Origin of the Nations of the World

This is a chapter of genealogies, of families, which are the origin of the nations of the world. This chapter is far more important than the space I’m giving to it would indicate. If you are interested in ethnology and anthropology and the story of mankind on the earth, you may want a far deeper study than you will find here.

H. S. Miller, who has his master’s degree in ethnology, has charted the origin of the nations, using Genesis 10 as a basis for the threefold division of the human family, which is revealed in these three sons of Noah: Ham, Shem, and Japheth. Ethnology makes it evident, by the way, that neither the sons of Japheth nor the sons of Ham ever comprised what some folks call the lost ten tribes of Israel.

Here in chapter 10 we have the genealogies of all three sons of Noah.

Genesis 10:1

Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.

  • Genesis 10 opens and closes with verses that bracket the genealogies between them and reveal their purpose. Verses 1 and 32 both refer to the chapter as a record of the sons of Noah . . . after the flood, and verse 32 states that these lines of descent and the geographical distribution of the respective clans ultimately produce “nations” (people groups living in specific territories) that Abram and the patriarchs encounter later.
  • The chapter rehearses the genealogies of Noah’s three sons, beginning with Japheth, who seems least influential of the three in history. Next comes Ham and then Shem, the latter being our next focus.


Genesis 10:2

The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.

  • The listing of Japheth’s descendants is briefer than the others. Among the persons and peoples mentioned is Javan, an ancient name for the Greek people. It is thought that many of Japheth’s descendants migrated to Europe.

Genesis 10:3

And the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah.

  • The descendants of Gomer came from near the Upper Euphrates region north of the Black Sea.
  • The descendants of Ashkenaz were the later Scythians who inhabited the region between the Black and Caspian Seas.
  • Riphath is near Carchemish.
  • The descendants of Togarmah are associated with Til-garimmu, the capital of Kammanu in modern Armenia.

Genesis 10:4

And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.

  • Elishah is probably Cyprus.
  • Tarshish is possibly southwest Spain (see note on Jon 1:3).
  • The Kittim were inhabitants of southern Cyprus.
  • The Dodanim were inhabitants of the island of Rhodes, later a territory of Greece.

Genesis 10:5

By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.

  • seafaring peoples . . . various lands: They settled around the Mediterranean and on various islands.
  • Language: This occurred after the Tower of Babel episode.


Genesis 10:6

And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan.

  • The peoples descended from Ham’s four sons, Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Canaanites, were Israel’s most hostile neighbors.
  • Cush was possibly in Ethiopia or ancient Nubia, Northern Sudan.
  • Mizraim was the ancient name for Egypt.
  • Put was in Libya.
  • Canaan encompassed Southern Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine west of the Jordan River.
  • In Moses’ time, Egypt and Canaan were provinces of the same empire.
  • Ham’s descendants were excluded from the blessing of Shem’s line.

Genesis 10:7

And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtecha: and the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan.

  • The sons of Cush and Raamah together total seven.
  • Seba was in northern Africa.
  • Havilah was in southwest Arabia.
  • Sabtah was in southern Arabia, in ancient Hadramaut, near the Persian Gulf.
  • Raamah was in southwest Arabia near Najran.
  • Sabteca was in ancient Samudake near the Persian Gulf.
  • Sheba was a kingdom in southwest Arabia with commercial colonies.
  • Dedan was in northern Arabia.

Genesis 10:8

And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.

  • Special attention is given to the early history of Babylonia and Assyria, the Mesopotamian empires that would conquer and exile Israel and Judah.

Genesis 10:9

He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.

  • Nimrod attained great fame by conquest and terror; his empire extended from Babylonia in the south to Assyria in the north.
  • The greatest hunter in the world, literally a great hunter before the LORD, Assyrian monarchs glorified their own power, often depicting themselves as valiant hunter-conquerors.

Genesis 10:10

And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

  • Babylonia, Hebrew Shinar, is the area surrounding the Tigris and Euphrates in southern Mesopotamia.
  • This kingdom eventually reached into northern Mesopotamia, Assyria.
  • Of the cities mentioned, Babylon is most important because of its role in building the Tower of Babel.
  • Erech was ancient Uruk and is now Warka in southern Iraq.
  • Accad was the ancient Agade north of Babylon, home of the famous ruler Sargon.
  • The location of Calneh is uncertain, though it is presumably one of Nimrod’s cities located north of Aram-naharaim in southern Mesopotamia.

Genesis 10:11

Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah,

  • From there he expanded his territory to Assyria: The Hebrew text can also be translated From that land Assyria went out.

Genesis 10:12

And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city.

  • Resen is possibly modern Selamiyeh, northwest of Tell Nimrud.
  • Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the east bank of the Tigris River in northern Iraq.
  • Calah is modern Tell Nimrud, south of Nineveh.

Genesis 10:13

And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim,

  • The Ludites were Lydian tribes west of the Nile delta.
  • The identity of the Anamites is uncertain. They were possibly Egyptians near Cyrene, west of Egypt.
  • The Lehabites were possibly a Libyan tribe.
  • The Naphtuhites inhabited northern Egypt.

Genesis 10:14

And Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (out of whom came Philistim,) and Caphtorim.

  • The Pathrusites inhabited southern Egypt.
  • Casluhites, and the Caphtorites, from whom the Philistines came, Hebrew text reads Casluhites, from whom the Philistines came, and Caphtorites, The Casluhites possibly inhabited an Egyptian district also known as Cyrenaica.
  • The Philistines from Crete were sea people who lived intermittently in southwest Canaan during the period of the Exodus and later. They were among Israel’s most troublesome enemies during the early monarchy.
  • The Caphtorites were Cretans.

