Genesis: The Table of Nations

Genesis 10:1-32

The story, “The Table of Nations”, is the account of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their sons. This passage first describes the lineage of Japheth, the Japhethites. Noah says in the previous story that Japheth and his descendants would live in the tents of the people of Shem. The only additional description we are given in “The Table of Nations”, is that the descendants of Japheth’s son Javan are maritime people who each have their own language.

Next, the account of the sons of Ham, the Hamites. The son of Ham, Cush, is the father of Nimrod, a mighty warrior and great hunter before the Lord. “That is why it is said,  ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord’”. This is not the definition I associate with Nimrod. I did a little research on the word ‘nimrod’ and found that the official definition is: a skilled hunter. It wasn’t until the later half of the 20th century did youths try to change the definition to mean an idiot. This story claims that Babylon, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh are the centers of his kingdom. This passage says that from this land he went to Assyria, and accredit him with the founding of Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen. The mention of Assyria gives us a time period to attach with this tale. By 1500 BCE Mesopotamia was split into two distinct political zones: Babylon in the south and Assyria to the north. The city of Nineveh is found within the northern part of the Assyrian homeland south of modern-day Armenia, where the last story said the ark had settled. An interesting point to mention, the people of Assyria were polytheistic, and believed that their king was the earthly representative of the gods.

The next son of Ham mentioned is Mizraim. A footnote in the NIV version of the Bible says that Mizraim may refer to Egypt, or the ruler of Egypt. Based on the time period we are given from the mention of Assyria, more accurately this is probably a reference to the Hyksos. The Hyksos, which translates to “Princes of Foreign Lands”, were a semitic people from the Syria-Palestine region who moved into the Nile Delta and conquered Egypt around 1640 BCE. The Hyksos had superior military technology compared to the Egyptians. The Hyksos used horse-drawn war chariots to defeat the Egyptians, but they were not the first to develop this technology; the Hittites get credit for that, but we will discuss these people later. The Hyksos married into the Egyptians and adopted their religion–polytheistic–and maintained all other aspects of the Egyptian culture. The Egyptians always saw them as outsiders though, and by 1532 BCE a native dynasty had removed them from power.

The third of Ham’s four sons mentioned is Canaan. Canaan’s firstborn is Sidon. Sidon was an important city-state on the coast of the Mediterranean sea in the land of Phoenicia. The other ten of Ham’s sons are the Hittites. The Hittites were the most formidable power in the region, and were the foremost power in Anatolia from approximately 1700 to 1200 BCE. The Hittites were technologically advance. They were the first to smith Iron in the region and kept this knowledge a secret. They also developed the horse-drawn war chariot, as I discussed earlier. These people adopted the myths, legends, and styles of art and architecture from the Mesopotamians.

Of the descendants of Shem, the Semites, two names stand out. One is Elam. Elam were a people who lived in the Zagros Mountains on the border of modern-day Iraq and Iran. The other name that could be of importance is Asshur, which after doing some research, is an alternative spelling of Ashur. Ashur is the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. This is a very interesting point to make. The Assyrian people were polytheistic, and believed that their king was the representative of the gods, as I have already mentioned. What was the name of their chief god? Ashur.

This made me think of the previous passage when Noah says, “‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem!’”. Who is the God of Shem? If his son Asshur (Ashur) is the founder of the capital city of the Assyrian Empire who believe Ashur is the chief god of their polytheistic religion, then one has to wonder.

Already it is apparent that these people–the descendants of Noah’s Sons in particular–do not believe in one deity, they don’t even believe in the same deity, or even the same deity as the modern Judaeo-Christian’s do, Yahweh. Yet, Judaeo-Christians still hold these books as “proof” of the God Yahweh and as “proof” against the evidence of science, despite the fact that they are representative of a different God(s) from a different culture(s).

Next time I will be looking at the Tower of Babel.

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