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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5 thoughts on “Genesis: The Table of Nations

  1. Hello, it is nice to see as an atheist you devote so much time to the study of God’s word. Jesus loves you! Perhaps you will come to know him through your studies. As I see it Shem was Noah’s son. Noah must have know his own son quite well and was declaring his God and Shem’s to be the same God. As for Shem’s son, he may have been a believer in any number of pagan god’s that were worshiped in the area at that time. The God you don’t believe in loves you!

  2. Thanks for your comment and for reading. I am coming to know Him, and what I know I do not like. Maybe Noah and Shem did believe in the same god. The point I was making was that most in the Middle-east at this time were polytheistic; they may have worshiped one god more than the other, but still believed in the other deities. Abraham was the first to promote the worship of one god, and the god of the Bible in particular, Yahweh. Even still, many who followed Abraham still performed rituals for other deities. I appreciate your kind comments, but I’m sorry if your God, Yahweh, and your demigod, Jesus, are real, they do not love me, because I do not worship them. If they are real, then I will suffer an eternity in hell, because they are petty and jealous. Thank you again for your comment and for reading. I appreciate your kind words, and I hope you have a pleasant day.

    1. You look to be too young to have children, so forgive me if I am wrong in assuming you do not. I do, I have a 9 and 10 year old. At the age of about 35, I was forced to question my belief in God, and felt that in having my children it was my responsibility to guide them based on a set of morals and values – but “religion” of my youth had left a sour taste in my mouth. I despised the hypocrisy and condescending attitudes of the people that were part of the churches in my small town. Being from a small town in NE where Catholics made up 80% of the population, I felt the sting of being treated as an “outsider” to what I felt was a religion that has taken the best ideas of the bible and perverted the to serve their own selfish desires – and i still feel this way about those that hold power in this political structure. But for some reason, I always felt sure that there was “a” god – I felt it even more absurd to think that the human race came into existence by mere accident and defied the laws of nature – specifically, life does not increase in complexity and intelligence. So I went to the scriptures to either let them convince me that Jesus is in fact the Son of God and our Savior, or confirm my suspicion that this was merely a contrived set of stories put together by well meaning men. After 10 years of intensive study including the Hebrew language, I was convinced beyond any doubt that this is indeed a divinely inspired book. The more I learned the more vast and intricate the fabric of the scriptures became. I had revelation upon revelation about practical issues of health, disease, etc. I can’t even begin to tell you the amazing information I uncovered – but these revelations did not come until I approached it with the sincere acceptance that this is the infallible word of God. It is that mindset that allows you to work the process and open doors that you would not otherwise open with the voice of doubt ringing in you head. Just like, if I know by the look of sky and the weatherman that it is going to rain, i dress accordingly, grab an umbrella. . . which would most like not occur to me to do if it is sunny and clear – regardless of what the weatherman said.. I’m still new at this game, and it is not my intention to “sell” you on the idea that I am right and you are wrong. So much damage was done and time lost in my life because of people that insisted on “shoving” religion down my throat and in a self-gratifying way. You are seeking even tho you may believe you don’t believe, keep seeking, keep studying. We all must make our own individual journey, and we can still treat each other with love and respect regardless of what we choose to believe. A belief does not make us superior IN OUR OWN EYES, to anyone. I will be honest, I still fight the desire to respond to blogs like these in a very destructive way, because it IS hard to hear someone totally disregard what you feel so certain about – based on putting in the work to draw that conclusion. It’s hard to have people label you as weak and pathetic and using religion as a crutch when it is nothing more than another Santa story. But “we do not battle against flesh and blood”, and more “Christians” need to be as patient and kind as the first gentleman that replied to this blog – and his words brought me back to the real meaning of what a Christian is. Lastly, my point about my children. If you ever are fortunate enough to have children, and I hope you are, it will open your eyes to the “essence” of God like no amount of studying will ever do. This is when you are given the spirit of true, unconditional love. When relate to God as “your” parent with that kind of love beyond what we can comprehend, it unlocks so many mysteries and questions in the text that otherwise would be left to question. Whether you are willing to accept it right no or not, I tell you with a knowledge that permeates every fiber of my being – HE DOES LOVE YOU – in a way you cannot comprehend. He will go to all lengths to recover his lost sheep. If you can read again, about the prodigals son. Put yourself in the place of the son who spent his inheritance, and the father is God. This is what you can expect when you open your heart to him. I thought people were crazy or at least delusional when they would talk about having a relationship with an unseen (at best) spirit, but I am here to tell you that you can, and it will heal you in ways that you cannot know.
      Wish you all the best in your journey. I believe we will meet some day and I look forward to it. Keep Seeking!

  3. It wasn’t until the later half of the 20th century did youths try to change the definition to mean an idiot. I just want to give a little background on this. This came from the Bugs Bunny cartoon. He called Elmer Fudd, Nimrod, sarcastically, because Elmer Fudd was a bumbling hunter. This is how it briefly became an insult to call someone “A nimrod”. This link may give a little insight:

  4. 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. It appears you are arguing that Noah’s descendants were polytheists. Some of them may have been, and later generations may have been, but more explaining is in order. Belief in the one true God, going from the Bible, predates both Noah & Abraham. You have to consider the story of Enoch. It said Enoch walked with God and God took him. Who is the God that Enoch walked with?. Even pagan cultures retained some semblance of monotheistic belief. The ancient Turkic peoples believed in Tengri/Tanri/Turah. Native americans believed in the Great Spirit. The I Ching mentions a Supreme Lord of Heaven. When Paul went to Athens, as recorded in the book of Acts, he noted an inscription to the Unknown God. Some monotheistic belief was retained as people spread out after the Tower of Babel.

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