Genesis 9:20–11:9. The Strange Ways of God:
He Speaks Through Noah's Hang-over
and Stands in the Way of the World's Progress.
Key Notes: Noah failed after a great victory. His prophecy. The table of nations. Nimrod. Babili, Babel and Babylon. The new rebels. Early language and current developments. An unshakable Kingdom.
This passage outlines the beginnings of human civilization and the three principal branches of the human race. It is a difficult section, dense with information and loaded with meaning.
9:20 The plot of Noah's downfall is trivial except that it happened to one of the heroes of faith. Farming->vineyard->wine->drunkenness->exposure->ridicule->curse.
It is important to pray for those who have great spiritual victories. The valley often follows the mountain-top. (Elijah is another example.) Noah was a hero through the Flood; now he is a victim of stupid self-indulgence.
9:23 One commentator suggests that Ham looked at his father's indecency with satisfaction and told his brothers with amusement. When Noah learned what Ham had done, he condemned Ham's youngest son's offspring to slavery. The motive is obscure--to hurt a father, hurt his youngest son? But it was presumably Ham’s youngest son who was amused.
Noah's prophecy of his offspring was profound and far-reaching.
a. Canaan, son of Ham would be a slave to the sons of Shem and Japheth.
b. Shem would receive the primary blessing of God.
c. Japheth would participate in the blessing of Shem. "To dwell in the tents of" is to be under the umbrella, i.e. to be protected by Shem spiritually, rather than physically.
10:1–5 The sons of Japheth are the Indo-Europeans + Mongols
10:6–20 The sons of Ham are Africans, and Middle-eastern peoples.
10:21–32. The sons of Shem are the Semites--Hebrews and Assyrians.
The fulfillment of Noah's prophecy is understood as follows:
*The Hamitic Canaanite tribes that inhabited Palestine were cursed. One group, the Gibeonites, became slaves of Israelites, "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God". (Josh.9:23). The rest of the Canaanite tribes were invaded and largely destroyed by the Israelites for blatant corruption. Deut.7:17–26.
* God blessed the Jews (Semites, sons of Shem) and salvation in Christ came through them. Jn.4:22
* History has shown that Christianity was most widely embraced by the Japhethites in the West (Europe), where Paul went first with the Gospel.
The Table of Nations in Gen.10 is unique in the world as a resource describing the early branches of the human race. The data on ethnic groups is taken from Douglas' Bible Dictionary under "Nations" . ( IVP,’62 ). The names that have been identified are a mixture of persons and place-names. There are notable overlaps with Medes from Japheth, Babylonians and Assyrians from Ham, and Assyrians from Shem occupying the Fertile Crescent at different times, suggesting a great deal of ethnic mixing.
Racial characteristics today are most clearly identifiable at the extremes of geography--Sub-saharan Africa, East Asia, south India, northern Japan and Scandinavia. Many modern anthropologists would like to get rid of the concept of race altogether because of its social and political implications. However, ethnicity proves to be important in tissue typing for transplantation; it cannot be ignored medically.
One thing is clear. The curse on Canaan has nothing to do with the spurious interpretation that Hamites of Africa were destined to be slaves. That is contrary to the reading and the source of false teaching on slavery in America. (see Genesis article on Race and Slavery.]
Gomer = Cimmerians, Crimeans
Ashkenaz = Scythians, Turks
Togarmah = Armenians
Magog =? Mongols
Madai = Medes
Javan = Greeks
Elishah = Hellenes
Tarshish = Spanish
Kittim = Cyprus; Dodanim = ?Rhodes
Magog, Tubal, Meshech = Muski ?Russia. Tribes of far north . Ezek.38:6
Tiras = ?Etruscans
Cush = Ethiopia in later geography
Seba = S.Arabia; Dedan = N.Arabia
Casluhim = Philistines; Caphtorim = Minoans
Put = Libya
Canaan; the Sidonians of Phoenicia
Heth = Hittites
Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, etc. are the tribes of Canaan.
Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim were cities near the Dead Sea; Sodom and Gomorrah were later destroyed because of their wickedness.
Eber = Hebrew;
Asshur = Assyria;
Lud = Lydia;
Aram = Aramaeans
10:9–14 Nimrod, son of Cush, was a mighty man, a hunter, a builder and a king. He is the only one spoken of in this chapter who was a city-builder and a menace to society. The Lord had him in mind. He founded Babylon (the cities of Babel, Erech, Accad) and later Assyria (Nineveh, Rehoboth, Calah and Resen). These world powers would be the nemesis of Israel in the future. Assyria conquered Northern Israel, called Samaria; Babylon conquered Judah, the southern kingdom. Micah refers to Assyria as "the land of Nimrod". (Mic.5:6). Israel’s other nemeses were the tribes of the Canaanites listed here starting with the Sidonians of the northern Mediterranean coast, the Hittites of the Turkish highlands, and Sodom and Gohorrah in the far south east.
The sons of Shem start with Eber, from whom the name "Hebrew" is thought to originate. Sons of Shem are also called Semites.
11:1–9 One language and few words. It is generally observed that primitive languages have few words, with the use of gestures and actions in communication. Cave drawings should not surprise us. There is not yet a consensus on the existence of an early universal language. Sanskrit is the basis of the Indo-European languages, but the origins of Semitic, Asian and African languages are unknown.
It is shocking to realize that after the Flood destroyed the human race, the next thing we read is a rebellion against God which He was compelled to disrupt. No doubt centuries had passed since the Flood, but resurgence of a group of humans shaking their fist in the face of God in the name of their city is appalling.
The city of Babel was motivated by a need for unity (not scattered around), prestige (a name for ourselves), and a worship center (a tower to the heavens). The original name Babili means “Gate of God”. The tower to the heavens was probably similar to ziggurats and pyramids found in Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Mayan and Incan ruins. Machu Pichu was a tower to the heavens. But God was not pleased. He did not destroy the builders, but disturbed the common language so that the workers could not communicate with each other; gestures were not enough. The modified name (Babel) means confusion and Babylon is its outgrowth. "Gate of God" becomes "confusion", becomes Babylon the destroyer of Jerusalem (587 BC) and eventually "Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots", the final enemy of the saints in the Revelation. Rev.17:5
Today's civilization would seem to be like Babel. We have a common language, skyscrapers of increasing height, the power and prestige of Western civilization, and the commercial success of capitalism. There is a mood of anarchy and a clear rejection of God and His Law that is widespread and growing in the last 150 years.
We also have a scientific community that is moving at frightening speed. We are already well beyond the mechanization of fertility. The current goal is to identify every human gene in the next few years. Efforts to create a living organism continue. "There is nothing that they will not be able to do."
Will God confound the language again? There are real concerns that scientists are becoming so specialized that they cannot understand each other. God could, as an intermediate judgment, confound English as a trade language, or disrupt the global financial markets as an economic unity.
Let us be grateful that "we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken”. Heb.12:28.