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Apparent Contradiction of Words and Numbers

Four Witnesses to a 430-year Sojourn in Egypt

Abraham’s Witness to a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Jacob’s Life Requires a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Elasticity of Hebrew Genealogical Terms

Abbreviated/Condensed Genealogies

Shem’s List: The Ultimate Example of Condensing

Shem’s Genealogy—Which Bible?

Evidence from the Lifespan of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Message of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Times of Job for Missing Generations

Biblical Earth Movements After the Flood

Peleg, Joktan and the Table of Nations

Historical Errors Obscuring the Condensing of Shem’s Line

Interpretative Errors Supporting Ussher View

The Missing World between the Flood and Peleg

Recent Scholarship Improves Biblical Understanding

Summary of Biblical Findings

Secular Evidence—Those Many Documents Unavailable to Ussher


Peleg, Joktan and the Table of Nations

Chapter Thirteen

For two hundred pages this book has suggested that Hebrew genealogies are mostly about identification, not succession, that they are often condensed, that 40-50 generations are missing between Eber and Peleg and that Job was born 8-9 generations before Peleg.  Now Genesis ten appears, a fly in the ointment, two brothers to smite this tidy scheme.  One brother continues the line to Christ; the other populates Arabia.  They are placed in the fourth generation after the Flood. 

Two Brothers

25To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan.  26Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.  Genesis 10:25-29.

Not so fast.  “Brother” is one of those elastic relational words used in both narrow and broad senses.  The narrow sense would mean these two brothers had the same immediate father and lived at the same time.  The broad sense would merely mean they both descended from the same forefather.  Nehemiah 5:1 uses “brother” that way.  Poor Jews called rich Jews brothers.  They were brothers in the sense that they were all descendants of Abraham who lived 1500 years earlier.

Similarly, Peleg and Joktan were brothers in the sense that Eber was their forefather.  Genesis ten does not spoil the view of this book but provides another example to illustrate it.  Both Peleg and Joktan descended from Eber.  Peleg was born 40-50 generations after Eber but is named first due to importance (he continued the line to Christ).  Much earlier Joktan and his descendants populated much of Arabia when Ice Age storms provided the water to cover it with vegetation.  Out of the millions born during the 40-50 generation gap, Scripture names only a few—Joktan and his 13 sons (who may also have been “sons” in the broad sense) and those found in the Book of Job.  This early populating of Arabia provides background for Job, the Patriarchs and Israel. 

Table of Nations

The story of Peleg and Joktan appears in Genesis ten which is commonly called the Table of Nations.  That is a misnomer.  It does not record the rise of each nation after the Flood.  It is neither a record of the repopulation of the earth, a genealogy or a chronology.  Rather it appears for a specific purpose and therefore is very selective.  It was provided to inform Israel of the background of her neighbors as the following will show. 

Selectivity of the Table of Nations

 First, the Table of Nations was extremely selective.  On the Ark were Noah and his wife plus their three sons and three daughters-in-law—eight adults but no children.  After the Flood those three sons fathered 16 named sons (5.33 sons per father) and presumably about that many daughters.  This record of first-generation sons is most likely complete.  But with the second generation the record becomes selective.  From Japheth’s seven sons, just seven grandsons are named or just one son per father.  Of Shem’s five sons, only five grandsons are named.  Again, just one son per father.  But of Ham’s four sons, 26 grandsons are named (over six sons per father).  Many reasons are suggested for this such as not enough daughters to go around, untimely deaths, a preference for remaining single or even violence.  Like Adam and Eve’s oldest, they all possessed old sin natures.  But most likely sons of the other nine are not mentioned due to selectivity.

If the record of second-generation sons suggests selectivity, the record of third-generation sons shouts it—only three sons are recorded and two might be “sons” in the broad sense.  Looking at this account another way, the 36 first generation sons should have produced 80 second generation sons.  Those 80 should have produced 400 third generation sons.  Instead of 400, just one third generation son is certain. 

God commanded the Ark survivors to fill the earth with people.  Either the record is extremely incomplete or the human race was heading towards extinction.  Since repopulation was happening, the record is the problem.  It is selective.  The fourth generation is even worse—only two sons are named—the two brothers—and neither were actually fourth generation sons, so in effect, no fourth-generation son is listed. 

