For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4


Genesis 10

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

Home Up Bible Studies Gospel Tracts Jim Melough Contact


 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

Before beginning a verse-by-verse study of this chapter we shall take a few minutes to make a few general observations.

It is generally agreed, not only by Bible scholars, but by many archaeologists and other scientists, that the three great divisions of the human race have indeed sprung from these three sons of Noah.  To trace that descent in detail however, is not only beyond the ability of the present writer, but also beyond the scope of this present work.

One of the purposes of these studies is to summarize what the author has garnered from many different sources, and thereby eliminate the need for the reader to refer to the sometimes detailed writings of many others.  Since the same goal has in some instances been achieved by the author of the Scofield Reference Bible notes we shall quote from those notes:

“This chapter contains the earliest ethnological table in the literature of the ancient world ... virtually all the names here have been found in archaeological discoveries of the past century.  Many of these names reappear subsequently in Hebrew literature in Isa 13-27; Jer 46-51; Eze 25-32.  Eleven of the names reappear in Eze 27: Javan, Tubal, Meshech, Togarmah, Chittim, Dedan, Lud, Sidon, Tarshish, Arvad, and Mizraim which is Egypt.  Chittim is named also in Isa 23; Sidon, in Isa 23:4ff; Jer 47:4; Egypt, in Isa 19; Jer 46; Eze 29-32.  Babylon is prophetically discussed in Isa 13, 47; Jer 50-51; as well as Re 17-18.  Elam reappears in Isa 21:2; Jer 49:34-39; and Tarshish in Isa 23:1,6.  Magog is dominant in Eze 38,39.  Some of these prophecies have not yet been completely fulfilled; thus some of these areas and tribes will have a history in God’s program thousands of years after their names first appeared.”

In Dr. Dwight Pentecost’s book Things to Come, pp.326-331, the reader will also find a slightly more detailed treatment of some of these names.  It is suggested that those desiring more complete information consult the works of the authors quoted in Dr. Pentecost’s book, together with the scientific literature on the subject.  (With reference to the latter, it is interesting to note how often scientific writers refer to the Bible as the most reliable ancient written record).

With regard to the spiritual content of this chapter, it is significant that the total number of those descended from these three sons of Noah is seventy.  In this perpetuation of Noah’s life in seventy descendants, God is revealing symbolically, not only the perfect duration of the believer’s new life (it is eternal), but also the fullness of that life.  Seventy is simply seven (number of perfection) multiplied by ten (the number of God in government), and points to the perfection resulting from submission to that government.

The principal factors are two (number of witness or testimony), five (number of responsibility), and seven (perfection or completeness).  These seventy descendants therefore, point to the fact that the redeemed man is responsible to witness, by his life, to the perfection of his redeemed state.

The three groups into which the seventy are divided would emphasize that this perfection will be manifested in all its fullness only in resurrection, for three is the Biblical number of resurrection.

With regard to the literal multiplication of humanity through these seventy descendants of Noah’s sons, God wold teach that even though man has multiplied his sin and rebellion, as he has his numbers, he cannot escape the government of God.  Seventy is the number of perfection or completeness, not only of good, but also of evil, and when humanity has filled its cup of wickedness to the brim, God will recompense that wickedness with an eternal punishment which will be the antithesis of the believers’ eternal happiness.

Following the resurrection of death or damnation, the unredeemed man will also be an eternal witness, but to the perfection of God in the punishment of evil.

With this brief introduction we will now begin our verse-by-verse study of the chapter.

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.”

As has been noticed already, there being three of these sons, declares that the fullness of blessing - and also the fullness of cursing - will be experienced only in resurrection.

Noah is the representative of all redeemed men, and his three sons, in whom his own life is perpetuated, are the symbolic portrayal of the character of the believer’s new life (it is eternal), based on resurrection from spiritual death, to be enjoyed in eternal fullness in literal resurrection.  The spiritual lesson therefore, illustrated in their descend-ants, is of the abundance, and eternal character of the life of the redeemed.

This, however, in no way detracts from the value of the literal record.  It was through these descendants that the earth has been populated.  Their being born after the flood emphasizes the truth that this abundant life belongs only to those who are for ever beyond the threat of judgment.  This life belongs only to the man in Christ.

10:2.  “The sons of Japheth: Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Mesheck, and Tiras.”

It is not without significance that Japheth, meaning let him spread out, now takes first place.  He who has been last in the list of Noah’s sons now comes first.  The spiritual lesson being conveyed is that he whose name indicates enlargement, and who is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, is being used to direct our attention to the enlargement of Him Who is “the First and the Last.”  He Who was assigned the last place by men, has been given the first place by God.  The seven sons of Japheth point to the perfection of those, who through faith, are Christ’s sons.

10:3.  “And the sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah.” 

Japheth’s first-named, Gomer, begets three sons, and of Japheth’s fourth-named son we read,

10:4.  “And the sons of Javan: Elishan, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.”

