Verse 7

7.Sons of Cush — The Cushite Ethiopians and Arabians.

Seba — Inhabitants of Meroe of the Upper Nile, situated on the peninsula (called an island by Herodotus) formed by the Astaboras and the Nile, about eight hundred miles south of Syene. It is often mentioned by the classic writers, and by the Hebrew poets and prophets, as a land of precious woods and metals, the thoroughfare of caravans that traded between Egypt and Ethiopia, and between both of these countries and India. Queen Candace, mentioned in Acts 8:27, seems to have reigned here. Heeren and others consider Meroe the mother of Egyptian civilization, but Rawlinson considers it the daughter. (Herod., 2: 46.)

Havilah — The Macrobian Ethiopians, who dwelt in what is now Abyssinia. There was also a Shemitic Havilah (Genesis 10:29) in Arabia. The two families probably intermingled, and thus bore a common name. See note on Cush.

Sabtah — Ethiopians of Hadramont, in South Arabia, whose chief city was Sabta, Sabota, or Sabotha. Arrian mentions inhabitants of South Arabia, distinguished from true Arabs by stature, darker skin, and habits of life, such as eating fish, (ichthyophagi.) Niebuhr and other travellers and missionaries confirm these differences, and also declare that the language of this people differs wholly from the Arabic. (Knobel.)

Raamah — This name still remains in South-eastern Arabia, the Rhegma of the old geographers, where, according to Pliny and Ptolemy, dwelt a fish-eating people, (ichthyophagi.) We learn from travellers that they still exist in Omaun, distinguished from the Arabs by colour, language, and habits. (Ritter.) The merchants of Raamah and Sheba are mentioned by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:22) as trading at Tyre in spices, precious stones, and gold. Sheba is to be distinguished from the Shemitic Sheba, (Genesis 10:28.) The Cushite Sheba was on the Persian Gulf, traces of which may, perhaps, be found in the modern Saba, the thoroughfare of the Hebrew commerce with India. The Shemitic Sheba was an Arabic town in South Arabia, and appears as a kingdom in the days of Solomon, when the “queen of Sheba” came, with a caravan laden with gold and precious stones and “great store of spices,” to test the wisdom of the Hebrew king. Dedan is probably still to be traced in Dodan, on the east coast of Arabia. Sheba and Dedan are also given (Genesis 25:3) as descendants of Abraham by Keturah. This also seems to point to an early intermingling of the Shemitic and Hamitic families.

Sabtecha — The dark-skinned Carmanians. (They were a fish-eating people,) described by the old settlers as dwelling on the coast east of the Persian Gulf. They had a river and a city Sabis.

Verse 8

8.Nimrod — If this is a Hebrew or Shemitic word, it is probably related to the verb מרד, to rebel, and means, let us rebel; but it may be an Hamitic name. The author here naturally turns aside to notice the foundation of the first great monarchies of the earth, Babylon and Nineveh. Brief digressions of this kind are not uncommon with the Hebrew chroniclers. Comp. 1 Chronicles 2:4. Nimrod is clearly a person, and appears to be separately introduced as such, but he may have been removed several generations from Cush; for the Hebrew usage allows the dropping out of intermediate names in order to introduce an important personage.

A mighty one — Mighty in personal prowess; warlike.

Verse 9

9.A mighty hunter — Or, a hero of hunting; a powerful man in the chase. Such a hero would also be likely to become a mighty warrior. Bold and expert hunters have usually been the great pioneers of civilization, and their prowess became developed by fierce conflicts both with savage beasts and savage men. The Assyrian monuments, covered with scenes of hunting and of war, commemorate the daring and the prowess of ancient Ninevite kings. Accordingly some of the best interpreters (as Delitzsch and Lange) regard this description of Nimrod as a praiseworthy account of his work as a pioneer of culture and civilization; and the proverb recorded in this verse, instead of being a stigma on his name, was rather intended to commemorate him as a benefactor of the race. Others, however, understand the words before the Lord to imply some hostility towards Jehovah; like the phrase before God (Elohim) in Genesis 6:11, which seems to enhance the wickedness of the antediluvians. So the Septuagint (εναντιον ) and the Jerusalem Targum. These regard him as notoriously violent; so bad that God could not take his eyes from him. (Lewis.) Nimrod was the first of the long line of bloody conquerors whose cruel ambition has cursed the earth.

