Inspired by God: Genesis 10 and the Table of Nations

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and God made from one blood every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation ... for in Him we live and move and exist ... for we are His children” (Acts 17:24-28).


  • All the nations of the world dispersed from a single multiplying population which scattered in successive waves of migrants, each wave driving further away from the original population point.
  • The most remote and primitive populations settled in the least hospitable areas, where these cultures often suffered physical degeneration as a consequence of their environment.
  • The small, remote and strongly inbred tribes (families) bear cultural similarities with other isolated cultures which link together all the widely dispersed peoples and indicate a common origin for them all.
  • So-called “fossil men” are simply fossils of extinct and primitive societies.
  • All these initially dispersed populations are of one basic family – the Hamitic family of Genesis 10.
  • These technological explorers (Hamites) were subsequently displaced or overwhelmed by Indo-Europeans (i.e., Japhethites), who nevertheless inherited and/or adopted and extensively built upon the Hamites technology and so gained an advantage in each geographical area where they spread.
  • Throughout these waves of migration, in both prehistoric and historic times, there were never any human beings who did not belong within the family of Noah and its descendants.

Evangelicals do not usually disagree over the historicity of the ancient Table of Nations in Genesis 10. Rather, evangelicals are not of the same opinion over the comprehensiveness of the Table of Nations. The question raised is whether we are really to understand that Scripture intends to signify that this genealogy supplies us with the names of the progenitors of the whole of the world's present population, including all cultures and races (e.g. “red and yellow, black and white” – Jesus Loves the Little Children). There is little disagreement among Evangelicals as to the basic fact that all men, none excepted, are to be traced back ultimately to Adam. If we accept Adam (Genesis 1), then we must accept Noah (Genesis 10).


The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 is a unique and priceless document which makes a justifiable claim of comprehensiveness for the whole human race, and supplies us with insights into the relationships of the earliest people known to us, which would be quite lost to us but for Genesis 10.

The Table of Nations thus becomes an essential part of Scripture in its earliest portions, not merely for the satisfying of our natural curiosity, but to establish the fact that all men are of one blood, the offspring of the first Adam, and redeemable by the blood of one Man, the second Adam.

See Appendix 8From One Blood

The Purpose of the Table of Nations

The Table of Nations is given as a straightforward explanation for the establishment of the nations of the world. It presents a series of names, whether of individuals, whole tribes, or even places, as though they were “persons” related by birth. In Western Civilization, it is often difficult for us to accept the idea that if a man founded a tribe (family) or subsequently a city (a tribal dwelling), the aggregate people of that family would be summed up in the person of the founder. For example, Sidon (10:15) is spoken of as the firstborn of Canaan. By 10:19 Sidon is a city’s name. Similarly, Canaan is mentioned in 10:6 as the son of Ham, in 10:16 as the father of several tribes who are listed as separate families (10:18), and in the verses that follow, Canaan is the name for a territory.

The idea that a "father" determines to a significant extent the character of his descendants for several generations underlies a certain class of statements that appear both in the Old and the New Testaments. Jesus spoke of his bitterest critics as "Children of Satan," or "Sons of Belial," denying emphatically their claim to be "Children of Abraham." The very term "the Children of Israel," came to mean something more than the mere descendants of Jacob. The Lord spoke of Nathaniel as "an Israelite indeed," giving reference to his character, not his lineage. It is important in this context to guard against the assumption that the "children" of an ancestor will only perpetuate the undesirable elements in his character. History shows that there is such a thing as "national character," which appears distinctly at first in a single individual and reappears in his children and grandchildren with sufficient force to result in the formation of a widespread behavior pattern that thereafter tends to reinforce and perpetuate itself as the family grows from a tribe into a nation.

The Structure of the Table of Nations

In this Table, we meet with three groups of people, the descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth. There are the Japhethites who can be conveniently equated for our purposes with the Caucasians, Indo-Europeans, or White Man; the Hamites who are held to encompass the people who spread from Babylon and explored the world (the people of color due to environmental conditions) and the Shemites who comprise both the Hebrew people (ancient and modern), the Arabs, and a few once powerful nations, such as the Assyrians and Babylonians. These three groups, the Japhetites, Hamites and Shemites have with certain capacities and aptitudes, which when properly exercised, have made a unique contribution in the total historical development of mankind and which, when allowed to find full cooperative expression during a single epoch, have invariably led to the emergence of a high civilization.

The Time the Table of Nations Was Written

2000 B.C. – as in 10:1 – “These are the generations of Shem, Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah...”
Genesis 2:4, These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth
Genesis 6:9, These are the generations of Noah (cf. Genesis 10:1)
Genesis 11:10, These are the generations of Shem
Genesis 11:27, Now these are the generations of Terah
Genesis 25:12, Now these are the generations of Ishmael
Genesis 25:19, And these are the generations of Isaac
Genesis 36:1, Now these are the generations of Esau (cf. Genesis 36:9)
Genesis 37:2 These are the generations of Jacob

See Appendix 9The Dating of the Table of Nations to 2000 B.C.


Stumbling Blocks

Romans 14:13-18 (KJV)

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.


The Kiss of Deception

II Samuel 15:1-12 (KJV)

And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Absalom said moreover, Oh, that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man cam nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron. For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshurin in Syria, saying, If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD. And the king said unto him, God in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron. But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron. And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing. And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.

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