The Descendant of Ham; Gen. 10:6-20
It is so important to understand the cursing and blessing of the three sons that was generated by Noah if we are to understand this outworking. Japheth has a blessing that he will be enlarged. This enlargement blessing relates two ways: it has a physical dimension and it has an intellectual dimension. It is from the western Europeans that the world is colonized. You don't see any other group after their initial spreading out, as it were, when certain groups ended up in Africa, Asia and India, and having the same kind of geographical dispersion that you do with Japheth. In fact, in Asia there are closed cultures. China and Japan are not reaching out, they are closed off to surrounding civilizations and cultures; but it is the western Europeans who take themselves around the world and they are enlarged. And as they go they take the gospel with them, and they take western civilization. Western civilization is a combination of two things. On the one hand it is a combination of Christianity. This is what made western civilization what it is after the expansion of the early church. But before Christianity there was European paganism under which the most highly developed thought was Greek thought. There was the development of Greek philosophy. In Rome was the development of the concept of law and many other facets that were part of Roman society. These merged with Christianity, so there was the merger of the intellectual with the spiritual. The spiritual comes from Shem because it is through Shem that we had the Jews, the communication of the Old Testament and, of course, our Savior is a Jew. And so Christianity comes about from Shem, and this fulfills the principle of Genesis 9:26, 27, "And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem … God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem..." This tent of Shem is virtually Christianity, our Judeo-Christian heritage. As Japheth takes his intellectual proclivities, which are part of the blessing and his enlargement, under the umbrella of Christianity, this then is the dynamic that changes the world.
Notice in the blessing there is a blessing for Japheth, a spiritual blessing for Shem, but there was no blessing for Ham and there was no cursing for Ham. Only one line that came out from Ham, from Canaan, is cursed. So we see the outworking of that curse in this next section.
There are two sections in this genealogy that comes out from Ham. In vv. 6-14 is the broad view of the Hamitic descendants and how they spread out over the earth. Then the focus is narrowed in v. 15 to one of his sons, Canaan. It is Canaan that is cursed and he will be a servant of servants, according to Noah's curse in Genesis 9:25. So vv. 15-20 will give us the descendants of Canaan.
Now remember you have to put yourself in the place of the Jew. You are with Moses and have come out of Egypt where you have been enslaved for over 400 years to Egyptians. The word for Egypt in Hebrew is Mizraim. Notice that Mizraim is the second son of Ham. So when you read this and see that the sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Phut and Canaan, you immediately think of the fact that you have just come out of bondage to the descendants of Mizraim. Further, you are getting ready to conquer the land of Canaan, and you are going to invade and destroy by divine order all men, women and children who are Canaanites. There would be those who would ask why. What is the justification for this? This is what begins to lay the foundation for God's decision to eradicated the Canaanites from the fact of the earth.
Verse 6, "And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan." Cush is another term for Ethiopia and would probably also include part of modern Sudan. Cush comes up many times in Scripture. There are also descendants of Cush that inhabited parts of Arabia, so it is that area that is south of Egypt. There were other groups of the descendants of Cush who migrated even further east and went though the southern part of Iraq and Iran. Another segment of the descendants of Cush pushed further east into India. It is from Cush that most of Africa descended, as well as certain elements of India. The second son of Ham is Mizraim, from which we have Egypt, and there we have the im Hebrew suffix, and when we see that at the end of a name—e.g. v. 13, "And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim"—these are people groups. So when we see Mizraim with the im plural ending this is not just referring to an individual but to all of his descendants as a people group. Phut is Lybia, to the west of Egypt. Canaan refers to the descendants of Ham who inhabited the area of Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine. It is interesting that when we went through the first five verses of Genesis 10 and looked at the descendants of Japheth we could trace the etymology of those names all the way through history, but when we come to the descendants of Ham none of these names show up in modern usage at all; they have all disappeared. You can find elements of them in ancient history but you can't find the roots of these words showing up anywhere today.
