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Genesis 10

Chapter 10

v.1: These lists are not proper, exhaustive genealogies.  They do not record every descendant of every branch of the family.  Sometimes they do not include whole branches of the family, but such omissions do not imply that those branches did not exist.  Perhaps the author omitted these lines of descent intentionally because they were not his central concern.  Also, even where a line of descent does appear, it does not necessarily represent each generation.  Sometimes only historically significant people may appear, while at other times the author contents himself by mentioning whole tribes of descendants at one time.

v. 5: Since the writer tells us that each of these tribes spoke their own language, we can deduce that, for the most part,[1] these tables of nations describe the state of Noah’s descendants after the story of the tower of Babel.

v. 10: Babel is called “the beginning” of Nimrod’s kingdom.  This may be harmonized with the story of Babel (in the next chapter) in many ways.  According to 11:8, work on the city of Babel ceased before being completed.  In that sense, it never really existed before the scattering of the children of Noah.  Perhaps Nimrod simply returned at a later time and finished the work.  An alternative explanation (which appeals to my imagination more and agrees equally well with the Biblical account) is that Nimrod usurped leadership over the other children of Noah.  Leadership should have remained in either the house of Shem or Japeth, but Nimrod is of the house of Ham.  Such a usurpation would account for his title as the first tyrant, and would also explain his name, Nimrod, which, according to Barnes, means “let us revolt” (366).  I believe, therefore, that Nimrod, son of Cush, son of Ham, led a rebellion against the leadership of his brothers and usurped the headship over all humanity.  Then, to cement his accomplishments and insure his continued power, he proposed the building of the tower of Babel.   After God scattered everyone, Nimrod may have stayed in the half-built city until he had gathered enough people again to finish building it.  Note that Nimrod is called a mighty hunter in 10:9.  Barnes argues that this should be interpreted to mean that Nimrod was a mighty hunter of men, i.e., one who enslaves men.  He argues that the word “hunter” deserves this negative connotation because the name, “Nimrod,” singles him out as an evil man (366).  If Barnes is right, then I would be justified in thinking that some time after the scattering of humans Nimrod might have decided to continue the building of Babel by going out and enslaving those who still lived relatively nearby.  This would amount to the first empire.

v. 21: The NJK says that Japeth is the eldest, but Luther’s translation, the OKJ, and Barnes all say that Shem is the eldest.  I agree with the latter.  See note on 9:24.

v. 24: The division of the earth to which the name Peleg (which means “division”) refers must be the confusion of languages at Babel and the subsequent scattering of humanity.  Peleg must have been born right after this happened, which means there were at least four generations of descendants from Shem at the time of the building of the tower of Babel.


[1] I say “for the most part” because some of these descendants of Noah must already have been born before the migration to the plain of Shinar (Babel); otherwise, there would not have been enough people to attempt to build the great city and its tower  (See notes on 10:24).  These genealogies simply focus on describing the main descendants of Noah as they split up after the scattering at Babel.

4 Responses to “Genesis 10”

  1. […] tells us that each of these tribes spoke their own language, we can deduce that, for the most part,[1] these tables of nations describe the state of Noah’s descendants after the story of the tower […]

  2. […] tells us that each of these tribes spoke their own language, we can deduce that, for the most part,[1] these tables of nations describe the state of Noah’s descendants after the story of the tower […]

  3. […] v. 4:  The sin of these original Babylonians seems to have been pride.  They wanted to build a tower to heaven in order to make a name for themselves.  See also notes on Nimrod in10:10. […]

  4. […] v. 4:  The sin of these original Babylonians seems to have been pride.  They wanted to build a tower to heaven in order to make a name for themselves.  See also notes on Nimrod in10:10. […]

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