A second article from years ago
The advantage the believer has over the non-believer is that we have a book, Genesis, that talks about origins. We do not have to waste out time in scientific study, or historical research to know where we came from and why. Gen. 1 has the origin of the universe and all that is within it. Chapter 2 has the origin of the Sabbath and woman. Genesis 3 has the origin of sin and spiritual judgment and Chapter 4 we have the civil disobedience and civil judgment.
Skipping to Chapter ten, we are now given the origin of the different nations of the world. It is interesting to note the differing amounts between the sons as there was not an equal share:
“Twenty-six of the seventy descended from Shem, thirty from Ham and fourteen from Japheth.”18
No reason is given for such disparity and it really isn’t that significant that we know of, except it is Ham who sins, has his son cursed but ends up with the most nations credited to him.
One of the controversies surrounding this list is that most modern scholars do not know where these nations ended up or who their modern equivalent is and because of this lack of information they are ready to dismiss the scriptures instead of their own lack of knowledge:
“While some of the nations listed are easily identifiable, some remain obscure. Numerous scholars have attempted to identify these unknown nations with varying degrees of success. Due to the archaic nature of the source material, there remains considerable ambiguity”19
We do not have sufficient records which track all people but if we look at near modern or modern examples we might get a clue as to why we lose track of their existence. For the near modern example we only have to look as far as the Olmecs/Mayans/Aztecs to see that the people may have remained the same but their identity had been changed.
“The earliest of the major Meso-American civilizations was the Olmec culture, which is often regarded as the fostering influence behind the Mayan, Aztec, and other later societies”20
The modern example would be the North American Indian. Not longer thought of as different nations or different peoples, they are now identified by the name of the modern nation in which they reside. They are called Canadians or Americans now, not the Iroquois, the Blackfoot, the Sioux, the Apache and so on. Their independent identity is now lost and their records, achievements and history are now folded into North American lore.
So it is not hard to understand that many ancient nations are now lost to us forever plus the simple fact that we just haven’t discovered (dug up) those nations records. One thing we do get from the Biblical list is the specific origins of some of the people who inhabit the earth.
In verse 4 we see that the maritime people arose and it is made clear that each had their own language, then in verse 8 we read of the exploits of Nimrod, and in verse 13 we are given the very specific origin of the Philistines (to remove all doubt about where they started). Finally we are given the exact boundary of Canaan in verse 19.
With this information we have a general idea of the whereabouts of many ancient nations. Then we can turn to the secular records of the different nations throughout the world and get more information as to where these people scattered to. For example the 3rd book of the Popol Vuh has this to say about the Mayan origin:
“Tulan was a place of misfortune to man, for not only did he suffer from cold and famine, but here his speech was so confounded that the first four men were no longer able to comprehend each other. They determined to leave Tulan, and under the leadership of the god Tohil set out to search for anew abode. On they wandered through innumerable hardships. Many mountains had they to climb, and a long passage to make through the sea which was miraculously divided for their journey from shore to shore. At length they came to a mountain”21
Discovering the location of man of these ancient nations is not going to be easy. Names change, records are lost or destroyed, if they are written at all, as is the case of the Aborigines of Australia:
“Aborigines had no written language before contact with Europeans, but have a rich oral history”22
Does it matter if we cannot locate these nations? Is the Bible discredited because their identity and location remain a mystery? No on both counts, for it is an unrealistic expectation to have the Bible list modern versions of the ancient names, when the names listed were the modern version. Also it is not the Bible’s purpose to track all the different nations and their changes. It is sufficient that the Bible lists the origin, for that is what the book of Genesis is all about.
Plus as Keil and Delitzsch state Genesis originates the preparations for the coming Messiah:
“In this respect the genealogies prepare the way for the promise of the blessing, which was one day to spread from the chosen family to all the families of the earth”23
And we can see the consistency of God as He starts in the beginning to reveal His plan and carries it out throughout the whole Bible.
Turning briefly to Genesis 10: 8-12, we come to the story of Nimrod and some commentators feel that the meaning of the name determines his character and personality. It may be so but we are not told anything of the sort in the Biblical account:
“Was “Nimrod” Godly or Evil?
First, what does the name Nimrod mean? It comes from the Hebrew verb marad, meaning “rebel.” Adding an “n” before the “m” it becomes an infinitive construct, “Nimrod.” (see Kautzsch 1910: 137 2b, also BDB 1962: 597). The meaning then is “The Rebel.” Thus “Nimrod” may not be the character’s name at all. It is more likely a derisive term of a type, a representative, of a system that is epitomized in rebellion against the Creator, the one true God. Rebellion began soon after the Flood as civilizations were restored. At that time this person became very prominent.”24
And we have this from Keil and Delitzsch:
“The name itself, Nimrod from dræm;, “we
will revolt,” points to some violent resistance to God.”25
But that is faulty reasoning in and of itself. For that would mean that every person named Paul would be small in stature and humble or that every person named David would be beloved but we know that that just isn’t so, for the latter is the name of many different serial killers and none of them are ‘beloved’. Thus to assume that Nimrod rebelled against
God simply because his name means ‘we will revolt’ is an assumption that should not be made and further evidence is needed.
What we do know about Nimrod is that he was a mighty hunter, a mighty warrior, a builder of cities and a traveler. Since Genesis is a book of origins, probably the only reason Nimrod is mentioned is to provide a clue as to the origin of Sumer(26) or the first organized civilization after the flood.
Other than that one only has questions as to why Nimrod is mentioned at all, but we cannot limit him to just Sumer, for it is mentioned in the next verse that he traveled to Assyria and built more cities their, contributing to the Assyrian society. This would raise a question as to whom came first, Sumer or Assyria.
Though Ch. 11 may provide some clue as the tower of Babel was built in the plain of Shinar after a migration from the west. But this is an investigation for another time. Suffice it to say that it is possible that Nimrod was a rebellious person, that he was the one who started to lead Noah’s descendents astray from God, we cannot be sure as Shem lived 500 years after the flood (11:11) and his influence would have been strong, (also, giving reason for the migration to the east).
The story of Nimrod is an interesting one, its inclusion has a purpose though it is not clear except to show the origin of the people who lived in the land of Shinar and that he was the first conqueror of other lands. The theories abound.
Finally, in Genesis we have a variety of events even in the 3 chapters discussed here, and the theme is a common one. From the creation to the Diaspora, and beyond, the reader is given origin after origin, which, in turn, answers all the questions people have about their own existence.
All one has to do is accept the answers by faith and believe but too often they wish to remain with the questions and seek for their answers in the wrong places because they cannot bring themselves to accept these accounts. They have allowed alternatives to fill the void even though those alternatives do not answer their questions but leave them with more.
Such wastes more time, energy and money but people are stubborn and deceived thus they would rather do the former instead of opting for the simple way. God has spared us much time, and expense by giving us the answers without having to search for them for He knows we have better things to do than be distracted by foolish quests insufficiently answered by incomplete data (historical records).
Genesis may be the book of origins but it is also a book of answers.