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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Division of the Earth

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The prophecy of Noah, says Dr. Hales, was uttered long after the deluge. It evidently alludes to a divine decree for the orderly division of the earth among the three primitive families of his sons, because it notices the "tents of Shem" and the "enlargement of Japheth," Genesis 9:20-27 . This decree was probably promulgated about the same time by the venerable patriarch. The prevailing tradition of such a decree for this threefold division of the earth, is intimated both in the Old and New Testament. Moses refers to it, as handed down to the Israelites, "from the days of old, and the years of many generations; as they might learn from their fathers and their elders," and farther, as conveying a special grant of the land of Palestine, to be the lot of the twelve tribes of Israel:—

"When the Most High divided to the nations their settlements, When he separated the sons of Adam,

He assigned the boundaries of the peoples [of Israel] According to the number of the sons of Israel: For the portion of the Lord is his people,

Jacob is the lot of his inheritance,"

Deuteronomy 32:7-9 .

And this furnishes an additional proof of the justice of the expulsion of the Canaanites, as usurpers, by the Israelites, the rightful possessors of the land of Palestine, under Moses, Joshua, and their successors, when the original grant was renewed to Abraham, Genesis 15:13-21 . And the knowledge of this divine decree may satisfactorily account for the panic terror with which the devoted nations of Canaan were struck at the miraculous passage of the Red Sea by the Israelites, and approach to their confines, so finely described by Moses:—

"The nations shall hear [this] and tremble, Sorrow shall seize the inhabitants of Palestine. Then shall the dukes of Edom be amazed, Dismay shall possess the princes of Moab,

The inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away: Fear and terror shall fall upon them,

By the greatness of thine arm they shall be petrified, Till thy people pass over [Jordan] O Lord,

Till the people pass over, whom thou hast redeemed."

Exodus 15:14-16 .

St. Paul, also, addressing the Athenians, refers to the same decree, as a well-known tradition in the Heathen world: "God made of one blood every nation of men to dwell upon the whole face of the earth; having appointed the predetermined seasons and boundaries of their dwellings," Acts 17:26 . Here he represents mankind as all of "one blood," race, or stock, "the sons of Adam" and of Noah in succession; and the seasons and the boundaries of their respective settlements, as previously regulated by the divine appointment. And this was conformable to their own geographical allegory; that Chronus, the god of time, or Saturn, divided the universe among his three sons, allotting the heaven to Jupiter, the sea to Neptune, and hell to Pluto. But Chronus represented Noah, who divided the world among his three sons, allotting the upper regions of the north to Japheth, the maritime or middle regions to Shem, and the lower regions of the south to Ham. According to the Armenian tradition recorded by Abulfaragi, Noah distributed the habitable earth from north to south between his sons, and gave to Ham the region of the blacks, to Shem the region of the tawny, fuscorum, and to Japheth the region of the ruddy, rubrorum: and he dates the actual division of the earth in the hundred and fortieth year of Peleg, B.C. 2614, or five hundred and forty-one years after the deluge, and one hundred and ninety-one years after the death of Noah, in the following order:—"To the sons of Shem was allotted the middle of the earth, namely, Palestine, Syria, Assyria, Samaria, Singar, [or Shinar,] Babel, [or Babylonia,] Persia, and Hegiaz; [Arabia;] to the sons of Ham, Teimen, [or Idumea, Jeremiah 49:7 ,] Africa, Nigritia, Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, Scindia, and India; [or India west and east of the river Indus;] to the sons of Japheth, also, Garbia, [the north,] Spain, France, the countries of the Greeks, Sclavonians, Bulgarians, Turks, and Armenians." In this curious and valuable geographical chart, Armenia, the cradle of the human race, was allotted to Japheth, by right of primogeniture; and Samaria and Babel to the sons of Shem; the usurpation of these regions, therefore, by Nimrod, and of Palestine by Canaan, was in violation of the divine decree. Though the migration of the primitive families began at this time, B.C. 2614, or about five hundred and forty-one years after the deluge, it was a length of time before they all reached their respective destinations. The "seasons," as well as the "boundaries" of their respective settlements were equally the appointment of God; the nearer countries to the original settlement being planted first, and the remoter in succession. These primitive settlements seem to have been scattered and detached from each other according to local convenience. Even so late as the tenth generation after the flood in Abraham's days, there were considerable tracts of land in Palestine unappropriated, on which he and his nephew, Lot, freely pastured their cattle without hinderance or molestation. That country was not fully peopled till the fourth generation after, at the exode of the Israelites from Egypt. And Herodotus represents Scythia as an uninhabited desert, until Targitorus planted the first colony there, about a thousand years, at most, before Darius Hystaspes invaded Scythia, or about B.C. 1508. The orderly settlements of the three primitive families are recorded in that most venerable and valuable geographical chart, the tenth chapter of Genesis, in which it is curious to observe how long the names of the first settlers have been preserved among their descendants, even down to the present day:—

