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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Division of the Earth.

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That all mankind were originally of one family spoke but one language, that, in consequence of their being united in a design which accorded not with the views of Providence, the Almighty confounded their speech, and introduced among them a variety of tongues, which produced a general dispersion, are facts declared by the sacred writers. In Acts 17:26, we are told, "God made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation." In Genesis 10:25, it is said, in the days of Peleg the earth was divided. The idea was, that each nation received its allotted portion of territory from God. The same view is probably taken in Deuteronomy 32:8-9. When the Most High assigned an inheritance to nations When He divided the sons of Adam; He fixed the bounds of peoples, according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the portion of Jehovah is his people Jacob the lot (cord) of his inheritance. The object of the sacred historian, in the tenth chapter of Genesis, is to furnish a brief, but authentic record of the origin of the principal nation of the earth. In the form of a genealogical table, or roll, of the descendants of Noah, it contains a view of the pedigree of nations in the then known world. As such, it is a record of inestimable value, being the most ancient ethnographic document which we possess. It does not, indeed, afford to us, at this late period of the world, that degree of definite information which it doubtless conveyed in the time of Moses. A proper name is apt to assume a new form every time it is translated into a different language, and often in the same dialect at different periods. It is not, therefore, to he wondered at that many nations and peoples should have lost the names by which they were originally called, or that these names should have become so altered by time, or so distorted in being transferred into other tongues, as to make it difficult to trace their relation to those here given. But, notwithstanding the uncertainty arising from this source, far more successful results have attended the researches of learned men in this department than could have been anticipated, so that nearly all the leading nations of ancient and modern times can be distinctly traced up to their patriarchial progenitors, recited in the present catalogue. Indeed, the subject of this chapter has been so nearly exhausted by the labors of Bochart, Le Clerc, Wells, Michaelis, Sir William Jones, Hales, Faber, Rosenmü ller, and others, that little is left for future gleaners, until a more minute acquaintance shall be formed with the Asiatic regions by some one who shall be master of the various dialects spoken from the Indus to the Nile, and from the Arabic Gulf to the Caspian Sea. In considering this record, it is important to remark,

1. That the names of individuals are for the most part names of the nations descended from them, just as Judah and Israel, though names of single persons, are also names of whole nations. This is evident, not only from the fact that many of them are in the plural number, as all those ending in im, but also from the termination of many of them, especially those ending in ite, being descriptive of tribes, and not of individuals.

2. Although this chapter is placed before the eleventh, yet in the order of time it properly belongs after it; for the confusion of tongues at Babel, which was the principal occasion of the dispersion of mankind, must of course have preceded that dispersion. This is still further evident for in the expression, "after their tongues," implying a diversity of languages, which we know did not exist prior to the confusion of tongues mentioned in the eleventh chapter. But such transpositions are common with the sacred writers.

3. Speaking in general terms, it may be said that the three sons of Noah Shem, Ham, and Japheth are exhibited in this genealogical chart as the representatives of the three grand divisions of the earth, Asia, Africa, and Europe, although not precisely according to the boundaries of modern times. The descendants of Japheth peopled Europe and the north-west of Asia; those of Ham, the southern quarter of the globe, particularly Africa; and the Shemites, the countries of Central Asia, particularly those around the Euphrates. In accordance with this, a tradition has long and extensively prevailed throughout the East, particularly amongst the Arabs and Persians, that Noah divided the earth among his three sons. But as this tradition rests upon no express authority of Scripture, the presumption is that it arose from some confused recollection or interpretation of Noah's prophecy mentioned in Genesis 9:25-27. "It has often been asserted," says Hengstenberg, "that the genealogical table in Genesis 10 cannot be from Moses, since so extended a knowledge of nations lies far beyond the geographical horizon of the Mosaic age. This hypothesis must now be considered as exploded. The new discoveries and investigations in Egypt have shown that they maintained even from the most ancient times a vigorous commerce with other nations, and sometimes with very distant nations. But not merely in general do the investigations in Egyptian antiquities favor the belief that Moses was the author of the account in this tenth chapter of Genesis. On the Egyptian monuments, those especially which represent the conquests of the ancient Pharaohs over foreign nations, not a few names have been found which correspond with those contained in the chapter before us. It must be allowed that far more still could be effected if our knowledge of hieroglyphics were not so very imperfect." Admitting Moses to have been the writer of the book of Genesis (as is established by well known internal and external evidences), still there is no improbability in supposing that, in drawing up this genealogical table, he may have had access to the archives kept by the priests among the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and other surrounding nations. He was, we are informed, "learned in all the learning of the Egyptians;" and that this included historical and ethnographic knowledge appears from the fragmentary remains of Manetho, Sanchoniathon, and Berosus, and the testimony of Herodotus. For the sake of conciseness and perspicuity, this ancient ethnographic chart may be thrown into the following tabular form, along with the most probable explanations which the labors of the learned have enabled us to offer.


