December 10, 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.3: The Sons of Shem. (Gen. 10:21-32)
Genesis 10:21-32 (KJV)
21 Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born.
22The children of Shem; Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram.
23 And the childrenof Aram; Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Mash.
24 And Arphaxad begat Salah; and Salah begat Eber.
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.
26 And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah,
27 And Hadoram, and Uzal, and Diklah,
28 And Obal, and Abimael, and Sheba,
29 And Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab: all these were the sons of Joktan.
30 And their dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest unto Sephar a mount of the east.
31 These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations.
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.
Shem is usually mentioned first, but he is listed last this time so that the narrative can move right into the story of Babal and the genealogy of Abraham, who descended from Shem (Ge. 11:10-26). Five sons are mentioned, “Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram,” but the emphasis is on Arphaxad because he was the grandfather of Eber (v. 24). Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation, came from the line of Eber, and his story begins in chapter 12[i].
There is another parenthesis in verse 25 to discuss the “dividing of the earth” during the days of Peleg, whose name means “division.” This division was probably made through instructions God gave Eber (Peleg’s father), who seems to be distinguished for his piety and prophetic character; the earth was divided and his son’s name “Peleg,” was given in memory of that event (Deut. 32.8; Acts 17:26). This is probably referring to the dividing and dispersing of the nations described in chapter 11 as a result of the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel. However, some students think this “division” refers to a special dividing of the continents and rearrangements of the landmasses.
The list of names and places in this chapter carries with it some important theological truths:
Jehovah God is the Lord of the nations. God gave the nations their inheritance (Deut. 32:82) and “determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).Despite despots like Nimrod, Jehovah is the God of geography and of history. He is in control. What God promises, He performs; and Noah’s prophesy about his sons came true.
In spite of external differences, all nations belong to the same human family. God made us all “of one blood” (Acts 17:264) and no race or people can claim to be superior to any other race or people.
God has a purpose for the nations to fulfil. The account in Genesis 9:24-11:32 makes it clear that God’s chosen nation was Israel. From chapter 12 forward Israel will be center stage in the narrative. But God also used Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media-Persia, and Rome to accomplish his purposes with regard to the Jewish people and to bring his Son into this world.
God is concerned for all people. The churches’ commission to go into all the world isn’t a New Testament afterthought; it is written into the fabric of the Old Testament story.
What was written in chapters 9 and 10 must have been an encouragement to the people of Israel as they prepared to go into the Promised Land. They knew that they were the chosen people of God and that the Canaanites would be their servants.
Verse 32 is a summary of this great chapter: “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.” This division was made in an orderly manner; and the inspired historian evidently intimates that the sons of Noah were arranged according to their nations, and every nation ranked by its families, so that every nation had an assigned territory, and in every nation the tribes were assigned their own territory, and finally each family had its individual plot.
 These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad . . . And Arphaxad . . . begat Salah . . . And Salah . . . begat Eber . . . And Eber . . . begat Peleg . . . begat Reu . . . And Reu . . . begat Serug . . . And Serug . . . begat Nahor . . . And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah: And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters. And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.
 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed , and the bounds of their habitation;
[i] In 1868, Robert S. Candish proposed an interesting interpretation of this puzzling verse. He suggested that God told Eber how to divide the various nations and where to send them. Nimrod was trying to consolidate the people under his rule, but God thwarted his plans by dispersing the various clans. See Studies in Genesis by Robert S. Candish.