Three hundred and fifty years after the flood began, Noah died (Gen 9:28–29).

Then, the scene shifted to seventy descendants of his three sons (Gen 10:1).

The Table of Nations consists of a carefully-crafted theological assertion,[1] rather than a comprehensive list.[2]

Signifying completeness,[3] Japheth had seven sons and seven grandsons (Gen 10:2–5).[4]

Among the offspring of Ham are seven sons of Cush and seven sons of Mizraim (Egypt) (Gen 10:6–7, 13–14). Fourteen peoples are listed in Shem’s line down to the sons of Eber (Gen 10:21–25).[5]

A “son” (ben) can refer to a direct descendant, to distant offspring in a family lineage, or even to a person who signed a treaty.[6]

Some of the names in the Table of Nations represent specific men, while others signify people-groups or even locations.[7]

These peoples represented the major nations known to Israel which scattered across coastal areas, North Africa, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine.[8]

By citing their linkage through Noah, this genealogy emphasizes the fundamental unity of those dwelling in the Ancient Near East (ANE).[9]

Yet, it also distinguishes between them in terms of their geographic locations, ethnicities, and political affiliations.[10]

Similarities of speech occurred across ancestral lines.[11]

Although some exceptions exist, the Shemites lived as nomads, Hamites dwelt in cities, and the sons of Japheth lived along the distant coasts of the Mediterranean.[12]

Japheth’s sons included people-groups who had little contact with Israel (Gen 10:2–5).[13] They lived to the north, spreading from Asia Minor to the Greek islands.[14]

Ham’s descendants included Israel’s nearest neighbors (Gen 10:6–21).[15] Not only did they surround Israel,[16] conflict often erupted between them.[17]

Typically, their cities represented the apex of social and political civilization in the ANE.[18] These peoples lived in Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Arabia, and Mesopotamia.

The name “Nimrod” means “We shall rebel.”[19]

His empire encompassed all of Mesopotamia, from Babylon to Assyria. He achieved his power by military invasions, not merely by spreading peacefully into new regions.[20]

The term used to describe him (gibor) refers to someone of surpassing might who has accomplished great deeds,[21] to the point that even God acknowledged his abilities (Gen 10:8–12).[22]

Consistent with Noah’s curse, the genealogy of Canaan does not feature seven descendants. However, this did not affect his fertility.[23]

Canaanites inhabited portions of the eastern Mediterranean (Gen 10:15–19).[24] Today this area lies within Israel, part of Syria, and Lebanon.[25]

One line of descent receives considerable attention.[26]

Although Eber lived at least three generations after Shem, his name occurs in the introduction.[27]

His prominence likely derives from the link with the designation “Hebrew.”[28]

The division which occurred in his son’s lifetime appears to refer to what occurred at Babel (Gen 10:25; Gen 11:1–9).[29]

Peleg’s descendants include the line of Abraham, through whom God would bring salvation to the world (Gen 3:14–15; Gen 11:18–26; Gen 12:1–3; Matt 1:1).[30]

Thus, the Lord chose Israel as one nation among seventy to represent all humanity.[31] Seventy contains ten sevens, the number signifying perfection.[32]

According to the Mishnah, the Israelites wrote all the words of the Mosaic law on an altar “in seventy languages” (m. Sotah 7.5).

This implies that God holds all people-groups accountable, whether they view him as their Lord or not (Cf. Amos 9:7).[33]

By sending out seventy missionaries years later, Jesus expressed his concern for every people-group in the world (Luke 10:1–2).[34]

We all share a common origin, lending inherent dignity and value to everyone, for we all bear God’s image, even after the fall (Gen 1:26–28; Gen 5:1–4).[35]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Go to A Plain in Shinar

[Related posts include Made in the Image of God (Gen 1:26 cont.); Stewards of the Earth (Gen 1:26 cont.); Male and Female He Created Them (Gen 1:27); The Blessing of Fruitfulness (Gen 1:28); God Curses the Serpent (Gen 3:14); The First Good News (Gen 3:15); Ancient Near Eastern Genealogies (Gen 5:1); In the Likeness of God (Gen 5:1–2); In Adam’s Likeness and Image (Gen 5:3–5); The Death of Noah (Gen 9:28–29); The Descendants of Noah (Gen 10:1); The Descendants of Japheth (Gen 10:2–5); The Descendants of Ham (Gen 10:6–14); The Descendants of Canaan (Gen 10:15–20); The Descendants of Shem (Gen 10:21–31); Seventy Nations (Gen 10:32); and Jesus Sends Seventy (Two) (Luke 10:1–2)]


[Click here to go to Chapter 11: The Table of Nations (Gen 9:28–10:32)]

[Click here to go to Chapter 12: Scattered to the Ends of the Earth (Gen 11:1–9)]


[1]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 162.

[2]Walton, Genesis, 367.

[3]Ryken, Wilhoit, and Reid, “Seven,” DBI, 775.

[4]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 213.

[5]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 164–5.

[6]H. Haag, “בֵּן” (ben), TDOT 2:145–59, 150, 152.

[7]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 165.

[8]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 214.

[9]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 163.

[10]B. Oded, “The Table of Nations (Genesis 10) – A Socio-Cultural Approach,” ZAW 98 (1986): 14, Http://

[11]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 243.

[12]Oded, “The Table of Nations (Genesis 10)–A Socio-Cultural Approach,” 22, 30, Http://

[13]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 214.

[14]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 334–5.

[15]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 219.

[16]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 10:29.

[17]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 168.

[18]B. Oded, “The Table of Nations (Genesis 10)–A Socio-Cultural Approach,” ZAW 98 (1986): 28, Http://

[19]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 338.

[20]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 169.

[21]H. Kosmala, “גָּבַר” (gabar), TDOT 2:373–82, 373.

[22]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 169.

[23]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 330–1.

[24]Walton, Genesis, 368.

[25]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 221.

[26]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 227.

[27]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 343.

[28]Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, “עֵבֶר” (ēber), BDB, 720,

[29] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 231.

[30]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 163.

[31]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 214.

[32]Ryken, et. al., “Seventy,” DBI, 775–6, 775.

[33]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 174.

[34]Green, The Gospel of Luke, 411.

[35]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 346.