Genesis 10-11 contains some genealogies. Most people are bored by these sections of Scripture, but I love the Genealogies of the Bible. It’s not that I love genealogies, necessarily, but that I love some of the neglected parts of the Bible. God has put every passage and every chapter in the Bible for a purpose, and yet certain Bible passages — like genealogies — are the untouchables. They are the unloved texts. Nobody names them as their favorite parts of the Bible.
But even still, they play important roles in the Bible. Barnhouse tells the story of when he went to visit the Panama Canal, they showed him many tools that had never been used on the Canal and they hoped that these tools never would be used. And yet curiously, these tools, that had never been used, and may never be used were constantly kept handy and ready and in good repair. Why didn’t they just throw out these tools and ignore them and leave them in a dusty room to rust? Because these tools were made to help repair the canal if it ever got bombed or became the target of a terrorist attack. They needed these tools to be ready and able to do their job when called upon.
The genealogies are kind of the same. They are rarely used, and most people groan when you get to the genealogies of Scripture in their Bible reading, but they are often some of the passages in the Bible which help defend it from the frequent attacks that are leveled against the Bible by it’s critics. The genealogies help prove the reliability and historicity of the Bible. If for no other reason, this makes them important. But the genealogies also can teach us things about God, about ourselves, and about what God is doing in history. God put the genealogies in the Bible to teach us, and so we need to learn what we can from them, which we will try to do with Genesis 10-11.
The Descendants of Noah’s Sons (Genesis 10)
These two chapters contain the genealogies of Noah’s three sons. This is what we read in Genesis 10:1.
Genesis 10:1. Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.
The genealogy begins with Japheth, then moves to Ham, and concludes with Shem. The record of Japheth is found in Genesis 10:2-5.
Genesis 10:2-5. The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.
Some of these names and the peoples and nations that come from them become very important in the future history of the world. Genesis 10 contains exactly 70 nations, and we can trace all of the current nations and peoples back to one of these 70. Magog, for example, which you can read about in Ezekiel 38-39 and also in Revelation 20 is what we would call Russia.
The text here focuses primarily on the descendants of Gomer and Javan. These, according to Genesis 10:5, became the coastland people of the Gentiles. They would be the Greeks and Cretans and also many of the European people groups.
Genesis 10:6-20 focus on the descendants of Ham. We talked about him and his descendants some last week and than many of them are the Asian, African and some of the Middle Eastern people groups. Genesis 10:6-7 deal first with the sons of Cush.
Genesis 10:6-7. The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabtechah; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan.
These tend to be the Arab people as well as Egyptians and others in that region. Genesis 10:8 focuses in on Nimrod, one of the descendants of Cush.
Genesis 10:8-9. Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.”
Several of my sources tell me that this is not a good translation of these verses. A better translation would bring out to some degree that Nimrod was rebellious against God. God had made him a mighty hunter, and Nimrod used these abilities to rebel against God and to subjugate people under him. One of them translates it this way: “And Cush begat Nimrod, he began to be a mighty tyrant in the land. He was a terrible subjugator, defiant before the face of Jehovah; wherefore it is said: Even as Nimrod, the giant hunter, presumptuous in the presence of Jehovah.”
Nimrod was a great hunter of animals, but numerous texts and ideas and hints tell us that he was primarily a hunter of people. He subjugated other people under him as slaves, and he tried to reverse God’s will on the planet. He probably began some sort of Satan worship through astrology and witchcraft. He is a picture and type of the anti-Christ which will do many of the same things.
Genesis 10:10-12. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).
The nations of Babylon and Assyria were always very wicked nations and always in rebellion against God, and very likely they followed Nimrod in this regard.
Notice that it says that the beginning of his kingdom was Babel. In the Bible, Babylon is always a picture of the greatest human government and pinnacle of human achievement. It is a government that, from a worldly perspective, is the perfect blend of politics, religion and economics. And in the book of Revelation, the political, economic and religious Babylon come under the judgement of God. Although it is the best man has to offer, it falls far short of God’s divine standard.
Another city we read of at the end of verse 12 is this city of Calah. The city of Calah is one of those that prove the historicity of the Bible. For years, archeologists and historians said that the Bible is in error because they knew of no city named Calah. And if it was a principal city as the Bible claims, then there should be some record of it somewhere. Well, not surprisingly, in 1845, Sir Austen Henry Layard discovered the ruins of this city proving that it did exist. Some of the records that were uncovered showed that the city was very wicked and rebellious that it was wiped out completely, not only from the face of the earth until archeologists uncovered it, but also from the memories of history.