1. Japheth, the eldest son of Noah, Genesis 10:21 , and his family, are first noticed, Genesis 10:2-5 . The name of the patriarch himself was preserved among his Grecian descendants, in the proverb, του ‘Ιαπετου πρεσβυτερος , older than Japetus, denoting the remotest antiquity. The radical part of the word ‘Ιαπετ , evidently expresses Japheth.

(1.) Gomer, his eldest son, was the father of the Gomerians. These, spreading from the regions north of Armenia and Bactriana, Ezekiel 38:6 , extended themselves westward over nearly the whole continent of Europe; still retaining their paternal denomination, with some slight variation, as Cimmerians, in Asia; Cimbri and Umbri, in Gaul and Italy; and Cymri, Cambri, and Cumbri, in Wales and Cumberland at the present day. They are also identified by ancient authors with the Galatae of Asia Minor, the Gaels, Gauls, and Celtae, of Europe, who likewise spread from the Euxine Sea, to the Western Ocean; and from the Baltic to Italy southward, and first planted the British Isles. Josephus remarks, that the Galatae were called Γομαρεις , Gomariani, from their ancestor Gomar. See the numerous authorities adduced in support of the identity of the Gomerians and Celts, by that learned and ingenious antiquary, Faber, in his "Origin of Pagan Idolatry." Of Gomer's sons, Ashkenaz appears to have settled on the coasts of the Euxine Sea, which from him seems to have received its primary denomination of Αξενος , Axenus, nearly resembling Ashkenaz; but forgetting its etymology in process of time, the Greeks considered it as a compound term in their own language, Α - ξενος , signifying inhospitable; and thence metamorphosed it into Ευ - ξενος , Eu-xenus, "very hospitable." His precise settlement is represented in Scripture as contiguous to Armenia, westward; for the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz, are noticed together; Jeremiah 51:27 . Riphat, the second son of Gomer, seems to have given name to the Riphean mountains of the north of Asia; and Togarmah, the third son, may be traced in the Trocmi of Strabo, the Trogmi of Cicero, and Trogmades of the council of Chalcedon, inhabiting the confines of Pontus and Cappadocia.

(2.) Magog, Tubal, and Mesech, sons of Japhet, are noticed together by Ezekiel, as settled in the north, Ezekiel 38:2; Ezekiel 38:14-15 . And as the ancestors of the numerous Sclavonic and Tartar tribes, the first may be traced in the Mongogians, Monguls, and Moguls; the second, in the Tobolski, of Siberia; and the third, Mesech, or Mosoc, in the Moschici, Moscow, and Muscovites.

(3.) Madai was the father of the Medes, who are repeatedly so denominated in Scripture, 2 Kings 17:6; Isaiah 13:17; Jeremiah 51:11; Daniel 5:28 , &c.

(4.) From Javan was descended the Javanians, or ‘Ιαονες of the Greeks, and the Yavanas of the Hindus. Greece itself is called Javan by Daniel 11:2; and the people ‘Ιαονες by Homer in his "Iliad." These aboriginal ‘Ιαονες of Greece are not to be confounded, as is usually the case, with the later Ιωνες who invaded and subdued the Javanian territories, and were of a different stock. The accurate Pausanias states, that the name of Ιωνες , was comparatively modern, while that of ‘Ιαονες is acknowledged to have been the primitive title of the barbarians who were subdued by the Ιωνες . Strabo remarks that Attica was formerly called both Ionia and Ias, or Ian; while Herodotus asserts, that the Athenians were not willing to be called Ιωνες; and he derives the name from Ιων , the son of Zuth, descended from Deucalion or Noah. And this Ion is said by Eusebius to have been the ringleader in the building of the tower of Babel, and the first introducer of idol worship, and Sabianism, or adoration of the sun, moon, and stars. This would identify Ion with Nimrod. And the Ionians appear to have been composed of the later colonists, the Palli, Pelasgi, or roving tribes from Asia, Phenicia, and Egypt, who, according to Herodotus, first corrupted the simplicity of the primitive religion of Greece, and who, by the Hindus, were called Yonigas, or worshippers of the yoni or dove. This critical distinction between the Iaones and the Iones, the Yavanas, and the Yonigas, we owe to the sagacity of Faber. Of Javan's sons, Elishah and Dodon, may be recognized in Elis and Dodona, the oldest settlements of Greece; Kittim, in the Citium of Macedonia, and Chittim, or maritime coasts of Greece and Italy,

Numbers 24:24; and Tarshish, in the Tarsus of Cilicia, and Tartessus of Spain.