There are many things in this chapter upon which I am unable to comment, and my regret is deepened by the realization that the studies of others appear to have yielded little, at least as far as their commentaries reveal.  For example, there must be spiritual significance in the fact that the Holy Spirit has chosen to record only the names of the sons of Gomer and Javan, while omitting any reference to the sons of Magog, Madia, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.  Unquestionably there must be spiritual meaning connected with the meanings of all of these names, but in this area my own studies, and those of others, have yielded very little.

The meanings of these names are as follows, but I regret being unable to determine what spiritual lessons are connected with those meanings: Gomer, completion; Magog, overtopping: covering; Madai, my measures: my garments: what is enough?; Javan, the effervescing one: mired; Tubal, thou shalt be brought; Meshech, a drawing: purchase (as mechanical advantage); Tiras, he crushed the search;  Ashkenaz, a man as sprinkled: fire as scattered; Riphath, slander: fault; Togarmah, thou wilt break her; Elishah, my God has disregarded; Tarshish, she will cause poverty: she will shatter: hard; Kittim, breakers down: crushers; Dodanim, their loves?

The only practical lesson I am able to derive from this section has to do with the number of Japheth’s descendants.  There were seven of his own sons; three sons of Gomer; and four sons of Javan.  The total of fourteen factorizes to two and seven, and speaks of the fact that they are the symbolic witness to the perfection of those who are the “descendants” of Japheth’s great Antitype, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Their being divided into seven, three and four, would teach us that our standing in Christ is perfect, portrayed in the seven; it is on the basis of resurrection out of spiritual death, portrayed in the three; but the four would point to the truth that these things are ours even while we are here in the midst of earthly testing.

As to the literal significance of the names, Gomer is generally considered to be the ancestor of the Germans.  He is the “progenitor of the ancient Cimmeri­ans and Cimbri, from whom are descended the Celtic family” (Scofield).

In regard to the other names, Scofield also states, “From Magog may be descended the ancient Scythians ... who lived north of the Black Sea.  For Magog in prophecy, cp. Eze 38:2; 39:6; Re 20:8.  Madai is the progenitor of the ancient Medes, and Javan is the progenitor of those who peopled Greece, Syria, etc.”

In regard to Tubal, Scofield says, “Some believe that Tubal’s descendants peopled the region south of the Black Sea, from whence they spread north and south.  It is probable that Tobolsk perpetuates the tribal name.”  The same writer declares Meshech to be the “progenitor of a race mentioned in connection with Tubal, Magog, and other northern nations (Eze 38:2; 39:6).  Many think Russia is modern Magog, Tubal, and Meshech.” 

We might add in regard to Meshech that it is generally recognized as being the name of an area, which, with two others - Rosh and Tubal - comprises modern Russia.  The three areas combine to make up what is elsewhere called the land of Magog, whose prince is called Gog.  As tubal is believed to have been the tribal name from which the city of Tobolsk is derived, so also is Meshech believed to have been the ancient tribal name from which Moscow is derived.

In regard to Tiras, Scofield writes, “According to ancient opinion (he was) the progenitor of the Thrac-ia­ns, more recently the Tyrsenoi, a people occupying the coast lands of the Aegean Sea.”

The same author writes concerning Gomer’s sons, “Jeremiah 51:27 reveals that the Ashkenaz lived in the vicinity of Ararat, Armenia.  In later Jewish literature Ashkenaz is employed as a designation of Germany.  The Ashkenazim were Jews who had their abode in Germanic countries....”

Ripath and Togarmah are generally recognized as being the progenitors of the people making up present-day Turkey or Armenia, and may include also among their descendants those who occupy central Asia.  Elishah is thought to be the ancestor of those who now occupy Sicily or Cyprus.  Tarshish is regarded as the progenitor of the inhabitants of Spain; while Kittim seems to have been the forebear of those who inhabit Cyprus and the coastal regions of the eastern Mediterranean, including Rome.  Dodanim may have been the forefather of a people whose descendants now occupy a group of islands in the Aegean Sea.

10:5.  “By these were the borders of the nations divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.”

This early division of Noah’s family may foreshadow the early division of the Church.  As those eight (number of a new beginning) souls who emerged from the Ark stood on the resurrection side of judgment, an undivided family unit, so stood the primitive Church.  But as Noah’s family group soon became divided, so did the Church.

It is not that there was anything wrong in the spreading out of Noah’s family, or of the Church.  It was, in fact, God Himself Who had commanded Noah, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth,” and it was the Lord Jesus Christ Who commanded the Church,  “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”  The evil lies in that what was meant to produce peaceful occupation of the earth, has in both cases produced bitter enmity.  The nations, which are simply the multiplied sons of Noah, are so violently opposed that the term brotherhood of man is a mere Shibboleth.  And it is sad, but nonetheless true, that the same venomous spirit has fragmented the brotherhood of Christians.

10:6.  “And the sons of Ham: Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan.”

Ham is used both as a personal, and also as a place name.  As a personal name it means hot: father-in-law, a third, but uncertain meaning being black; and as a place name, tumult: he raged.  Cush means black: terror; Mizraim (another name for Egypt) double straitness; Phut, afflicted; Canaan, a trafficker.