Looking at this selectivity another way, Ham had four sons and sons are listed for three (75%).  Shem had five sons and sons are listed for two (40%).  Japheth had seven sons, but sons for just two are listed (29%).  What became of the unnamed offspring of the other nine first-generation sons and 34 second-generation sons?  Though not mentioned in Genesis 10, we know much about some from history.  The Medes descended from Japheth’s son Madai.  Descending from Shem’s sons Elam and Asshur were the Elamites and the infamous Assyrians of Isaiah’s day.  But not all are so obvious.  The identity of some is disputed; others remain unidentified.  Without question the Table of Nations is selective. 

Purpose of the Table of Nations

The Table of Nations is selective because of its purpose.  These post-Flood people began to form people groups and nations.  The record focuses on those nations that impacted the Hebrews.  This is the reason for the Table of Nation’s specific content.  Nearness to or impact upon the Hebrews was the primary reason in deciding which names to include.  The most space was given to Ham and his progeny.  Both the Promised Land that God gave to Abraham’s descendants and the surrounding nations were mostly occupied by them. 

Ham’s son Canaan settled the land of Canaan.  No less than 11 sons are listed for him.  These names occur again and again through Scripture as Israel struggled with them.  Ham’s son Egypt and his seven sons settled the land of Egypt.  That land also had a major impact on the Hebrews.  In Egypt Jacob’s sons and grandsons grew to a population exceeding two million souls.  Egypt eventually enslaved them.  Descendants of Ham’s oldest son, Cush and his six sons, are listed because they populated areas near Goshen where the Hebrews sojourned in Egypt for 430-years.  Moses, the editor of Genesis, would have been very aware of Egypt’s Cushite neighbors.  No sons are listed for Ham’s other son Put most likely because they settled in lands more distant from Israel.

While Shem had five sons the sons of only two are mentioned.  Shelah continued the line leading to Christ and while Aram and his four sons provide context for the history of Israel.  This makes sense since Aram was the father of the Aramaeans who populated Syria among other places.  The Aramaeans were very significant in the life of Israel.  By the time of Christ, the Aramaic language had replaced Hebrew in everyday life.  Aram was also the father of Uz who established the land in which Job lived.  To have possessed a large amount of land in Uz, Job would have had to be a direct descendant of Uz.  Shem’s other three sons, Elam, Asshur and Lud, contributed huge populations to the Near East and all are named before Aram but, amazingly, nothing more is said of them. 

Sons of just two of Japheth’s seven sons are named.  From Gomer came many European peoples; but maybe Gomer’s three sons are listed out of respect to him as Japheth’s firstborn.  Another, Javan and his four sons, leads to the Greeks and other Northeastern Mediterranean peoples.  These would be significant in later Hebrew history as the Israelites interacted with those bordering the Mediterranean Sea. 

Puzzling is the naming of Cush’s descendants, Sheba and Dedan who are said to come from Cush’s son, Raamah.  Possibly Sheba and Dedan were named because they settled in Arabia and later intermarried with the descendants of Joktan and Abraham. They also are found in the Book of Job.

Since God would give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan, they needed to know about their neighbors and close relatives.  Nearness to or impact upon the Hebrews was the primary reason in deciding which names to include in the Table of Nations.  Yes, the Table of Nations was both selective and deliberate. 

Other unique features of the Table

While the firstborn is usually named first, the Table places the record of Shem’s descendants (Genesis 10:21-31) after those of Japheth (Genesis 10:2-5) and Ham (Genesis 10:6-20).  Several times Scripture deals with less important sons before getting to the most important son, the heir.  Ishmael’s genealogy (Genesis 25:12-18) precedes Isaac’s genealogy (Genesis 25:19 and following).  Esau’s genealogy (Genesis 36) comes long before Jacob’s genealogy (Genesis 46). 

The amount of space given to the descendants of each of Noah’s sons also is telling.  Nine verses of names are devoted to ham’s descendants (10:6-8, 13-18).  Three verses of names are devoted to Japheth’s descendants (10:2-4) and seven verses of names are devoted to Shem’s descendants (10:22-24, 26-29).  In the midst of the 70 descendants found in Genesis ten, significant space is devoted to three developments.  First is the rise of Nimrod and the expansion of his power (10:8-12, 5 verses).  Second is the territory of the Canaanites (10:19, 1 verse).  Third is Eber’s two “sons” (10:25-30, 6 verses).  Thus in 28 verses of Genesis ten, 12 verses are devoted to the activities of individuals rather than the listing of names.

