Genesis 10: The “Boring” Table of Nations…not!

The list of names in Genesis 10 at first appear rather boring, until you do a linguistic study and realise that every major ethnic/racial group in the world can be directly linked to these names. Consider the following quote from William F. Albright, the 20th century’s Middle-East archaeologist:

“The tenth chapter of Genesis stands absolutely alone in ancient literature, without a remote parallel, even among the Greeks, where we find the closest approach to a distribution of peoples in genealogical framework. The Table of Nations remains an astonishing accurate document.” 

Prof. Kautzsche, says of it:

“The so-called Table of Nations remains, according to all results of monumental exploration, an ethnographic original document of the first rank, which nothing can replace.”

Exactly how old is it? here are some clues:

It is stated that the founders of Babylonian civilization were not Semites but Hamites. This has proved to be correct, but the correctness of this statement has only been vindicated by modern Archaeology. Babylon appears in the archaeological records around 3,000 BC

Elam is said to have been founded by a Semite, yet the Elamites of history (circa 3,000 BC) were not a Semitic people. But a French expedition which excavated Susa, the capital city of Elam, found below the ruins of historical Elam bricks and other remains of an older civilization with Babylonian inscriptions showing the peoples to have been of Semitic stock.

The omissions in this Table of Nations are as significant as the inclusions. Tyre is omitted, Sidon is mentioned. Anyone acquainted with the Old Testament will at once recall how Tyre and Sidon are almost always coupled together as though they were inseparable. But it appears that Tyre was not founded until sometime around 1,300 BC. The omission of the name may be an indication that this document was written somewhere before the thirteenth century.

It may also be noted that the city of Jerusalem is not mentioned either, though one would certainly have expected it to have been if it was written later than 3,000BC

In the matter of dating, it should also be pointed out that although Eber (or Heber) is mentioned (verse 24), from whom it appears Abraham was descended, there is no mention of the latter. It seems impossible to account for this omission except by postulating either an extraordinary divine restraint on the part of the writer, or a date prior to Abraham. In this case, we are back around 2,000 B.C. more or less.

Moreover, Cush is evidently considered still as closely linked with Babylonia. But in later times, the name Cush was reserved for Ethiopia. Although the people from the original Cush probably migrated into Ethiopia via Arabia, it seems that the author of this Table would have stated the relationship in a slightly different way if the Ethiopians were the people he had in mind.

So, there you go, not so boring after all.

Kevin