Having established His covenant with Noah, his three sons and their wives, God commanded them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (9:1). So, the common ancestry of mankind can be traced to Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Genesis 8:16, 18; 9:1).
Genesis 10 recorded the origin of the races and nations of the world and listed the descendants of Noah’s three sons. The genealogy of Japheth, Ham and Shem were given in Genesis 10, and the genealogy of Shem was repeated in Genesis 11, and continued to Terah, the father of Abraham (11:27-32).
In Genesis 10, God began to deal with the Hebrew people through Shem’s lineage.
Although the Old Testament focused mainly on God’s dealings with the Hebrews, we are nevertheless reminded the LORD never forsook mankind. Genesis 10 gives us the names of sixteen sons who were born to Noah’s three sons (and perhaps as many daughters). While time and space do not allow a detailed study of each name, a close examination of Genesis 10 will reveal a historical registry of 70 nations that emerged from Noah’s sons: 14 nations associated with Japheth (10:2-5), 30 linked to Ham (10:25-27), and 26 from Shem (10:21-31).
Lineage of Japheth (10:2-5)
Japheth, Noah’s eldest son, was father of many Gentile nations (9:27; 10:2-5). From his progeny came some of the greatest empires of human history. Persia, Greece, and Rome can be traced back to Japheth’s bloodline. Modern European nations, namely, Germans, Russians, Italians, French, Spanish, and the English trace their origin to Japheth.
Lineage of Ham (10:25-27)
In Genesis 9:25, Noah cursed Ham, his youngest son, and called him “Canaan” (Ham’s grandson). Ham’s descendants founded some of the great empires of the ancient world. From his lineage came the Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, and tribes of Africa (10:6-20). (There is some debate regarding the ancestral origins of people of Eastern Asian, and the American Indians; some assert they are descendants of Ham, others of Japheth).
Although Ham was cursed to be a “servant of servants” (9:25-27), the accomplishments of his posterity was so vast it appears they set their minds to cast off the curse of being a “servant of servants.” Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, and the son of Cush, became the first ruler after the flood (10:8-10). He was described as a “mighty hunter” (10:9), a powerful warrior, and a great leader. He founded “Babel…in the land of Shinar” (10:10), the plain from which the great city of Babylon would spring.
Lineage of Shem (10:21-31)
Shem, Noah’s second born son, was “the father of all the children of Eber” (10:21-31). Scholars believe the name “Eber,” was an ancient word from which the word “Hebrew” was derived (10:21). “Eber” was the father of the Hebrews (Abraham was later described as “the Hebrew” (Genesis 14:13), and the nomadic tribes and nations of Arabia. Shem’s lineage was the ancestral line through which God fulfilled His promise of a Savior Redeemer. Notice Genesis 10 concluded, leaving no room for doubt, that all nations and people in the world are descended from Noah’s three sons:
Genesis 10:32 – “32 These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.”
Genesis 11 – The Tower of Babel
The history of man is one of sin and rebellion, and Genesis 11 demonstrated man’s resistance to God’s command to “replenish the earth” (9:1). Rather than disperse and repopulate the earth (9:1), the descendants of Noah’s sons and their families were determined to continue as “one language, and of one speech” (11:1). They congregated in a land that would become Babylon, “a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there” (11:2).
Exerting their desire to continue as they were (11:1), mankind resolved to build “a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” (11:4). The sinful pride and self-sufficiency of man was summed up in an act of rebellion, for men said, “Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (11:4).
Closing thoughts (11:6-8) – We are again made privy to a triune counsel of the Godhead. We read, “the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (11:6). In an act of mercy, the LORD knowing the wickedness and rebellion of man, determined to intervene lest man be carried so far there would be no hope of salvation (11:6).
Confounding their one language into multiple languages, the LORD caused the work on the tower and the city to cease, and forced humanity to scatter abroad “upon the face of all the earth” (11:7-8). Genesis 11 concluded with a record of Shem’s lineage, and brings our Bible study to a great crossroads in human history: God calling Abraham to separate from his country, kindred, and family, and by faith go “unto a land that [the LORD]” would show him. (11:31-12:1)
Never forget, the story of history is “His-Story” — a testimony of God’s sovereignty, providential leading, and His “Amazing Grace.”
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