December 6, 2013
Commentary on the Book of Genesis
By: Tom Lowe
PART I: A General History from Adam to Abraham—Gen. 1:1-11:9.
Topic #F: THE GENERATIONS OF THE SONS OF NOAH—Gen. 10:1-11:9
Lesson I.F.1: The Generations of Japheth. (Gen. 10:1-5)
Genesis 10:1-5 (KJV)
1 Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.
2 The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.
3 And the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah.
4 And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.
5 By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.
Genesis Chapter 10 contains the genealogies of the three sons of Noah, the families which are the origin of the nations of the earth. This chapter is more important than the space I am going to give to it. If you are interested in ethnology and anthropology, you may go deeper into the subject with the help of some of the “good’ books that are available from authors like H. S. Miller.
In this lesson we see the genealogy of Japheth (vv. 2-5); the genealogy of Ham (vv. 6-20) is given in lesson 1.F.2; and the genealogy of Shem (vv. 21-32) is given in Lesson 1.F.3.
Seven sons are named, and seven grandsons from only two of the sons. Does this mean that the other five sons did not have any sons born to them, or is it another evidence of the selective approach of the compiler? Japheth is the ancestor of the Gentile nations who located north and west of Canaan. These would be the distant nations, the countries that represented the “outer limits” of civilization for the average Old Testament Jew—“He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts” (Ps. 72:8-10).
“Sons of Noah”—The historian has not arranged this catalog according to seniority of birth, because he began the record with the descendents of Japheth, and the line of Ham is given before that of Shem though he is expressly said to be the youngest or younger son of Noah; and Japheth was the elder brother of Shem—“Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber. (Ge. 10:21).
“Generations”—Moses gives the names of the nations existing in his time; perhaps only the principal ones; for though the list comprises the sons of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, all their descendents are not mentioned. Those descendents, with one or two exceptions are described by names indicative of tribes and nations and end in in the Hebrew “im” or the English “ite.”
“The isles of the Gentiles” was a phrase the Hebrews used to describe all countries which were accessible by sea (Isa. 11:11; 20:6; Jer. 25:22). This would include the countries of Europe, and the islands of the Mediterranean Sea. Accordingly, it was in these quarters that the descendents of Japheth had their settlements.
“Tarshish”—the famed city in Spain to which the Phoenician traders went. Centuries later the prophet Jonah boarded a ship bound for that ancient city.
“Were . . . divided (separated) . . . every one after his tongue (according to his language)” describes the situation after the Tower of Babel account in chapter 11.
God had told the sons of Noah to “fill the earth” (v. 9.1). Later their descendents would move out and their numbers would grow exceedingly, but the cause of their moving would be Divine judgment against a rebellious people.
According to H. S. Miller’s chart, the Scythians, the Slavs, Russians, Bulgarians, Bohemians, Poles, Slovaks, Croatians, came from Magog. The Indians and the Iranic races—Medes, Persians, Afghans, Kurds—all came from Madai. From Javan we have the Greeks, Romans, and the Romance nationalities such as French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, etc. Coming from Tiras are the Thracians, the Teutons, the Germans, and then from that we have the East Germanic and the European races, the North Germanic or the Scandinavians and the West Germanic from which come the High German and the Low German, and then the Angles and the Saxons and the Jutes, the Anglo-Saxon race, the English people.
Well, I simply can’t go into the whole chart, but it is an important study. You can see that most of us in America descended from these lines.
Admittedly, most people find genealogies very boring. I have read the Bible through several times, but to be honest I must admit that I sometimes skip the genealogies. But it occurs to me that since the Spirit of God used so much ink to give them to us that there must be something in there that we need to know, and that makes them very important.
The New Testament rests upon the accuracy of the genealogies, because they establish the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ came from the line of Abraham and the line of David and from the tribe of Judah. This is very important.
The genealogies were important to the nation of Israel, because with them they could determine if a person had a legitimate claim to membership in a particular tribe. For example, when Israel returned from captivity, we find in the book of Ezra, “These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean” (Ezra 2:62). It was possible for these people to check the register of the tribe of Levi, and when they did, they found out that some made false claims to family membership.
Evidently, the government probably kept these genealogies in the temple, and people had access to them. They may have been available to the public until the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Now this is very interesting because the enemies of Jesus could have checked the records to see if Jesus came from the lines of David and Abraham and from the tribe of Judah, and they probably did check. It is also interesting to note that the religious rulers challenged every move that Jesus made, even claiming that He cast out demons by the power of Satan, and offering substitutionary explanations for His resurrection, but they never once questioned His genealogy. The reason must be that they checked it and found it to be accurate. This is very important because it puts Jesus in a unique position and it supports what He said about Himself. He said in John 10:1-2, “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.” He said that the shepherd enters by the door, but a robber must enter some other way. The “sheep pen” here is the nation Israel. Jesus did not climb over the fence, come through the back door, or slip through a side window. He came legally, through the gate. He was born in the line of David and in the line of Abraham. What Matthew is telling us is that He is the fulfillment of everything in the Old Testament. They had to find some other way to discredit Him.
You see, the genealogies were very important to the nation of Israel, and I believe they did all they could to maintain accurate family records because they knew the prophesies concerning the Messiah—where He would be born, and from which tribe.