2. Ham and his family are next noticed, Genesis 10:6-20 . The name of the patriarch is recorded in the title frequently given to Egypt, "The land of Ham," Psalms 105:23 , &c.

(1.) Of his sons, the first and most celebrated appears to have been Cush, who gave name to the land of Cush, both in Asia and Africa; the former still called Chusistan by the Arabian geographers, and Susiana by the Greeks, and Cusha Dwipa Within, by the Hindus; the other, called Cusha Dwipa Without. And the enterprising Cushim or Cuthim, of Scripture, in Asia and Europe, assumed the title of Getae, Guiths, and Goths; and of Scuths, Scuits, and Scots; and of Sacas, Sacasenas, and Saxons. The original family settlement of Abraham was "Ur of the Chasdim," or Chaldees, Genesis 11:28 , who are repeatedly mentioned in Scripture, Isaiah 13:9; Daniel 9:1 , &c. According to Faber's ingenious remark, it may more properly be pronounced Chusdim, signifying Godlike Cushites. It is highly improbable that they were so named from Chesed, Abraham's nephew, Genesis 22:22 , who was a mere boy, if born at all, when Abraham left Ur, and was an obscure individual, never noticed afterward. Of Cush's sons, Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Sabtacha, and Raamah; and the sons of Raamah, Sheba, and Dedan, seem to have settled in Idumea and Arabia, from the similar names of places there; and of his descendants, Nimrod, the mighty hunter, first founded the kingdom of Babylon, and afterward of Assyria, invading the settlements of the Shemites, contrary to the divine decree. His posterity were probably distinguished by the title of Chusdim, Isaiah 23:13 .

(2.) The second son of Ham was Misr, or Mizraim. He settled in Egypt, whence the Egyptians were universally styled in Scripture, Mizraim, or Mizraites, in the plural form. But the country is denominated in the east, to this day, "the land of Misr;" which, therefore, seems to have been the name of the patriarch himself. The children of Misr, like their father, are denominated in Scripture by the plural number. Of these, the Ludim and Lehabim were probably the Copto-Libyans, Ezekiel 30:5; the Naphtuhim occupied the sea coast, which by the Egyptians was called Nephthus; whence, probably, originated the name of the maritime god Neptune. The Pathrusim occupied a part of Lower Egypt, called from them Pathros, Isaiah 11:11 . The Caphtorim and the Casluhim, whose descendants were the Philistim of Palestine, occupied the district which lies between the delta of the Nile and the southern extremity of Palestine, Deuteronomy 2:23; Amos 9:7 .

(3.) Phut is merely noticed, without any mention of his family. But the tribes of Phut and Lud are mentioned together, with Cush, or Ethiopia, Jeremiah 46:9; Ezekiel 30:5; and Jerom notices a district in Libya, called Regio Phutensis, or the land of Phut.

(4.) Canaan has been noticed already; and the original extent of the land of Canaan is carefully marked by Moses. Its western border, along the Mediterranean Sea, extended from Sidon, Southward, to Gaza; its southern border from thence, eastward, to Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, the cities of the plain, afterward covered by the Dead Sea, or Asphaltite Lake; its eastern border extending from thence northward, to Laish, Dan, or the springs of the Jordan; and its northern border, from thence to Sidon, westward. Of Canaan's sons, Sidon, the eldest, occupied the north-west corner, and built the town of that name, so early celebrated for her luxury and commerce in Scripture, Judges 18:7; 1 Kings 5:6; and by Homer, who calls the Sidonians, πολυδαιδαλοι , skilled in many arts. And Tyre, so flourishing afterward, though boasting of her own antiquity, Isaiah 23:7 , is styled, "a daughter of Sidon," or a colony from thence, Isaiah 5:12 . Heth, his second son, and the Hittites, his descendants, appear to have settled in the south, near Hebron, Genesis 23:3-7; and next to them, at Jerusalem, the Jebusites, or descendants of Jebus, both remaining in their original settlements till David's days; 2 Samuel 11:3; 2 Samuel 5:6-9 . Beyond the Jebusites, were settled the Emorites, or Amorites, Numbers 13:29 , who extended themselves beyond Jordan, and were the most powerful of the Canaanite tribes, Genesis 15:16; Numbers 21:21 , until they were destroyed by Moses and Joshua, with the rest of the devoted nations of Canaan's family.