The broad use of “father” is clearly seen in Genesis 10:21 which says “To Shem, also, the father of all the children of Eber….”  In this sense all the children of the great grandson (Eber) were the children of the great grandfather (Shem).  When did Shem initiate this line leading to Eber and Eber’s children, Peleg and Joktan?  It began two years after the Flood when he fathered Arpachshad (Genesis 11:10). 

Possibly Arpachshad enjoyed the unique honor of being the first person born in the post-Flood world.  While Scripture doesn’t say that, it does say he was born two years after the Flood, i.e., after the beginning of the Flood (Genesis 11:10) and does not indicate that another person was born before him.  Surprisingly he is named third, not first, in the list of Shem’s five sons in the Table of Nations.  Elam (Persia) is the first name and Asshur (Assyria) is the second.  Both had an enormous impact on the Near East in their day.

Elam appears again and again in Scripture.  By the time Abraham arrived in the Promised Land, Chedorlaomer, King of Elam, had extended his scepter all the way to Sodom and Gomorrah, one thousand trade-route miles west and south of Elam (Genesis 14:4).  Fifteen hundred years later Elam would be a major part of the Persian Empire that ended the Babylonian captivity.  Asshur fathered the Assyrians that continued to be a great and powerful people in northeastern Mesopotamia.  In terms of prominence these sons dwarfed Arpachshad.  Maybe that is why he is listed third even though he was the firstborn.  Clearly, birth order does not always dictate the order in which sons are listed in Scripture.

Sons were sometimes named for famous forefathers or relatives.  Two clear cases are found right here in the very beginning of the repopulating of the earth after the Flood.  Cush’s oldest son was named Seba (very close to “Sheba”) and his second was named Havilah.  Cush had a grandson named Sheba while one of Joktan’s 13 sons was also named Sheba.  Joktan named another of his 13 sons Havilah.  Because the same names were used over and over in Bible days, one must be careful when identifying people in Scripture.

Scripture names 13 sons for Joktan and 11 for Canaan.  Frequently those with many sons had multiple wives.  While Jacob fathered 12 sons, they came through four wives.  Abraham’s brother Nahor had eight sons by one wife and four by another.  Abraham himself had eight sons by three women.  Esau had three wives to bear his 12 sons.  King David had even more wives for his many sons.   How many wives Joktan had in fathering 13 sons or Canaan had in fathering eleven sons is not stated.  It would be conjecture to say all the sons of each father came from one wife.  In determining population growth, it would likewise be a mistake to average the listed sons and then conclude that all males had an average of that many sons.

After naming five sons and two grandsons of Cush in Genesis 10:7, verse eight says “Cush fathered Nimrod.”  Nimrod was not named in the list of Cush’s sons but separately said to be fathered by Cush.  This is a device for sake of emphasis.  Scripture continues by devoting more text about Nimrod and his kingdoms than it does to the entire paragraph on Japheth.  Nimrod’s Babylon has opposed God from this early time all the way through the Book of Revelation and to the present day.  Abraham’s seed needed a strong warning about this kingdom that wars against God and therefore against Israel.  Here is the warning right in the middle of the Table of Nations.  Genesis ten is far more than a record of the repopulation of the world after the Flood.

While this chapter of HB is short (just four pages), it is extremely important because it corrects a common misunderstanding about Genesis ten that obscures the 40-50 generation omission between Eber and Peleg.  Genesis ten is not a Table of Nations.  Rather, it relates the origin of people groups that would impact Israel in its mission of producing the Messiah. 

Critical to that purpose were Peleg and Joktan (Genesis 10:25-30).  In the past expositors noted that Peleg’s name meant “divided.”  They concluded his name referred to the division of languages when God judged those building the Tower of Babel.  A careful study of his name indicates the division is associated with water, not languages.  Thus, he was named at the end of the Ice Age when much of the two-mile-thick ice sheet in the earth’s north and south had melted, raising sea level to divide the continents and islands by water.  Joktan was important because his descendants established one of the earliest population centers during the Ice Age—Arabia.  Genesis 10 not only states that he had 13 sons but takes the trouble to name each.  Again, the Table of Nations was both highly selective and extremely deliberate.  It was not a record of the repopulation of the world, but for Israel’s sake, a standing profile of her historic neighbors. 


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