Table of Contents
Part II: A Study of the Names of Genesis
Tbe Descendants ot Shem
IN SPITE of
the fact that in the line of Shem were to follow the Lawgivers,
Prophets, Priests, and Kings with whose history the rest of the
Old Testament is concerned, there is less to say about this part
of the genealogy. One or two points are worth noticing, however,
partly because the authenticity of the Table is supported here
also, and partly because there is particular interest in one
individual, Peleg, who is singled out for special mention, as
Nimrod was in the previous section.
First, we have Elam listed as apparently
the firstborn of Shem. The country named after him to the east
of southern Mesopotamia was for many years believed to have been
settled by people who were clearly not Shemites, and the biblical
statement here was challenged. Subsequent excavations, however,
have shown that the very earliest people to settle here were
indeed Shemites. It is so often true that things appear to stand
against the Word of God at first, but in the end further light
completely vindicates it. The person who accepts it is like a
man who appears to be losing every battle but still enjoys the
absolute assurance of winning the final victory. This is a much
happier position to be in, in the long run, than to be enjoying
apparent victory only to find out in the end that one must lose.
No less an authority than S. R. Driver, (126) although he underscores the fact that in later times
the Elamites were entirely distinct racially from the Shemites
(their language, for instance, being agglutinated), was forced
to admit that "inscriptions recently discovered" seem
to have shown that in very early times Elam was peopled by Shemites.
He could not help but add that the biblical statement probably
originated because Elam was dependent in
126 Driver. S. R., The Book of Genesis,
Westminster Commentaries, Methuen, London, 1904, 3rd edition,
1 of 6
much later times upon
Semitic Babylonia; he assures his readers that "it is very
unlikely" that the original author of Genesis 10 could possibly
have known what we now know. But since Driver's time, further
excavation has provided very strong evidence of direct cultural
links between sorne of the earliest cities in Babylonia and the
lowest strata at Susa, the capital of Elam. (127)
The evidence now seems to indicate
clearly the presence in Mesopotamia in very early times of three
distinct groups of people, the Sumerians (Hamites), the earliest
Babylonians (Shemites), and a group of people whom both Childe
and Mallowen properly refer to as Japhethites (i.e., Indo-Europeans)
. As Childe put it: (128)
From later written records,
philologists deduce the presence of three linguistic groups --
"Japhethites" (known only inferentially from a few
place-names); Semites (speaking a language akin to Hebrew and
Arabic); and the dominant Sumerians.
as presented elsewhere by Childe (129)
reveals that the first people to enter
Mesopotamia came from the East and were not Sumerians, but were
in fact Shemitic EIamites, who founded such early cities as Al-lJbaid
and Jemdet Nasr. These people established themselves first in
the south and gradually spread toward the north, but without
losing the cultural links which take us back to Elam. Childe
then proposes that a second wave of immigrants into Mesopotamia
followed, who this time were not Shemites but Sumerians, i.e.,
E1amites. These people brought new civilizing influences with
them which led to considerable cultural advance, until by the
time of the Uruk period, though still a minority, they had become
the rulers. Meanwllile, further to the north, i.e., in Assyria,
the Shemites continued their slow development until there arose
in the south a man whom Scripture names Nimrod, in the line of
Ham. He established himself as lord of the South and then travelled
up into Assyria, or as Scripture has it, "went forth out
of that land into Asshur and added it to his kingdom." At
the same time he founded a number of cities mentioned in Genesis
10 in connection with Nineveh.
Mallowen emphasizes the distinctions
between these two
127. First observed by E. A. Speiser excavating
at Tepe Gawra in 1927 and reported in Annual of the American
Schools of Oriental Research, vol.9, 1929, p. 22.
128. Childe, V. G., What Happened in History, Pelican
Books, 1948, p.81.
129. Childe, V. G., New Light on the Most Ancient East,
Kegan Paul, London, 1935, pp.133, 136, and 145-146.
dominant types, the Sumerians
and the Akkadians, i.e., the Hamites and Shemites, in this early
period of the country's development. (130) At the same tirne he also underscores the fact that
there was another group, whose existence is well attested on
linguistic grounds. Speiser (131) proposed that name Japhethite for these people, known
very early in the hill country east of the Tigris. They were
noted especially for their fairness of skin. That they did penetrate
southern Mesopotarnia at least in sorne numbers in very early
times has been noted by Campbell Thompson (132) as well as by Speiser.
