The Table of Nations

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The Table of Nations from Genesis 10

What is commonly called the "table of nations" is a list of descendants from Noah's three sons (Japheth, Shem and Ham) found in Genesis 10. This chapter delineates seventy peoples (twenty-six from Shem, thirty from Ham and fourteen from Japheth) who were born after God judged the world for its sins and the floodwaters subsided. The Bible often uses the number 70 to symbolize judgment or a perfect spiritual order. For example, Jacob's family, which totaled seventy, left the land of Canaan to form the nation of Israel within Egypt (Genesis 46:27). Moses was commanded to appoint seventy elders to help him govern Israel (Numbers 11:16 - 17).

It should be noted that the table of nations is not a complete list of all children produced directly after the deluge. In Genesis 11 it states that men such as Arphaxad, Salah, Eber and others had many other male progeny other than what is listed in Scripture (Genesis 11:11, 13, 15, 17, etc.). These men, as well as Noah's sons and others found in the table, also produced daughters who are not specifically named (see Genesis 11).

Noteworthy Descendants

The Bible places special emphasis on the peoples and nations that came out of Shem (whose name means "renown") because, through him, came Abraham, the Israelites and the Messiah. One of his sons, Elam, migrated to a land named after him and started a people who would affect the course of Biblical history. Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, was a powerful leader who led others to victory in the first military campaign mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 14). The people of Elam became the foundation on which the mighty Persian Empire was built (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 6, Section 4).

Shem's son Asshur settled in an area near the Tigris River in northern Mesopotamia. His descendants eventually gave rise to the Assyrian Empire, which is considered the first large power in human history. Shem's grandson Uz has the shortest name in the Bible. The land named after him is the place where Job, who wrote the oldest known Scriptural book, lived (Job 1:1).

What do numbers symbolize in Scripture?

WHY did God kill all nations with a flood?

Map of Canaan at the time of Joshua

Two sons of Joktan (Ophir and Havilah), a son of Cush (Raamah) and one of Raamah's sons (Sheba) lent their names to regions that were anciently renowned for their gold (Genesis 2:11, 1Kings 9:28, Job 28:16, Ezekiel 27:22, etc.).

The land of Canaan (Genesis 10:19), later referred to as Palestine, the promised land, the land of Israel and other designations, was given its name through one of Ham's sons who settled in the area. Sidon, eldest son of Canaan, founded a city on the Mediterranean Sea that was known for its trade, commerce and wealth. The city of Sidon is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited locations in the world. The Jebusites, named after another of Canaan's sons, inhabited the city of Jebus at the time of David (1Chronicles 11:4 - 5). David overtook the city, renamed it Jerusalem, and made it his capital.

Several Bible commentaries (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Bible Reader's Companion, and others) state that some of Kittim's (grandson of Japheth) descendants settled the island of Cyprus. This island was the location where the New Testament apostle named Barnabas grew up (Acts 4:36). One of Kittim's brothers, Dodanim, is believed to have settled in the island of Rhodes (Holman Bible Dictionary). After Christ's millennial reign on the earth the devil will be allowed one last chance to deceive the whole world, which is symbolically referred to as Gog and Magog (Revelation 20:8).

How many humans have existed?

How many total people have ever lived on planet earth? This is an especially interesting question given that on two separate occasions the entire world population consisted of only a few individuals. The Bible teaches that the human race began with two people, Adam and Eve. With incredibly long lifespans and generally good health, the earth's population steadily grew large in the roughly 1,656 years between our first parent's creation and Noah's flood. The deluge, however, reduced the number of living humans to only eight people.

In its discussion of the pre and post-flood world, including the people found in the table of nations, the book "The Biblical Basis for Modern Science" offers a rough estimate of the total number of humans that have ever lived. Written in 1984 and revised in 2002, the book states (based on several factors such as average lifespans and average family sizes) that "over 3 billion people could easily have been on the earth at the time of Noah" (Part 4, Chapter 15, section entitled "Antediluvian Populations"). Lifespans dramatically decreased, however, after the flood, which made population growth slower. That said, the book estimates that the total number of humans who have ever lived is conservatively around 20 billion (ibid, section entitled "Totals since the Beginning"). The estimated world population as of July 2015, according to the CIA Factbook, is roughly 7.25 billion.

Additional Study Materials
How BIG was Noah's Ark?
What great nations sprang from Abraham?
Table of lineage from Adam to England's Queen
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The Table of Nations