TABLE OF NATIONS The Genesis 10:1 listing of the descendants of Noah's sons to explain the origin of the nations and peoples of the known world. The account is unique for several reasons. First, a new chapter begins in biblical history at this point; humanity has a new beginning through Noah and his three sons. Second, the account highlights the ethnic makeup of the ancient world, listing some seventy different ethnic groups that formed the basis of the known world. Third, despite our lack of knowledge about many of the groups listed in the chapter, Genesis 10:1 underlines the fact that the Bible is based on historical events. Fourth, Genesis 10:1 provides the basis for understanding Abraham, introducing his world and his relationship to that world. The account of the Table of Nations, with a few variations, also appears in 1 Chronicles 1:5-23.
The Table of Nations has three basic divisions. The people and lands of the known world fit into one of three families, the family of Shem, Ham, or Japheth. The names which appear in each of the families are names which come from several different categories: racial descent, geographical location, language differences, or political units.
Japheth's descendants (Genesis 10:2-5) inhabited the Aegean region and Anatolia or Aisa Minor. The descendants of Ham (Genesis 10:6-20) were located especially in the regions of North Africa and the coastal regions of Canaan and Syria. The descendants of Shem (Genesis 10:21-31) are especially important because Abraham comes from the line of Shem. Thus Abraham is a Shemite
or Semite. Because he is also a descendant of Eber, he is called a Hebrew (Genesis 11:14-32). The descendants of Shem were located generally in north Syria, that is, the region of the upper part of the Euphrates River, and Mesopotamia, especially the eastern part. See Assyria; Babylon; Canaan; Habiru; Israel; Mesopotamia; Semites.
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.