The narrative begins with the detailed account of the descendants of Japheth, Ham and Shem, which stemmed from the event of the tower of Babel. This incident of building the tower described how the children of man went against the will of God and how the LORD reacted to their rebellion. From this lesson, we will discover the origin of language, the dispersion of nations and the love of God in preventing men’s own destruction.
Did You Know...?
- Magog (10:2) was the second son of Japheth. Geographically, Magog is a region located beyond Caucasus, and the Lake Maeotis, near the Caspian Sea and spread out even onward to India. [ref]
- Kittim (10:4) is a Hebrew word for Cyprus.
- Ham (10:6) in Hebrew sounds like the word “hot, warm.”
- Mizraim (10:6): This word is also used to denote the country Egypt in Hebrew.
- Canaan (10:6) also refers to a whole country to the west of the Jordan and the Dead Sea (Deut. 11:30). [ref]
- Nimrod (10:8) is similar to the word “rebel” in Hebrew.
- Babel (10:10): In Assyrian, it means “the gate of god.” It is the ancient capital of Babylonia, modern Hillah, and located on the Euphrates. [ref]
- Niniveh (10:11) is one of the earliest Mesopotamian cities, and capital of the Assyrian Empire. The city is located on the eastern bank of the Tigris river opposite modern Mosul, 220 miles northwest of Baghdad. [ref]
- Sodom and Gomorrah (10:19) are important Canaanite cities, usually named together (Gen 13:10, 14:2; Amos 4:11; Isa 1:9, 13:19).
- Peleg (10:25) sounds similar to the word “divide” in Hebrew.
- To confuse (11:7) in Hebrew is similar to the word “Babel.”
List the descendants of Japheth.
List the descriptions or prophecies from the Scriptures which speak concerning the sons of Japheth: Gomer. See Ezek 38:1-6;
In Hebrew, the word “Madai” can literally be translated as “Medes” (
2 Kgs 18:11; Isa 13:17; Jer 25:25) or “Media” (Est 1:3, 14, 18, 10:2; Isa 21:2; Dan 8:20). The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that on the day of the LORD, He would stir up Madai to go against Babel (Isa 13:17). The book of Jeremiah also mentioned on one hand how the LORD would pour His cup of fury to all the nations, including the king of the Medes (Madai) (Jer 25:25). On the other hand, the prophet Jeremiah emphasized how the LORD had raised the spirits of the king of Medes against Babylon (Jer 51:11). Later, the prophet Daniel saw a vision of the ram which symbolized the kings of Media and Persia, defeated by Greece (Dan 8:20, 9:1).
The word “Javan” can literally be translated as “Greece” in Hebrew. From the sons of Javan, “the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands” (Gen 10:5). The prophet Isaiah prophesied that the LORD would set a sign among the nations, such as Tubal and Javan, who had not seen His glory (Isa 66:19). Later, the prophet Zechariah also prophesied how the LORD would save Israel from Javan (Greece) (Zech 9:13). In Daniel’s vision, Javan—the kingdom of Greece, was portrayed as a male goat. The prophet Daniel saw further in his vision that the realm of Greece would be stirred up by the fourth king of Persia (Dan 8:21, 11:2). See also point f.
The psalmist wrote that he refused to dwell in Meshech because they hated peace and had false tongues (Psa 120:3-6). Tubal and Meshech are usually mentioned together. In the book of Ezekiel, Javan, Tubal, Meshech were known for bartering human lives and vessels of bronze (Ezek 27:13). In his lamentation for Egypt, the prophet Ezekiel said that Meshech and Tubal and all their multitudes would be slain by sword because they had caused terror in the land of the living (Ezek 32:26). Moreover, the prophet also foretold that the LORD was against Meshech and Tubal (Ezek 38:2).
Ashkenaz. See Jer 51:27;
Elishah. See Ezek 27:7;
In Hebrew, the word “Kittim” can be literally translated as “Cyprus.” In the book of Numbers, ships from the coasts of Cyprus (Kittim) was prophesied by Balaam to afflict Asshur, Eber and Amalek (Num 24:24). According to the prophet Ezekiel, Cyprus was known for their ivory (Ezek 27:6). Later, the prophet Isaiah prophesied that there would be no rest in Cyprus (Isa 23:12). In Jeremiah, the peoples of the coasts of Cyprus was used as an example for the Israelites who had not been faithful to the LORD (Jer 2:10). Finally, at the appointed time, the prophet Daniel prophesied that the ships from Cyprus would come against the Northern kingdom (Dan 11:30).