Genesis 10:15

And Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn, and Heth,

  • Sidon settled in Phoenicia, north of Canaan.
  • Hittites, Hebrew Heth, The Hittites in Genesis were a coalition of cities within Canaan. They were probably not the same as the Hittites of Anatolia, Asia Minor, whose empire was one of the great empires of antiquity during the patriarchal period.

Genesis 10:16

And the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite,

  • The Jebusites were ancient inhabitants of Jerusalem.
  • The Amorites lived throughout the mountains of Palestine in Canaan.
  • Little is known of the Girgashites, a Canaanite tribe.

Genesis 10:17

And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite,

  • The Hivites were an uncircumcised Canaanite tribe.
  • The Arkites resided in Tell ’Arqa in Lebanon.
  • The Sinites formed a city-state and inhabited Phoenicia.

Genesis 10:18

And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad.

  • The Arvadites inhabited Ruad in northern Phoenicia, near the El Kebir River. They were known for shipping.
  • The Zemarites inhabited Sumur, modern Sumra, north of Arka on the Phoenician coast.
  • The Hamathites founded what is now Hama on the Orontes River, the northern boundary of Canaan.

Genesis 10:19

And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha.

  • The territory of Canaan is specifically marked off because it would be taken from its inhabitants and given to Israel.
  • An ancient north-south seacoast highway, the Via Maris, extended from Sidon . . . to Gerar, connecting Egypt to Mesopotamia.
  • Modern Gaza is 11 miles northwest of Gerar.
  • Sodom and Gomorrah were cities on the border of the land southeast of the Dead Sea.
  • Admah and Zeboiim are mentioned 15 times in connection with Sodom and Gomorrah. All four cities were destroyed by God to cleanse the land.
  • Lasha was possibly in the northern region of the Dead Sea.

Genesis 10:20

These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations.

  • Satan will do his best to place the enemies of your soul within your promised possession, just as he ultimately placed these enemies in the Land of Israel, who greatly opposed the people of God.


Genesis 10:21

Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born.

  • Shem, the older brother of Japheth, or Shem, whose older brother was Japheth, was the father of the Semitic peoples.
  • The descendants listed represent countries east of Israel, modern Iraq, Iran, and Syria.
  • The narrator lists these locations within Mesopotamia since Abram, the father of Israel, originated from this area.
  • Eber receives special attention because of his connection with Abram.

Genesis 10:22

The children of Shem; Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram.

  • The descendants of Elam lived in the region of modern southwestern Iran.
  • The descendants of Asshur were later Assyrians who lived under Nimrod’s jurisdiction. Sumerians descended from Ham were ousted by Mesopotamian Semites.
  • Arphaxad possibly settled northeast of Nineveh; his descendants are further described in Gen 11:12-26.
  • Lud was near the Tigris River; its people were related to the Lydians.
  • Aram was a kingdom of tribes that lived in the Mesopotamian plains.

Genesis 10:23

And the children of Aram; Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Mash.

  • The patriarchs later interacted with the descendants of Aram.
  • Uz was the chief Aramean tribe, possibly located northeast of the Jordan; it was Job’s home.
  • Hul is unknown. He possibly founded Armenia.
  • Gether is unknown; he was possibly the founder of the Syrians.
  • Mash might be associated with Mount Masus in northern Mesopotamia or with a part of the Lebanon Mountains.

Genesis 10:24

And Arphaxad begat Salah; and Salah begat Eber.

  • Arphaxad was the father of Shelah: Greek version reads Arphaxad was the father of Cainan, Cainan was the father of Shelah.
  • Shelah is unknown, but may be short for Methushelah.
  • Eber was the ancestor of Abram the Hebrew.

Genesis 10:25

And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan.

  • Peleg means division, anticipating the separation of people into language groups after Babel. Peleg’s line led to Abram.
  • Joktan was the ancestor of the southern Arabian tribes. The Ishmaelite tribes were in northern Arabia.

Genesis 10:26

And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah,

  • There were fourteen sons of Shem by Eber through Joktan. The placement of the Babel story between the lines of Joktan and Peleg ties Joktan to the judgment of the Babel story and ties Peleg to Abram.

Genesis 10:27

And Hadoram, and Uzal, and Diklah,

  • Hadoram was an Arabian tribe.
  • Uzal was Sana’a, an old capital of Yemen in pre-Islamic times.
  • Diklah was a southern Arabian oasis in Mina.

Genesis 10:28

And Obal, and Abimael, and Sheba,

  • Obal was between Hodeida and Sana’a in southwest Arabia.
  • Abimael was a Sabaean.
  • Sheba was in southern Arabia.

Genesis 10:29

And Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab: all these were the sons of Joktan.

  • Ophir was a region of southern Arabia between Sheba and Havilah; it was a source of gold.
  • Havilah was in southwest Arabia.
  • Jobab was possibly Jobebitai in southern Arabia.

Genesis 10:30

And their dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest unto Sephar a mount of the east.

  • Mesha was a region in northern Arabia, south of Hadramaut.
  • Sephar is identified with Isfar, south of Hadramaut in Yemen.

Genesis 10:31

These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations.

  • These, then, were the descendants of Shem, classified according to their political groupings, languages, and geographical locations.

Genesis 10:32

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.

  • Although not every ancient people group is listed in this “Table of the Nations,” its clear teaching is that all the varied peoples of the earth, no matter of what land or language, are descended from Noah.


I want to submit to you that this is one of the great chapters of the Bible although we have given very little space to it. You can see what a rich study this would make for anyone who really wanted a fair appraisal of the human family. A great many have used this remarkable chapter for that purpose.

I hope that you have really enjoyed this post,

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