Inasmuch as the general meanings of these names is bad rather than good, it seems that God would have us see in Ham and his sons a symbolic picture of the flesh which is in the believer just as much as it is in the unbeliever.  It will traffick in spiritual things for worldly, rather than eternal gain.  It will occupy itself with law-keeping, but tumult and anger accompany its activity.  In its spiritual darkness, slavish fear of God, rather than reverential, loving fear, marks it; and as suggested in the meaning of Mizraim, it is worldly rather than spiritual, concerned with the things of this world, rather than the world to come, while afflicted (the meaning of Phut) sounds the warning that the ultimate end of all that is of the flesh will be to experience the affliction, rather than the blessing of God.

Scofield identifies Cush as the progenitor of the Ethiopians, but it is necessary to note that in addition to the Ethiopia south of Egypt, there was a second place of the same name to the east of Babylon, and also a third region of the same name in Northern Arabia.

Mizraim is generally recognized as being another name for Egypt; and of Phut, Scofield writes, “Phut refers to Lybia.”  Others, however, point out that Lybia is not the only place anciently known as Put or Phut.  This was also the ancient name of a region in the vicinity of present-day Iran.

Canaan was the progenitor of the Canaanites who were later dispossessed by the Israelites.

In regard to Cush and Phut, attention has been drawn to the fact that there were several places known by these names, and this is important, not because of significance in the present context, but because it is important in the study of prophecy relating to the alignment of nations during the coming Armageddon conflict.

10:7.  “And the sons of Cush: Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtecha.  And  the sons of Raamah: Sheba, and Dedan.”

Seba means drink thou; Havilah, anguish (as travail pain); Sabtah, he compassed the chamber: he compassed the mark; Raamah, thunder; Sabtecha, he compassed the seat: he compassed the smiting; Sheba, he who is coming: seven: oath; Dedan, their love: their moving: their proceeding.

I regret being unable to comment on this verse, though there is undoubtedly a spiritual lesson both in the meanings of the names, and also in the interruption of the line to insert between Sabtecha and Nimrod (see verse 8), the names of Raamah’s two sons.

One thought suggests itself in connection with the meanings of the names of Raamah’s two sons - who link together the thought of a coming one, and love, before Nimrod, the founder of Babel - and that is that before the appearance of the man of sin (of whom Nimrod is a very clear type), there would appear One, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who would be characterized by love for God and man.

Another reason for the break in the list of Cush’s sons may be to emphasize that Nimrod is unique.  The amount of information given concerning him would seem to confirm that he was indeed an individual who stood out in a remarkable way from the others of his line.

At this point we should perhaps note that verses 8-12 of chapter 10, and verses 1-9 of chapter 11, appear to be a parenthesis.  The first nine verses of chapter 11, in fact, belong chronologically in chapter 10 with the account of Nimrod’s building Babel.

10:8.  “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.”

10:9.  “He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.”

Nimrod means we will rebel, or literally, a rebel.  As the son of Cush he was known also as Bar-Chus, literally Son of Cush, but Bar-Chus is the original form of Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry.  The feasts connected with his worship were known as Bacchanalia or Orgia, and were characterized by such gross immorality that the Romans - themselves no paragons of virtue - prohibited them in 168 BC.  Other names by which he was known are Adonis, Ninus, Tammuz, and Orion.

His wife’s name was Semiramis, and she has been identified with Rhea or Cybele, the ancient goddess of nature.  She was also known as Isis, the Egyptian goddess of fertility; Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love; and Venus, the Roman goddess of love.  The same immorality connected with the worship of Bacchus was associated also with that of Semiramis.

Others have pointed out that Nimrod and Semiramis were the originals of the false gods of antiquity, the idolatrous worship accorded them in Babylon, spreading throughout the ancient world.  Though the names might differ according to the country, it was Nimrod and Semiramis who were worshipped in Egypt, Greece, Rome, and throughout virtually all of the ancient world.

This idolatry had its roots in Satan’s corruption of divine truth.  God’s promise given after Adam’s fall was that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head, while He Himself would be bruised in the heel.  Distorted and corrupted versions of this promise have been handed down in the mythology of the ancients, and even in the mythological versions it is clear that the bruised heel of the Seed involved His death, though even in mythology His resurrection was anticipated.

Following Nimrod’s death, Semiramis declared that he was the promised seed, and that his death had been a voluntary sacrifice for the deliverance of men from the consequences of sin.  Following his death he was declared to be a god, placed among the stars, and  given the name Orion.  It wasn’t long until the worship then offered him was given also to his widow.  She however, carried the deception a step further.  The resurrection of the seed was fulfilled when she took an infant, to which she alleged she had given birth miraculously, and declared him to be Nimrod reincarnated.  Thus began the worship of the mother and child.

Dr. Harry Ironside writes, “The image of the queen of heaven with the babe in her arms was seen everywhere, though the names might differ as the languages differed.  It became the mystery-religion of Phoenicia, and by the Phoenicians was carried to the ends of the earth.  Ashtaroth and Tammuz became Isis and Horus in Egypt, Aphrodite and Eros in Greece, Venus and Cupid in Italy.”

