The Table of Nations: A Unique Document
FOR SOME people genealogies are fascinating things. For anyone who has roamed widely and deeply in history, they serve somewhat the same purpose as maps do for those who have roamed widely and deeply over a country. The historian pores over the genealogy as the traveller pores over his map. Both provide insights into relationships and a kind of skeletal framework about which to hang much else that has stirred the imagination. As Kalisch observed, (3) “The earliest historiography consists almost entirely of genealogies: they are most frequently the medium of explaining the connection and descent of tribes and nations,” and inserting where appropriate brief historical notes such as those relating to Nimrod and Peleg in Genesis 10. Maps, too, have such little “notes.”
Although the genealogies of the Bible are apt to be treated with less respect than the more strictly narrative portions, they are nevertheless worthy of careful study and will be found to provide unexpected “clues to Holy Writ.” Genesis 10, “The Table of Nations,” is certainly no exception.
But opinions have differed very widely as to its value as a historical document. Its value in other respects, for example, as an indication of how strongly its author was aware of the true brotherhood of man — a most exceptional circumstance in his own day ï¿½ is admitted universally. By contrast, disagreement about its historical worth is not lirnited to liberal versus evangelical writers but exists equally sharply between writers within these opposing camps. To take two representative opinions from
3 Kalisch, M. M., A Historical and Critical Commentary on the Old Testament, Longmans, Brown, Green, London, 1858, p.235.
the ranks of very liberal scholars of half a century ago, we may quote Driver who wrote: (4)
It is thus evident that the Table of Nations contains no scientific classification of the races of mankind. Not only this, however, it also offers no historically true account of the origin of the races of mankind.
And over against this, we have the opinion of the very famous Professor Kautzsch of Halle who wrote: (5)
The so-called Table of Nations remains, according to all results of monumental explorations, an ethnographic original document of the first rank which nothing can replace.
Among Evangelicals, however, the divergence of opinion tends to be not over the historicity of this ancient Table, but rather over its comprehensiveness. The question raised is whether we are really to understand that Scripture intends to signify that this genealogy supplies us with the names of the progenitors of the whole of the world’s present population, including the Negroid and Mongoloid racial groups: or whether it provides only a summary statement of the relationships of those people who were known to the writer personally or by hearsay. At the same time, there is little disagreement among Evangelicals as to the basic fact that all men, none excepted, are to be traced back ultimately to Adam.
In this chapter, it is proposed to consider the Table as a whole with respect to its value, importance, and uniqueness among similar ancient records; and to examine its structure and its date.
This will be followed in the second chapter by a careful survey of one branch of the race, the Japhethites, the object being to show how reasonable the record is where we have sufficient information to assess it in detail. The assumption one might properly make on the basis of this study is that the rest of the Table would prove equally authentic and illuminating of ethnological history, if we had available the same amount of detailed information regarding the identity of the names recorded as we have of the family of Japheth.
In the third chapter, we shall explore the evidence from contemporary literature that unintentionally supports the implication
4 Driver, S. R., The Book of Genesis, Westminister Commentaries, 3rd. edition, Methuen, London, 1904, p.114.
5 Kautzsch, Prof., quoted hy James Orr, “The Early Narratives of Genesis,” in The Eundamentals, vol.1, Biola Press, 1917, p.234.
of Scripture: that, all peoples of the world having been derived from the fami]y of Noah, wherever people are found in the world they must ultimately have migrated from the place where the Ark is said to have ,grounded; and that this assumption must apply equally to historic as well as to prehistoric man. In other words, here is the Cradle of Mankind, and here is the focal point of all subsequent dispersion of all who belong within the species Homo sapiens.
Our conclusion is that this Table of Nations is a unique and priceless document which makes a justifiable claim of comprehensiveness for the whole human race, and supplies us with insights into the relationships of the earliest people known to us, which would be quite lost to us but for Genesis 10.
Opinions regarding the value of this Table vary enormously. In 1906, James Thomas, (6) in what he is pleased to call a critical inquiry, says simply, “It is certain that the entire list is valueless”! The famous S. R. Driver is not quite so devastating in his pronouncements, yet the final effect of his words is much the same. In his commentary on Genesis, he says, (7)
The object of this Table is partly to show how the Hebrews supposed the principle nations known to them to be related to each other, partly to assign Israel, in particular, its place among them. . . .
The names are in no case to be taken as those of real individuals. . . .