List the descendants of Ham.Hide Answer
The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan. The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabtechah. The sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan. The descendant of Cush was Nimrod. The descendants of Mizraim were Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim and Casluhim (Gen 10:6-14).
In Hebrew, the word “Cush” can be literally translated as “Ethiopia.” In the times of the prophet Isaiah, the king of Ethiopia (Cush) was heard to make war with Assyria (Isa 37:9). According to the prophet Isaiah, the LORD would also recover the remnant of His people who were left from Cush, Egypt and other nations (Isa 11:11). The prophet Isaiah also prophesied how the king of Assyria would lead away the Egyptians and the Ethiopians as captives (Isa 20:2-4). The LORD had given Egypt, Ethiopia and Seba for the ransom of His people (Isa 43:3). Furthermore, the prophet Jeremiah warned that on the day of vengeance, the LORD would avenge Himself against the Ethiopians and the Put (Jer 46:9-10). The prophet Ezekiel made a similar proclamation that Ethiopia and Egypt would fall by the sword (Ezek 30:4). Finally, the prophet Nahum emphasized that though Ethiopia and Egypt were the strength of Nineveh, the LORD would be against them (Nah 3:9-10).
The word “Mizraim” in Hebrew can literally be translated as “Egypt.” Once the prophet Hosea mentioned how Egypt (Mizraim) would gather Israel in the days of punishment (Hos 9:6). Egypt, according to the writer of the book of Proverbs, was known also for her colored linens (Prov 7:16). Furthermore, the prophet Ezekiel proclaimed a prophesy that the LORD would make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate and sword would come upon Egypt (Ezek 29:10). The book of Joel warned that Egypt would be a desolation because they had shed innocent blood in their land (Joel 3:19). In addition, the prophet Isaiah prophesied that the LORD would strike and heal Egypt and they would return to the LORD (Isa 19:22). See also point b.
The word “Put” in Hebrew can literally be translated as “Libya.” The prophet Nahum mentioned Put and Lubim (Ludim) as the helpers of the punished Nineveh (Nah 3:9). Concerning the Egyptian army who was defeated by king of Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed that the LORD would avenge Himself on His adversaries, including the Ethiopians and the Libyans (Put) who handled the shield (Jer 46:9). Moreover, the prophet Ezekiel declared a lamentation against Tyre whose men of war were from Persia, Lydia (Lud) and Libya (Put) (Ezek 27:10). And the prophet warned that the countries, such as Ethiopia, Libya, Lydia, who upheld Egypt would fall by the sword (Ezek 30:5). Finally, the prophet also prophesied that the LORD would go against Magog and her army, including Persia, Ethiopia and Libya (Ezek 38:5).
Raamah. See Ezek 27:22;
The psalmist prayed that the gold of Sheba would be given to the LORD (Psa 72:15). According to the book of Jeremiah, Sheba was known for the frankincense (Jer 6:20). Furthermore, in the book of Ezekiel, the prophet Ezekiel mentioned Sheba as one of the people who would be plundered by Gog (Ezek 38:13). See also point e, f.
According to the book of Ezekiel, the men of Dedan were described as ones who were trading with Tyre whom the LORD would go against (Ezek 27:15). Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah made a proclamation against the traveling companies of the Dedanites that they would lodge in the forest of Arabia due to a distress of war (Isa 21:13-15).
List the descendants of Canaan.
Sidon was warned by the prophet Isaiah that she was to be still and be ashamed because the pride of Tyre would be brought down (Isa 23:2, 4, 12). Moreover, the prophet Jeremiah declared that the kings of Sidon would also be made to drink the LORD’s cup of fury (Jer 25:22). Through the prophet, the king of Sidon was warned that he would be given to the hand of the king of Babylon and the LORD would cut off the remaining helper from Tyre and Sidon (Jer 27:3, 47:4). Though men of Sidon and Arvad were oarsmen for the lamented Tyre, the prophet Ezekiel prophesied that the LORD would be against Sidon (Ezek 27:8, 28:21-22). According to the book of Joel, the LORD would return Tyre’s, Sidon’s, and all the coasts of Philistia’s retaliation against their own head when they retaliated against God (Joel 3:4). Finally, the prophet Zechariah proclaimed to Tyre and Sidon that the LORD was against them though they were very wise (Zech 9:1-2).