And the idolatry continues today.  Following the alleged conversion of Constantine, the idolatry was disguised as Christianity when Mary and Jesus were substituted for the names formerly used.

Dr. Tatford, writing on this subject, says, “When the Babylonian initiates migrated from Pergamos to Italy, they settled in the Etruscan plain, from whence they propagated the Etruscan Mysteries, which were precisely the same as those of the old cult.  When the chief priest was established in Rome, he assumed the title of Pontifex Maximus.  When Julius Caesar became head of the State, he was elected Pontifex Maximus, and this title was held henceforth by all the Roman emperors down to Constantine the Great, who was, at one and the same time, head of the Church and high priest of the heathen.  In A.D. 378, Damasus, the then bishop of Rome, a thoroughly unprincipled individual, was appointed Pontifex Maximus and thus became the legitimate successor of the old Babylonian pontiffs, with his pontificate extending over the pagans.  The College of Cardinals, with the Pope as its head, is really the counterpart of the pagan college of Pontiffs, with its Pontifex Maximus (or sovereign Pontiff) deriving from the original Council of Pontiffs at Babylon.

“The worship of the queen of heaven and her son, purgatorial purification after death, holy water, priestly absolution, dedicated virgins, reservation of all knowledge to the priests, unification of political and religious control, and many another feature of the ancient Babylonian system have been taken over en bloc and absorbed by Papal Rome.”

But even if history furnished us with no information about Nimrod, what is said of him in Scripture would teach us to expect nothing good.  There is evil connected with the meaning of his name we will rebel.  He comes upon the page of history as the human counterpart of the first great rebel, Satan, for, like the evil fallen spirit who is his master, his rebellion is against God.  And his beginning “to be a mighty one in the earth” has also a bad connotation, for those who stand in favor with God are the meek rather than the mighty.  Nor is the portrait of the rebel brightened by the words in the earth, for they simply mark him for what he is - a mere man of the earth without spiritual life.

The further description of him as a mighty hunter adds nothing good, for it declares him to be one who brings death, in contrast with the shepherd, who preserves life, the Lord Jesus Christ, the good Shepherd, giving His life for the sheep.  “...before the Lord” tells us that his rebellion was carried on in brazen defiance of God.

Clearly he is the prototype of the great human rebel described in the books of Daniel and Revelation.  He too will be a rebel against God, and a mighty one in the earth, and as Nimrod was a mighty hunter of beasts, the one who is himself described as a beast, will also be a mighty hunter seeking to destroy not only the bodies, but also the souls of men.  And like Nimrod, his rebellion will also be “before the Lord” in brazen defiance of God.

10:10.  “And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”

If further confirmation of Nimrod’s wickedness were needed, it is provided here.  Babel originally meant the gate of God, but as the center of Nimrod’s apostate kingdom, it became Babylon, i.e., confusion, a city synonymous with idolatry since the dawn of history, and with the affliction and bondage of God’s people.  It is set before us in Scripture as Satan’s counterfeit of God’s city, Jerusalem.  The one is the earthly city of the throne of Satan; and the other, the earthly city of the throne of God.  Jerusalem is the center from which truth has been disseminated; Babylon, the center from which Satan’s lies have been spread to the ends of the earth.

The Church is presented under the figure of a chaste virgin, and of a city radiant with divine glory.  Satan’s counterfeits are the vile Semiramis, bride of Nimrod, and Babylon the city embellished with earthly glory.

It is instructive to note that three other cities are mentioned in association with Babylon so that the total number of cities listed is four, the number of earth in connection with testing.  Great as his kingdom may have been, it was still only earthly, and when tested by God, revealed for the worthless thing it was.  That once great city has long since ceased to exist, the only thing remaining to mark where it once stood, being a vast area of mounds, which, apart from the archaeologist’s spade, reveals nothing of the mighty city founded by the mighty hunter and equally great rebel.

In contrast, Jerusalem, God’s city, still stands today in spite of every effort of Satan to destroy her.  Under the heel of the oppressor though she is, the day is not far off when she will be exalted to supremacy among the nations.  And even when time has run its course, and this earth is replaced with the new and better, the center of that new earth will be Jerusalem, “And I (John) saw a new heaven and a new earth ... and I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Re 21:1-2).

The disappearance of literal Babylon, however, doesn’t mean that the idolatrous system which originated there has disappeared from the earth.  As Babylon began to fall into decline, the evil system moved to Pergamos, and from there to Rome, where today it flourishes under the guise of Christianity.

The magnificence of ancient Babylon can scarcely be overstated, and one aspect of its structure demands the attention of the student of Scripture.  The city rose step by step through seven tiers to a shrine which was held to be the dwelling place of the god Marduk.

The description of the heavenly Jerusalem is given by John in Re 21:16 “And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth ... the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.”  It should not be presumed, as has been done by many, that this portrays a vast cube, but rather a city rising tier by tier from a base which is 1,500 miles square, to a crowning pinnacle 1,500 miles higher than that first tier.  Satan has been in that heavenly Jerusalem, and there is every reason to believe that Babylon was his attempt to produce an earthy counterpart of the heavenly original.

