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Genesis 10:1-32 - Exposition



§ 5. THE GENERATIONS or THE SONS OF NOAH ( CH . 10:1-11:9).

I. THE historical credibility of the present section has been challenged.

1. On account of a fancied resemblance to the ethnographic mythologies of Greece, the genealogical table of the nations has been relegated to the category of fictitious invention. It has been assigned by many critics to a post-Mosaic decried, to the days of Joshua (Delitzsch), to the age of Hebrew intercourse with the Phenician Canaanites (Knobel), to the era of the exile (Bohlen); and the specific purpose of its composition has been declared to be a desire to gratify the national pride of the Hebrews by tracing their descent to the first-born son of Noah, that their rights might appear to have a superior foundation to those of other nations (Hartmann). But the primogeniture of Sham is at least doubtful, if not entirely incorrect, Japheth being the oldest of Noah's sons ( vide Genesis 5:32 ; Genesis 10:21 ); while it is a gratuitous assumption that not until the days of the monarchy, or the exile, did the Israelites become acquainted with foreign nations. The authenticity and genuineness of the present register, it is justly remarked by Havernick, are guaranteed by the chronicler ( Genesis 1:1 ). "In the time of the chronicler nothing more was known from antiquity concerning the origin of nations than what Genesis supplied. Supposing, then, that some inquiring mind composed this table of nations from merely reflecting on the nations that happened to exist at the same period, and attempting to give them a systematic arrangement, how could it possibly happen that his turn of mind should be in such complete harmony with that of the other? This could only arise from the one recognizing the decided superiority of the other's account, which here lies in nothing else than the historical truth itself belonging to it" (Intro; § 17). And the historical truthfulness of the Mosaic document is further strikingly authenticated by the accredited results of modern ethnological science, which, having undertaken by a careful analysis of facts to establish a classification of races, has divided mankind into three primitive groups (Shemitic, Aryan, Turanian or Allophylian), corresponding not obscurely to the threefold arrangement of the present table, and presenting in each group the leading races that Genesis assigns to the several sons of Noah; as, e.g; allocating to the Indo-European family, as Moses has done to the sons of Japheth, the principal races of Europe, with the great Asiatic race known as Aryan; to the Shemitie, the Assyrians, Syrians, Hebrews, and Joktauite Arabs, which appear among the sons of Sham in the present table; and to the Allophylian, the Egyptians, Ethiopians, Southern Arabs, and early Babylonians, which the primitive ethnologist of Genesis also writes among the sons of Ham.

2. The narrative of the building of the tower of Babel has also been impugned, and that chiefly on two grounds: viz.,

II. The literary unity of the present section has been assailed. Tuch ascribes Genesis 10:1-32 . to the Elohist and Genesis 11:1-9 to the Jehovist; and with this Bleek and Vaihinger agree, except that they apportion Genesis 10:8-12 to the Jehovist. Davidson assigns to him the whole of Genesis 10:1-32 ; with the exception of the expression "every one after his tongue" ( Genesis 10:5 ), the similar expressions ( Genesis 10:20 , Genesis 10:31 ), the story of Nimrod commencing at "he began" ( Genesis 10:8 ), Genesis 10:21 , and the statement beginning "for" ( Genesis 10:25 ), all of which, with Genesis 11:1-9 , he places to the credit of his redactor. But the literary unity of the entire section is so apparent that Colenso believes both passages, "the table of nations" and "the confusion of tongues," to be the work of the Jehovist; and certainly the latter narrative is represented in so intimate a connection with the former that it is much more likely to have been composed by the original historian than inserted later as a happy afterthought by a post-exilian editor.

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