From verse 7 we get a genealogy of Cush. "And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtechah." Of those five sons we know very little. Seba is a tribe in Arabia. Ptolomyin his geography calls them Asabi. From there they spread into Africa. Seba is also related to the term Sheba, and this was located in south west Arabia. This is where the Queen of Sheba derived. Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtechah are all located in southern Arabia. "… and the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan." Dedan is located in northern Arabia.
Verse 8, "And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth." Vv. 8-12 focus on this one individual. Nimrod's name is derived from the Hebrew marad, and this means to rebel. In the form in which Nimrod exists (we put an N at the beginning) as a verb it is a 1st person plural, "we rebel." So Nimrod was probably one of the names that he picked up along the way emphasizing his rebellion against God. Nimrod becomes an interesting character over the span of history. He establishes a kingdom that encompasses Mesopotamia and the whole area of Arabia. Remember that by his generation he is the great grandson of Noah, and so if we compare him, for example, to the descendants of Salah in 11:12 who lives 438 years, they are living around 400 years. So we don't think of him as a man who is living for 60-70 years. His death occurs not long before Abraham. This is the time when he established his kingdom.
Verse 9, "He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said [i.e., this became proverbial in the ancient world], Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD." He is well-known in the ancient world. According to Josephus Nimrod led the people in a rebellion against God and he was teaching people that they owed their happiness to themselves and not to God. He was the first one to introduce a tyrannical form of government. If we think about the ages of these people, that in the first three or four generations off the ark they outlived their great, great grandchildren, they were looked upon as gods. There was a correlation taking place in the ancient world between these great men and their accomplishments. So Nimrod is the one who leads the people in a rebellion against God.
Verse 10, he establishes his kingdom, "And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar." Babel is modern Babylon which is located about 50 miles south west of Baghdad; Erech is located even further south. All of these cities are located along either the Tigris or the Euphrates river between modern Baghdad and the Persian Gulf. The land of Shinar is used to refer to this whole area of the fertile crescent which is modern Iraq. This becomes his kingdom. Out of this kingdom will come this massive rebellion in chapter 11 where man builds the tower of Babel to assert himself against God. According to Josephus, Nimrod's major problem with God was that God wiped out all of their ancestors. So the motivation is to build this huge tower which is called a ziggurat, a Babylonian word, and it will be built so high that they could survive any flood that could come. So Nimrod's name becomes associated with the chief gods in the Babylonian pantheon. The city of Babel becomes the future capital of the Babylonian empire, and the city of Babel and Babylon becomes the counterpoint throughout the Scripture to what God is doing in Jerusalem. And it is the city of Babylon in Revelation 17 & 18 that becomes the headquarters for the Antichrist. But the point we are making now is that this begins in Genesis chapter 10 with the point and counterpoint between Jerusalem as the city of God, known as Salem at the beginning and the ruler of Salem was a king-priest by the name of Melchizedek. The Bible doesn't identify who Melchizedek is, but Josephus tells us, and other ancient Jewish writings identify Melchizedek as Shem, the son of Noah. Shem does not die until Abraham becomes about 125-127 years of age. So Shem lives for many years and there is the possibility that Shem is the one who worships Yahweh, according to Genesis 9:26, and that he is Melchizedek. This is a position that many hold, it can't be stated dogmatically because the Bible doesn't make that identification, but there is a good chance that this is true. So we have this contrast between Babylon which is the city of man, Babylon which pictures all of man's efforts against God—to find peace and stability and happiness apart from God—on the one hand, and Jerusalem on the other; and this conflict between the city of God and the city of man comes to its final fruition at the end of the Tribulation.
Erech was known to the Assyrians and Babylonians as a city of Euruch, and it was a city located on the Euphrates about 50-miles north-west of Ur which was Abram's home town, so it is towards the south-east of Baghdad. Accad was also a major city in the north in Assyria. Sargon I who was a visior of a man named Cish (notice the similarity to Cush). Sargon I founded the dynasty at Agad and some attribute to him the establishment of this capital. Calneh is unknown. There are references to Calneh is Amos 6:2 and Isaiah 10:9 as a city in northern Mesopotamia, but there is no certainty as to its exact location.