According to the book of Amos, the Amorites were known for their high stature and strength (Amos 2:9). But the LORD was the One who destroyed them and let the Israelites possessed the land of the Amorites (Psa 135:11-12). The psalmist also wrote how the LORD had defeated many nations and mighty kings, including the king of Amorites (Psa 136:17-19).
Once, the Scriptures recorded that the prince of Hivite violated Dinah, the daughter of Israel (Gen 34:2). According to the book of Genesis, Esau took wives from the Hittite (Heth) and the Hivite (Gen 36:2). Later, in the book of Exodus, the LORD promised the Israelites that He would cut off the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites. The LORD would send hornets to drive them out before Israel (Ex 23:23, 28). Again, in the book of Deuteronomy, the LORD promised the Israelites that He would bring them to the land which they went to possess, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites. And the LORD commanded the Israelites to utterly destroy all of them (Deut 7:1, 20:17).
List the descendants of Shem.
According to the prophet Isaiah, the LORD would set His hand to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Elam, Hamath and other areas (Isa 11:11). Elam would also be used by the LORD to punish Babylon (Isa 21:2-9). But the prophet Jeremiah warned that Elam and other nations would have to drink the cup of fury of the LORD (Jer 25:17-25). Moreover, the prophet Ezekiel prophesied that Elam and all her multitude would be slain, fallen by the sword (Ezek 32:24). In the latter days, the LORD promised that He would bring back the captives of Elam (Jer 49:39).
The prophet Isaiah prophesied that the king of Asshur would take away the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria (Isa 8:4), and the king of Asshur would fill the breadth of Judah’s land (Isa 8:7). Though Assyria (Asshur) was the LORD’s rod of anger (Isa 10:5), Asshur would be punished by the LORD for the fruit of her arrogance and haughty looks (Isa 10:12). Furthermore, the LORD would break the Assyrian in His land (Isa 14:25). But there would be a day when the Egyptians would serve with the Assyrians (Isa 19:23). Both the prophet Jeremiah and Zephaniah also proclaimed that the LORD would punish the king of Assyria (Jer 50:18; Zeph 2:13). Likewise, the prophet Ezekiel declared that Assyria with all her company would fall by the sword, though they were of high stature like a cedar in Lebanon (Ezek 31:3, 32:22).
In Hebrew, the word “Aram” can be literally translated as “Syria” (
2 Sam 8:5) or “Mesopotamia” (Judg 3:10). The book of Isaiah described that the Syrians (Aram) and the Philistines were used by the LORD to devour Israel, whose heart was arrogant (Isa 9:8-12). The prophet Amos declared that the people of Syria would go captive to Kir (Amos 1:5).
In the book of Jeremiah, the kings of the land of Uz were prophesied by the prophet that they would be made to drink the LORD’s cup of fury (Jer 25:15-20). In his Lamentation, the prophet warned that the daughter of Edom who dwelled in the land of Uz would be punished by the LORD (Lam 4:21).
In the period of King Solomon’s reign, Hiram acquired four hundred and twenty talents of gold (
1 Kgs 9:28), almug wood and precious stones ( 1 Kgs 10:11) from Ophir for the King. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet mentioned fine gold of Ophir as an example of rarity. The prophet described how the punishment of the LORD for the world’s evil would cause a man to become more rare than fine gold of Ophir (Isa 13:12).
What can we learn from the descriptions and prophesies of the descendants of Japheth, Ham and Shem?Hide Answer
Although they were dispersed according to their families, their languages, their lands and their nations, they were under the authority of the LORD. Several prophets explained that certain nations were used by the LORD to punish other nations.
For example, the prophet Isaiah mentioned how God removed the protection of Judah because of her iniquity. And the LORD used Elam, one of the descendants of Shem, to damage Jerusalem (Isa 22:6-14). Moreover, the book of Jeremiah explained how the Lord would go against Egypt. Though Egypt was mighty, God would use Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, one of the descendants of Ham, to strike the land of Egypt for their punishment (Jer 46:1-21). In addition, the prophet Ezekiel warned the descendants of Japheth that “in the latter years” they and their troops would storm Israel (Ezek 38:8-9). But “in the latter days,” because of what they had done to the land of God’s people, the Lord would bring judgment against the descendants of Japheth. Therefore, through such events, the nations would know that God was the LORD and through them, God would magnify Himself and sanctify Himself (Ezek 38:1-23).
The punishments, proclamations were made to those nations so that they would know that He was the LORD and that He would be glorified in their midst (Ezek 25:11, 28:22, 29:9). Moreover, according to the prophet Zechariah, the LORD proclaimed His punishments to the nations so that they would know their cities belonged to Him and their pride would be cut off (Zech 9:6). According to the prophet Isaiah, in the last days, the LORD promises that He would wipe the tears of all nations and provide salvation to all peoples through His mountain (Isa 25:6-9).