Verse 10

10.The beginning of his kingdom — He was the first to build great cities, the seats of luxury and idolatry, which have crushed the masses of mankind by bloody despotisms, whereas the primary design of God seems to have been for mankind to scatter themselves in smaller masses under a patriarchal government. The four places here mentioned may not have been founded by Nimrod personally; they are mentioned as the germs of the great Babylonian empire.

Babel — Babylon, whose origin is more fully described in the next chapter, identified with the modern Babil.

Erech — The great necropolis of Babylonia, situated on the Euphrates.

Accad — A name often found by Rawlinson in the Babylonian inscriptions, the native name of the primitive inhabitants (and language) of Babylonia, (Rawl. Her., 1:319,) situated on the Tigris. This was the beginning of the famous empire of Babylon.

Calneh — Ctesiphon, Sept., χαλαννη, a compound of Kal or Khal, the almost universal Babylonian and Assyrian prefix denoting place, as Khal-asar, fort of Asshur, Khal-nevo, temple of Nebo, etc. (Rawl., Her., 1: 480.) Anna is a Babylonian name for the first god in the Chaldean triad, corresponding to the Greek Pluto, and so Kal-neh, or χαλαννη, probably means temple of Anna. Shinar is the early Hebrew name for the great plain afterward known as Babylonia or Chaldea, through which flow the lower Euphrates and the Tigris; perhaps derived from sh’ne and ar, signifying “two rivers.” The monuments and the cuneiform inscriptions of this region, now being deciphered, show the Hamitic origin of this kingdom, and its intimate relationship with Egypt. The Babylonian and Assyrian languages contain strong Shemitic elements, as well as Aryan traces, which have been very baffling to scholars; but Renan, a high authority on such a subject, concludes, from purely philological reasons, that the basis of the Assyro-Babylonian nationality was an Hamitic race, resembling the Egyptians; that this was succeeded by a large Shemitic population; and that this, in turn, was dominated over by Aryan (Japhetic) warriors. G. Rawlinson proves at length the Hamitic origin of the Chaldees (Ancient Mon., I, iii) from tradition, language, and physical characteristics. Thus was there a primeval fusion, as well as separation, of races on the plain of Shinar.

Babylon is often made in Scripture the type of unholy ambition, despotism, and idolatry. It is noteworthy that the covenant people founded no vast cities or military monarchies. Cain builds the first city; Nimrod founds Babylon and Nineveh; the descendants of Ishmael and Esau dwelt in cities, while the sons of Isaac and Jacob yet dwelt in tents, confessing “that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

Verse 11-12

11, 12.Went forth Asshur — Rather, [Nimrod] went forth to Asshur [Assyria.] So reads the margin, after the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; (so Baumgarten, De Wette, A. Clarke, Delitzsch, and Knobel.) This is certainly the meaning of the text, for the author would not here describe the person Asshur, who is not introduced till Genesis 10:22; and besides, if Asshur be not here a place, the locality of these four cities would not be designated in the text at all. Nimrod first founded Babylon, (Genesis 10:10,) and then he (or his descendants) ascended the Tigris valley and founded the Assyrian kingdom, (Asshur,) whose capital city was Nineveh, identified of late years with the mass of ruins on the east bank of the Tigris, opposite Mosul.

