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.


Loving Others to Receive Love Is Self-Love

Luke 14:12-15 (NASB)

And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”


Man’s Threefold Needs: The Spiritual (Shem), the Physical (Ham) and the Intellectual (Japheth)

Review: From the time of Noah’s flood (2345 BC), the world has developed nations from the three sons of Noah – Shem (Jews and Arabs), Ham (Africa, China, and the Ocean Islands) and Japheth (Indo-Europeans). From Shem we have the monotheistic religions; from Ham we have the great explorations and technological inventions of the world; and from Japheth we have the great intellectual philosophies.

In this lesson, we will see how Shem, Ham and Japheth represent three basic capacities of mankind. We are all aware of our three kinds of need: spiritual, intellectual, physical. These three characteristics could be described as “the image of God” and separate mankind (created in God’s image) from animals. We have the capacity to worship, the capacity to reason, and the capacity to create. As a result of the three capacities, the nations have developed three kinds of activities: religion, philosophy, and technology.

  1. The person who equally cultivates all three capacities develops a full and healthy personality.
    Hugh Dryden writes in The Scientist in Contemporary Life: "Man's life at its fullest is a trinity of activity (physical, mental and spiritual). Man must cultivate all these if he is not to be imperfectly developed." Viktor Frankly writes, "Man lives in three dimensions: the physical, the mental and the spiritual." When one of these capacities is denied or neglected the personality of the person is unbalanced. The man who is entirely spiritual, who has cultivated his religious life to the exclusion of his mental life and his ability to deal with physical things with reasonable success, is found to be an odd person. So too, when there is a neglect of the physical and/or the intellectual, we have an unbalanced personality.
  2. The same can be said of whole cultures or nations who reject the contributions of others.
    What is true psychologically of the individual, history shows to have been true of whole cultures. Nations also have personalities. Whenever the contributions of Shem, Ham, and Japheth have been blended into a single organized way of life, a high civilization has resulted. But when one element - whether the spiritual, intellectual or the technological - receives over-emphasis to the detriment of the other two, then that civilization becomes unbalanced. It will momentarily appear to burst ahead with new vitality, only to collapse, often with frightening suddenness. A couple of examples:
    1. The Early Christian Roman Empire (A.D. 313 to A.D. 476).
      A highly spiritual culture where the Olympics were banned as pagan, and the church sought to bring world peace through spirituality. The Indo-European world was most influenced by this overemphasis on the spiritual, and the Roman world collapsed almost completely in the face of the barbarian invasion (September 4, 476) and the Dark Ages resulted.
    2. The East Asia Pacific Islands and Native Americans (2000 B.C. to A.D. 1900).
      These islanders and native Americans, descendants of Ham, were technological geniuses. By mere ingenuity, these men and women were able to traverse vast bodies of oceans and land continents (See Appendix 6 - The Great Navigational Skills of the Children of Ham). They sustained themselves with food and shelter, but were scattered in their understanding of the Spirit God who created them. They would often die at the hands of other tribes who attacked with greater technological weapons. However, in time, when the message of the one true God arrived, many of these peoples became highly civilized (ex. The Peace Child). Why is there a controversy over converting natives to Christ? (“Kill the Indian, save the man” was the quote of Captain Richard Pratt, who loved Native Americans to Christ).
  3. Western Civilization at its highest point has embraced the spiritual, intellectual and technological.
    In the family of Noah, Shem is given priority, Ham comes second and Japheth is last. This order may well be intended to underline an important truth. Man's spiritual needs are pre-eminent, and his physical needs are next. His intellectual needs are last. History indicates that this was the order of development. And historically, as Lord Raglan has pointed out, the expression of man's religious nature came first and led, in due course, to technological development. Philosophy, the contribution of Japheth (Indo-Europeans), came relatively very late in history. How will Western Civilization fall? The following points are conclusions of anthropologist Arthur Custance in The Three Sons of Noah.
    1. It’s imperative that cultures embrace all three capacities.
      The demands of the body cannot be neglected. Since the time of the Flood, the major contribution toward meeting these demands has been rendered by the family of Ham. Virtually no people have managed to survive without finding some way of satisfying their spiritual and physical needs. Many societies have survived without philosophy. The contribution of the family of Japheth is least important of all. Nevertheless, this contribution is directly responsible for the extension of religious belief into theology, and technology into science.
    2. Overemphasis on any one capacity will lead to a downfall.
      Overemphasis on spirituality will not lead to a high civilization but tends rather in the opposite direction. The corollary is also true. Over-emphasis of man's intellectual life or physical needs has the same detrimental effects. For centuries, the dominant social classes in India concentrated on the intellectual life of man to the neglect of the spiritual and physical components, with the consequent impoverishment of the whole man. In the New World we are in danger of allowing the material to dominate the spiritual - by too great an insistence on the value of technical education to the exclusion of philosophy and theology.
    3. Nations fall when one of man’s three basic needs is neglected.
      The biblical view of the stream of history insofar as the rise and fall of civilization is concerned is not that cultures have a "life" and pass by nature through a process of birth, growth, maturity, senescence and death. It is rather that one of these three aspects of man's basic needs has been neglected or over-emphasized. It was God's intention that each of these needs should be taken care of specifically by an appointed branch of the family of man. To Shem is given responsibility of maintaining man's spiritual life; to Ham, the duty of guaranteeing man's physical survival and dominion over the earth; and to Japheth, the enlargement of man's thoughts and the elaboration of the contributions of Shem and of Ham.

