This chapter contains, the only certain account extant of the original
of nations; and yet, perhaps, there is no nation, but that of the Jews,
that can be confident from which of these seventy fountains (for many
there are here) it derived its streams. Through the want of early
records, the mixtures of people, the revolutions of nations, and
distance of time, the knowledge of the lineal descent of the present
inhabitants of the earth is lost: nor were any genealogies preserved
but those of the Jews, for the sake of the Messiah.
Only, in this chapter, we have a brief account,
Of the posterity of Japheth, ver. 2 - 5.
The posterity of Ham, ver. 6 - 20.
and, in that particular notice taken of Nimrod, ver. 8 - 9.
The posterity of Shem, ver. 23 - 31.
2: Moses begins with Japhet's family, either because he was the
eldest, or because that lay remotest from Israel, and had least concern
with them, at that time when Moses wrote; and therefore he mentions that
race very briefly; hastening to give account of the posterity of Ham,
who were Israel's enemies, and of Shem, who were Israel's
ancestors: for it is the church that the scripture designed to be the
history of, and of the nations of the world only as they were some way or
other interested in the affairs of Israel.
5: The posterity of Japheth were allotted to the isles of the
Gentiles, which were solemnly, by lot, after a survey, divided among them,
and probably this island of ours among the rest. All places beyond the
sea, from Judea, are called isles, (Jer 25:22), and this
directs us to understand that promise, (Isa 42:4),
the isles shall wait for his law, of the conversion of the Gentiles
to the faith of Christ.
8: Began to be mighty on the earth - That is, whereas those that went
before him were content to stand upon the same level with their neighbours,
Nimrod could not rest in this parity, but he would top his neighbours,
and lord over them. The same spirit that the giants before the flood were
acted by, (Ge 6:4), now revived in him; so soon was that tremendous
judgment, which the pride and tyranny of those mighty men brought upon the
9: Nimrod was a mighty hunter - This he began with, and for this
became famous to a proverb. Some think he did good with his hunting, served
his country by ridding it of wild beasts, and so insinuated himself into the
affections of his neighbours, and got to be their prince. And perhaps,
under pretence of hunting, he gathered men under his command, to make
himself master of the country. Thus he became a mighty hunter, a violent
invader of his neighbour's rights and properties. And that, before the
Lord - Carrying all before him, and endeavouring to make all his own by
force and violence. He thought himself a mighty prince; but before the
Lord, that is, in God's account, he was but a mighty hunter.
Note, Great conquerers are but great hunters. Alexander and
Caesar would not make such a figure in scripture history as they do in
common history. The former is represented in prophecy but as a he - goat
pushing, (Da 8:5).
Nimrod was a mighty hunter against the Lord, so the seventy; that
is, he set up idolatry, as Jeroboam did, for the confirming of his
usurped dominion; that he might set up a new government, he set up a new
religion upon the ruin of the primitive constitution of both.
10: The beginning of his kingdom was Babel - Some way or other, he
got into power: and so laid the foundations of a monarchy which was
afterwards a head of gold. It doth not appear that he had any right to
rule by birth; but either his fitness for government recommended him, or by
power and policy he gradually advanced into the throne. See the antiquity
of civil government, and particularly that form of it which lodges the
sovereignty in a single person.
15: The account of the posterity of Canaan, and the land they
possessed is more particular than of any other in this chapter, because
these were the nations that were to be subdued before Israel, and their
land was to become Immanuel's land. And by this account, it appears
that the posterity of Canaan was both numerous and rich, and very
pleasantly seated, and yet Canaan was under a curse. Canaan here
has a better land than either Shem or Japheth and yet they have a
better lot, for they inherit the blessing.
21: Two things especially are observable in this account of the
posterity of Shem.
The description of Shem, (Ge 10:21), we have not only his name,
Shem, which signifies a name; but two titles to distinguish him by.
He was the father of all the children of Eber. Eber was his
great grandson, but why should he be called the father of all his
children, rather than of all Arphaxad's or Salah's? Probably
because Abraham and his seed, not only descended from Heber, but
from him were called Hebrews. Eber himself, we may suppose, was a man
eminent for religion in a time of general apostasy; and the holy tongue
being commonly called from him the Hebrew, it is probable he retained
it in his family in the confusion of Babel, as a special token of God's
favour to him.
He was the brother of Japheth the elder; by which it appears, that
though Shem be commonly put first, yet he was not Noah's first - born,
but Japheth was elder. But why should this also be put as part of
Shem's description, that he was the brother of Japheth, since that
had been said before? Probably this is intended to signify the union of the
Gentiles with the Jews in the church. He had mentioned it as
Shem's honour, that he was the father of the Hebrews; but lest
Japheth's seed should therefore be looked upon as shut out from the
church, he here minds us, that he was the brother of Japheth, not in
birth only, but in blessing, for Japheth was to dwell in the tents of
The reason of the name of Peleg, (Ge 10:25), because, in his
days, (that is, about the time of his birth) was the earth divided
among the children of men that were to inhabit it; either when Noah
divided it, by an orderly distribution of it, as Joshua divided the land
of Canaan by lot, or when, upon their refusal to comply with that
division, God, in justice, divided them by the confusion of tongues.