There are other points of similarity besides the tiered structure.  Babylon bestrode the Euphrates, so that it seemed as though the river flowed out of the city.  Of the heavenly Jerusalem it is written that out of her flows, “A pure river of water of life, clear as crystal....” (Re 22:1).

No river flows out of the earthly Jerusalem today, but we learn from Eze 47 that in the Millennium a river will rise there and flow to the Dead Sea, healing not only those dead waters, but everything else in its course.

To make a spiritual application: a great river continues to flow out of spiritual Babylon (Rome), bringing, as it has since the days of Nimrod, death to everything it touches.  Those waters are Satan’s lies, the counterfeit of the life-giving truth that flows like a river out of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is the Biblical symbol of the human heart.  As in the Millennium, when Christ reigns, a life-giving river will flow out of Jerusalem, so when Christ reigns in a man’s heart, there will flow out in life-giving power the water of life in a faithful proclamation of the Gospel.

In regard to the three cities associated with Babel or Babylon, Erech means long, and in Scripture measurements too, have spiritual significance.  Length is indicative of the duration of life; and breadth, of the quality of the life; while height appears to portray the quality of the life God-ward; and depth, its quality man-ward.  Length, breadth and height together represent solidity or substance.  In that the meaning of Erech long, emphasizes length, but not breadth and height, it would seem that God is indicating the character of Babylon’s rule: it is long, embracing virtually all of human history, but length without breadth and height lacks solidity or quality.  Such has been the character of Babylon’s tyrannous rule over the earth.

Accad, meaning only a pitcher may be to remind us of the earthiness of Babylon’s wisdom.  A pitcher is only an earthen vessel.  James, comparing earthly and heavenly wisdom, writes concerning the former, “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (Jas 3:15).  Such is the wisdom of the evil system which Babylon represents.

The significance of Calneh is self-evident.  It means the wail is complete, and an even deeper significance may be detected when we consider that Calneh is the third (number of resurrection) of these associate cities.  Multitudes throughout the ages have wailed under the bondage of the Babylonish system, but at the resurrection of death the wail will be complete as the dupes of this terrible system pass, body, soul, and spirit into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

Shinar means tooth of the city: change of the city,” and a careful reading of Scripture reveals that the teeth are symbols of power, but inasmuch as they are associated with speech, the power would seem to be that of rule or government.  Shinar therefore, appears to represent, not only the sphere over which literal Babylon exercised dominion long ago, but the realm over which the evil Babylonish system exercises spiritual dominion today, i.e., the whole earth, for wherever man is found, there is found also some form of false religion, and every such religion has its origin in the ancient Babylonian system.

The second meaning of the name change of the city may point to the fact that what originated in Babylon under Nimrod and Semiramis, will be changed.  The day is not far off when every vestige of that evil system will be swept from the earth it has polluted for so long.

10:11.  “Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah,”

10:12.  “And Resen between Nineveh and Calah; the same is a great city.”

It is generally agreed that the proper translation of verse 11 should be, “Out of that land Nimrod went forth into Assyria and builded Nineveh, etc....”  In regard to verse 12 it is also generally agreed that a more accurate translation of the last clause is, “All these suburbs combined to form the great city.”

Asshur means a step, but I am unable to determine what spiritual instruction is connected with that meaning, or with Nimrod’s going there.

Nineveh, meaning offspring of ease, was the capital of the great Assyrian empire which later developed, and into which the ten tribes were carried captive, a spiritual lesson deriving from this, being that that captivity is but the OT foreshadowing of that into which much of the apostate church has been brought, for no spiritual mind will fail to see that it is their love of ease that has brought into spiritual bondage many of those who constitute that apostate body.

This city, like Babylon, has lain for centuries as an expanse of grass-covered mounds which are all that remain to mark the former site of this once “exceedingly great city.”

Rehoboth means broad places; and Calah, full age.  The spiritual lesson of these two places, combined with Nineveh, appears to be that they portray what results from the false ease produced by a conscience so seared by continued defiance of God that it can no longer perform its proper function.  From the ease that rests on the foundation of a dead conscience, the rebel goes on spiritually to the broad places of imagined liberty where the passions of the old nature operate without restraint.  And the full age of Calah would direct attention to what is associated with full age, wisdom.  In the present context, however, it portrays that human wisdom which rejects divine wisdom, and is therefore, folly.

It is interesting that even today the association of Nimrod with Calah is preserved in its modern name, Nimrud.

In regard to the third city mentioned in connection with Nineveh, Resen means a bridle.  It may be intended to teach the lesson that even though man may put no bridle on his lusts, God imposes the bridle of His permissive will.  Beyond that circle within which man’s free will may operate, lies the larger circle of God’s directive will.  That sphere is beyond the operation of man’s free will.  There the bridle of God stops man’s rebellion, and the rebel must reap the eternal harvest he has sown.

As there were three cities connected with Babylon, so are there also three connected with Nineveh.  Since three is the number of resurrection, this would remind us that there is a resurrection of death as well as of life.  Babylon, associated as it is with spiritual evil, would direct our attention to man’s spirit, while Nineveh, seemingly associated more with fleshly lust, would direct attention to what he is physically, both serving to remind us that at the resurrection of death, the complete man, body, soul, and spirit, will be cast into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

10:13.  “And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim,”

10:14.  “And Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (out of whom came the Philistines), and Caphtorim.”