3. Shem and his family are noticed last, Genesis 10:21-30 . His posterity were confined to middle Asia.

(1.) His son Elam appears to have been settled in Elymais, or southern Persia, contiguous to the maritime tract of Chusistan, Daniel 8:2 .

(2.) His son Ashur planted the land thence called Assyria, which soon became a province of the Cushite, or Cuthic empire, founded by Nimrod.

(3.) Arphaxad, through his grandson, Eber, branched out into the two houses of Peleg and Joktan. Peleg probably remained in Chaldea, or southern Babylonia, at the time of the dispersion; for there we find his grandson, Terah, and his family, settled at "Ur of the Chaldees,"

Genesis 11:31 . Of the numerous children of Joktan, it is said by Moses, that "their dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest unto Sephar, a mount of the east." Faber is inclined to believe that they were the ancestors of the great body of the Hindus, who still retain a lively tradition of the patriarch Shem, Shama, or Sharma; and that the land of Ophir, abounding in gold, so called from one of the sons of Joktan, lay beyond the Indus, eastward.

(4.) Lud was probably the father of the Ludim or Lydians, of Asia Minor; for this people had a tradition that they were descended from Lud or Lydus, according to Josephus.

(5.) The children of Aram planted the fertile country north of Babylonia, called Aram Naharaim, "Aram between the two rivers," the Euphrates and the Tigris, thence called by the Greeks, Mesopotamia, Genesis 24:10 , and Padan Aram, the level country of Aram, Genesis 25:20 . This country of Aram is frequently rendered Syria in Scripture, Judges 10:6; Hosea 12:12 , &c; which is not to be confounded with Palestine Syria, into which they afterward spread themselves, still retaining their original name of Αριμοι , or Arameans, noticed by Homer in his "Iliad."

4. Upon this distribution of Noah's posterity we shall only observe, that the Deity presided ever all their counsels and deliberations, and that he guided and settled all mankind according to the dictates of his all-comprehending wisdom and benevolence. To this purpose, the ancients themselves, according to Pindar, retained some idea that the dispersion of men was not the effect of chance, but that they had been settled in different countries by the appointment of Providence, Genesis 11:8-9; Deuteronomy 22:8 . This dispersion, and that confusion of languages with which it originated, was intended, by the counsel of an all-wise Providence, to counteract and defeat the scheme which had been projected by the descendants of Noah, for maintaining their union, implied in their proposing to make themselves a name, שם , which Schultens, in Job 1:1 , derives from the Arabic verb שמה , or שמא to be high elevated, or eminent. By this scheme, which seems to have been a project of state policy, for keeping all men together under the present chiefs and their successors, a great part of the earth must, for a long time, have been uninhabited, and overrun with wild beasts. The bad effects which this project would have had upon the minds, the morals, and religion of mankind, was, probably, the chief reason why God interposed to frustrate it as soon as it was formed. It had manifestly a direct tendency to tyranny, oppression, and slavery. Whereas in forming several independent governments by a small body of men, the ends of government, and the security of liberty and property, would be much better attended to, and more firmly established; which, in fact, was really the case; if we may judge of the rest by the constitution of one of the most eminent, the kingdom of Egypt, Genesis 47:15-27 . The Egyptians were masters of their persons and property, till they sold them to Pharaoh for bread; and then their servitude amounted to no more than the fifth part of the produce of the country, as an annual tax payable to the king. By this event, considered as a wise dispensation of Providence, bounds were set to the contagion of wickedness; evil example was confined, and could not extend its influence beyond the limits of one country; nor could wicked projects be carried on, with universal concurrence, by many small colonies, separated by the natural boundaries of mountains, rivers, barren deserts, and seas, and hindered from associating together by a variety of languages, unintelligible to each other. Moreover, in this dispersed state, they could, whenever God pleased, be made reciprocal checks upon each other, by invasions and wars, which would weaken the power, and humble the pride, of corrupt and vicious communities. This dispensation was, therefore, properly calculated to prevent a second universal degeneracy; God dealing in it with men as rational agents, and adapting his scheme to their state and circumstances.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Division of the Earth'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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