The real origin of the nations enumerated here, belonging in many cases to entirely different racial types — Semites, Aryans Hittites, Egyptians ï¿½ must have reached back into remote prehistoric ages from which we may be sure not even the dimmest recollections could have beeh preserved at the time when the chapter was written. The nations and tribes existed: and imaginary ancestors were afterwardls postulated for the purpose of exhibiting pictorially the relationship in which they were supposed to stand towards one another.
An exactly parallel instance, though not so fully worked out, is afforded by the ancient Greeks. The general name of the Greeks was Hellenes, the principle sub-divisions were the Dorians, the Aeolians, the Ionians, and the Achaeans; and accordingly the Greeks traced their descent from a supposed eponymous ancester Helen, who had three sons, Dorus and
6 Thomas, James, Genesis and Exodus as History, Swan Sonnenschein 1906, p.144.
7 Driver, S. R., The Book of Genesis, Westminister Commentaries, 3rd. edition, Methuen, London, 1904, p.112.
Aeolus, the supposed ancestors of the Dorians and Aeolians, and Xuthus, from whose two sons, Ion and Achaeus, the Ionians and Achaeans were respectively supposed to be descended.
This excerpt from the work of Driver opens up a number of questions. To begin with, in view of the steadily increasing respect which is being accorded to ancient traditions, it may very well be that the parallel which this learned author has rather cynically proposed, far from being a testimony against the Table, may in fact be a witness in its favour. The Greek counterpart may not be an invention of some early historian at all, but may be a statement of fact. After all, people do not ordinarily invent ancestors for themselves. Names of progenitors are of very great importance to any people who have little or no written history, for such names are the pegs upon which they hang the great events of their past.
A further assumption is made by Driver which is equally unjustified: this is to the effect that the compiler of this Table was writing a kind of fictional history with the deliberate intent of giving his own people, the Israelites, an antiquity equal to that of the great nations around them. Since, as we shall see, the Table certainly does not on its face bear any evidence of being written for propaganda purposes, Driver appears to be reading more into the record than is justified. It is rather like setting up a straw man in order to be able to demolish him with scholarly verbosity.
A third point is ï¿½ and this is a very important issue ï¿½ that Driver supposes the only source of information which the writer had was his own fertile imagination and the traditions current in his time ï¿½ ignoring entirely the possibility that God had providentially taken care to ensure that all the information necessary for compiling this Table should be preserved by one means or another. One only has to make what is, after all, a reasonable assumption for a Christian, namely, that God had a specific purpose for the inclusion of such a Table of Nations at this point in the writing of Holy Scripture. Part, at least, of this purpose is clear enough and will be examined subsequently.
But Driver’s opinion about the value and importance of the document has not been shared by later writers who lived long enough to witness the enormous expansion of our knowledge of early Middle East history resulting partly from linguistic studies, partly from archaeology, and more recently still from the findings
of physical anthropologists, who are recovering some important lines of migration in “prehistoric” times.
Before giving consideration to these findings, it may be worthwhile pointing out that the value of a document may change with time, so that it does not become more valuable or less valuable, but rather valuable in an entirely new way. There is a sense in which Genesis 10 retains its unique worth as the first document to proclaim the unity of Man, just as the Magna Charta was the first document to proclaim the equality of Man. To say, as Thomas did, that the document is valueless, is to betray an extraordinary narrowness of vision, by making the assumption that the only value a document can have is its use as a source of information for the historian. Historical veracity is one kind of value, but there are other values.
It should not for one moment, however, be supposed by this statement that we are relinquishing the historicity of this chapter in order to establish its value on another footing. The fact is, as we shall try to show, that wherever its statements can be sufficiently tested, Genesis 10 has been found completely accurate — often where, at one time, it seemed most certainly to be in error. This process of steady vindication has served to establish for it a second kind of value, namely, that like every other part of Scripture which has similarly been challenged and vindicated by research, it now contributes its testimony to the dependability of these earlier portions of Genesis, upon the truth of which hangs so much else of our faith.
Moreover, it is very difficult to conceive of the record of Genesis, which carries the thread of history from Adam until well into those ages supplied with monumental documents, without some kind of Table to set forth what happened to Noah’s family and how the rest of the world, apart from the Middle East, came to be peopled after the Flood. The Table thus becomes an essential part of Scripture in its earliest portions, not merely lor the satisfying of our natural curiosity, but to establish the fact that all men are of one blood, the offspring of the first Adam, and redeemable by the blood of one Man, the Second Adam.