Calah was a principal city, one of the greatest of its time. But for thousands of years, nobody remembered it. Nobody even knew that it had existed. This is what God can do to wicked nations and rebellious people. He can blot them off the face of the earth, and remove their memory from among men. Sin and rebellion against God is a serious thing, and no matter how great a person or nation becomes, if they are living in a way that is contrary to God, judgement will come upon them. I hope that you frequently pray for our nation that we would return to God so that what happened to Calah will not happen to the United States.
Next we see another of Ham’s sons, Mizraim.
Genesis 10:13-14. Mizraim begot Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, and Casluhim (from whom came the Philistines and Caphtorim).
We see that this is where the Philistines came from, who become very important in the history of Israel later.
Then we come to Canaan.
Genesis 10:15-20. Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn, and Heth; the Jebusite, the Amorite, and the Girgashite; the Hivite, the Arkite, and the Sinite; the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite. Afterward the families of the Canaanites were dispersed. And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; then as you go toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. These were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands and in their nations.
We see that these people did end up in what is now the area of Israel and Jordon and the Gaza strip. In the Old Testament it is called the land of Canaan, or the Promised Land, and becomes Israel. We looked extensively in chapter 9 at the curse upon Canaan and the various way that has been fulfilled and is still being fulfilled today. Remember, slavery is not the fulfillment of that curse.
After Ham, we move to the genealogy of Shem.
Genesis 10:21-25. And children were born also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder. The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arphaxad begot Salah, and Salah begot Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan.
Notice it says that in the days of Peleg, the earth was divided. Some think that this was when the continents split up and started drifting apart. And that’s possible, but another possibility, and much more likely, is that it was during the lifetime of Peleg that the tower of Babel occurred, and so the nations were divided into different languages.
This is what we read in Genesis 10:32, and what we will see in chapter 11. But let us finish first with the record of Shem.
Genesis 10:26-32. Joktan begot Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were the sons of Joktan. And their dwelling place was from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east. These were the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations.
These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood.
These are some of the other Middle Eastern people as the map shows. There certainly is a lot of mixing going on here. For Asshur probably becomes Assyria, but remember that Ninevah, which Nimrod started, became the capital of Assyria. Some have said that Genesis 10, from an historical perspective, is one of the most important chapters of the Bible. Everybody, even Bible critics, now agree that the earliest movements of people and nations is accurately recorded in Genesis 10. The Word of God is an authentic and reliable record of human history.
The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)
But let’s turn our focus to Genesis 11. In the first 9 verses, we have the event known as the Tower of Babel.
Here we see another event in human history where mankind comes up with a scheme to better himself, to make himself more powerful, and it only ends in disaster. There are so many theories about how to improve mankind, but none of them work. Some believe that if mankind could just be put in a Utopia type environment, then we would all get along and treat each other as we should. But Adam and Eve proved that this doesn’t work.
Some say that education is the answer to all of life’s problems. If you just educate people, then they will become better. But they forget that it was education, it was gaining knowledge, which ruined Adam and Eve. Education isn’t wrong, but it failed to keep Adam and Eve righteous. Then there are those who argue for a one world government. That a new world order would bring peace to the nations and the end of war. That is partly why there is the United Nations today and the Europen Union. But as we see from Genesis 11, nations being united do not lead to righteousness, but to greater rebellion against God.
We learn in Genesis 11 that they decided to build a huge tower in Babel. Nimrod, as the builder of the city of Babel, was certainly behind the building of the tower of Babel.
Genesis 11:1-4. Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
Do you see what they do as a united group of people? They make their own plans without thought for God. Three times we read, “Let us… let us… let us.” All of man’s rebellion begins with the phrase, “I will do such and such,” whereas obedience to God begins with the phrase, “Thy will be done.” Which of the two do you operate under? I will, or thy will? So, in trying to accomplish their own will, the people decide in verse 4 to make a city. And in the city to build a tower to the heavens.
It has often been taught that the reason they are building a tower is to escape another flood. This is one possibility, I suppose, and the average English translation leads us to believe this, but what really is happening here is something different. The Hebrew really reads something much closer to them building a tower to reflect the heavens, or building a tower for the heavens. In building the tower, they are not trying to get up to God in the heaven, but are building a tower for their Satan inspired idol worship.
It was first and foremost an act of complete rebellion against God. God had told them to scatter, and they were building a tower to gather together and stay in one place. They were told to worship him alone, but they were building a tower to worship the creation rather than the Creator. All of the towers from this time period have zodiac and astrology symbols at the top signifying the worship of the sun, moon and stars, the worship of the heavens. The tower was not to reach the heavens, it was a tower to glorify and honor the heavens. All of this is in blatant rebellion against God’s command.