And the city Rehoboth — This should be rendered either Rehoboth, a city, or as a compound name, Rehoboth-Ir, so called, perhaps, from being the market places of the city Nineveh. Genesis 10:11-12 should accordingly be translated: “From that land he went forth unto Assyria, and builded Nineveh, and Rehoboth-Ir, and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah. This was the great city.” As Rehoboth, Calah, and Resen have not been identified, it is very possible that they became a part of Nineveh, and the pronoun הוא, this, (common version, the same,) is to be understood not of Calah, the last named city, but Nineveh, called great, because thus composed of four cities, the name Nineveh being in the first instance applied in a restricted sense to the city whose ruins lie opposite Mosul, and then being extended to other cities along the east bank of the Tigris, so as to embrace the whole region where are now found the ruins called Nimroud, south of Mosul, Konyunjik and Nebbi Yunus, opposite Mosul, and Khorsabad, to thenorth. This is the opinion of those most eminent Assyrian scholars, Rawlinson, Layard, and Grote, and also of Delitzsch, Knobel, and Ewald.

Verse 13

13.Mizraim — The descendants of Mizraim formed the Egyptian nations. Comp. note on Genesis 10:6. The names of these seven Egyptian peoples cannot all be with certainty identified. All these words are plurals in im.

Ludim — Must be distinguished from the Shemitic Lud. Genesis 10:22. A warlike people of Northern Africa, associated by the prophets with the Lybyans and Ethiopians as those who handle the bow and shield.

Isaiah 66:19; Jeremiah 46:9; Ezekiel 27:10, etc. It is possible, but not probable, that the prophets in the above passages may refer to the Shemitic Lud. Some (Movers) make this a Mauritanian race; others (Knobel) assign them to Northeast Egypt.

Anamim — Inhabitants of the Nile Delta.

Lehabim — Elsewhere called Lubim, Lybyans, yet not the Lybyans proper, who descended from Phut, but the Egyptian Lybyans, dwelling west of the Nile Delta. Shishak, king of Egypt, had them in the army which he led against Jerusalem in the days of Rehoboam, (2 Chronicles 12:3,) and Nahum and Daniel associate them with the Ethiopians.

Naphtuhim — Middle Egyptians, people of Phtah, which is the name of an Egyptian god. Memphis means the dwelling of Phtah. (Gesen., Champol.)

Verse 14

14.Pathrusim — Inhabitants of Pathros, an Egyptian word meaning southern region, (Gesenius,) Upper Egypt, Thebais.

Casluhim — Or better, Kasluchim. The word is, according to Knobel, Egyptian, meaning dwellers in the dry (or desolate) mountain; probably Mount Casius and the region about it. Casiotis, (the modern Cape El-Cos preserves the name,) the sandy region of North-east Egypt towards Philistia. From this people sprang the Colchians, who dwelt on the east shore of the Black Sea. (Herod., 2: 104.)

Out of whom came Philistim — The Philistines, so often mentioned in the Old Testament; the Palestinians, as Philistia was the original Palestine, a name which afterwards came to mean the same as Canaan. Amos (Amos 9:7) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 47:4) describe the Philistines as coming from Caphtor, (Crete;) but this was also colonized from Egypt, so that there is no discrepancy. The primitive Philistine colony, probably, came from Casiotis, in Egypt, and was afterward re-enforced from Crete. Knobel (p. 215) understands this phrase to describe the place whence the Philistines came, that is, from Casiotis, and not to set forth their origin, translating משׁם, whence, and the word may certainly apply to the country or people. Knobel believes the Philistines to have been descendants of Shem through Lud.

Caphtorim — This name is preserved in the ancient Egyptian Coptos, whence Copt and Coptic, the names applied to the modern Egyptians. Probably it here refers to the island of Crete, which was colonized from Egypt. The Greek myths of Cecrops and Danaus point to an early colonization of the Greek coasts and cities from Egypt.

Verses 15-18

15-18.Eleven Canaanitish nations are here enumerated. The first two names are probably personal, the last nine are certainly national. The descendants of Canaan, it is observable, are given with unusual fulness, they being the foreign tribes with whom the Hebrews came into most immediate contact, and, therefore, the sources of information were in this case unusually complete. The descendants of Canaan were, first, the Phenicians; second, the Canaanites proper.

