Names, Names, Names | Genesis 10.1-20
These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood. The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations. The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.
Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations. Genesis 10:1-20 | ESV
Yes, it’s that time again. Time for another genealogy, for names, names, and more names. Goody. Actually, Genesis 10 is a unique document among all ancient literature. There is simply nothing else like it. Nothing so all encompassing, so broad in vision, so comprehensive in scope. Genesis 10 and 11 are meant to be read as a single book, a single unit. Genesis 10 provides the big picture – a sweeping view of the ancient milieu, the ancient world in which Israel found itself laid out, significantly in a “table” of seventy nations – while Genesis 11 serves as a chronological flashback explaining the ultimate scattered layout of the Genesis 10 “table of nations” – and, significantly, finally, showing where Israel fits into these massively unfolding threads of humanity. Indeed, stepping up onto this table of Nations in Genesis 10, Israel is the great omission. All of her neighbors are mentioned, but she is conspicuously absent. Since this is a story being told by Israelites to Israelites, you know at this point the listeners are crying out, “So where are we?” “Right here,” the Storyteller would seem to be saying, “right here in the midst of a humanity multiplying under the blessing of God, even though scattered for the moment under his wrath.” Seventy nations. Each named and known by God; each placed by his hand right where he wants them. As we move into Abraham’s story in Genesis 12, we will see him, the great Shemite, building altars everywhere after leaving the city. So against the grain of humanity. The seventy nations are epitomized in the one great hero singled out for notice in the midst of this sea of names, this sea of humanity. Nimrod (“Rebel” – good name for your kid! Wonder what his teen years were like?). Mighty hunter (even God clicks “like” posting, “Uh, yeah! Be afraid. Be very afraid!”). Tyrant ruler. Builder. Builder of cities. Cain revisited. In fact, “Rebel” builds the two cities (Babylon and Ninevah) that end up terrorizing all the ancient world and ultimately (spoiler!) subjugating Israel and carting her off to captivity. Captive Israelites in later generations could at least smile in their misery, “Yes, God is sovereign even over these seemingly unbeatable rebel cities!” This in fact is the ultimate serving meant to be taken from this table. Connection. All these nations are connected. There is symmetry, completeness, wholeness – demonstrated in the repeated occurrence of “seven” and its multiples in the groupings of names and nations. The one exception is the asymmetrical listing of the Canaanite clans and nations. This point may be lost on us, but you can be sure it wasn’t on the Israelites. Still. One God. One diverse sea of humanity. And one family to emerge from that sea that would bless all other families, turning what could have ended up a dead-end Dead Sea into an ocean teaming with Divine Life.
Do you tend to experience humanity as a disconnected rivalry or as a united family? How can we move from the former to more of the latter? What part can you play in this right where you are?
Lord, bind us together. Melt ethnic and racial barriers into flowing, intermingled rivers of friendship and fellowship. Give birth to deepening intimacies even in the midst of our diversities. Bind us together, Lord. Through Christ.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.