I. GOMER the Cimmerians on the north coast of the Black Sea. Their descendants were,

1. Ashkenaz an unknown people, perhaps between Armenia and the Black Sea.

2. Riphath the inhabitants of the Riphaean Mountains.

3. Togarmahe. Armenia.

II. MAGOG the inhabitants of the Caucasus and adjacent countries Scythians.

III. MADAI the Medes.

IV. JAVAN the Ionians or Greeks. Their descendants were,

1. Elisha the Hellenes, strictly so called.

2. Tarshish Tartessus, in the south of Spain.

3. Kittim the inhabitants of Cyprus and other Greek islands, with the Macedonians.

4. Dodanim the Dodonaei, in Epirus, or perhaps the Rhodians.

V. TUBAL the Tibareni, in Pontus.

VI. MESHECH the Moschi (Muscovites?), in the Moschian Mountains, between Iberia, Armenia, and Colchis.

VII. TIRAS the Thracians, or perhaps the dwellers on the River Tiras, the Dniester.


I. CUSH the Ethiopians. Gesenius thinks that all the nations enumerated in Genesis 10:7, as sprung from Cush, are to be sought in Africa. Their descendants were,

1. Nimrod the first king of Shinar, i.e., Babylon and Meaopotamia, where he founded Babel, Erech, Calneh, and Accad.

2.Seba Meroe.

3. Havilah the Avalitae, dwelling on the Sinus Avalites, now Zeila, southward of the straits of Babel-Mandeb.

4. Sabtah Sabata, situated on the coast of the Arabian Gulf, not far from the present Arkiko.

5. Raamah Rhegma, in the south-east of Arabia, on the Persian Gulf. Descendants or colonies were,

A. Sheba probably a tribe in the northern Arabian desert, near the Persian Gulf.

B. Dedan Daden, an island in the Persian Gulf.

6. Sabtechah the Zingitani, in the eastern parts of Ethiopia.

II. MISRAIM the Egyptians. Their descendants were,

1. Ludim

2. Anamim, probably African tribes.

3. Lehabin or Lubim the Libyans.

4. Naphtuhi the inhabitants of the province of Nepltys, on the Lake of Sirbo, on the borders of Egypt and Asia.

5. Pathrusim the inhabitants of the Egyptian canton of Pathures (Pathros).

6. Casluhim the Colchians. Their descendants or colonies were, A. Philistim the Philistines.

B. Caphtorim the Cretans.

III. PHUT the Mauretanians.

IV. CANAAN the inhabitants of the country so called, from Sidon to the south end of the Dead Sea. Their descendants were,

1. Sidonians on the northern borders of Canaan or Phoenicia.

2. Hethites or Hittites in the country of Hebron, south of Jerusalem.

3. Jebusites in and around Jerusalem.

4. Amorites on the east and west side of the Dead Sea.

5. Girgasites south-east of the Sea of Galilee.

6. Hivites at the foot of Helmon and Antilibanus.

7. Arkites in the city of Area, in Phosnicia.

8. Sinites in the country of Lebanon.

9. Arvadites on the Phoenician island of Aradus, and the opposite coast.

10. Zemarites the inhabitants of the Phoenician town of Simyra.

11. Hamathites the inhabitants of the Syrian town of Epiphania, on the Orontes.


I. ELAM the Persians, particularly of the province of Elymais.

II. ASSHUER the Assyrians, founders of Nineveh, Rehoboth, Calneh, and Resen.

III. ARPHAXAD the inhabitants of the northern point of Assyria (Arrapachitis). A descendant was

Salah; from whom came Eber, progenitor of the Hebrews; and from him,

A. Peleg, and

B. Joktan, called by the Arabians Kachtan, ancestor of the following Arab tribes:

1.Almodad in Southern Arabia.

2. Sheleph the Selapenes, in Nejd or Tellama, in Southern Arabia.

3. Hazarmaveth the inhabitants of the Arabian province of Hhadramaumt.

4. Jerah the inhabitants of the Mountain of the Moon (Jebel or Gobb el-Kamar), near Hhadramaut.

5. Hadoram probably the Atramitse, on the southern coast of Arabia.

6. Uzal the inhabitants of the country of Sanaa, in South ern Arabia.

7. Diklah probably the district of the MinEei, in Arabia.

8. Obal unknown.

9.Abimael the Mali, in the vicinity of Mecca.

10. Sheba the Sabeans, in Southern Arabia.

11. Ophir the inhabitants of El-Ophir, in the Arabian province of Oman.

12. Havilal the Chaulotai, dwelling on the Persian Gulf.

13. Jobab the Jobabites, on the Gulf of Salachitis, between Hadramaut and Oman.

IV. LUD probably the Lydians in Asia Minor.

V. ARAM the inhabitants of Syria and Mesopotamia. Their descendants were,

1. Uz the inhabitants of a district in the north of Arabia Deserta.

2. Huel perhaps the inhabitants of Caelo-Syria. 3. Gether unknown.

4. Mash the inhabitants of a part of the Gordiaean Mountains (Mons Masius), north of Nisibis.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Division of the Earth.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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