Sidon — Sidonians, Phenicians. Recent studies of Phenician monuments establish the view, long since on other grounds entertained, that the Phenicians spoke a Shemitish language, very closely allied to the Hebrew, if not identical with it. Thus Carthage (the name of a Phenician colony) signifies New-Town; Barcas, Carthagenian for Hamilcar, is the Hebrew Barak, signifying thunderbolt, a name appropriate to a military hero. The bal of Hannibal and Hasdrubal is the Phenician and Hebrew Baal, signifying Lord. These facts accord well with the Scripture record of Canaanitish proper names, and of the free intercourse between the Hebrew patriarchs and the Canaanitish aborigines. Some have insisted that the Phenicians must have been of Shemitic origin, but they show no Shemitic peculiarities, except in language. There is much obscurity yet to be cleared up in the early Phenician history; but the facts seem best explained by supposing a very early mingling of Hamites and Shemites in what is now Palestine, whereby the Hamites acquired a Shemitic language, yet retained, in a most marked manner, the leading Hamitic peculiarities, such as sensuality and idolatry, and, as contrasted with the Shemites, commercial enterprise. The ancient myths and the Assyrian monuments show a similar mingling of the two races, in prehistoric times, in Mesopotamia.

Rawlinson, however, supposes that Sidon and Tyre were originally Canaanitic, but afterwards Shemitic, the Phenicians being a Shemitic race, who immigrated into Palestine from the shores of the Persian Gulf in about the 13th century B.C. The free and friendly intercourse maintained between the Hebrews and the Phenicians in the days of David and Solomon, certainly seems to separate them, in a marked manner, from the Canaanitish tribes who were devoted so solemnly to destruction, and with whom the Hebrews were forbidden to form any alliances. The subject can by no means be regarded as settled. (RAWL., Her., book vii, Essay ii; Knobel, p. 305.)

Sidon, or Zidon, or Tsidon, signifies hunter, or fisher. This was the chief city of the Phenicians, from which Tyre was colonized. It was situated on the Mediterranean shore, where its ruins may now be seen. The Sidonians were the first navigators, being the first to steer by the stars; they had colonies in Africa, Spain, and even in Britain. Tyre surpassed Sidon in power and commercial splendor. The great variety and richness of the Tyrian commerce is described by Ezekiel in lofty strains, chapters 26, 27. The name Sidon is used by the Greeks and on the Tyrian coins, as equivalent to Phenician. There are Phenician names along the Persian Gulf, which attest the westward movement of this people in very ancient times. (RAWL., Her., 1: 1.)

Heth — Or Cheth, ancestor of the Hittites or Chittites, who are also called sons of Heth, Genesis 23:3, etc. They were a Canaanitish tribe, who, in the time of Abraham. occupied the hill country about Hebron, (then called Kirjath-Arba,) and who treated the patriarch with much kindness and hospitality, chap. 23. They afterwards spread northward, and the name Hittite becomes synonymous with Canaanite. In the time of Solomon and of Elisha we read of their “kings.” 1 Kings 10:29; 2 Kings 7:6.

Jebusite — A mountain tribe who dwelt in Jebus, afterwards Mount Zion, and who held that strong fortress for centuries after the conquest of Canaan, being only finally subdued by David. 2 Samuel 5:7.

Amorite — The most powerful and widespread of the Canaanitish tribes, and hence their name is often equivalent to Canaanite, as in Genesis 15:16; Genesis 48:22. They founded powerful kingdoms on both banks of the Jordan, the eastern Amorites being conquered by Moses and the western by Joshua. Yet a remnant of this, as of other Canaanitish tribes, survived, even in the days of Solomon. 1 Kings 9:20. It is made quite probable by Knobel that the word Amorite is used not only of an Hamitic tribe, but also in a larger sense of a widespread people who dwelt in Canaan before the Canaanitish occupation, and were descended from the Shemitic Lud. The gigantic Amorites, of whom Og and Sihon were kings, he believes to have been Shemites. (So FURST, Gesch. Bib. Lit., pp. 19, 127, etc.)

Girgasite — A tribe of whom, as Josephus says, there is left only the name.