These two verses resume the record of Ham’s descendants through his second-named son, Mizraim, which is another name for Egypt, and has the same meaning, double straits.

Ludim means to the firebrands: travailings; Anamim means affliction (or answer) of the waters; Lehabim flames: blades (as glittering); Naphtuhim openings; Pathrusim a morsel moistened; Casluhim as forgiven ones; Caphtorim as if to interpret: knop: he bowed down to spy out.

I regret having to leave these verses without comment since I am unable to determine the spiritual significance of these names.

One ray of light, however, may be discerned in connection with the Philistines.  They are the people who later gave their name to the land of Israel, for Palestine is derived from Philistine.  They represent apostate Christendom as distinct from false religion in general, which, like the Philistines of old, rules over what rightfully belongs to God’s own people, born-again believers.

Philistine means wallowing, and it is significant that we encounter this same word in 2 Pe 2:22 where the Apostle, writing of reprobate apostate teachers, declares, “... But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”  These reprobates knew the truth, and professed for a time to believe it, but later rejected it, and returned to continue wallowing in sin, feeding again spiritually on the error they had once “vomited,” i.e., had professed to reject.

It was Casluhim as forgiven ones, who produced the Philistine.  We should note that the meaning is “as, or like” forgiven ones.  They weren’t true believers. Apostasy is the abandonment of a faith once professed, but that very abandonment marks the profession as having been false.

It is to be noted that the Philistines were not irreligious.  They had their god Dagon, and a religious ritual through which they worshipped him.  The apostate likewise is rarely irreligious.  He preserves an outward ritual which deceives many into believing that he is a believer; but he has the same spiritual father as did the Philistine, i.e., Satan.

10:15.  “And Canaan begat Sidon, his firstborn, and Heth,”

10:16.  “And the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgashite,”

10:17.  “And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite,”

10:18. “And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad.”

We have noted that Babylon represents false religion; and  Nineveh, the lusts of fallen human nature; and in the Canaanite, God bids us see the product of such a partnership.  Canaanite means trafficker.  He represents those who traffick in spiritual things for temporal rather than eternal gain.  Nor has the passage of time changed anything.  False religion and fleshly lusts still produce the spiritual Canaanite, i.e., one who simply trafficks in spiritual things.  And it is scarcely necessary to mention that just as the Babylonians, the Assyrians (whose capital was Nineveh), the Philistines, and the Canaanites, appear repeatedly in the Scriptural record as the inveterate foes of God’s earthly people, so are the principles which they represent, the foes of His redeemed people today.

Sidon means hunting, and it is noteworthy that hunting is never found in a good connection in Scripture, the hunter being the antithesis of the shepherd, destroying life while the shepherd preserves it.  The one is a figure of Satan, the other of Christ.

It is uncertain whether the city of Sidon or Zidon was named after this son of Canaan, though there is much to indicate that it  was.  If so, then Canaan was of the same ilk as the godless Cain of Ge 4 who built the city Enoch, naming it after his son.

Incidentally, it is to be noted that while Sidon means hunting, Zidon means a hunting: fishery.  The alternate spellings therefore, are not the result of mere caprice on the part of the divine author, for while Sidon emphasizes the truth that this world is the place where Satan hunts for men’s souls, Zidon reminds us that that same world is also the place where God the Holy Spirit fishes for men’s souls to save them, and would have every believer to be also one of His fishermen.

Heth, and Hittite (patronymic of Heth), both mean terror, and both represent the principle of fear, the spiritual enemy that so often silences the believer’s testimony, and that keeps many from trusting Christ because they fear the laughter or persecution of men more than they do the approbation of God.  Re 21:8 bears solemn testimony to the deadly power of the spiritual Hittite.  The list of those consigned to the eternal torment of the lake of fire is headed by the fearful!

The prolific multiplication of these Canaanites is indicted in the fact that only two individual names, Sidon and Heth, are given, but then there follows a list of nine tribes descended from Canaan’s other sons.

Jebus, meaning he will be trodden down, is the tribal name of those descended from Jebus, who appears also to have given his name to Jerusalem, for Jebus is the ancient name by which Jerusalem was once known.  At least one lesson to be derived from the meaning of the name is that while God may permit the enemy to tread down His people, that permission will not be extended for ever.  Those who would tread them down, will themselves be trodden down by God.

Amorite, meaning sayer or talker, represents another spiritual foe.  In 2 Pe 2:18 it is written concerning the blasphemous teaching of mere false professors, “They speak great swelling words of vanity,” and again in Jude 16 we read concerning them, “...and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.”  In both instances this pretentious speech is connected with sensuality.  The spiritual Amorite rules when the life of the believer is a contradiction of what he professes with his lips.  Testimony for God requires the confirmation of a holy life.