Another reason they are building this according to the last half of verse 4, is to make their name great. To arrogantly glorify their own name. To make a place for themselves in history. But God wants us to lift up His name, and make His name known throughout the earth. And so in this also, they are rebelling against God. And rebellion against God cannot go on for long before He steps in.
Genesis 11:5-7. But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
God decides in verse 7 to confuse their speech so that they become scattered on the face of the earth. We could call this reverse tongues. In Acts 2, they all understood each other. Here, none of them understand each other. The result, though is obedience, even though it is unwilling obedience. Because of the confusion, the people are scattered.
Genesis 11:8. So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.
Their plans were stopped by the Lord. It says they ceased building the city. When we do not follow God, and so His will, we may succeed for a while, but ruin and frustration will eventually result. People who chase after other things rather than God will soon find that the bubble has burst, that what they hoped would be sweet turns bitter, that a fulfilled feeling turns to emptiness, victory turns into defeat and glory into shame. Here, their plans were stopped simply because they all of a sudden were not able to understand one another.
Genesis 11:9. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
God reverses this through the gift of tongues at Pentecost in Acts 2, and when Christ returns to set up his kingdom, I believe we will all be of one tongue and language again.
Let me talk a little bit about this city of Babel. Later in the Bible, this city of Babel becomes the city of Babylon and plays an important role in the history of Israel. And then, in the book of Revelation, we are told that in the end times, the Anti-Christ, who is controlled by Satan, will rebuild the city of Babylon and rule from it. So if you see the city of Babylon beginning to be rebuilt, get ready, for the time of our departure is near. And do you know where you should be looking? Babylon, when it is rebuilt, will be just south of present day Baghdad.
Now, I don’t think he is the Antichrist, but we do know that Saddam Hussein was beginning to rebuild Babylon. And I don’t know what is going to happen in Iraq this year as we attempt to turn over the government to the people of Iraq, but the Bible says that sometime in the future, Babylon will return to it’s former glory, it will be rebuilt and it will become the economic, political and religious center of the world again.
All of this has been reconstructed and is being prepared for that time in the future when the anti-Christ will rule from Babylon the Great. I don’t know when it will happen, but we watch this part of the world with great interest and especially as the new government in Iraq is set up and makes decisions for the future.
Genealogy of Shem (Genesis 11:10-26)
Genesis 11 concludes with the genealogy of Shem.
Genesis 11:10-26. This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood. After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.
Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Salah. After he begot Salah, Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.
Salah lived thirty years, and begot Eber. After he begot Eber, Salah lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.
Eber lived thirty-four years, and begot Peleg. After he begot Peleg, Eber lived four hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters.
Peleg lived thirty years, and begot Reu. After he begot Reu, Peleg lived two hundred and nine years, and begot sons and daughters.
Reu lived thirty-two years, and begot Serug. After he begot Serug, Reu lived two hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters.
Serug lived thirty years, and begot Nahor. After he begot Nahor, Serug lived two hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.
Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and begot Terah. After he begot Terah, Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years, and begot sons and daughters.
Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Did you notice something different about this Genealogy compared to the one we have in Genesis 5? In Genesis 5, the focus is on death. That chapter repeatedly says, “and he died… and he died… and he died.” There, the focus was that death has come to all men.
But here, the focus is on life. This genealogy repeatedly says, “and begot sons and daughters.” This is the emphasis here. So it is not death that is emphasized in this genealogy, but life. Which is exactly what this genealogy is. It is the genealogy of life. We see this genealogy show up in Luke 3 also, and this genealogy leads to the One who is Life itself, Jesus Christ.
Notice also that the time spans of the people are getting shorter and shorter. They are not living to be 700, 800, 900 years old anymore. Instead, they are living to be about 200 years old. But even still, even with a shorter life span, they are still doing what God wants them to do, and that is to be fruitful and multiply and increase on the face of the earth. You know, we often think that God’s demands on our life are too great, and that there is no way we can accomplish all that He wants us to in the timeframe He has given us.
We read that He wants us to evangelize and witness and pray and study His Word, and take care of our families, and attend church and be good stewards of our money and so on. And we think, “But I’m so busy. Life is too short to fit it all in. If only I had lived 200 years ago, when there weren’t cars and computers and television and cell phones to take up my time. I would have had more time then to do what God wants me to do because there wouldn’t have been all the distractions.”
Personally, I have sometimes found myself thinking how nice it would be to be put in prison, because then I could just sit in my cell all day and read and study the Bible. Whereas now, I have to mow the lawn, and paint the bedroom, and get the oil in the car fixed and pay my taxes, and wash the dishes and so on. You know, we always make excuses that we don’t have enough time to do what God wants us to do. This is why people don’t come to Sunday night services and Wednesday evening prayer meeting and Bible studies. This is why some people only come to church a few times a year. This is why some people don’t do devotions and pray.