Hivite — Or Chivite; a people who, in the time of Jacob, lived in Shechem, (Genesis 34:2,) who were also found by Joshua in Gibeon, (Joshua 11:19,) but whose chief seat at the time of the conquest of Canaan seems to have been in North-west Palestine, about Hermon and Lebanon. Joshua 11:3.

Arkite — This people dwelt on the Mediterranean shore north of Sidon. Their name is still preserved in the modern Arka, famous as being the birthplace of the Emperor Alexander Severus. Its ruins, including great columns of granite and of syenite, are scattered about a lofty mound twelve miles north of Tripoli.

Sinite — This people seem to have left their relics in the mountain fortress of Sinna, mentioned by Strabo, and the town of Sini, or Syn, north of Arka.

Arvadite — Inhabitants of the island Arvad or Arad, and the adjacent shore. Arvad was a rocky island fortress, two miles from the shore, north of Arka and Sini. It was colonized from Sidon, and was the mother of Tarsus, ranking at one time next to Tyre. It is ranked with these renowned Phenician cities by Herodotus, (vii, 98,) by Ezekiel, (Ezekiel 27:8; Ezekiel 27:11,) and by the historian of the Maccabees. 1 Maccabees 15:23. It is still inhabited by a maritime population bearing the name of Ruad, and retains some well-preserved remnants of heavy, bevelled Phenician walls.

Zemarite — This people has not, as yet, been with certainty, identified by any historical or geographical traces. Perhaps the town of Sumra or Shoumra, at the foot of Lebanon, between Arka and the sea, is one of the memorials of this tribe, (so Knobel,) but there is no other proof than its vicinity to the other identified Phenician remains.

Hamathite — Or Chamathite; inhabitants of Hamath or Chamath Rabba, that is, Chamath the Great, (Amos 6:2,) a city on the Orontes, now known by the same name, in the great valley between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon. This valley is known in the Old Testament as “the entering in of Hamath,” and formed the northern boundary of the promised land. See Numbers 13:21; 1 Kings 8:65.

Verse 19

19.The territory of the Canaanites is now described, in general terms, as commencing at the Phenician city of Sidon and running southward to Gerer and Gaza, cities of the Philistines, then spreading eastward to the great plain of Siddim, which is now covered by the southern portion of the Dead Sea, but which, at the time this narrative was written, was occupied by the cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim. This statement shows that this chapter must have been written at least as early as the time of Abraham. The location of Lasha is unknown, although Jerome, and others following him, identify it with Callirhoe, north-east of the Dead Sea. But there are no remains there, and the identification is doubtful.

Verse 21

THE SHEMITIC FAMILY, Genesis 10:21-31.

21.Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born — That is, older than Ham, though younger than Japheth. Comp. note on Genesis 5:32. This expression, “elder brother,” seems to be inserted here to remind the reader that, although Shem was mentioned after Ham, he was really older than he. Shem’s posterity is mentioned last, to form a more immediate and natural connexion with the following history, which pertains to them exclusively. Shem signifies name, that is, great or distinguished name; made illustrious as the line through which God shines on the world — the line in which arose the “NAME that is above every name.” Shem was the ancestor of the Persians, Assyrians, Arabians, and Lydians, (perhaps also of the Phenicians, see Genesis 10:15,) all great nations of western Asia; but he is especially conspicuous in this history as father of the “children of Eber,” the Hebrew people, through whom came revelation and the Messiah. For the meaning of “Hebrew,” see Genesis 10:24 and note. The names of most of these sons of Shem became early transferred to the countries they occupied.

Verse 22

22.Elam — The Elymaeans who originally peopled the country west of Persia, between it and Mesopotamia, Elymais, stretching from the Caspian to the Persian Gulf; called Susiana by the old geographers, the Cissia of Herodotus. It had become important and powerful in the time of Abraham, (Genesis 14:1, etc.,) although before that time, having been overrun by a Cushite race, it had lost its Shemitish language.

