Genesis chapter 10

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King James Version

What does Genesis chapter 10 mean?

Genesis 10 is sometimes called the table of nations. It describes the generations that followed from Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, along with the nations that came from them and the regions in which they settled after the Tower of Babel. This chapter is a slightly different take on genealogy; rather than focusing on lineage, this passage defines the boundaries of these different tribes of people. Instead of following a narrow chain of father-son relationships deep into history, this chapter explains a broad network of cousins, following a shallow chain of brotherly relationships. The purpose is to establish the various kingdoms which will come into play later in Genesis.

The first section lists the sons and descendants of Japheth. Japheth's people apparently settled mostly in the lands to the north of the region that would become the Promised Land of Israel.

The second section details the line of Noah's son Ham. The people and nations that come from Ham will become central to Israel's story, as told in the rest of the Bible. Ham's descendants include the peoples who will eventually become Egypt, the great nation that will play a pivotal and ongoing role in Israel's history. Ham's grandson Nimrod (though Cush) will establish the powerful kingdoms of Babylon and Assyria, who will both become enemies of Israel. And the descendants of Ham's son Canaan will eventually be (mostly) driven from the Promised Land by the Israelites.

The final section of the table of nations in chapter 10 describes the descendants of Shem. It is Shem's line that will lead to Abraham and the nation of Israel.

The dispersal of the peoples into separate nations, languages, and tribes will happen after the events surrounding the tower of Babel as described in Genesis 11.
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