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TOWERS, TONGUES, AND REBELLION - Genesis 10:1-11:26 – Part 1
In Genesis 10:1-11:26, God is going to explain how different languages and nations came into existence. As we have seen so far in our tour through Genesis, it’s style has been to introduce one man and follow them through their demise and then to introduce their sons briefly before focusing on the one through whom God would work out His unique purposes through His chosen people and the eventual Messiah.
Noah has passed from the scene. His sons’ - Shem, Ham, and Japeth, are now in the spotlight. Shem, father of the Semitic races, took center stage after the explanation of the activities of his brother Ham’s descendants which would have a profound impact on the human race.
This chapter has a gold mine of information for those who are interested in the geography of the ancient world and the various ethnic divisions of the ancient people. But we will not be dealing with this aspect in the messages.
In these 58 verses, we will see our tendency to sin and God’s Will to always provide for His people.
The first truth that we can see in this passage is... God made the world one big family (10:1-32). As stated in other “name lists,” we might see these as boring, and even skip over them, but they matter. These lists provide alot of important information. This chapter is not technically a genealogy (so and so, begat so and so). It has been called a table of nations because it traces the connected origins of various nations.
What is interesting is that the nations of the world all came from the same place...from one of the three sons of Noah (10:1, 32). In other words, God made us one big family. Though we are of different languages, cultures, and geographical locations, we are still imprinted with the image of God and share in the dignity of human existence. Any time we emphasize our racial and cultural differences, it undermines this unity and runs counter to God’s will for us. I think God basks in our rich cultural diversity and variety, which He has created, and we need to learn to do the same.
So, let’s take a brief look at the descendants listed here. The descendants of Japheth (10:2-5). This division of the chapter, centering on Japheth, is the shortest and highlights 14 of Japheth’s descendants. Verse 5 also teaches that the occupation of the lands followed the confusion of tongues at Babel.
The descendants of Ham (10:6-20). Here we have the account of the descants of Ham. Again, scattered to many nations but all were the descendants of Ham, who was one of three brothers, descendants of Noah. There is no escaping it: God made the world one big family!
The descendants of Shem (10:21-32). The genealogy of Shem split at the sons of “Eber” (10:25). From Eber we get the word “Hebrew.” The descendants of Eber’s son “Joktan” are given in 10:26-32, while the descendants of his other son, “Peleg” are found in Genesis 11.It was Peleg’s line which led to Abraham and eventually to the Israelites (11:18-26).
This is the family that God will be dealing with throughout the entire Old Testament. These are the Hebrews, the nation Israel. This section reveals that it was God’s plan to bless the human race by dividing the family of man by languages, locations, and leaders.
So why is this important? What difference does this unity of the human race make? Because It shows us that we cannot discount anyone else in the rest of the world. They are all our cousins! Their needs, their hopes, their dreams, their problems, their family struggles, their successes, and their failures are really not that much different than ours! All human beings, even of different national and cultural identities are of the same origin, have the same dignity, and belong in the same world.
This is one of the reasons we are obligated to praying for the persecuted church. The church abroad is made up of our distant cousins, our spiritual brothers and sisters. Since God has a heart for the world, so must we. If we hold to this biblical mentality, it undercuts all human divisiveness based on nationality, culture, and race.
However good, however rich national and cultural diversity can be, it should never be allowed to cloud the more fundamental fact that all human people share the same nature, breathe the same air, live on the same earth, and owe their life to the same God: Acts 17:26 - “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place...”
If we are all one big family, how did we get so divided? Join us next week as we continue.