The Table of Nations, Genesis 10

These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.” – Genesis 10:32

You may read Genesis 10 here: Gateway Bible

The title “table of nations” is given because it tracks the connected beginnings of several people groups, all descendants of Noah’s three sons.

Chapters 10 and 11 record the division of nations that develop into individual cultures. The Tower of Babel described in chapter 11 is first referenced in chapter 10 with Noah’s descendants separating into nations.

Noah’s Descendants


Japheth (10:1-5)

This is the shortest section and lists fourteen of Japheth’s descendants that split into two groups. The group that settled in Europe became the coastline people that the apostle Paul later shared the Gospel with. The other group landed in India (Asia Minor). Bible nations that formed from Japheth are the Greeks, Thracians, and Scythians.

Ham (10:6-20)

Ham’s descendants settled in Canaan, Egypt, and the rest of Africa. Other Bible nations carved from Ham include the Philistines, Hittites, and Amorites.

The Canaanites played a significant role in Israel’s future history. Because Ham’s descendants were still in conflict with the original readers of this letter, they (readers) found this history important.

Shem (10:21-32)

The Bible nations that emerged from Shem (Semites) are the Hebrews, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Persians, and Syrians. Although Shem was older, his offspring is mentioned last because his offspring dominates the remaining recorded history in Genesis.

Shem’s genealogy splits with Eber’s sons (10:25). The word Hebrew originates from Eber. The Hebrews are later called the Israelites (beginning with Abraham’s grandson, Jacob) and Jews (descendants of Jacob’s son, Judah). David and Jesus both descended from Shem.

Noah’s Sons, Genesis 9:18-28

The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth, (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth. Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.” – Genesis 9:18-21

(You may read the entire section here: Gateway Bible.)

This section darkly contrasts to the previous section of God’s grace and colorful rainbow. It’s sad to find Noah—the great hero of faith—in this scenario. But perhaps this scene is included in Scripture as a reminder that even godly people can fall to sin and its disastrous consequences.



The word translated uncovered in this text means “to be disgracefully exposed.” Ham makes no attempt to preserve his Dad’s dignity when seeing him like this. In fact, some scholars say the verb used to describe Ham seeing Noah portrays a nasty punch: “He gazed with satisfaction”.

Unlike Ham’s bold delight in gloating over Noah’s shame, his brothers Shem and Japheth honor their Dad by walking in backwards and covering him. In doing so, they win Noah’s approval and God’s blessing (9:23). Japheth is blessed with an extended territory and a large number of descendants (9:26-27) for protecting Noah. Japheth would also find protection in Shem’s tents.

But not Ham.

When Noah learns of Ham’s actions, he curses Canaan (Ham’s son): “The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers” (vs. 25). The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “This verse has been wrongfully used to support racial prejudice and slavery. Noah’s curse, however, wasn’t directed toward any particular race, but rather at the Canaanite nation—a nation God knew would become wicked.”

Verse 18, which speaks of Ham as Canaan’s father, was especially relevant to Moses’ original audience regarding Ham’s descendants. For it set the stage for the Israelite story under Moses’ leadership. The book of Joshua shows the fulfillment of this curse when the Israelites finally enter the promised land and drive out the Canaanites.

The end of chapter 9 records Noah’s lifetime after the flood, 350 years, and his total lifetime: 950 years.

The Rainbow Covenant, Genesis 9:8-17

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” – Genesis 9:8-11

God’s promises to Noah covered several items concerning responsibilities of Noah and his descendants, but the word “covenant” is first used in Genesis 6:18.

Covenant means “a binding promise”.

Alongside God’s judgment of the devastating flood is a promise. No doubt, God’s repetitive promises brought great hope to Noah and his family who had experienced great stress through the flood. (Click on Chiastic Structure of Gen. 9:8-17 to view the pattern of this Scripture, with the main point placed in the middle.)

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“Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. . . . This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” – Gen. 9:11-13

Layman’s Bible Commentary observes: The Hebrew word for rainbow is also the word for a battle bow. The point seems to be that the bow is now put away, hung in place by the clouds, suggesting that the storm is over.

God’s special sign is a beautiful reminder to both Him and to us: There would never again be a universal flood.

I like Henry Morris’ observation in The Genesis Record: The rainbow demonstrates most gloriously the grace of God. The pure white light from the unapproachable holiness of His throne (1 Tim. 6:16) is refracted, as it were, through the glory clouds surrounding His presence (1 Kings 8:10, 11), breaking into all the glorious colors of God’s creation. In wrath, He remembers mercy. The glory follows the sufferings; and where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!

Three Other Rainbow Appearances in Scripture

Morris also points out that the rainbow reappears only three more times in Scripture. The first two cases paint a picture of expected judgment and suffering, but they are limited judgment and suffering. We also see God’s grace, which rules over all.