Asshur — Assyria; probably the word signifies plain, originally applied to the plain along the east bank of the Tigris, north of Susiana, (Elam,) which was the original seat of the great Assyrian empire. The recently discovered Assyrian monuments show that the people originally spoke a Shemitic language, although Aryan and Hamitic elements were afterwards mingled with it. (Furst, Gesch. Bib. Lit., p. 9.)

Arphaxad — Ewald interprets this word fortress of the Chaldees; Furst, country of the Chaldees, but the etymology is doubtful. Following Bochart, scholars have usually identified this name with Arrapachitis, a region on the east bank of the Tigris, north of the primitive Assyria and joining Armenia.

Lud — Supposed by eminent ethnologists to be the Lydians, a warlike race who spread westward into Asia Minor, and there founded a powerful kingdom, which was conquered by Cyrus, and swallowed up in the Medo-Persian empire. But the undoubted Aryan (Sanskrit) derivation of certain Lydian proper names (for example, Sardis, Candaules ) makes the conclusion at least doubtful. The matter must be regarded as yet unsettled. (Comp. Rawl., Her., i, Essay ii; Furst, Gesch., Bib. Lit., p. 19.) The Arabic historians assign to Lud the Amalekites and the primitive Arabs, the Joktanite (Genesis 10:26) and Ishmaelite (Genesis 25:13) Arabs being younger branches of the nation. With this Knobel coincides, and also makes it probable that the primitive Amorites and the Philistines were Shemitic peoples of the stock of Lud. (Volktfl., p. 198, etc.)

Aram High land, Aramea, or Syria, especially that part north of Palestine. Mesopotamia is the Aram of the two rivers, that is, Euphrates and Tigris — that part of Aram which falls between these streams; so there is an Aram of Damascus — Aram Zoba, north of Damascus, etc. It probably receives its name from Lebanon, the conspicuous mountain chain of the region. The Shemitic languages, Syriac and Chaldee, originated in Aram.

Verse 23

23.Uz — Who gave name to the country of Job, in the north of Arabia Deserta. The manners and habits of this people may, to a considerable extent, be learned from this ancient poem.

Hul, Gether, and Mash are not identified to any degree of certainty, although some think that the last may be traced in Mysia of Asia Minor, and the Mount Masius, or Masion, and the Masei Arabs of Mesopotamia. The Arabic geographers call two districts of Syria by the name of Hul, (Chul, ) and also trace to Gether the Themudites of Hedjaz and the Djasites of Jemama. (Knobel.)

Verse 24

24.The line of Arphaxad is now specially taken up, as that with which the narrative is mainly concerned. Salah, or Shelah, from שׁלח, to send forth, one sent; hence Shiloah, or Siloah, sent. John 9:7. Eber, or Heber, from עבר, beyond, that is, beyond the river, (Euphrates,) an emigrant. Both of these names seem to point to the migration of the Hebrew people from Aram westward. The name Hebrew, עברי, first occurs in Genesis 14:13, in the phrase Abram the Hebrew, and seems to be derived from the same root, meaning “one coming from beyond,” (the river Euphrates,) that is, immigrant, pilgrim. So the Seventy understood the word, and, therefore, translated it ο περατης, one from beyond. (So Jerome, Theodotion, Chrysostom, Origen, Rosenmuller, Gesenius, Furst, Knobel.) In later years the term became narrowed to those who came from beyond the Jordan, that is, the Israelites proper, who dwelt west of the Jordan. (Furst.) The sacred historian is supposed by many to have traced the word Hebrew to the person Eber, making it a patronymic, in styling Shem the “father of all the children of Eber.” Genesis 10:21. (So Gesenius.) But he calls the Hebrew people sons of Eber simply because the name Eber expresses their character; they were a pilgrim people, going forth by faith to a land that was not their own; wandering there for generations before they obtained possession, yet believing it theirs, (Hebrews 11:8-9,) and conquering it at last by divine help. They were owners of the land where they dwelt, not by original possession or conquest, but by faith. The word Eber expresses this distinguishing trait of the Hebrew people. Comp. Genesis 12:1-2. Thus were they typical of the spiritual Israel, who are pilgrims and strangers here, but seek a heavenly country. Hebrews 11:13-14. This is the name by which the chosen people were designated by foreigners (see Genesis 39:14; Genesis 39:17, etc.) and by the Greek and Roman writers until the term Jew (from Judah) came into use. They called themselves Israelites, except when speaking of themselves to foreigners, or in contrast with foreigners. Genesis 40:15; Exodus 1:19; Exodus 2:11; Exodus 2:13. This trait made them a peculiar people.