I talked with a lady just a few weeks ago who lives in Trego and I invited her to come to church, and she said she really wants to, but Sunday is the only day she has to get the things done around the house that she needs to, and so she can’t make it to church. At least until things in her life, slow down. I wanted to tell her that they will never slow down, and that church attendance and Bible study and everything else God wants us to do is simply a matter of choice. It is simply a matter of priorities. But I didn’t tell her that. I hope to be able to talk to her again though, and we will see what comes of it. Maybe her and her husband will start setting right priorities in life.
But the point is that although life is short, it is too short to not set correct priorities. And the number one priority on everybody’s list should be to live in obedience to God. That is what these people in this genealogy did. Their lives really were getting shorter than their forefathers. Whereas people used to life almost 1000 years, now they were living only 200. Yet they knew what God had told them to do – to be fruitful and multiply, and that is what we are told they did.
You see, God knows our time is short. In His Word, He writes that it is a mist, a vapor. Life is here today and gone tomorrow. But this is no reason to waste it on vain pursuits and empty pleasures. Because after this short life comes a life that will never end. And this short life prepares us for that life. How we prepare here determines how we live there. The choices we make now determine our eternity there. The priorities we make here will determine what privileges God gives us there. Life is short. But live it with eternity in mind, and this short live becomes filled with eternal significance. Live life fully obedient to God. Nothing else makes any sense. This is what these men and women did. We don’t know much about them, but we do know that although their life spans were getting shorter, they continued to obey God with their lives.
The “Death” of Terah (Genesis 11:27-32)
In Genesis 11:27, we pick up with one of these individuals, Terah.
Genesis 11:27-32. This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah. But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.
So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.
This all sets the stage for what happens in chapter 12 and the rest of the Bible. We are introduced to Abram and his wife Sarai who is baren. We learn that they are living in Ur, that he has a nephew named Lot, and that after Lot’s father dies, Terah takes them all and moves to Haran. Now, we know from Genesis 12, that it was in Ur that God told Abram to pick up and go to Canaan. But they only went as far as Haran.
Now, in closing, I want to give you a little gem here about this last part of chapter 11. It is very interesting and applicable to our lives. Verse 32 says that Terah died in Haran when he was 205 years old. Genesis 11:26 says that Terah was 70 years old when he bore Abram, Nahor and Taran. The understanding is that Abram was the firstborn son, and was born to Terah when he was 70. Then, in Genesis 12:4 we read that Abram was 75 when he left HARAN to go to Canaan. 70 plus 75 makes Terah only 145 when Abram left him to go to Canaan.
Yet Stephen says in Acts 7:4 that Abram waited until his father died before he left Haran. How could this be since Terah lived another 60 years after Abram left?
The answer is that Stephen is referring to Terah becoming “dead” as far as God’s will for his life was concerned.
Originally, both Terah and Abram served other gods (Josh. 24:2). When Abram was called by God, Terah “came along for the ride.” And along the way, he might have become a believer. When they got to Haran, Terah felt he had gone far enough. He missed the prosperity of Ur, and decided he could regain it in Haran. Maybe he went back to idolatry. He came up with delay after delay for why they should not continue on to Canaan.
Eventually, Abram realized that he had to choose between his father and complete obedience to God. So Abram chose God. Terah had “died” to him, and “died” to accomplishing God’s will, even though he still would live for 60 more years. Jesus talks about the same thing in Matthew 8:21-22. One of his disciples wants to go home and bury his dead, and Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Terah had become a “castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27). If he was saved, he was still saved, but was no longer useful to the Lord. As such, he was “dead.”
What is keeping you back from full obedience and following Christ on the path of discipleship? Is it a friend or family member? Maybe, they are “dead” to God’s will, and so should be “dead” to you as well. Do not let ease or comfort hinder you from following Christ. Haran was halfway to Canaan, but it was not complete obedience.
The world offers many halfway houses on the road to God’s will. Are you at a halfway house? God had called you to do something, and you do part of it, but not all? Very likely, Terah as very proud of how far he had come. But he saw no sense in going the full way. He had given up his home in Ur, and had gone as far as Haran, but there was no way he was going to go live in Canaan. That was asking too much. Chapter 11 is a chapter about obedience to God. Complete rebellion brings God’s judgement. Full obedience brings full blessings. But half hearted obedience doesn’t bring half blessings. To get the blessings you need to obey fully.
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