Here we find the so-called Table of Nations. These folks will go on to populate the whole world. There are some problems here, however. Most of the nations that can be identified in this passage are, not surprisingly, surrounding Israel. Many of these “nations” supposedly founded by these guys are not known to history or archaeology until well into the first millennium BCE, i.e. long after Moses was dead even though Moses is supposedly writing about them as though his audience is already aware of their existence.
is not happy about her entire
civilization getting left out of the Bible.
It’s nice and tidy, isn’t it? The descendants of Japheth settle in the northern coastlands, divide the lands and settle according to their language, families and nations. Everything we can study and observe about anthropology, sociology and linguistics suggests that migration and settlement just doesn’t happen like this and never has. I'm sure it sounded perfectly plausible to an Iron Age audience.
There are a few problems with this passage. The biggest is that it seems to have been inserted into the list here in order to find a place for the Nimrod tradition. Note that in verse 7 when the sons of Cush are listed Nimrod is curiously absent from the list, but verse 8 says that Cush was the father of Nimrod.
Asshur is mentioned in verse 11 and Nimrod (or Asshur himself depending on translation) is said to build the Assyrian cities of Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir and Calah. However, Asshur is named as a son of Shem, not Ham in verse 22. By all appearances there are two competing traditions for the origin of Assyria. Perhaps the competing tradition is why the writer of 1 Chronicles left all that stuff out of his version even though Micah appears to have favored the tradition that Nimrod was associated with Assyria.
The other descendants of Ham that are listed in the unbroken section of verses 6-7 and 13-20 uniformly settle in southwest Arabia, Libya, the Nile region and Canaan (surrounding the Red Sea), but Nimrod is said in this passage to found Babel and Assyria (in the Fertile Crescent) even though they are the same areas where all of Shem’s descendants will settle. Some commentators interpret this to mean that these areas were settled both by Hamites and Semites, but that doesn’t deal with why the otherwise tidy list and geographic placement gets interrupted by this Nimrod passage. Just try reading 6-7 and 13-20 while removing 8-12 and you'll see just how naturally the passage flows without those verses interrupting it. Note when you remove verses 8-12, the account of the Hamites fits the same pattern as the account of the Japhethites and Shemites.
The idea that Nimrod, described as a mighty man-hunter in the face of Yahweh, founded Babylon and Assyria and all these other various city-states seems ridiculous
|Thanks to a few generations of biblically illiterate cartoon-watchers,|
Nimrod has now come to mean "idiot" instead of mighty hunter.
Mizraim, Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim , Naphtuhim, Parhrusim, Casluhim and Caphtorim all end in the Hebrew plural “im.” Are these groups of people or sons of Ham?
The Casluhim are said to be from where the Philistines originated. The problem is that we now know from archeology that the Philistines are associated with the foreign Sea Peoples who came in and invaded the area near Egypt around 1175 BC (according to Egyptian records) and settled the coastlands of the Levant sometime afterward. Excavations of the sites of Philistine cities have linked their culture to that of the Mycenaean culture of Crete. Moses here, however, seems to think they were an offshoot from the Egyptians, as they are identified as the sons of Mizraim (the Hebrew word for Egypt). The originator of this story was apparently living well after Moses and had no idea that the Philistines were more closely related culturally to Mycenaeans rather than Egyptians. "Moses" also apparently didn't realize the Philistines wouldn't settle this area until about 250 years after he was dead.
This verse mentions the Philistine city of Gerar. As stated previously, the Philistines didn’t have settlements along the coastal plain of Canaan until after 1200 BC. Gerar (identified with Tel Haror) has been shown in recent excavations to have been no more than an insignificant village until the late 8th and early 7th century BC (see Finkelstein and Silberman, The Bible Unearthed pp. 37-38) and yet our author and presumably his readers seem to be able to easily identify this place. This doesn’t really make Moses, supposedly writing in the 2nd millennium BC, a good candidate for authorship here.
Elam is said to be a son of Shem, but linguists universally agree that Elamite is not a Semitic language. That’s odd. Perhaps the the writer of this portion of Genesis was not a linguist? Well, let God be true and every man a liar, right?
The Hebrew Masoretic Text reads “Arphaxad fathered Shelah” as shown in most translations of this verse. However, the Septuagint reads “Arphaxad fathered Cainan, and Cainan fathered Shelah.” As such Luke (3:35-36), using the Septuagint, lists Cainan as the father of Shelah in the line of Jesus Christ. So who was Shelah’s father? Was it Arphaxad or Cainan? Does it matter? Well, what if someone didn’t like the idea that there was a competing tradition that Cainan, a Semite, was actually the father of the Canaanites? Wouldn’t that be incentive for someone who wished to avoid such associations to drop Cainan from the list?
Did the inspired writer of Luke get it right by copying from the Septuagint meaning the Masoretic Text was corrupted, or did a later copyist correct what he thought was Luke’s mistake using the Septuagint when actually it was right all along? We’ll never know and the whole incident only highlights just how potentially unreliable the text can be regardless of when the error occurred.
Peleg means “division” and it is explained that in his days (sometime from 131 to 340 years after the Flood) the land was divided. Divided how? Geographically? Politically? By language? By canals? Is this referring to the split of languages after the Tower of Babel or the splitting of the earth into continents as suggested by some creationists? Is it merely the establishment of territorial boundaries by treaty agreements? We’ll never know. Whatever it was, it was apparently important enough to be laid down in holy writ for all time along with the names of several places we’ll likely never be able to locate, yet it wasn’t important enough for us to be given some clues to determine what in the world it means without simply guessing.
Mesha is given as an apparently well-known place-name here and is associated with the eastern hill country of Moab. Mesha was likely named after the same 9th century BC Moabite king referenced in 2 Kings 3:4 and the Mesha Stele. If this is the case, it would put the authorship of this portion of Genesis well after the divided kingdom, not in the time of the Exodus. Of course, it’s possible this is a different Mesha. Maybe king Mesha was named after the city he was born in? Yeah, that’s it.
|Sorry, Moses. It turns out the world was a bit larger than this.|