The general picture, then, although
the details are not as clear as we would wish, nevertheless supports
the implications of Genesis 10, even allowing us to detect reverberations
of the exploits of Nimrod who is otherwise still unidentified.
Someone established a southern ascendency in the north: perhaps
The second thing to notice in this
section of the genealogy is the note about Peleg: "in whose
days the earth was divided." The interpretations of this
brief note has been both broad and interesting. Recently it has
begun to appear that the Pelasgians of antiquity, who were great
sea-going merchants and sometimes pirates, in earliest times
may have received their name from Peleg. Surviving in a multitude
of forms is a determinative appended to many words that has the
effect of converting the word into a patronymic. This appears,
for example, as "-icus" in the word "Germanicus,"
also "-ic" in the word "Britannic," "ski"
in many familiar Russian narnes, possibly "-scans"
in the word "Etruscans," and "scion" in English.
Another one, which is the important point in this context, is
"skoi," placed after the more ancient name "Peleg,"
giving the compound form "Pelegskoi." These are the
"Pelasgians." The Pelasgians are very much of a mystery,
for although they appear to have been quite powerful, it is not
clear where they came from or what happened to them. When the
Thracians descended to the Aegean from the north in the 14th
century B.C., they displaced the Pelasgians from the territory
which they held between the Hebrus and the Strymon. It is curious
to find the Pelasgians occupying a territory adjacent to a river,
the Hebrus, bearing a name so much reminiscent of Eber who, according
to Genesis 10:25, was tlicir father. After
130. Mallowen, M. E. L., "A Mesopotamian
Trilogy," Antiquity, June, 1939, p.161.
131. Speiser, E. A., Mesopotamian Origins, Philadelphia,
132. Thompson, Campbell, in Man, Royal Anthropological
Institute, vol.xxiii, 1923, p.81.
they were displaced,
these people seem to have been swallowed up by the Greek population
with whom they were subsequently confused. Munro says:
The Pelasgic nation ceased to
exist as such and the Ionian name was adopted, probably among
the mixed communities on the Asiatic side.
the Pelasgians were not Greek speaking people, they were the
more readily equated by the Greeks, who tended to lump all foreigners
together, with the Etruscans who were also non-Greeks. Yet they
appear not to have been, in fact, the same people. We have, therefore,
possibly a group of "Eberites" achieving some notoriety
for a time in the early world, only to disappear by being displaced
from their primary settlement and swallowed up in the melee of
people who populated the Aegean area.
Their ancestor, Peleg, received
his name because of an event which has been variously interpreted.
In the Book of Jasher (2:11), which is ascribed to Alcuin and
is very likely spurious, there is an interesting observation
with respect to this man:
It was Peleg who first invented
the hehge and the ditch, the wall and bulwark: and who by lot
divided the lands among his brethren.
Jamieson (134) in his Commentary
believes that the event in view was a formal division of the
earth made by Noah, acting under divine impulse, between his
three sons. It is proposed that further reference to this event
is to be found in Deuteronomy 32:8 and Acts 17:24‹26. Peter
Lange (135) refers
to a work by Fabri entitled, "Origin of Heathenism,"
dated 1859, in which the author interprets the expression as
having reference to a catastrople which violently split up the
earth into its present continental masses. (136) This was, of course, long before Wegener, Taylor,
and Du Toit published their ideas on the subject of Continental
Drift, a subject currently very much alive.
One more word about Peleg: In the
International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia reference
is made to a Babylonian geographic fragment (80-6-17, 504) which
has a series of ideographs
133. Munro, J. A. R., "Pelasgians and
lonians" in a communication in American Journal of Archaeology,
Apr.-June, 1935, p.265.
131. Jamieson, R., Commentary Critical, Experimental and Practical
on the Old and New Testament, vol.1, Genesis-Dueteronomy,
Collins, Glasgow, 1871, p.118.