The Table thus serves three purposes. It supplies an essential chapter in the early record of Genesis, rounding out what happened as the world’s population expanded. It joined the whole human race in a single family without giving the least suggestion that any one particular branch of this family had
pre-eminence over another ï¿½ a notable achievement. Finally, as a purely historical document, it has provided insights into the relationships between peoples that are only now becoming obtainable by other means, thereby adding its testimony to the dependability of the Genesis record.
Of the first of these achievements, Dillmann had this to say: (8)
Egyptians and Phoenecians, Assyrians and Babylonians, even Indians and Persians, had a certain rmeasure of geographical and ethnological knowledge, before more strictly scientific investigation had been begun among the classical peoples. From several of these, such as the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians, surveys or enumerations of the peoples known to them and attempts at maps have come down to us in the written memorials they have left behind. But not much attention was paid, as a rule, to foreigners unless national and trade interests were at stake. Often enough they were despised as mere barbarians, and in no case were they included with the more cultured nations in a higher unity.
It is otherwise in our text. Here many with whom the Israelites had no sort of actual relationship are taken into consideration. . . .
We are apt to be so familiar with the idea of the brotherhood of man, that we assume it to be a concept accepted by all races at all times throughout history. Occasionally we observe in our own selves a certain hesitancy in according other nations who do not share our cultural values the full measure of humanness which we accord to members of our own society. Such feelings, however, are apt to be as much concealed as possible, since the proper thing nowadays is to support the heroic assumption that “all men are equal.” But there are times when we can give vent to our true feelings in the rnatter, as for example when we are at war. If the writer of the tenth chapter of Genesis was a Hebrew, it is likely that, for him, the Canaanites were a particularly despised and degraded subsection of the human race, whose status would tend to be put very low in the scale. We have an analogy in the status accorded to the Jewish people by the Nazis. To many Germans at that time, the Jews were not really human beings at all. It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that in this Table of Nations the Canaanites are given equal standing in the pedigree of man with the descendants of Eber, among whom the Jewish people are numbered.
8 Dillmann, A., Genesis: Critically and Exegetically Expounded, vol.1, T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1897, p.314.
In his commentary, Kalisch (9) points out that even the curse of Canaan seerns to have been forgotten, and no slightest hint of it appears in the record to remind the reader. On the contrary, no other tribe is enumerated with such complete detail as that of Canaan (verses 15-19). As this learned writer says, “Nothing disturbs the harmony of this grand genealogy.”
In the face of this, it is really rather extraordinary that Driver slrould consider the document as, in one way, a piece of Jewish propaganda.
One further point is worth mentioning. When a civilization reaches a very high level of development, there may come a clearer recognition that all men are blood brothers. However, in a very small, closely knit community struggling to establish itself, there may tend to be a very different attitude. Among most primitive people the habit is to refer to themselves (in their own language, of course) as “true rnen,” referring to all others by some term which clearly denies to them the right to manhood at all. Thus the Naskapi call themselves “Neneot,” which means “real people.” The Chukchee say that their name rneans “real men.” The Hottentots refer to themselves as “Khoi-Khoi” which means “rnen of men.” The Yahgan of Tierra del Fuego (of all places) say that their name means “men par excellence.” The Andamanese, a people who appear to lack even the rudiments of law, refer to themlselves as “Ong,” meaning “Men.” All these people reserve these terms only for themselves. It is a sign of a low cultural state when this attitude is taken, but then, when a people hold the opposite attitude, it is likely a sign of a high cultural state. Thus when any people achieve a stage of intellectual development at which they clearly conceive that all men are related in a way which assures them equality as human beings, they are then highly cultured, even though the mechanics of their civilization may appear at a low stage of development. From this we ought logically to gather that the writer of Genesis was a highly cultured individual. Indeed, it seerns to me that only with a high conception of God would such a conception of man be possible, and therefore Genesis 10 would seem to bear testirnony to a very high order of religious faith. In the final analysis, one might ask whether it is possible at all to sustain a true conception of the equality of man without also a true conception of the nature of God. The former stems directly frorn the latter. The only ground for attaching to all rnen an equal
9 Kalisch, M. M. A Historical and Critical Commentary on the Old Testament, Longmans, Brown, Green, London, 1858, p.234.
>level of worth is the tremendous fact that all souls have equal value to God. Assuredly they do not have equal value to society.