Verses 11, 12, "Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city." Nineveh becomes known later on in Jonah when it was the capital of the Assyrian empire in his day. The Assyrian empire represents the other major enemy that Israel dealt with their future. They would be defeated by the Assyrians who would wipe out the northern kingdom of Israel, and the Babylonians who would wipe out the southern kingdom. So there is foreshadowing here as early as 1400 BC. Rehoboth is a Hebrew word meaning city squares or wide spaces of the city. It was somewhere in Assyria, it's location is not known. The city of Calah is not known, but based on Genesis 10:12 it was a formidable city. It was referred to as being in existence during the time of Hammurabi and rebuilt by Shalmanezer I. But by the time we get into the first millennium BC it disappears from history.
In verses 13, 14 we shift from the descendants of Cush to the descendants of Mizraim. "And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim, and Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (out of whom came Philistim,) and Caphtorim." Mizraim is Egypt, and the terms Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim refer to different tribes of the Egyptians. However, it is interesting to note that the modern Lybians trace themselves back to Lehabim as a son of Mizraim. The Naphtuhim were thought to inhabit the area of the delta in the area of lower [elevation/north] Egypt. The Pathrusim were in upper Egypt [elevation/south]. The Casluhim—and then there is a parenthesis); there are not two different groups, Casluhim and Caphtorim, there is one group and that group breaks off into the Philistim and Caphtorim; but what this tells us is the Philistines who are often identified as part for the Greek sea peoples were not Greek. They left from Egypt, migrated up to Crete, and they could have been the early Minoan civilization. In archaeology they discovered that the language of the Minoans is what is called Linear A, and Linear A was not a Greek language. Linear B which came after it was Greek. So it is very possible that that language came from the original Philistines who went to Caphtor. The Philistines are mentioned with Caphtor in Jeremiah 47:4; Deuteronomy 2:23; Amos 9:7. So the Philistines are not Semitic, not Japhethic; they are descendants of Ham. What we see in this grouping of people is no blessing and no cursing, but they are the progenitors of the enemies of Israel.
Verses 15-18, we get the descendants of Canaan. "And Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn, and Heth, and the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite, and the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, and the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad." All of these are located in the general area of what we know as Palestine or modern Lebanon, and they are the enemies of Israel in the land that God has promised to them. Sidon becomes the name of the city that he founds and establishes in ancient Phoenicia. Sidon and Tyre were two major cities along the Mediterranean coast and they became very influential in later years in terms of trade. Heth is the father of the Hittites. The sons of Heth are mentioned in Genesis 23 in association with Abraham's purchase of a burial plot for Sarah and for the family. His descendants also moved to the north into Turkey where they established the Hittite empire. Then in verses 16-18 we have a grouping of different tribes who are descendants of Canaan who have their residence in the promised land. The Jebusites lived in the area of Jerusalem which was eventually conquered by David. The Amorites lived in the northern part of the land but a large segment of Amorites also emigrated into Babyolon around 2000 BC and were responsible for the defeat of the 3rd dynasty of UR, and they established an Amorite dynasty at Babylon. The most powerful Amorite king in the ancient world was Hammurabi. At the time of the Israelite invasion of Canaan in 1400 BC Og of Bashan and Sion Heshbon were Amorite kings. Also the men of Ai are called Amorites. So in many passages Amorite becomes a synonym for the Canaanites. Of the Girgasites, the Hivites, the Arkites very little is known, other than they are Canaanite tribes that inhabited different portions of the land. At the end of verse 18 we read, "…and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad [dispersed]." They were just scattered throughout this area.
Verses 19, 20, "And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha. These are the sons of Ham, after their families [clans], after their tongues [languages], in their countries, and in their nations."