The biblical record shows how the experience of these three families was suited to prepare them for their tasks. Ham was scattered far and wide at a very early time in history, reaching the most distant parts of the habitable world far in advance of Shem or Japheth. This experience forced them to bend every energy to the stupendous task of pioneering and achieving mastery over every kind of environment which would allow man to establish a permanent settlement. Necessity quite literally became the mother of invention and the Hamites became the world's foremost technologists. Later in history, when the way had already been opened up, Japheth spread slowly into many of these areas, becoming heirs to the solutions of their predecessors. Ham excelled in "know-how"; Japheth began to ask "why?" Meanwhile, the spiritual life of man was in grave danger and the Truth was almost eclipsed. But God called out one man from the family of Shem (Abraham), and through his seed came the Messiah, “the Who” of life. As we know, the family of Shem failed to recognize their King Messiah, and this spiritual light was passed to Japheth until “the fullness of the Gentiles” comes in (Rom. 11). God has established a purpose for the world, and all of history is the working out of that purpose.

Appendix 7 - We Are Family


God Exalts the Humble, but He Brings Down the Proud

Luke 14:7-11 (NASB)

And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”


Shem, Ham and Japheth: The History of the Peoples of This World

Acts 17:24-28 (NASB)

"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 He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’"

Appendix 4 - Population Growth

Shem – the ancestor of the three great religions of the world; Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It can be argued that from Shem come instruction in morality, or one’s relationship with God. The Shemites include the descendants of Abraham through Jacob (Jews) and Esau (Arabs).

Ham – the ancestor of the greatest inventors and explorers in in human history (2300 B.C. – A.D. 1500). These “chief servants” were the explorers and the doers and from them comes technology. The Hamites include all those who scattered via land-bridges and oceans to the 7 continents.

Japheth – the ancestor of the greatest philosophers and thinkers in human history (Indo-Europeans). This quest for human understanding, different from the Shemites, is the basis for philosophy. The Japethite nations (Greece, Rome, Europe, etc.) have “enlarged the world” (colonization).

What we know as historic Western Civilization is the merging of morality, technology and philosophy. Someone might ask, “But what is the difference between morality and philosophy?” Good question.

  • Morality (Shemites) has to do with revelation and man's relationship with God.
  • Philosophy (Japhethites) has to do with ethics, which is man’s relationship with man.
  • Technology (Hamites) has to do with advancement and exploration, man’s relationship with earth.

Morality by definition is divine revelation. Philosophy by definition is rational speculation. Technology by definition is practical innovation.

  1. Shemites (The Semitic Peoples: Hebrew and Arabic)

    We have the history of the Semitic people in the Bible. We find that Abraham, a descendent of Eber, is the father of the Hebrews (Jews) and the Arabs through his sons, Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:19-34).

    The history of conflict between the Jews and the Arabs is a history of brothers fighting brothers. Both share the same father (Abraham) and from the Jews and the Arabs have come the great religions of the world (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). The numbers (from the year 2010) are telling: Jews number 16 million; Christians number 2.2 billion, and Muslims number 1.6 billion. Hindus number over 2 billion, but they borrow their mono-theism (Brahman) from Jews and Arabs. Semitic people are Theos-centered.