These prophecies teach us that although the descendants of Japheth, Ham and Shem were scattered according to their families and lands, the LORD still holds authority over all nations. He punishes those who are haughty and who lift themselves above so that the name of the LORD may be glorified and the nations may know that the LORD is God. These prophesies show us the justice that God performs among the wicked nations and also the love of God toward them that they may know and return to the LORD.
How would the Scriptures describe Nimrod?
What can we learn about Nimrod from the saying “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord”?
What can we learn about Nimrod from the phrase “from that land he went to Assyria”?Hide Answer
According to Genesis 10:22, Assyria (Hebrew: Asshur) was the name of the son of Shem according to their families, languages, lands and nations. Therefore, after Nimrod’s success in establishing the beginning of his kingdom in the land of Shinar, Nimrod went to the families or lands of Shem to build his other kingdoms.
What can we learn about Nimrod in comparison with the sayings of Noah in Genesis 9:25-27?Hide Answer
The curse of Canaan mentioned in Genesis 9 by Noah might have had an impact on the rest of the descendants of Ham. Genesis 9:25 said that Canaan shall be “a servant of servants” to his brothers. However, Nimrod, who was the descendant of Cush, Canaan’s eldest brother, “began to be a mighty one on the earth” and “a mighty hunter before the LORD” (Gen 10:8-9). The Scriptures emphasized that Nimrod “began to be a mighty one.” In other words, Nimrod made great effort throughout his life to be a mighty one on the earth. Though his ancestor was cursed to be “a servant of servants” (Gen 9:25), Nimrod forcibly proved himself to be a mighty one, and he was acknowledged by the people of the earth to be a mighty one. He even proudly demonstrated that he was “a mighty hunter before the LORD” (Gen 10:9), an impressively altered image as one who had descended from a cursed servant of servants.
Later in Genesis 9:26-27, it was also said that Japheth would dwell in the tents of Shem while Canaan would be the slave of Shem and Japheth. But in Genesis 10:10-11, Nimrod exhibited his mightiness through the beginning of the establishment of his kingdoms, such as “Babel, Erech, Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” Furthermore, Nimrod expanded his territory of kingship to the land of Shem and built kingdoms there, such as “Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen” (Gen 10:11-12). Therefore, Nimrod’s action of kingship expansion served as a great contrast to the impression of one who had descended from a servant of the tents of Shem and the tents of Japheth.
Today, Nimrod’s acts can symbolize the rebellious nature of men who will go against God’s decisions. Men who will prove that the LORD’s decision could be wrong and they could raise themselves up above others without God’s approval. But at the end, the Lord will bring down the proud and He will prevail against them. The prophet Isaiah in his book explains how the LORD will humble “the lofty looks of man” and will bow down “the haughtiness of men.” In addition, the LORD will “punish the world for its evil” and “the wicked for their iniquity.” Thus, at the end, “the LORD alone shall be exalted” in the day of the LORD (Isa 2:11, 13:11).
What is the significance of the phrase “according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations” as recorded in Genesis 10:5, 20, 31? See also Gen 9:1 and 11:9.Hide Answer
The phrase “according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations,” shows the progression of the fulfillment of the LORD’s command for Noah and his sons to be fruitful, to multiply and to fill the earth (Gen 9:1). In Genesis 10, Noah’s sons and descendants were already numerous and multiplied and they were arranged according to their families, their languages, their lands and their nations. Furthermore, the book of Genesis 11:9 explained that the dispersion of the descendants of Noah was also by the work of the hand of the LORD. The LORD confused the language of all the earth, and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth (Gen 11:9). Thus, the descendants were scattered according to their languages, their lands and their nations.
What was the significance of the phrase “for in his days the earth was divided”?Hide Answer
The phrase “for in his days the earth was divided” serves as a marking point that in the time of Peleg, the son of Eber, the earth was divided according to the families, languages, lands and nations. Most likely, before Peleg’s time, the earth was still united in one language and one speech (Gen 10:25, 32 11:1).
Look up each of the names of the descendants of Japheth, Ham and Shem in the Bible dictionary of names. The naming of their children’s names may reflect each of Japheth, Ham and Shem’s lives. According to your research, how they might have lived their lives in front of God?(The answer is empty)Hide Answer
What did the children of man do when they found a plain in the land of Shinar?Hide Answer
As the children of man journeyed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and they decided to dwell there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly” (Gen 11:3). Then they united together to build themselves a city and a tower whose top was in the heavens (Gen 11:1-4).