  1. Ezekiel 1:28 – The rainbow surrounds God’s throne as He prepares to judge His people Israel.
  2. Revelation 4:3 – The rainbow surrounds God’s throne again. This time preceding the Great Tribulation.
  3. Revelation 10:1 – This verse speaks of a mighty angel, which is Jesus Christ Himself. He pronounces “seven thunders” of judgment. And instead of wearing a crown of thorns when Jesus bore sin’s curse for us, there will be “a rainbow above His head” as He comes to claim dominion over the world.

God never changes (Psalm 55:19). He is faithful; His promises are sure (Numbers 23:19). Which promises of God do you need to remember today?

Bite Into A Chiastic Sandwich (Genesis 8:15-9:7)

In my last post, Chiastic Structures, I shared my discovery of Chiasms in the Bible.

A quick review of a chiasm: Repetition of similar ideas in the reverse sequence, put together much like a sandwich with the meat (main idea) in the middle.

2ec030e9692958b3b3fd8d0ff77da859The Chiastic Sandwich of Genesis 8:15-9:7

You may view this chiasm in a Word document here: Chiastic Structure of Gen. 8:15-9:7.

Okay, I’m reverting back to the American linear approach with the main idea first (meat of the sandwich); the bread second, and the condiments last.

The Meat/Main Idea:


God keeps His promises (Nehemiah 1:5).

God smelled the soothing aroma of Noah’s sacrifice and declared three promises (8:21-22). In response to Noah’s obedience and grateful sacrifice, God speaks openly to Noah (9:1-17), which includes the great Noahic covenant for post-flood mankind.

Covenant—a binding promise—is a common theme throughout Scripture, initiated by God with His people. The first covenant mentioned in the Bible is found in Gen. 6:17-18.

What are the three promises God declares?

  1. “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.”
  2. “Never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”
  3. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

The Bread/First and Last Points

(1a, 2a) “Be fruitful and multiply” (8:15-19; 9:7).

God renews the mandate given to Adam with Noah: Repopulate the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). In this sense, we are all related.

The Mayo & Mustard/Second and Second to Last Points

  • (1b) Noah blessed God by offering the lifeblood of an animal sacrifice (8:20).
  • (2b) God blessed Noah; instructions of lifeblood concerning animals and men (9:1-6).

God instructs Noah on setting up a government system, emphasizing justice and the regard of the sacredness of God’s divine image stamped on man. Because we are made in God’s image, He considers man’s blood—representing life—even more sacred than animals.

God also gives Noah the okay to eat animals for food with the restriction of draining the animal’s blood first (9:4-5).

What is so significant about lifeblood?

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11).

The Old Testament sacrifices were temporary and figurative, pointing towards God’s ultimate sacrifice of His beloved Son: Jesus Christ, the Lamb who “now once in the end of the world hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” (Heb. 9:26).


Yes, I know. School’s out for the summer. Yes, I know. Most of you believe you’re no longer in school. But we’re all in this school of life together. And besides, this homework is fun!

Your assignment:

  1. Make a sandwich. So you’ve already eaten lunch or dinner, how about a dessert sandwich like S’mores?
  2. In the process, recall the themes in this chiastic structure (Genesis 8:15-9:7): the bread (first and last points), the condiments (the second and second to last points), and the meat (central point).
  3. Eat and enjoy your real sandwich (or S’more).
  4. Digest . . . . How are you going to apply these truths to your life this week?
  5. Have a terrific week! 🙂

Chiastic Structures (Genesis 8:15-9:17)

The Bible is more than just great stories with wonderful prose and poetry – it is personal instructions from our loving God who sometimes speaks in unexpected ways.” – Thomas B. Clarke
(Author of Joshua’s Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Chiasms of Joshua)

I’ll be honest. This section in Genesis has thrown me for a loop.

It’s not the comprehension, but the structure of this passage that feels scattered to me: similar themes repeated, but in random order, kind of like a math pattern. (Math has always been a challenge for me.)

How Lord, I asked, can I organize this section without messing up the order. . . . Is there an order?

And then my husband told me about the chiastic structure of Matthew that our pastor taught one Sunday when I was gone. After looking up chiastic structure, I realized, there is an order to this passage! But it’s nonlinear, not in the kind of sequence I’m used to. And, I learned, the Bible is full of chiastic structures.

What is a Chiasm?

A quick definition: A chiasm is a repetition of similar ideas in the reverse sequence.

Chiastic structure is a literary structure used in the Torah, the Bible, and some other works. Concepts or ideas are placed in a pattern for special emphasis, such as ABC….CBA, with the main point in the middle, (much like a sandwich). This structure often places the same concept at the first and at the last, the second concept also appears second to last, etc.

Chiasm Structure in Gen. 6:10-9:19 (Source:

Chiasm Structure in Gen. 6:10-9:19

So now you’ve been forewarned. This post strays from my usual linear approach. But I thought this was a neat discovery, another proof of the power and beauty of God’s inspired Word.

You may open the following Word Documents to see more chiasms in this Genesis section: 

Chiastic Structure of Gen. 8:15-9:7

Chiastic Structure of Gen. 9:8-17

For more on chiasms in the Bible see: What is a Chiasm?

Next week I’ll pick apart these chiasm sandwiches. 🙂 Have a great Fourth of July weekend!