Genesis 10:6-20

The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.

The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan.

Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.

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.

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