The meaning of Girgashite is uncertain, but thought to be a stranger drawing near.”  If this is correct it would convey two warnings, one personal, the other corporate.  The individual warning is related to the old nature.  It is the enemy of God, and therefore of the believer.  It will never cease its attempts to intrude into the realm of the Spirit, seeking to destroy.  Its intrusion comes often in subtle ways: it will attempt to replace trusting faith with human wisdom; it will advocate the use of worldly methods to accomplish spiritual ends; it will advise rest or amusement when the believer should be busy “about (his) Father’s business.”

The corporate warning has to do with the spiritual Girgashite in another guise.  Lack of watchfulness by the elders of the assembly enables many a stranger (an unconverted man) to “draw  near” into the fellowship without any examination of his spiritual credentials.  The enemy never ceases sowing his “tares” amongst God’s “wheat.”  Once inside, the spiritual “Girgashite” serves the only master he knows, Satan, and the result is all too often the ruin of the local assembly, and by the very same methods used against the individual believer.

The Hivite, meaning liver: shower of life, represents another spiritual foe.  A cliche popular among Christians is, “What you do is more important than what you say.  Let you life be your testimony,” and like many a cliche it needs qualification.  The life is very important, but neither more nor less important than the testimony of the lips.  Both are necessary for an effective testimony, and there is very great danger of teaching deadly error when the perfection of the outward life is unaccompanied by the lip confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Those who see moral impeccability in our daily living, but who aren’t told why we try to live such lives, may come to the fatal conclusion that moral reformation alone is all that is needed to save them from hell and fit them for heaven.  If our neighbors know us only as good neighbors, or as those who “live the good life,” but never learn from us that our living is the expression of gratitude to God for His “unspeakable Gift,” they may conclude that they too can get to heaven simply by living a moral life.

The “Hivite” rules spiritually when good living on the part of the believer is unaccompanied by the verbal confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  We shouldn’t forget what is written, “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved, for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Ro 10:8-10).

Arkite means my gnawing, and since gnawing suggests a wearing away by biting or chewing, but without the satisfaction associated with eating, the spiritual lesson here may be that Christ alone can satisfy the soul.  All else is the equivalent of the bone upon which the dog may gnaw, but without satisfying his hunger.

Sinite means thorn: clay: mire, and would direct attention to earthly things.  The thorn is clearly associated with an earth under the curse of the Creator because of sin, see 3:17-18; but the exultation of the Psalmist is, “He brought me up ... out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock” (Ps 40:2).  In the parable of the sower, recorded in Mt 13, the Lord, explaining the significance of the seed sown among thorns, says, “He also that received seed among thorns  is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word....”  The Sinite represents the spiritual enemy in the form of the things of this world which blind men, saint and sinner alike, to the folly of occupation with earthly things, and the neglect of those which are spiritual.

Arvadite, meaning I shall break loose, appears to represent that rebellious spirit, not only in the natural man, but also in the old nature still within the believer, which chafes under divine restraint, and desires to cast it off.

Zemarite means double woolens, but I regret being unable to read the spiritual significance of this for wool in Scripture always has a good connotation,

Hamathite, the last mentioned of Canaan’s sons, means enclosure of wrath, and may be intended to teach the lesson that everything ruled over by the evil which the Canaanite represents, is destined to suffer the wrath of God.

His name ends the long list of Ham’s descendants, and the record closes with the statement, “and afterwards were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad.”  The evil represented by the Canaanites is everywhere!

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 Zeboiim, even unto Lasha.”

The meanings of these place names furnish eloquent testimony to the nature of the Canaanites’s domain.

Sidon, we have already seen, is the symbolic announcement of the truth that the spiritual Canaanite (trafficker) hunts for men’s souls.

Gerar, meaning dragging away: ruminating: sojourning, points to another characteristic of the place ruled by this spiritual enemy of faith.  It is the place where man “sojourns” for the few brief years of earthly life, “ruminating” (meditating upon) many things, including what follows death, but by the machinations of Satan, is the place from which he is finally “dragged away” from time into eternity, into the realm of eternal death.

Gaza, meaning she was strong, points to the terrible strength of the harlot church which rules spiritually over this world, her power over men being measured by the multitudes who live and die in bondage to her evil doctrine.

(To avoid confusion, it must be remembered that there is a very clear distinction between what is represented spiritually by Canaan the place, and Canaan the person.  As a place, it represents the spiritual sphere of blessing into which we are brought the moment we trust Christ as Savior.  As a person, it portrays all the varied forms of evil which would oppose our taking possession of those riches which are ours as men in Christ).

Sodom, meaning fettered; Gomorrah, bondage; and Admah, earthiness, need no comment.  Fetters, bondage and earthiness mark the place where the spiritual Canaanite rules.

Zeboiim means gazelles: troops, and would depict another aspect of the spiritual Canaanite’s domain.  By human reckoning it has all the graceful attractions of the gazelle, and it is the place approved, and maintained in seeming invulnerability, by “troops” of Satan’s deluded dupes who walk the broad and crowded way of death in contrast with the few who walk the narrow way of life.

And finally, Lasha, meaning unto blindness (by covering the eyes), tells us of that deadly spiritual blindness which afflicts all who are under the dominion of the spiritual Canaanite.