Verse 25

25.Peleg Division, relating, it is generally thought, to the division of tongues which the narrator immediately proceeds to describe in the next chapter, but Knobel makes it refer to the division in the family of Eber between the brothers Peleg and Joktan. He presents reasons for the view which seem to have weight. It is doubtful if the matter can be decisively settled, but we follow the current opinion. Smith’s Dictionary follows Knobel.

His brother’s name was Joktan — Called in the Arabian genealogies Kahtan, the ancestor of thirteen tribes in South Arabia. The name signifies Little. Niebuhr mentions a town and province Kahtan. Some of these thirteen names following are still found in Arabia, others have become extinct, and others are not as yet identified.

Verse 26

26.Almodad — This name seems to be preserved in the Arabic El-Mudad, or Al-Modhadh, a famous Arab prince. The name was borne by several Arab chiefs in a tribe that lived first in Yemen, (South-west Arabia,) and then in Hedjaz, (along the upper Red Sea.)

Sheleph — Probably Salif, or Sulaf, the Salapani of Ptolemy, an Arab people of Yemen.

Hazarmaveth Court of death. The modern Hadhramant, or Hadramant, east of Yemen, in south Arabia, on the Indian Ocean; so named for its unhealthy climate. The modern name has the same meaning. This identification is undisputed.

Jerah The moon. Michaelis and Gesenius understand this to designate what are now called the Moon Coast and the Moon Mountain, near Hadhramant.

Verse 27

27.Hadoram — The Adramites of Pliny and Ptolemy, in the eastern part of Hadhramant.

Uzal — The modern Sanaa, the chief city of Yemen, a walled town; said to be the finest in Arabia.

Diklah Palm-tree. Probably some place abounding in palms, but not identified.

Verse 28

28.Obal — Not identified.

Abimael Father of Mael. An Arabic style of naming. Among the Arabs a man is sometimes named from his son, as among the Hebrews from his father.

Sheba — A kingdom in Yemen, or Arabia Felix, often mentioned by the classic and Arabic writers. Its chief cities were Uzal and Sepher. It was the queen of this country who visited Solomon. There are ancient buildings in this region, evidently of Cushite origin, showing a very ancient connexion between this and the Cushite Sheba of Genesis 10:7.

Verse 29

29.Ophir — A land celebrated in Solomon’s time for its trade in gold, gems, apes, and peacocks. Probably it was a port in Arabia on the Red Sea, although some assign it to India. There is an El-Ophir in the modern Oman or Omaun, east Arabia.

Havilah — A district of north Yemen. There was also a Cushite Havilah. See Genesis 10:7, and note on Cush.

Jobab — Not identified, but supposed by Bochart and others to be in Arabia Deserta.

Verse 30

30.Their dwelling was from Mesha — In this verse are given the boundaries of the Joktanite Arabs, probably as they existed in the time of Abraham. But it is now impossible to follow them with any degree of certainty. Yet, in the language and monuments of South Arabia there are, as shown above, abundant traces of these thirteen Joktanite tribes. The position of Mesha is uncertain, but it was probably located in North-west Yemen, and the seaport Mousa, on the Red Sea, may be its modern representative. Sepher is undoubtedly the modern Zafar, Dafar, Dhafari, a seaport beneath a lofty mountain on the shore of the Indian Ocean, in Hadhramant, an ancient mart of the Indian trade. These boundaries would fix the primitive seat of the Joktanite Arabs in Yemen and Hadhramant, mostly in Arabia Felix — a district stretching from the Nikkum mountains to the Red and Arabian Seas.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Genesis 10". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.