“This is the family tree of the sons of Noah as they developed into nations. From them, nations developed all across the earth after the flood.” (Genesis 10:32).
How far back can you trace your ancestry? Many of us know the countries from which our fore-fathers came, but with little details. We can, however, start from the other end, from the beginning, and get a different perspective of our lineage. The descendants of Noah left nations in their wake that exist today.
To begin, let’s review some World History:
Creation was approximately 6,000 years ago, and from Adam and Eve there were sons and daughters who had children who had more children and more children for the next 2,000 years. Unfortunately, they were a corrupt bunch who chose to ignore God’s warning of impending judgment, so they died in a world-wide flood. The one righteous man, Noah, was spared with his wife, three sons, and their wives.
Shem, Ham, and Japheth, Noah’s boys, had children who had children and once again there was a population of humans on the earth, all living in one region. God told them to fill the earth but they didn’t, so he sent another big judgment. At Babel (in modern-day Iraq) approximately seventy new languages were distributed among them all at once.
Divided by language, people groups began to fill the earth, starting from Mesopotamia, the ‘Cradle of Civilization,’ and radiating outward. Some lived in caves before building settlements. Others built boats and discovered islands. Some crossed land bridges exposed during the Ice Age, and populated to the tip of South America.
Whoa! Are you sticking the Ice Age into world history only 2000 years ago? And how do you explain the different ‘racial’ groups and skin color? Do all the languages of today show common origins or not?
Good Questions! These are loaded concepts I intend to discuss in the months to come.
Back to Noah’s boys. Genesis Chapter 10 is a table of Noah’s descendants, often referred to as the Table of Nations. It’s an overview followed by Chapter 11, which gives the details of the incident at Babel. Each of the men listed became head of a new nation with a defining language. From this listing, first century Jewish historian Josephus, and cultural tradition we know where many current nations got their roots.
Nations were generally named after those people who first settled them. Providing you a list here would be overwhelming but there are many books and articles on this topic. I’ll refer you to The Table of Nations by Tim Osterholm (www.soundchristian.com) which has detailed content on this subject, as does the book Tower of Babel by Bodie Hodge, and Table of Nations article (www.ldolphin.org/ntable).
I did summarize the information, identifying general regions fathered by the sons of Noah:
We’ll look first at JAPHETH, the intellectual son:
His descendants went primarily north from Babel. He is the father of Europe and northern Asian regions such as Russia, as well as some Middle Eastern regions like Turkey and of the ancient Medes. Japan also seems to have connections, though I couldn’t find a clear answer on this. A significant chunk of Americans trace their lineage to Europe, so our ancestry is Japhetic as well.
Naming Japheth as father of Europe’s nations isn’t new. The German people, descendents of Japheth’s grandson Ashkenaz, have records of royal lineage tracing directly back to these men. An eighth century Roman table of nations traces the Goths, Saxons, Romans, Britons and others directly to Japheth through his son Javan. There are many, many geographic locations with names still linked to the lineage of Japheth.
Why did I call him the intellectual son? Many of the worlds’ great philosophers came from the Greek and Hindu peoples of Japheth. A significant number of inventors are of his lineage too. Pondering the heavens and the meaning of life, advancing technology to its limits, establishing complex systems from which to govern, practice religion, and trade are attributed to Japhetic nations. They frequently followed the pioneering tribes of Ham and took over the lands of their cousins.
Then there’s HAM, the innovator:
Three of Ham’s four sons are associated with Africa, Iraq, China, and possibly Australia. Both North and Central American Indian tribes are as well. The youngest son, Canaan, was father of the Canaanite lands that were later given to his Uncle Shem’s Hebrew descendants. These were all the Hittites, Amorites, etc. of Biblical mention.
Ham’s nations had the most diversity in language and have the most cultural diversity now. They were the adventurous ones, pioneering and founding cultures in challenging geographic regions. In fact, most early civilizations were Hamitic: Sumerians, Egyptians, Mayans, Aztecs. They were the ones who adapted to diverse climates and developed means of survival. The practical tools of living came from Ham’s kids. Paper, basic mathematics, farming tools, medicines, fabrics, and such were invented out of their necessity.
Although largely Hamitic, the name Africa may be from Shem’s line. Abraham’s grandson through Keturah was Epher. He conquered Libya as some point, so it was an ‘Ephercan’ nation.
Finally we come to SHEM, the spiritual son of Noah.
His children migrated the least distance. They are primarily the Middle Easterners of today, peoples in Israel, Arabian nations, Yemen, Iran, parts of India and Indonesia. Modern day Jews and Arabs are Semitic, as were the ancient Persians and Assyrians.
Abraham is Shem’s descendant, through Arphaxad. Jesus is too. In fact all three of the world’s great monotheistic religions come from Shem: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. His heirs didn’t embrace the worship of multiple deities like those of his brothers. If anyone gave up the comforts of modern living to seek spiritual realities, it was these folks. Later, Japheth’s offspring embraced Christianity for themselves, as seen in the New Testament documents and evidenced in the world today.
Word Origin Trivia: ‘Semitic’ comes from Shem. ‘Hebrew’ comes from Shem’s great-grandson, Eber. ‘Israel’ was God’s new name for Jacob, grandson of Abraham. ‘Jew, ‘Judean’ come from Judah, the great-grandson son of Abraham.
One Big, Happy Family
World-wide, there are accounts of the Flood and the time when language was confused among the inhabitants of earth. They contain varying amounts of truth compared to the Biblical documentation yet indicate the original event was told and retold as peoples filled the earth.
There are ancient religious structures around the globe that reflect like-thinking among vastly different peoples, too. And Biblical concepts in unexpected cultures, such as the rare Chinese dialect containing references to the ark and the Garden of Eden. Dragons are found in all sorts of cultures, and tales of cities lost beneath the seas – all fascinating study if you get the chance. The histories and teachings of the people living as one were taken as they moved from place to place, altered with time yet still lead back to the truth recorded in Genesis.
That obnoxious slob of a neighbor next door whose dog barks all night? He’s your own long-lost relative. So is Elvis. And Attila the Hun. Alexander the Great, Mozart and little Prince George? Family.
So smile, be nice, choose to live without prejudice, and be grateful you don’t have to buy Christmas gifts for everyone you’re really related to!
Thanks for reading!