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The Table of Nations (Genesis 10)

July 19, 2021 | by: Gregg Hunter | 0 comments

Posted in: Genesis 10

Genesis chapter 10 is often referred to as the “Table of Nations” because it describes where many of the nations of Moses’ day came from. His original hearers would have made immediate connections to their neighbors, and would have drawn personal conclusions and applications that would have been incredibly relevant for them. Unfortunately for us as modern-day readers, it reads more like a standard genealogy, and isn’t the most entertaining or immediately applicable portion of Scripture. It feels more like something that we would listen to in order to help fall asleep, than a love letter from our Savior.

It is passages like this that challenge our faith in verses such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

I think it is important for us to acknowledge that bias, but ask God in faith to show us incredible riches that even this passage may have in store for us. After praying such a prayer, please read Genesis 10:1-5.


These are the generations of Japheth. You may remember that, when Noah cursed Canaan, he also proclaimed, “May God enlarge Japheth” (9:27). It looks like God answered Noah’s prayer! Japheth had seven sons—more than any of the other patriarchs of his time! Ham is later listed with four sons, and Shem with five. His descendants are not all listed, as only two lines are given (the sons of Gomer and the sons of Javan). From them, we are told that many different clans nations and languages came. Japheth truly was “enlarged.”


Now read Genesis 10:6-15.

You’ll remember from yesterday’s devotional that many misrepresent the Curse on Canaan as “the Curse of Ham.” Yet, we read here that Ham actually had many descendants who built great nations such as Cush, Egypt, Babylon, Acadia, Assyria, and Philistine. One of his descendants, Nimrod is given particular mention as he “was the first on earth to be a mighty man.” You’ll remember from our study of Genesis 6 that the term “mighty men” usually referred to ancient heroes or men of great fame for their heroic exploits. It appears that Nimrod was such a mythic hero of Babylon. Certainly, he flies in the face of any idea that his people are cursed by God, for he was “a mighty hunter before the Lord.”


But Canaan was cursed. Read his genealogy in Genesis 10:15-20.

These nations, unlike the others listed, were those that dwelled in the Promised Land. Many of the names sound familiar as they would soon face the Israelites in battle: Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Arvadites, and Canaanites. Even the towns are familiar and would be settings for later events in Genesis: Gerar, Gaza, Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Lasha. These are the peoples and places that the Israelites would be sent in to conquer; these are the peoples who were cursed by the Lord.


Speaking of the Israelites, now read the rest of the chapter, Genesis 10:21-32.

As you can tell from this passage, Shem had many sons, who then had many sons, who eventually became many nations. Yet, unlike Ham’s descendants, there’s nothing significant about any of them (other than Peleg, and his only significance was his name, not anything that he did). It is from this line that God would choose one individual, seemingly randomly for there was nothing special about his heritage. God would then call that individual and change his name to Abraham, making him the “the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:5). Later, God would choose one of Abraham’s descendants, again seemingly randomly for God did not always choose the eldest or most significant, and God would rename him Israel, and all of his descendants, the Israelites, would come into the Promised Land to fulfill the curse on Canaan.

It all comes full circle because God sees the end in the beginning. He is worthy to be praised, and every word of His precious Scripture is useful for leading us to that conclusion!