Genesis chapter 10 marks the beginning of a new section or “book” with the words “these are the generations of…” In this case it is the record of the generations of Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. This is a remarkable chapter. As scholars of the ancient world have pointed out, there simply is no other record from the ancient world addressing the spread of the human population. This may be due to the fact that the pagan religions of the ancient world were composed of regional or national or ethnic deities. Their interest therefore rarely reached beyond their own narrow borders or ethnic identities. In sharp contrast, the Bible underscores the universality of Yahweh. He is the Almighty Creator and the earth and everything in it belongs to him.
In chapter 10 we are once again reminded of the unity of the human family. For all of our differences we flow from the same spring. Paul preached this very truth to the philosophers in Athens: “And he made from one man every nation of mankind…” (Acts 17:26). As Derek Kidner has written, “Not every nation known to the Old Testament is enrolled here, but enough are present to make the point that mankind is one, for all its diversity, under the one Creator” (104).
The Bible has no parallel in ancient literature with its interest in dates, names, and events. There is in the Bible a regular effort to help its hearers discern between the myths of the pagans and the true Word of God which locates its claims in history. Thus, the whole chapters devoted to names and dates are crucial to understanding the Bible’s uniqueness among other ancient writings and its historical trustworthiness.
This attention to historical detail and the development and spread of the nations also points to God’s redemptive purpose to save a vast number of sinful humanity. The glory and worth of God demands to be recognized and enjoyed by far more than one nation or people. The goodness and greatness of God must be and will be recognized and reveled in by the vast company of a new humanity made whole in Jesus Christ.
The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1)