Unless the ultimate standard of reference is the value which God attaches to persons, it is quite unrealistic to talk about all men being equal. Consider the drunken sot, wallowing in the gutter, poisoning the air with his foul language, utterly confusing his children, destroying his family life, disgusting his friends, disturbing his whole society — how can such a man possibly be of equal value with, for example, a pillar of the community who is full of neighbourly goodness? Clearly, there is no equality here if the basis of evaluation is man with man, or man with his society.
Any society which evaluates its members by their worth to itself is not attaching value to the individual person at all, but only to his functions. When these functions no longer serve a useful purpose, the man ceases to have any value. This was Nietzsche’s philosophy ï¿½ and Hitler’s. It is the logical philosophy of anyone who views man apart from God. It is our modern philosophy of education, emphasizing skill and technology, encouraging men to do rather than be well. Against this tendency of natural man to “de-valuate” himself while supposing he is exalting himself, the Bible could not do anything else than set forth in clear terms these two complementary facts: that God is concerned equally with all men and that all men belong to one family, uniquely related through Adam to God Himself. The argument, so stated, is an argument also for the comprehensiveness of the Table of Genesis 10. Unless it is comprehensive, unless ultimately all mankind is in view here, and not just those nations which Israel happened to have cognizance of, it is a chapter out of keeping with its context. Unless the whole race is intended, the chapter’s purpose is in doubt and the message of the Bible is incomplete. We are left only with Acts 17:26 which, at this point while assuring our hearts, does not enlighten our minds as to the fact that it gives.
There is a negative side also to the matter of the authenticity of this historical document. Had this Table been designed for propaganda purposes (to establish Israel’s position as of equal dignity though not sharing some of the glories of the surrounding peoples) or had it been merely the work of some early historian creating his own data with a comparatively free hand, then almost certainly some device would have been adopted for deliberately setting forth not only the high status of his own
ancestors, but the very low status of that of his enemies. With respect to the first tendency, one has only to read modern history books to discern how very easily individuals of little real significance can be presented to us in such a way as to make us take enormous pride in our heritage. There is, in fact, very little written history which is not in part propaganda, although the author himself is often unaware of it. The number of “firsts” claimed by some national historians for their countrymen is quite amazing, and it is usually clear what the nationality of the author himself is. In complete contrast, it would be difficult to prove with certainty of what nationality the author of Genesis 10 was. We assume he was a Hebrew. bult if the amount of attention given to any particular line that is traced were used as a clue to his identity, he might have been a Japhethite, a Cannanite, or even an Arab. This is remarkable and shows enormous restraint on tlre author’s part, the kind of restraint which suggests the hand of God upon hirn.
With respect to the second tendency, the belittling of one’s enernies, this chapter most assuredly would hlave been a wonderful one in which to put the hated Amalekites in their proper place. But the Arnalekites are not even mentioned. Of course, it might be argued that the Arnalekites did not even exist at the tirne he wrote, a supposition which I consider highly probable. If this is the case, this is a very early document, not a later one as Driver wouldl have had us believe. In any case, the author could have treated the Canaanites similarly.
One further aspect of the tone of the Table is the modesty of its chronological claims. Whereas the Babylonians ancl Egyptians in the “parallels” ?vEicll they have preserved for tlS extend tileir genealogies to absolutely incredible lengths ï¿½ in some instances occupying hundreds of thousands of years ï¿½ there are no such claims rnade or implied in Genesis 10. T’he feeling which one has in reading this chapter is that the expansion of population was quite rapid. Certainly, all is rnost reasonable. This feature of the Table is ably summed up by Taylor Lewis who remarked: (10)
How came this Hebrew chronology to present such an example of modesty as compared with the extravagant claims to antiquity made by all other nations? The Jews, doubtless, had, as men, similar national pride, leading tliem to magnify
10 Lewis, Taylor, in J. P. Lange, Commentary on Genesis, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, no date, p.357.
their age upon the earth, and run it up to thousands and myriads of years. How is it, that the people whose actual records go back the farthest have the briefest reckoning of all?
The only answer to this is, that while others were left to their unrestrained fancies, this strange nation of Israel was under a providential guide in the matter. A divine check held them back from this folly. A holy reserve, coming from a constant sense of the divine pupilage, made them feel that “we are but of yesterday,” while the inspiration that controlled their historians directly taught them that man had but a short time upon the earth.