Why did they build a city and a tower?
What did the LORD say when He came down and saw their doings?
What similarity do we find between the event of the LORD coming down and seeing what the children of man were doing in Genesis 11:5 and the event of the LORD walking in the garden to see the man and the woman in Genesis 3:8?Hide Answer
In Genesis 3:8, after the man and the woman had eaten the forbidden fruit, the LORD was walking in the garden looking for them, and He called them (Gen 3:9). In Genesis 11:5, after the children of man had built for themselves a city and a tower to make a name for themselves, the LORD came down to see the city and the tower.
The book of Proverbs tells us, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov 15:3). In other words, whatever we do, whether good or bad, whether in public or in private, the eyes of the LORD are keeping watch every single time. For instance, what King David did in secret with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, was seen and known by the LORD and it displeased Him (
2 Sam 11:27). Therefore, not only does the LORD keep watch and observe the things which we do, but He also judges whether the deeds are pleasing or displeasing in front of Him.
What does the phrase “nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” tell us about the children of man? See also Jas 4:13-16.Hide Answer
In Genesis 11:6, the LORD said, “…and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them (ESV).” This phrase in Hebrew can be translated as “nothing will be withheld from them all which they consider to do.” Such an expression shows the children of man’s confidence and pride that whatever they have proposed to do in their lives, they will proceed to do as such and nothing will stop their plans. Such an attitude is also mentioned in the book of James. The writer tells us about those who planned to go to a certain city, to spend a year, to buy and sell and to make a profit. They planned as if they knew exactly what would happen tomorrow and the day after. Such an attitude, according to the apostle James, is considered as boasting and evil in the sight of the LORD (Jas 4:13-15). James 4:16 says, “But now you boast in your arrogance.” Likewise, the children of man’s attitude that “nothing will be withheld from what they have proposed to do” in Genesis 11 reflects their boasting and arrogance. They completely disregarded the LORD who has control and authority over their lives, which are like a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
Contrast the unity in Babel with the unity in Christ. How are the two unity different from each other and what can we learn from the contrast?Hide Answer
There is a difference between the unity in Babel and the unity in Christ. On one hand, the unity in Babel was about men coming together for a selfish purpose in defiance of God’s will. The men were united in order to excel their own fame by building a city and a tower whose top is in the heavens (Gen 11:4). In addition, they gathered together to go against God’s command to fill the earth (Gen 9:1) by intending not to be scattered over the face of the whole earth.
On the other hand, the unity in Christ is about coming together for a selfless purpose, in obedience to God’s will (
1 Cor 12:12-26; Eph 4:1-16). The apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians admonishes us to take care the weaker members of the body, bestowing greater honor to the less honorable of the body and giving greater modesty to the unpresentable parts of the body ( 1 Cor 12:22-24). Furthermore, the unity in Christ does not seek one’s own selfish interest nor does it seek one’s own fame or ambition (Phil 2:1-4). In addition, according to the apostle Paul, once we are united with Christ, we ought not to let sin reign in our mortal body nor obey its lusts. We should present our body as instruments of righteousness to God (Rom 6:5-14). In short, unity in Christ means a full submission and obedience to His will and commands in our daily lives.
For us today, as Christians, unity is not just a togetherness or working together side by side in carrying out certain plans, but rather the motive and purpose of the unity itself in the eyes of the LORD and whether the unity is in full submission of the LORD’s will and reflect His righteousness.
What were the results of the language confusion?
Sometimes our plans may not go according to what we want. We may even feel that God’s hand was heavy upon us (Ps 32:4;
1 Sam 5:6) that whatever we do, the results are not according to what we have planned. According to the prophet Jeremiah, the LORD fashions a disaster and devises a plan against the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for the purpose of preventing them to go into their evil way and deeds (Jer 18:11). Similarly, the LORD, according to His will, “scatters” what we have proposed to do in our life for the purpose of averting us from our destructive deeds and ways.
In addition, the writer of Hebrews admonishes us, though the chastening of the LORD is painful, it is for our profit. The LORD chastises us so that we may be partakers of His holiness and we may be trained to yield peaceable fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:10-11). Although our plans are scattered by His hands, we are still profited. The LORD has set His purpose to train us to be holy according to His will and to produce the fruit of righteousness.