10:20.  “These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations.”

There are thirty-one of them, and clearly they represent, not only the forces of evil in general, but also the old nature in particular.  As the descendants of Noah, however, they portray especially the old nature still indwelling the believer, and the lesson God would teach is that his own old nature is the believer’s most formidable foe.

As with all Scriptural prime numbers greater than twelve, the spiritual meaning of thirty-one is obtained by separating one, the number of God, and factorizing the remainder, which gives us 2 x 3 x 5.  Since two is the number of witness or testimony; three, of resurrection or manifestation; and five, of responsibility, the lesson of these thirty-one descendants of Ham appears to be that believer and unbeliever alike (the one willingly, the other by compulsion), will bear testimony throughout eternity to the fact that in resurrection man will receive reward or punishment according to the faithfulness with which he discharged his responsibility God-ward and man-ward, during his life on earth.

Of believers it is written in 2 Cor 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”  Another translation renders this, “each to be requited for what he has done with his body.”  All that part of his life as a believer, yielded to the control of the “Canaanite,” will result in loss of reward at the Bema.

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.”

Another rendering of this verse is, “To Shem also, the younger brother of Japheth and the ancestor of all the children of Eber (including the Hebrews), children were born.” 

Shem, meaning a name, is the father, not only of the Hebrews, but of all the people generally known as Semites (this includes the Arabs), but in this tenth chapter of Genesis we are given only the general record of his descendants.  Chapter eleven, beginning with verse ten, records the members of that line which produced Abraham, the father of the Hebrew race, and from whom the Lord Jesus Christ, as to His humanity, was born.  His being the ancestor of the Hebrews is emphasized in this twenty-first verse, for he is introduced as “the father of all the children of Eber,” though Eber is his great grandson.  There is undoubtedly a spiritual reason why he is described as “the younger brother of Japheth,” but I am unable to determine what that reason may be.

10:22.  “The children of Shem: Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram.”

Elam means their heaps: suckling them: eternal; Asshur, a step: Arphaxad, I shall fail as the breast: he cursed the breast bottle; Lud, to the firebrand: travailing; and Aram, exalted.

I regret being unable to comment on this verse since I am unable to discern the spiritual significance of these names.  (Asshur, incidentally, is just another name for Assyria).

10:23.  “And the children of Aram: Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Mash.”

Uz means counsel; Hul, to have pain; Gether, a proud spy; Mash, he departed: he felt (groped); but, as with the sons of Shem, I cannot discern the spiritual lesson connected with the meanings of these names; and since most of these names present the same problem, I shall simply give the meaning of each, and hope that the Holy Spirit may be pleased to give to the reader the enlightenment He has withheld from the writer.

10:24.  “ And Arphaxad begat Shelah; and Shelah begat Eber.”

A variant spelling of Shelah is Salah, but both have the same meaning, a missile (as sent forth).

Eber means beyond: the other side (as having crossed over), and inasmuch as he is very distinctly marked as being of the line of faith, the spiritual significance of his name may have reference to that “crossing over” from the realm of unbelief to that of faith.

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 a channel as a cleft or a dividing, and undoubtedly this is related to the earth’s being divided in his days, though it seems equally certain that spiritually the reference is also to that spiritual dividing which separates faith from unbelief.  Literally the division of the earth may have reference to the breaking up of one great land mass into the continents which constitute the earth today. Joktan means he will be made small.

10:26.  “And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah.

Almoded means not measured; Sheleph, a drawing out; Hazarmaveth, enclosure of death; Jerah, lunar.

10:27.  “And Hadoram, and Uzel, and Diklah.”

Hadoram means their honor; Uzal, I shall be flooded; Diklah, date palm: the beaten-small fainted.

10:28.  “And Obal, and Abimael, and Sheba.”

Obal means heaping confusion; Abimael, my father is what God? my father is from God; and Sheba, he who is coming: oath: seven.

10:29.  “And Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.”

Ophir means reducing to ashes; Havilah, anguish (as travail pain); and Jobab, he will cause crying.

10:30.  “And their dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest unto Sephar, a mount of the east.”

Mesha means waters of devastation: making to forget: equalizing: existing; and Sephar, census: enumeration.

None of these meanings conveys any spiritual lesson that I am able to discern, and even in regard to their location, nothing is known of them other than that they are felt to have been somewhere in Arabia.  Since the east is always associated with sin and departure from God, the designation of Sepher as being “a mount of the east” would indicate that it is meant to remind us that these sons of Shem, from whom better things might have been expected, were no different from other men.  The divine condemnation of man in the flesh is universal, “There is none righteous ... they are all gone out of the way....” (Ro 3:10-12).

10:31.  “These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations.”

10:32.  “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.”

The lack of any expository material on this passage would indicate that it is in that special category of Scripture, in regard to which God, for the present, has chosen to withhold revelation.  That there are such passages is evident, see, for example Dan 12:8-9, “And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?  And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end,” and Re 10:4, “And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.”

While the details may be obscure, the general lesson seems to be the divine condemnation of the flesh in believer and unbeliever alike.

[Genesis 11]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough