12 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The Fourth Dispensation: Promise. This dispensation extended from the call of Abram to the giving of the law at Sinai (Exodus 19:3ff.). Its stewardship was based upon God’s covenant with Abram, first cited here, and confirmed and enlarged in Genesis 13:14-17; 15:1-7; 17:1-8, 15-19; 22:16-18; 26:2-5, 24; 28:13-15; 31:13:35:9-12. — Scofield, page 19.
These three verses constitute the first and foundational expression of God’s great promise to Abraham—what is otherwise known as the Abrahamic Covenant. As here expressed, this covenant consists of the following three essential provisions: (1) Land (v. 1b), at this point generally identified as “the land of Canaan” (11:31; 12:5), the content and borders of which are increasingly specified throughout the course of the Pentateuch, culminating in the detailed description of Numbers 34:1-12; (2) a great nation (v. 2a), in which, significantly, the word translated “nation” is the one typically applied to the Gentile nations and only rarely to Israel, thus hinting at God’s broader, human-centered purpose in bestowing this covenant—as is also implied by God’s reference to making a “name,” which was previously the undertaking not of just one family, but all of mankind (11:10-26); and (3) blessing (vs. 2b-3), which last provision is given the most space in God’s declaration, thereby bearing out its preeminence among the provisions as well as the various circumstances in which that blessing will be applied. These circumstances, specifically, are three-fold and increasingly expansive—to wit, Abraham, his descendants (cf. Psalm 105:8-10), and all the families of the land. It is significant that in this first expression of the covenant God employs the term “families,” which in the Hebrew Bible generally denotes extended families—i.e., a living patriarch and all the members of his household by blood or marriage. God’s love, we thus see, is seeking to “push” His blessing as far as His justice will allow. — Wechsler, pages 176-177.
10 This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood.
11 After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.
12 Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Salah.
13 After he begot Salah, Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.
14 Salah lived thirty years, and begot Eber.
15 After he begot Eber, Salah lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.
16 Eber lived thirty-four years, and begot Peleg.
17 After he begot Peleg, Eber lived four hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters.
18 Peleg lived thirty years, and begot Reu.
19 After he begot Reu, Peleg lived two hundred and nine years, and begot sons and daughters.
20 Reu lived thirty-two years, and begot Serug.
21 After he begot Serug, Reu lived two hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters.
22 Serug lived thirty years, and begot Nahor.
23 After he begot Nahor, Serug lived two hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.
24 Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and begot Terah.
25 After he begot Terah, Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years, and begot sons and daughters.
26 Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot.
28 And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.
29 Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah.
30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31 And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.
32 So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.
Just like the genealogies in chapters four, five, and ten, the genealogy comprising this section follows immediately after a brief narrative describing the commission of a grave sin (i.e., Genesis 4:1-15 [the murder of Cain]; Genesis 4:23-26 [unjust capital punishment]; Genesis 9:20-28 [sexual perversion]; and Genesis 11:1-9 [collective rejection of God]), thus “moderating” the negative tone of the previous episode by demonstrating that God’s fundamental blessing of man in Genesis 1:28 remains intact—and if intact in its physical aspect, then also, potentially, in its spiritual aspect. — Wechsler, page 172.
Terah seems to have been the one who kept the brief, but important, record from Genesis 11:10 through 11:27a. Apparently, the only thing which he (or better, the Holy Spirit) judge worthy of recording during this period as the family genealogical record.
He began by tying his own record back to that of Shem, using Shem’s name as the progenitor of his own line. “Shem was a hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood.” Evidently, therefore, Shem was 97 when the Flood began and 98 a year later when it ended. Perhaps two of Arphaxad’s brothers, Elam and Asshur, were born in the two years immediately after the Flood (their names are listed before Arphaxad’s in Genesis 10:22). However, the purpose here is not to give all the names in the various families but only the direct line from Shem to Terah. — Morris, page 280.
It is obvious, in comparing Genesis 5 and 11, that patriarchal longevity began to decline immediately after the Flood. Noah lived 950 years (about the same as his antediluvian forebears), but Shem lived only 600 years, Arphaxad 438 years, Salah 433 years, and Eber 464 years. A still sharper decline took place after Peleg, as noted below. — Morris, page 281.
According to the record, when Abram was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4), it had been 367 years since the Flood, and thus about 267 years since the Dispersion. … It is reasonable to assume 11 generations since the Flood at this stage in world history. … If each such generation were to experience a 500 percent increase, slightly less than did the first generation [after the Flood] (and this certainly was not impossible or unreasonable in those early days), then the world population at this time could have been at least 300 million people. Of course, it is more likely that this rate of increase fell off as time went on, but at least it is clear that the world population in Abraham’s time could have easily been large enough to account for all the evidences of civilization at that time throughout the world. — Morris, page 284.
Nahor … married his niece, Milcah, daughter of Haran. As Abram seems to have become Lot’s guardian when Haran died, it may have been that Nahor similarly took care of Milcah. As she grew into womanhood, then, he took her to be his wife. … Evidently, Sarai was also a daughter of Terah, but Terah had more than one wife, so she was only a half-sister of Abram. Such close marriages were later forbidden in the Mosaic law; but … at this early date they were not particularly dangerous from a genetic point of view, and so were not uncommon. … Note is made of Sarai’s barrenness at this time, so that Abram unlike Haran and Nahor (Genesis 22:20-24), had no children in either Ur or Mesopotamia. The child of promise must be born in the land of promise. — Morris, page 287.
This passage suggests that Terah himself may have received some kind of command from the Lord to go to the land of Canaan. If so, he only obeyed in part. He left Ur alright, but instead of striking directly westward across the desert to Canaan, he moved northwest up the Mesopotamian valley, finally reaching Haran. …When they left Ur, Terah took Abram and Sarai with him, as well as his grandson Lot. Nahor stayed behind in Ur, apparently with Lot’s sister Milcah (who became Nahor’s wife) and possibly his other sister, Iscah, as well. Later on, however, Nahor must have brought his own family on up to Haran, or to the nearby city of Nahor (Genesis 22:20-24), so that the family probably was reunited for a while. … Perhaps God appeared to both Terah and Abram in Ur, and they both set out to Canaan together, father and son. Terah, however, delayed long in Haran and it eventually became apparent to Abram that his father no longer intended to go on to Canaan. The prosperity and comfort at Haran were too great a temptation for him. Eventually, Terah even began to get involved in the Chaldean idolatries, which were part and parcel of both the trade and the culture of the region (Joshua 24:2, 14-15). — Morris, pages 288-289.
It is Terah, not Abram, who is presented as the one taking the initiative to set out towards Canaan. This is clear from verse 31a, which portrays Terah actively as the one who took Abram, Lot, and Sarai, with the latter three thus portrayed passively as the ones who were “taken.” Insofar as the immediately following “episode” concerns God’s issuing of the Abrahamic promise (covenant), this passive portrayal of Abram is extremely significant, for it disallows the conclusion that the promise was given to Abraham as a result of anything especially meritorious that he did. … This view of Terah as the initiator of the journey does not contradict Stephens’ statement in Acts 7:2-4, in which he indicates that Abram received his call from God “when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran.” Having received this call, Abram would have sought, quite naturally, to consult with the family Patriarch, who, in affirming the validity of the call, would have recognized that it was incumbent on him to take the lead in obedience. — Wechsler, pages 175-176.
Ur (v.28) — This city was located in southern Mesopotamia. Excavations have shown that its material civilization was far advanced, even long before the time of Abram; its houses show a level of material welfare in Abram’s day equal to that of Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s time, more than 1000 years later. — Scofield, page 18.
1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.
3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.
4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.
6 And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.
7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.
9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
The immediate descendants of Noah, of course, all spoke the same language, the same as had been spoken by men in the antediluvian period. It is probable that this was a Semitic language (perhaps even Hebrew), since the proper names of men and places in the pre-Babel period all have meanings only in Hebrew and its cognate languages. — Morris, page 266-267.
[Humanity’s] new status, with time for speculation and activities other than mere survival, would provide the opportunity for either of two future courses of action: (1) systematic colonization and development of all parts of the earth, each with its own local government, in accordance with God’s command (Genesis 1:28; 9:1); or (2) establishment of a strongly centralized society which, with controls over resources and occupations, would soon be able to produce a self-sufficient civilization capable of similarly controlling the entire world. The latter alternative clearly would better serve the purpose of Nimrod and his fellow rebels (and, of course, of the invisible Satanic conspiracy as well). A self-sufficient society, integrated under a powerful and brilliant leader, would be a society no longer dependent on God. And this was Nimrod’s aim. — Morris, page 268.
That all humanity is willingly involved in the Babel rebellion is underscored by the further statement in verse 1 that, as facilitated by their use of the same language, they also shared “identical ideas”—as the expression “the same words” is best understood. — Wechsler, page 169.
The negative event to ensue is already implied by the reference both to Shinar—which is previously mentioned in connection with the rebel Nimrod, in Genesis 10:10—as well as to man’s journeying and settling in the east, which directional orientation is consistently connected with sin or the consequences of sin in its every post-Fall occurrence before this (i.e., Genesis 3:24; 4:16; 10:10 [implied]). — Wechsler, page 169.
Furnace-treated bricks were used instead of stone, and bitumen instead of mortar. This “slime” was probably tarry material from the abundant asphalt pits in the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Archaeology has revealed that this type of kiln-fired brick and asphalt construction was common in ancient Babylon. — Morris, page 268.
The builders were not concerned with God’s plans; they intended “to make us a name.” In fact, they deliberately acknowledged their purpose to be contrary to God’s command: “Lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” Not only the awareness of God’s will, but the basic human drives of curiosity and independence of spirit might impel many among them to want to explore and develop the unknown regions in other parts of the world, if there were not a strong unifying and binding influence tying them to one location.
Even their fears and admiration of their great leader Nimrod might not suffice to keep them together. Nimrod must have realized that they needed a strong religious motivation as well, a motivation powerful enough to overcome their knowledge that God had indeed commanded them to fill the whole earth. The tower was designed to satisfy that need as well. The tower was not designed to reach to heave. The words “to reach” are not in the original. They would build a “tower unto heaven”—in other words, a tower dedicated to heaven and its angelic host. — Morris, page 269-270.
It is not the building project itself that represent’s man’s sin, but rather the purpose for which the building project was undertaken—to wit, to “make for ourselves a name,” in which the phrase “for ourselves” serves to identify and isolate, to the exclusion of all others, those for whom the “name” is to be made. The term “name” here, as commonly elsewhere, is intended in the sense of reputation or memorial, the sin therefore being that by building the tower humanity is seeking to establish a memorial or testimony to themselves in exclusion from God. — Wechsler, page 169.
God now called a “council,” as it were, in heaven, to institute formal action to prevent the accomplishment of Nimrod’s plans. Such a divine council is indicated by the plural pronoun in verse 7, “let us.” … The three persons of the Godhead were involved, as in the primeval councils in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22.
“Go to,” said the Lord, in a sense mocking the foolish decisions of Nimrod’s conclaves. Shall “the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord?” Only if they desire to bring down God’s wrath on their heads. “The Lord shall have them in derision” (Psalm 2:2, 4).
… Men preferred to remain together under one great centralized and highly regimented government, and this union had quickly led to a vast unified anti-God religious philosophy as well. The key was their ability to cooperate and organize together, and this depended on their ability to formulate and implement complex plans. Basic to everything was their ability to communicate with each other. They were all “of one lip and one vocabulary,” speaking with the same sounds and formulating thoughts in the same way.
The decision of the heavenly council was to “confound their language [or ability to make the same sounds with their lips], that they may not understand one another’s speech [even though their thoughts are still the same].” — Morris, pages 273-274.
The statement that “the Lord God came down” should be understood … as a literary-theological device by which the actual futility of man’s goal and the essential “distance” (i.e., distinction) between him and God is being emphasized. At the same time, however, this emphasis on the essential “distance” between man and God (which bodes poorly for humanity) is immediately “bridged” (which bodes well for humanity) by the reference to God’s goal in “coming down”— namely, to see what man had done. The use of this verb “to see” with God as the subject is often employed throughout the Hebrew Bible—and particularly in Genesis—to contextually denote God’s keen interest in the affairs of men (as opposed to a disinterested “looking” or “observing”), specifically as a prelude to or assessment/description of providing that which is best for man. — Wechsler, pages 170-171.
God’s subsequent act of “confusing” (i.e., differentiating) the language of man is intended not only as an act of punishment, but also as an act of grace. It is with an eye towards what is best for man that God “assesses” their building activity, as verbally represented for the reader by the statement “This is what they have begun to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be too difficult for them.” God is not affirming here that man is capable of undertaking any conceivable activity … but rather that, through their continued collective effort, they will inevitably achieve their present purpose by completing the city just as they already completed the tower. … God’s concern here, in other words, rather than reflecting some puerile jealously of man as a potential creative rival, is in fact reflective of His perfect love for man and His consequent desire that they not succeed, either here or at any future point, in establishing a memorial (and hence enduring incitement) to their collective rejection of God—for it is only with God, the sole Source of Peace and Rest, that man can attain what is truly best for him. … Just as God graciously prevented mankind from expressing their collective rejection of Him by “confusing” their language and causing them to scatter, so will He graciously enable mankind to one day express their collective worship of Him by “restoring” to them “a clarified speech … to serve Him in one accord” (Zephaniah 3:9). — Wechsler, pages 171-172.
Eventually, if not immediately, each family became a tribe and moved away from Babel to work out its own manner of life, as God had intended them to do in the first place. … As each family and tribal unit migrated away from Babel, not only did they each develop a distinctive culture, but also they each developed distinctive physical and biological characteristics. Since they could communicate only with members of their own family unit, there was no further possibility of marrying outside the family. hence it was necessary to establish new families composed of very close relatives, for several generations at least. It is well established genetically that variations take place very quickly in a small inbreeding population, but only very slowly in a large interbreeding population. … Thus, in a very few generations of such inbreeding, distinctive characteristics of skin color, height, hair texture, facial features, temperament, environmental adjustment, and others, could come to be associated with particular tribes and nations. — Morris, page 275-276.
In a future day when all nations will follow God’s will in obedience to His Word, “Then will I turn to the people [literally, ‘the peoples’—that is all the nations] a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:9), even though there will still be distinct nations (note Zechariah 14:9, 16-19); Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:2; Psalm 72:17; Revelation 21:24-26; etc.). A foregleam of this miraculous future elimination of the language barrier occurred with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, with His miraculous gift of tongues to the first disciples, enabling them to declare the wonderful works of God in many languages (Acts 2:6-11). — Morris, page 277.
The word “confound” is the Hebrew babal, which means “mingle” or “mix” (usually translated “mingled”), and thus, by extension, “confusion.” — Morris, page 278.
21 To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born.
22 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram.
23 The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.
24 Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber.
25 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan.
26 Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah,
27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah,
28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba,
29 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.
30 The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east.
31 These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.
32 These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.
It is from “Eber” that the term “Hebrew” has apparently been derived. Abraham, for example, was called a Hebrew (Genesis 14:13), indicating that he was of the children of Eber. This term, obviously, therefor, is applied in these early Scriptures to a much larger group of people than to only the descendants of Abraham. — Morris, page 258.
Elam is the ancestor of the Elamites, well known in both Scripture and the monuments. Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, was the apparent leader of the confederacy which invaded Canaan during the days of Abram (Genesis 14:4-5). … The Elamites apparently later merged with others, especially the Medes (descendants of Madai and thus of Japeth), to form the Persian empire.
Asher was evidently the founder of the Assyrians. However, as noted in Genesis 10:11, Nimrod and his followers later invaded the land of Asshur and there founded Ninevah and a number of other cities. Consequently, the Assyrian people and culture were a mixture of both Semitic racial stock and Hamitic (Babylonian) culture, language, and religion.
Little is known of Arphaxad except that he was in the direct line leaving to Abraham. Lud was probably the ancestor of the Lydians, in Asia Minor. The fifth son was Aram, father of the Aramacans, the same as the Syrians. These people also became a great nation, even finally seeing their Aramaic language adopted as almost the lingua franca for the leading nations of the ancient world. Some of the Old Testament (portions of Daniel and Ezra) was apparently originally written in Aramaic, and it was a common spoken language among the Jews at the time of Christ. — Morris, pages 258-259.
Uz evidently gave his name to a region in Arabia which later was Job’s homeland (Job 1:1; Jeremiah 25:20). … The most important son of Shem (even though nothing is known of him personally) was Arphaxad, since he was in the line of the promised Seed. Presumably, he may have had more than one son, but only Salah is listed, apparently for the same reason. — Morris, page 259.
Nimrod, as Noah’s great-grandson through Ham, was in the same generation as Eber, Noah’s great-grandson through Shem. Thus, it is reasonable to infer that the division at Babel too place when both Nimrod and Eber were mature men. If Peleg was born soon after the Dispersion, it is not surprising that Eber would commemorate such a momentous even in the name of his son.
Although the question is still unsettled, it seems most likely that the division referred to in this passage [v. 25] was simply the geographic division resulting directly from the confusion of tongues at Babel. If something more was involved, especially such a catastrophic event as a tectonic splitting-up of the land mass, it does seem strange that the account of the judgment at Babel in Genesis 11 does not mention it. — Morris, pages 260-261.
These verses [vs. 26-30] list the thirteen sons of Joktan, Peleg’s brother. The names are mostly known from this passage alone, but indications are that all settled in Arabia. Two of the names—Ophir, associated with a region famous for its gold, and Sheba, possibly associated with the Sabaeans (although another Sheba is listed as a grandson of Cush, and another as a son of Abraham)—were definitely located in Arabia. — Morris, page 262.
A summary verse (v. 31) is included here for Shem, as it had been for Japeth (v.5) and Ham (v.20). Once again it is mentioned that they involved distinct family units, distinct languages (therefore, subsequent to Babel), distinct regions, and finally, actual nations. A total of 26 such “nations” is listed as coming from Shem, as compared with 30 listed from Ham, and only 14 from Japheth. Thus a total of 70 such primeval nations is listed here. — Morris, page 262.
6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.
7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan.
8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.
9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.”
10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and
12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.
13 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim,
14 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.
15 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth,
16 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites,
17 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites,
18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed.
19 And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.
20 These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.
The sons of Ham were Cush (probably the same as Kish), Mizraim, Phut, and Canaan. “Cush” is the same in the Bible as “Ethiopia,” and is usually so translated. The Cushites apparently first migrated southward into Arabia, and then crossed the Red Sea into the land now known as Ethiopia.
Mizraim is the ancestor of the Egyptians, and is the customary name for Egypt in the Bible, Egypt is also called “the land of Ham” (Psalm 105:23, etc.), suggesting that Ham accompanied his son Mizraim in the original settlement of the Nile Valley. Since “Mizraim” is a plural form, this may not have been the exact form of his name originally; and some writers have suggested that the semi-legendary founder of Egypt’s first dynasty, Menes, was the same as Mizraim.
Phut, in the Bible, is the same as Libya, applied to the region of North Africa west of Egypt. This identification was confirmed by Josephus. Canaan is, of course, the ancestor of the Canaanites and gave his name to the land of Canaan. — Morris, page 250.
Seba was one of those who migrated from southwestern Arabia across the Red Sea, into the region now known as the Sudan, giving his name to the Sabeans (Isaiah 45:14). … Havilah, Sabtah, and Sabtechah all seem to have been located in Arabia. … Raamah also settled in Arabia, but is specially mentioned as the father of Sheba and Dedan. He is the only one of the sons of Cush whose own sons’ names are listed. — Morris, pages 250-251.
There is a lot of speculation in all of the commentaries on this chapter, of course, but it seemed to be particularly obvious regarding Nimrod. Speculation, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s wrong. I just wanted to point out that the commentaries go well beyond Scripture.
On the other hand, some of the speculations contradict one another, most notably regarding what Nimrod hunted. Morris thinks it was giant animals—dinosaurs probably, while Wechsler believes it was humans. I’m more inclined toward Wechsler’s view here.
Cush, as Ham’s oldest son, had apparently resented [the] curse more and more as the years passed by. By the time Nimrod was born, the resentment had become so strong that he gave his son a name meaning “Let us rebel!” …
Thus Nimrod “began to be a mighty one in the earth,” and he soon had all the Hamites—and possibly many of the Semites and Japhethites—under his influence and leadership. They finally settled in the fertile plain of Shinar (a name probably later identified as Sumer) and began to build a great complex of cities, with “the beginning of his kingdom at Babel.”
Nimrod became a “mighty tyrant in the face of Jehovah.” He was a “hunter” in the sense that he was implacable in searching out and persuading men to obey his will.
The fossil record, in both the Flood sediments and the post-Flood (Ice Age) deposits, indicates that there were tremendous animals living at the time that might well have been feared as a potentially serious danger to mankind in the early centuries after the Flood, until they became extinct. Consequently, a strong man who could hunt and slay such great animals would assume the role of hero and benefactor to mankind and would easily acquire a great following. — Morris, pages 252-253.
Nimrod was a man of great ability and energy and was evidently the leader of the group that built Babel (Genesis 11:4, 8-9), which then formed the capital city of the region over which he became king. Though God had instructed man to establish human governmental systems, He could hardly have intended them to assume the form developed by Nimrod—a great empire comprising a complex of cities centered at Babylon.
These cities included Erech, Accad, and Calneh in Shinar. Erech (also called Uruk) is one hundred miles southeast of Babylon, and was the legendary home of Gilgamesh, hero of the Babylon flood story. … Accad was immediately north of Babylon. The city gave its name to the Akkadian empire, essentially synonymous with the Sumerian empire. Calneh has apparently not yet been identified …
From Babel, Nimrod also “went forth into Assyria,” where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth, Resen, and Calah. Nineveh as situated on the upper Tigris River as Babylon was on the Euphrates. Nineveh was roughly two hundred miles north of Babylon and later was the capital of the great Assyrian empire.
Calah, has been excavated on the Tigris about twenty miles south of Nineveh, It is still called “Nimrud,” after its founder. Resen was said to be between Nineveh and Calah, so that the entire complex of cities as called “a great city,” that is, a large metropolitan area. — Morris, page 253.
From the tenth chapter of Genesis, down to the eighteenth chapter of Revelation, Babylon again and again appears before us, and always as something decidedly hostile to those who occupy, for the time being, the position of public testimony for God. Not that we are to look upon the Babylon of Old Testament Scripture as identical with the Babylon of the Apocalypse. By no means. I believe the former is a city; the later, a system; but both the city and the system exert a powerful influence against God’s people. — Mackintosh, page 113.
The phrase “mighty hunter before the Lord” is better translated “mighty hunter in the face of the Lord.” His actions were those of rebellion against God. As one of his main cities was Babylon, it seems appropriate to link him with the Tower of Babel incident. It should be noted that some of his cities were in Assyria. This implies that he invaded that territory. — Taylor, page 196.
The term here translated “mighty,” which normally denotes a man possessed of proven killing ability in battle (i.e., a warrior, like Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:51), is also negatively intended in its sole prior occurrence in Genesis 6:4. There, as in the present two instances, man is still one “undivided” family, the implication therefore being that these “mighty” men are killing members of their own family—i.e., those who speak the same language and live in the same place (so per Genesis 11:1), and who, most importantly, are (supposed to be) under the same governing authority, God. —Wechsler, page 166.
The sons of Mizraim (the founder of Egypt) are next listed. … They were evidently important tribes in or near Egypt at the time of the writing of Genesis 10. The Pathrusim dwelt in Pathros, or Upper Egypt. The text says that the Philistines, well known in later Biblical history, came out of the Casluhim, who are otherwise unknown. Another group, the Caphtorim, are also identified in the Bible with the Philistines (Amos 9:7; Jeremiah 47:4). … It seems probable that these two sons of Mizraim, ancestors of the Casluhim and Caphtorim, kept their families together, later migrating to Crete and still later, in successive waves, to the eastern shore of the Mediterranean to the land later known as Philistia. — Morris, page 254.
Ham’s youngest son, Canaan, was very prolific, having eleven sons and an unknown number of daughters. The eldest was Sidon, the progenitor of the Phoenicians.
Heth is undoubtedly ancestor of the Hittites (Genesis 23:10), who ruled a great empire centered in Asia Minor for over eight hundred years. … Hittites were present in the land of Canaan during the time of Abraham (Genesis 15:19-21), and apparently reached the heights of their power in Asia Minor sometime later. They were still a great power at the time of Solomon a thousand years later (2 Chronicles 1:17).
There is some evidence that, when the Hittite empire finally crumbled, the remnant of the people fled eastward. The Cuneiform monuments record the name of the Hittites as “Khittae,” and this may well have been modified later to “Cathay” as they settled again in the Far East. Archaeologists have noted a number of similarities between the Hittites and the Mongoloids. —Morris, pages 254-255.
The actual significance of Canaan’s place in this genealogy, other than contributing to the overall ethnographic picture of early post-Flood humanity, is that it establishes a solid link between Noah’s curse of Canaan in Genesis 9:25-27 (“a slave of slaves he shall be to his brethren”) and its fulfillment in the biblical-historical record in 14:1-12. Specifically, four of the five communities that, as related in this later passage, are conquered and enslaved by the eastern alliance led by Chedorlaomer, the Shemite king of Elam (see Genesis 10:22), are identified in the present chapter as specifically Canaanite communities (i.e., per v. 19: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim. This early historical fulfillment of Noah’s declaration thus affirms its continuity with—and ultimately therefore prompting by—the divine Will, which in turn serves as a substantial encouragement to the (Shemite) Israelites by showing them that God’s command for them to conquer Canaan and subdue its inhabitants is consistent with His early post-Flood declaration and, even more, that the precedent of its successful accomplishment is already established. — Wechsler, pages 164-165.
The other nine sons of Canaan were the progenitors of the Canaanite tribes that inhabited the land when the Israelites arrived. The Jebusites, apparently descended from a man named Jebus, were early inhabitants of Jerusalem (Joshua 15:63). The Amorites were one of the most prominent tribes, with their name sometimes used as a representative of all the Canaanites (Genesis 15:16).
Although the Girgasites are mentioned frequently in the Bible, their location has not been determined. The Hivites are also frequently mentioned, and some of their cities have been identified archaeologically all the way from Sidon to Jerusalem. The Arkites seem to have been centered in the region around Tell Arka in Syria. The Arvadites lived in Arvad, a port city of the Phoenicians and the Zemarites about six miles south of Arvad in a town identified in the Amarna letters as Sumur and still known today as Sumra. The Hamathites are associated with the prominent Syrian city Hamath, mentioned frequently in later Biblical history.
It is possible that [the Sinites] may have been an insignificant Canaanite tribe, but the similarity of the name to other Biblical names (e.g., the wilderness of Sin, Mount Sinai, Sinim) suggests that their influence may have been greater than commonly realized. The tendency of many early tribes toward ancestor worship and actual deification of ancestors may be reflected in the frequent use of the name “Sin” in connection with the ancient pantheon of deities.
The Biblical mention of a people in the Far East named “Sinim” (Isaiah 49:12), together with references in ancient secular histories to people in the Far East called “Sinae,” at least suggests the possibility that some of Sin’s descendants migrated eastward, while others went south in the land of Canaan. It is significant that the Chinese people have always been identified by the prefix “Sino-” (e.g., Sino-Japanese War; Sinology, the study of Chinese history). The name “Sin” is frequently encountered in Chinese names in the form “Siang” or its equivalent. The evidence is tenuous, but of all the names in the Table of Nations, it does seem that two sons of Canaan, Heth (Hittites – Kittai – Cathay) and Sin (Sinites – Sinim – China), are the most likely to have become ancestors of the Oriental peoples. … It is reasonable to conclude that the Mongoloid peoples (and therefore also the American Indians) have come mostly from the Hamitic line. — Morris, page 256.
The dimensions of the Canaanite boundaries, at the time of the compiling of the Table of Nations (or perhaps as inserted later by Moses in order to identify them to his own generation), wee from Sidon on the northern coast in Phoenicia down almost to Gerar, as far as Gaza (in Philistia) on the southern coast, then east and south to the Dead Sea and the four “cities of the plains,” Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim. These had not been destroyed at the time this passage was written. The location of Lasha was presumably to mark the northeastern boundary, but this has not yet been identified. It was not a very extensive region, but it was from there that “the Canaanites spread abroad.”
The record of Ham’s descendants is then summarized, as Japheth’s had been, by the statement that these were grouped by “families, tongues, countries, and nations.” This tells us that Genesis 10 was written after the Tower of Babel incident; before, there were no “tongues,” but only one tongue. Furthermore, it suggests that this division by “tongues” had been made to correspond to “families,” that each such division presupposed there would be a “country” (or “land”) where the family could live and work, and, finally, that such family groups would indeed become nations. — Morris, pages 256-257.
1 These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood.
2 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras
3 The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.
4 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.
5 From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.
[Chapter 10] gives every appearance of being a sort of family record, kept by a venerable patriarch of the family as long as he remained alive and could keep in touch with his descendants. Shem, as the one of Noah’s sons most interested in God’s promise of the coming Seed, would be the logical one to keep such a record. he lived for 502 years after the Flood (Genesis 11:10-11), which would have encompassed the entire period included n the Table of Nations. It is significant that the sons of Ham and Japheth are given only to the third generation after the Flood, whereas Shems’ descendants extend to the sixth, indicating perhaps that he lost touch with the other branches of the family after the Dispersion. His signature is attached in the subscript at Genesis 11:10, after he had written of the events at Babel. — Morris, pages 245-246
The first part of Genesis 10:1 is probably the signature subscript of the previous section beginning at Genesis 6:9.
Japheth seems to be identified with a number of legendary figures; Jupiter, of Roman mythology, Iapetus of Greek legend, and Iyapeti among the Aryans of India. It would appear than that the majority of Japhethites migrated west into Europe, though some went east into Persia and India.
Gomer apears to be associated with an area known as Cimmeria, north of the Black Sea—preserved in the name Crimea. His name may also be preserved in the names Germany and Cymru (Wales). Of Gomer’s sons, Ashkenaz is associated with Germany. To this day, Germanic Jews are known as Ashkenazi. This name is preserved in Scandia—Scandinavia, and Saxon. Riphath is the father of Paphlagonians and Carpathians. Togarmah seems to be the ancestor of the Armenians.
Magog is the ancestor of peoples around Georgia, though the capital of Georgia, Tblisi, commemorates Tubal. Madai is associated with the Medes, though these also merge with a Hamitic group. Javan refers to Ionia, in Greece, as does Elishah, from which we get Hellenic, referring to Greece. Tarshish seems to be Spain, whild Kittim is Cyprus. Meshech is preserved in the word Moscow, so would appear to be the ancestor of the Russian peoples.
It is these Japhethitic peoples who are most commonly referred to as Gentiles (v.5). We are reminded that their division is due to their languages. These people may have started to migrate early, because many (though not all) of their languages are from a common language group—the Indo-European group. — Taylor, page 194.
The islands, coastlands, and other regions to which they spread were “divided” to these different groups, a development which took place at Babel. This reference thus indicates that chapter 10 of Genesis was written after the Dispersion. This is further proved by the fact that they were so divided “after their tongues.” —Morris, page 249
18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.)
19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.
20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.
21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.
23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him,
25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.
27 May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”
28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years.
29 All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.
Ham is identified particularly as the one of Noah’s sons who was the father of Canaan. Canaan, in reality, seems to have been Ham’s youngest son (Genesis 10:6), and was no more prominent in history than his other sons. Presumably, he is singled out for special mention because of his being the ancestor of the Canaanites, who were the wicked inhabitants of the land promised to Abraham and to the children of Israel, at the time when Moses was later editing this narrative and leaving his people there. — Morris, page 232
saw (v.22) = gazed at
It is significant that, as the great prophecy of Genesis 3:15-19 was given as a result of the fall of Adam, this prophecy was given as a result of the fall of Noah. The parallel between the two situations is striking. Both Adam and Noah were commanded to fill the earth and exercise control over it. Each of them is actually the ancestor of all men in the present world. Each sinned by partaking of a fruit—Noah of the fruit of the vine and Adam of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. As a result, each became naked and then was provided with a covering by someone else. Finally the prophecy resulted in a curse, which has effected mankind ever since. Along with the curse, however, there were also the blessing and anticipation of ultimate salvation. — Morris, pages 236-237
This [v.25] is the first mention of the word “servant” in the Bible, and, as such, undoubtedly has special significance.
Morris goes to great lengths to explain the curse on Ham. He doesn’t think that Noah’s curse was directed only to Canaan, Ham’s son, because Canaan wasn’t involved in the incident in the tent and so wouldn’t have been picked out from among Ham’s other sons.
Mankind has three fundamental types of duties to perform as God’s steward over the world: (1) spiritual—receiving, preserving, and teaching the knowledge of the word of God; (2) Intellectual—expanding and teaching the knowledge of the world of God; and (3) physical—providing the material means for man’s bodily needs and comforts, thus enabling him to fulfill his intellectual and spiritual functions more effectively.
Each person has, to some degree, all three capacities, but in each person one usually dominates. That is, some people are dominated by physical considerations, some by intellectual, some by spiritual. The same generalization applies to nations: some have historically been primarily motivated by religious considerations, some by philosophical and scientific thinking, others by materialistic pursuits.
It is therefor very significant that these first three progenitors of all modern nations were recognized by their father to have characteristics representing these three emphases. Shem was mainly motivated by spiritual considerations, Japheth by intellectual, and Ham by physical; and the same would be true (in a very general way, of course) of the nations descending from them, by reasons of both genetic inheritance and parental example.
Each was regarded as God’s servant—Shem in spiritual service and Japheth in intellecutal service. Ham, responsible for physical service, was thus a “servant of servants,” serving both Shem and Japheth.
Since, however, Ham would be concerned more directly than the others with the “ground which the Lord hath cursed” (Genesis 5:29), the great Curse would be felt more directly by him than by the others. — Morris, pages 239-240
Noah knew that God’s spiritual blessings would especially rest on Shem, and so exclaimed: “Blessed by Jehovah, the God of Shem!”Finally coming to Japheth, Noah prophesied the Japeth would be “enlarged.” … The word is usally translated “entice” or “persuade.” [This word] is apparently derived from the word “to make open.” It seems most probably … that the thought here is one of mental enlargement. If one is “persuaded” or “enticed,” his previous opinions have been altered, he has changed his mind, or “opened” his mind. Japheth was an open-minded man, and so would be his descendants. The Japhethites would be intellectually curious, explorers in the world of thought, as Ham would be in the physical realm and Shem in the spiritual. Not only would Japheth be intellectually enlarged, but he would also “dwell in the tents of Shem.” This is a common figure of speech meaning “have fellowship with him.” … Though Shem would be the means of mankind’s receiving God’s great spiritual promises, Japheth would also appropriate these blessings to himself by enjoying fellowship with Shem. As Shem and Japheth had unitedly shown respect to their father and their father’s God, so they would unitedly worship “the Lord God of Shem.” The Hamites, on the other hand, by implication would not do so, but would presumably follow other gods of their own devising.”
In general , however, it has been true throughout history that the Semites have been dominated by religious motivations centered in monotheism (The Jews, the Moslems, the Zoroastrians, etc.). The Japhethites (especially the Greeks, Romans, and later the other Europeans and the Americans) have stressed science and philosophy in their development. The Hamites (Egyptians, Phoenicians, Sumerians, [Asians], Africans, etc.) have been the great pioneers that opened up the world to settlement, to cultivation, and to technology. Note that these three streams of nations are not three “races.” —Morris, pages 242-243
If there are no gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 11, this means that Noah continued living until Abraham was about 58 years old.
Taylor, on the other hand, does believe the curse is only on Canaan.
Ham’s actions, though reprehensible and disrespectful, did not constitute a major “cursable” offense. We have to assume that Noah was aware, prophetically or otherwise, of great offenses either already caused or soon to be caused by Canaan. Canaanites later in the Bible were the usurpers of the land that God had promised to Abraham. The Israelites were told to completely destroy these Canaanites, because their worship of false gods was particularly offensive to God. — Taylor, page 188.
Wechsler agrees with Taylor and goes a lot further.
The following considerations … support the view that Canaan was the culprit—to wit, first and foremost: Noah himself identifies the culprit as his youngest son (v.24), and whereas Ham is Noah’s middle son (per every enumeration of the three), Canaan is indeed among his youngest grandsons, being the youngest son of Ham. … The underlying Hebrew term may denote a male descendant in any following generation. … Thus, whether or not Canaan was the youngest of all Noah’s grandchildren, he is the youngest so far mentioned and hence the only person with whom the youngest son in v.24 can be identified. Consistent with this identification it should be noted that Canaan is the one cursed, and the biblical pattern, already established in Genesis 3:14, is that the actual culprit is cursed, and the sin involved something that the culprit had physically done to Noah in his nakedness, the implication being that a sexual sin was committed, which is consistent with the same specific perversity by which Canaan’s descendants are characterized just a few chapters later [in Sodom]. —Wechsler, page 159.
I’ve always heard of the curse of Ham. But Morris’ view feels like a reach.
Wechler’s view is new to me. I never noticed that the curse is placed directly on Canaan. I find that take very compelling.
8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying:
9 “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you,
10 and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth.
11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.
14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud;
15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
Man’s obedience to these commands (Genesis 9:1-7) was not a condition determining whether God would keep His part of the bargain. God promised unconditionally … that He would never again send a worldwide flood, or destroy all flesh, as long as the earth remained. — Morris, page 227
It is significant that the Noahic covenant was not only with Noah and his descendants, but also with the animals going out of the Ark and their descendants. Even though animals do not possess an eternal soul and spirit, as men do, they are God’s creatures; and He is concerned about them. — Morris, page 228
It is not only that man himself would see the rainbow. God also would “look upon it,” whenever He would “bring a cloud over the earth, ” and would “remember His covenant.” This was peculiarly “my bow,” according to the Lord, probably referring to the fact that it had just now been formed as a result of the great Flood which He had brought on the earth.
… His covenant was an everlasting covenant. It was valid for [those who had been on the Ark] and for their children to “perpetual generations,” until God’s great promised time of consummation and restoration of all things.
The rainbow appears only three more times in Scripture. Once, in Ezekiel 1:28, the rainbow is seen surrounding the throne of God as He prepares to visit judgment on His people Israel. Again, the rainbow is seen around His throne just before the coming Great Tribulation in Revelation 4:3. In both these cases, the picture is one of imminent judgment and suffering, bot only limited judgment and suffering, with God’s grace ruling over all.
Finally, when the mighty angel of Revelation 10:1, who can none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, comes to claim dominion over the world, which He had created but which had long been under the dominion of the wicked one. He is accompanied by the same “seven thunders” of judgment which apparently had once cried forth at the time of the Flood (Revelation 10:3-4, compared with Psalm 29:3-10). And instead of a crown of thorns, which once He wore as He bore the Curse for us, the Word says there will be “the rainbow upon His head.” The definite article is in the original: the rainbow. This can hardly refer to any other rainbow than to “My bow,” the token of the everlasting covenant between God and all flesh (Genesis 10:16, with Revelation 10:6). — Morris, pages 229-231
It is happy to bear in mind, that when the bow appears, the eye of God rests upon it; and man is cast not upon his own imperfect and most uncertain memory, but upon God’s. “I,” says God, “will remember.” How sweet to think of what God will, and what He will not, remember! He will remember His covenant, but He will not remember His people’s sins. The cross, which ratifies the former, puts away the latter. — Mackintosh, page 110
1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.
3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.
4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.
7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it.”
These verses constitute essentially a renewal (with slight modifications) of the original divine mandate given to man by God in Genesis 1:26-28. Just as Adam and Eve had been told to “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth,” so Noah and his three sons were now commanded once again to multiply rapidly and fill the earth.
Actually, the specific command to “have dominion over the earth and subdue it,” as given to Adam (Genesis 1:28) is omitted here, possibly an intimation that Satan still retained at least proximate dominion on the earth (1 John 5:19). Thus, man no longer was to exercise direct authority over the animal creation, as had apparently once been his prerogative; rather, there was to be fear manifest by animals, rather than obedience and understanding. If it were otherwise, the animals, since they would be multiplying much more rapidly than man, might quickly have exterminated mankind.
It is significant that the animals that were to be characterized by fear of man [did not include] the “cattle.” The domesticated animals, which apparently are those meant by this term, would not shun man’s presence and company. — Morris, page 221-222
Animals were for the first time authorized for use as food (although quite possibly this had been done before the Flood without authorization. …
Apparently no restrictions as to which animals man could eat were made at this point, though in the special economy of Israel only a few animals were later denominated by God as “clean” for this purpose. Mankind in general, both before the call of Israel and after the formation of the Church, incorporating believers of every nation, was free to partake as freely of “every moving thing that liveth” as he had been previously free to partake of every green herb (Genesis 1:29-30).
But with this permission, there was also the restriction: “flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.” The flesh was given for meat, but the life of the flesh was given for sacrifice. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). The words “life” and “soul” in these verses are the same word. … The “life” of an animal, spilled on a sacrificial altar, was accepted by God in substitutionary death for the life of a guilty sinner, who deserved to die but who was permitted to live because of the sacrifice, whose blood “covered” his sins. — Morris, pages 222-223.
The blood of animals, representing their life, was sacred and not to be eaten, since it was accepted in sacrifice in substitution for the life of man. Also involved was the simple matter of reverence to the life principle, as a specially created entity by God (Genesis 1:21).
Man’s blood, representing his life, was even more sacred than that of animals, for “in the image of God made he man.” Though animals shared the possession of a soul and body with man, it was only man who had an eternal spirit, the image of God. Neither beast nor man was therefore permitted to spill man’s blood. For any animal or any man who shed human blood, God would require satisfaction; and that would be nothing less than the very blood of their own lives.
The word “require” is a judicial term, God here appearing as a judge who exacts a strict and severe penalty for infraction of a sacred law. If a beast kills a man, the beast must be put to death (note also Exodus 21:28). If a man kills another man (willfully and culpably), then he also must be put to death by “every man’s brother.” At the time these words were first spoken, all men indeed were literal brothers; for only the three sons of Noah were living at the time, other than Noah himself. Since all future people would be descended from these three men and their wives, in a very real sense all men are brothers. … This is in essence a command to establish a formal system of human government, in order to assure that justice is carried out, especially in the case of murder.
The authority to execute this judgment of God on a murderer was thus delegated to man. … The anarchistic conditions that had developed before the Flood—men slaying whom they would and defending themselves as they could—were not to be permitted to recur. Before the Flood, there was evidently no formal arrangement of human government, save perhaps the patriarchal authority of the father. There was no formal mechanism for the punishment of crime, or of crime prevention, even for the capital crime of murder, as evident in the individual histories of Cain and Lamech. Evidently each person was able to act quite independently of all restraints except those of his own conscience and self-interest. This eventually led to a universal state of violence and anarchy.
It is clear, of course, that the authority for capital punishment implies also the authority to establish laws governing those human activities and personal relationships which if unregulated could soon lead to murder (e.g., robbery, adultery, usurpation of property boundaries). Thus, this simple instruction to Noah is the fundamental basis for all human legal and governmental institutions.
The instruction here given in no way refers merely to vengeance; the emphasis is rather on justice and on careful recognition of the sacredness of the divine image in man, marred by sin though it be. Obviously some means of impartial verification of guilt prior to execution of the judgment is assumed, though no formal legal system is here outlined. Evidently the particular form of government might vary with time and place; but the fact of human government, exercised under God, is clearly established.
The modern “liberal” objections to capital punishment are insufficient to warrant setting aside this decree of God. The prohibition in the Ten Commandments against killing plainly applies only to murder, not to judicial executions. — Morris, pages 224-225.
The Mosaic covenant is most certainly superseded by the new covenant of Jesus. For this reason, the many death penalties describe in the Law for various sins are not to be translated into the law of current Gentile state governments. That these laws illustrate the seriousness of sin is undeniable. That the Mosaic laws define the various activities which are to be labeled as sins, is also the case. But the Mosaic death penalties are equivalent to loss of salvation rather than a blueprint for a 21st century penal system. Yet one death penalty is exceptional. It is the death penalty for murder. The fact that this death penalty alone is introduced under the Noahic covenant of common grace, rather than the Mosaic covenant for the Israelites, suggests that the death penalty is as much a part of the current natural order of things as the post-diluvian animals’ fear of human beings. — Taylor, pages 180-181.