What does Genesis 10:20 mean?
ESV: These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.
NIV: These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.
NASB: These are the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, by their lands, and by their nations.
CSB: These are Ham's sons by their clans, according to their languages, in their lands and their nations.
NLT: These were the descendants of Ham, identified by clan, language, territory, and national identity.
KJV: These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations.
Verse Commentary:
This verse wraps up the section describing the lines of Noah's son Ham as they dispersed and established themselves following the events described in chapter 11. Most genealogies in Genesis follow a long, history-spanning line of fathers and sons. The lists given here in chapter 10, however, are meant to be broad. Rather than tracing through time, this "table of nations" shows how the sons of Noah fathered all the tribes and peoples of the ancient world.

Ham's sin against Noah resulted in a curse (Genesis 9:20–25). However, Ham's descendants would become an important people group in the region. Some, in particular the Canaanites, will participate in great wickedness, and God will cause them to be conquered by His people Israel (Deuteronomy 9:3–6). The following verses will describe how the people of Israel will come from the line of Noah's son Shem.
Verse Context:
Genesis 10:6–20 details the descendants of Noah's son, Ham. The majority of these tribes settled in the regions south and east of the Promised Land. While Ham's son Canaan was cursed (Genesis 9:24–25), many of Ham's descendants established powerful nations. One of these is Mizraim, also known as Egypt. Though Canaan's sons were destined to fall to the sons of Shem, other sons of Ham would hold Israel captive for more than 400 years. This passage also contains an interesting aside about one particular man: Nimrod.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 10 is sometimes called the table of nations. It describes, in three sections, the peoples that descended from Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Japheth's people settled mostly to the north of what would be Israel. Ham's people became great nations in the region of the Middle East, including the people that would settle in the Promised Land before Israel drove them out. Shem's line would lead to Abraham and the Israelites.
Chapter Context:
Genesis 9 described events that happened between God, Noah, and his three sons after the flood. Genesis 11 will tell the story of the Tower of Babel and the dispersal of the nations. Between them, Genesis 10 is a table of the nations that come from Japheth, Ham, and Shem after God divides and disperses humanity.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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