131. Lange, Peter, Commentay on Genesis, Zondervan, no
136. Custance, Arthur, Doorway Paper No. 56, "When the Earth
was Divided". Not included in The Doorway papers Series.
tentatively read out
as Pulukku, perhaps a modified form of Peleg. This is followed
by the words "Sha ebirti," which could either signify
"Pulukku who was of Eber," or it could be a composite
phrase "Pulukku-of-the-Crossing." Conceivably a settlement
of Pelegites was established on the river at a fordable point,
this river afterwards receiving the name Hebrus. Whatever the
truth of the matter, the word "Peleg" seems somehow
to have come down to us also through Greek in the form "pelagos,"
meaning "sea." If there is a real connection this might
suggest a further idea, namely, that the "division"
took place when men began to migrate for the first time by water.
The phrase "the earth was divided" would be interpreted
to mean "the peoples of the earth were divided," i.e.,
This is speculative indeed, yet
on the whole one has the impression that "Peleg" was
important enough to have his name retained in various forms which
reflect the brief note which appears in Genesis 10.
A word should now be said about
the sons of Joktan, thirteen in all, every one of whom appears
to have settled in Arabia, chiefiy in the south. Almodad is perhaps
traceable to Al Mudad; Sheleph, in Yemen represented by Es Sulaf,
and perhaps being the Salapeni of Ptolemy; Hazarmaveth, today
Hadramaut; Jerah, adjoining the latter, being possibly found
in the name of a fortress, Jerakh; Hadoram, represented by the
Adramitae in Southern Arabia, mentioned by Pliny and Ptolemy;
Uzal, which is probably the old name of the capital of Yemen;
Diklah, a place of some importance in Yemen, known as Dakalah;
Obal, preserved perhaps in several localities in south Arabia,
under the name Abil; Abimael is completely unidentified; Sheba
might suggest the Sabeans; Ophir, perhaps represented by Aphar,
the Sabaean capital of which Ptolemy speaks under the name Sapphara
(Geog. 6.7) and which is possibly modern Zaphar; Havilah, the
district in Arabia Felix, known as Khawlan; and Jobab, usually
identified with the Jobarites mentioned by Ptolemy among the
Arabian tribes of the south, and which it is suggested was misread
by him as Iobabitai, instead of an original Iobaritai.
The first boundary referred to
in Genesis 10:30 perhaps refers to Massa (see Genesis 25:14),
a northern Arabian tribe, about midway between the Gulf of Akaba
and the Persian Gulf. On the other hand, there is a seaport called
Mousa, or Moudza, mentioned by Ptolemy, Pliny, Arrian and other
the place mentioned here. This was a town of some importance
in classical times, but has since fallen into decay, if the modern
"Mousa" is the same place. Gesenius, from the latitude
given by Ptolemy, places Mesha at Maushid, on the west coast
of Yemen. If the latter is correct, then the second geographical
locality is perhaps to be found in Sephar, a mount of the east,
which is to be understood as being the Sipar, listed along with
Elam and Susa, mentioned in a text found at Susa. This note in
Genesis 10 would then mean that the thirteen sons of Joktan settled
between these two points, and the location of Ophir would seem
to be settled within the peninsula, not at the mouth of the Indus
as some have thought.
There have been many occasions
in the above remarks to observe what is only to be expected of
this very early date, namely, the proximity to one another of
representatives of the three branches of Noah's farmily. It is
not to be thought for one moment that Shemites, Hamites, and
Japhethites each went their own way without intermarriage and
subsequent intermingling. It should not, therefore, surprise
one to find in this Table that the same name may reappear in
two different sections of Noah's family. Thus we read of two
people named Sheba, one in verse 7 as a son of Cush and one in
verse 28 as a son of Joktan. Rawlinson (137) explains how linguistic evidence demonstrates the
early existence of at least two races in Arabia: "one, in
the northern and central regions, Semitic, speaking the tongue
usually known as Arabic; and another in the more southern regions,
which is non-Semitic, and which from the resemblance of its language
to the dialects of the aboriginals of Abysinnia, the descendants
of ancient Ethiopians, deserves to be called Ethiopian or Cushite."
This is not a case of erroneous duplication, therefore, but an
indirect confirmation of the truthfulness of the record, since
it would have been even more surprising if, at that tirne, there
had been no such name-sharing among the different families.
Thus far, then, what evidence we
do have bearing directly upon this ancient Table of Nations consistently
tends towards its vindication as a document which is both etymologically
sound and historically of great irmportance.
137. Rawlinson, G., The Origin of Nations,
Scribners, New York, 1878, p.209.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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