  2. Japhethites (Indo-Europeans or Aryans)

    “All the great Indo-European civilizations (Japhethites) on the other hand, manifest an impulse which no doubt took widely different forms, towards rational and in the strict sense philosophical speculation” (Jacques Maritain, An Introduction to Philosophy, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1955).

    Until comparatively recently, Japhethite nations have shown a remarkable indifference to technology. As Ralph Linton pointed out: “The Hindus have always been highly receptive to new cults and new philosophic ideas as long as these did not come into too direct conflict with their existing patterns, but have shown an almost complete indifference to improved technique of manufacture. The material world was felt to be of so little importance that minor advances in its control were not considered worth the trouble of changing established habit” (Linton, Ralph, The Study of Man, Student's Edition, Appleton Century, New York, 1936, p.343).

    Those who are acquainted with the views of the Greek philosophers know that for the Greeks it was almost a sin even to be tempted to seek any practical application of their ideas. The Greeks and Aryans claimed Japheth as their ancestor. Sir Charles Marston points out that in the "Clouds," Aristophanes claims Japetos as the ancestor of the Greeks and in the "Institutes of Manu" dated about 1280 B.C., one of the ancient Aryan histories, it is said that a certain individual named Satyaurata had three sons, the eldest of whom was named Jyapeti. The others were named Sharma (Shem?) and C'harma (Ham?).

  3. Hamites (The peoples of the world not Semitic or Arayan)

    Most of us have been brought up to believe that we, Indo-Europeans, are the most inventive people in the world. It is exceedingly difficult to escape from this culturally conditioned prejudice and take a fresh objective look at the origins of our technological achievements. One may take almost any essential element of our highly complex civilization (aircraft, paper, weaving, metallurgy, propulsion of various kinds, painting, explosives, medical techniques, mechanical principles, food, the use of electricity, virtually anything technological in nature) and an examination of the history of its development leads us surely and certainly back to a Hamitic people and very rarely to Japheth or Shem (see Appendix 5).

    The ingenuity of many of the devices and techniques of the Hamitic people is truly extraordinary, particularly in view of the paucity of natural resources. It is no exaggeration to state that primitive people have done marvels with their natural resources as they found them. The difficulty for us is that we are deceived by their very simplicity. Whether highly civilized or of primitive culture, the Hamitic people have shown an amazing ability to exploit the immediate resources of their environment to the limit (Author Custance: The Doorway Papers, Chapter 3, The Characteristics of Shem, Ham and Japheth).

    It is only recently that we in our culture have become aware of our indebtedness to non-Indo-European people for practically all the basic elements, simple and complex, of our own technological civilization. The only purpose of this list here is to draw attention to the fact that in each of these elements of culture, Hamitic peoples got there first and independently, and in most cases, were our instructor.

Summary: The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 is a historic document indicating how the present population of the world has been derived from Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Secondly, this threefold division is more than merely a genetic variation of certain "racial" types: there is evidence that it is intended to indicate that the three branches of the race were divinely apportioned a characteristic capacity which has been reflected in the unique contribution each branch has rendered in the service of mankind as a whole. And thirdly, the contribution of Shem has been a spiritual one, of Ham a technological one, and of Japheth an intellectual one: in the process of history, these contributions were made effective in this order. So it is with individuals: Relationship with God, life, and fellow man.


He Took Hold of Him, He Healed Him, and He Sent Him on His Way

Luke 14:1-6 (NASB)

It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely. And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy. And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away. And He said to them, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” And they could make no reply to this.


We Are Family: For God So Loved THE WORLD

The Three-Fold Nature of the World in Scripture

We may sum up what has been said in Lesson 1 by recalling The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 is a historic document indicating how the present population of the world has been derived from Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Secondly, this threefold division is intended to indicate that the three families of the human race were divinely apportioned a characteristic capacity which has been reflected in the unique contribution each branch has rendered in the service of mankind as a whole. The contribution of Shem has been a spiritual one, of Ham a technological one, and of Japheth an intellectual one: in the process of history, these contributions are seen throughout the history of the families/nations of the world.


We Are Family: An Introduction

Thesis: The tenth chapter of Genesis, the oldest Table of Nations in existence, is a completely authentic statement of how the present world population originated and spread after the Flood in the three families headed respectively by Shem, Ham, and Japheth (2345 B.C. to present day).


The Difference He Makes with My Faith

John 20:24-29 (NASB)

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

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