They had the same motive as others to swell out their national years; that they have not done so, is one of the strongest evidences of the divine authority of their Scriptures.
As a matter of fact, those “parallels” that do exist elsewhere in the literature of antiquity not only completely lack the sobriety of Genesis 10, but owe their existence rather more to the desire to record notable conquests than to any philanthropic philosophy. As Leupold has aptly said, (11)
No nation of antiquity has anything to offer that presents an actual parallel to this Table of Nations. Babylonian and Egyptian 1ists that seem to parallel this are merely a record of nations conquered in war. Consequently, the spirit that prompted the making of such lists is the very opposite of the spirit that the Biblical list breathes.
Such records cannot in fact properly be classed as “parallels” at all. As Marcus Dods observed,(12) “This ethnographic Table is not only the most ancient and reliable description of the various nations and peoples, but it has no parallel in its attempt to exhibit all the races of the earth as related to one another.”
The structure of things is normally related to the purpose they are intended to serve. This applies in engineering design, and it applies in physiology. It also applies in literature, whether as novel, poetry, legal document, or history. It applies also to Genesis 10. This document has more than one purpose but is so constructed that all its purposes are served equally well because of the simplicity of its conception.
The method of course, is to present a series of names, whether of individuals, whole tribes, or even places, as though
11. Leupold, H. C., Exposition of Genesis, Wartburg Press, Columbus, Ohio, 1942, p.358.
12. Dods, Marcus, Genesis, Clark, Edinburgh, no date, p.45.
they were “persons” related by birth. This is done in a simple straightforward manner, several lines being traced for several generations, here and there a comrnent supplying additional information. As a consequence of the particular form in which our sense of “precision” has developed in Western Culture, we find it difficult to accept the idea that if a man founded a city or a tribe, such an aggregate of people could still be summed up in the person of the founder, so that they could with equal propriety be referred to as his offspring. Thus, in verse 19, Sidon is spoken of initially as the firstborn of Canaan: whereas by verse 19, Sidon is now clearly the city of that name. Similarly, Canaan is mentioned in verse 6 as a son of Ham and subsequently in verse 16 as father of several tribes who indeed, in verse 18, are referred to as his families. In the following verses the name refers to the territory he occupied, which is geographically defined. We think of this as a rather loose employment of the term “son,” but it is simplicity itself when it cornes to establishing origins. As Dillmann put it: (13)
In the representation given of this fundamental idea of the relationship of all peoples and men, each particular people is conceived of as a unity summed up in and permeated by the influence of its ancestor.
Although Dillmann does not elaborate the implication of his observation regarding the persistence of the character of an individual in his descendants, so that the observation appears almost as a chance remark, it will be well in discussing the purpose of the genealogy (in its bearing on its structure) to pursue this implication a little further, before returrling to a more detailed examination of the structure per se.
The point of interest here is that there is a sense in which the character of an ancestor may for a short while, and occasionally for a very long time, perrneate the characters of his descendants. Sir Francis Galton, (14) and others, first applied statistical analysis for sociological data in an attempt to demonstrate that there is such a thing as hereditary genius. It is not clear today whether such traits are genetically linked or are the result of circumstances: for example, a famous lawyer rnay bias his children to follow in his footsteps and give them a headstart by his association with them, by his influence in the world, and by his accumulated means and technical aids. The same may happen
13. Dillmann, A., Genesis: Critically and Exegetically Expounded, vol.1, T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1897, vol.1, p.315.
14. Galton, Sir Francis, Hereditary Genius, Watts, London, 1950, 379 pages.
in the practice of medicine. Similarly, circumstances may sometimes result in a long line of great actors. Possibly in the realm of artistic ability we have a larger measure of genetic influence.
The idea that a “father” determines to a significant extent the character of his descendants for several generations underlies a certain class of statements that appear both in the Old and the New Testaments. Jesus spoke of his bitterest critics as “Children of Satan,” or “Sons of Belial,” denying emphatically their claim to be “Children of Abraham.” The very term “the Children of Israel,” came to mean something more than the mere descendants of Jacob. The Lord spoke of Nathaniel as “an Israelite indeed,” having reference to his character, not his lineage. It is important in this context to guard against the assumption that the “children” of an ancestor will only perpetuate the undesirable elements in his character. I believe history shows that there is such a thing as “national character,” (l5) which appears distinctly at first in a single individual and reappears in his children and grandchildren with sufficient force to result in the formation of a widespread behaviour pattern that thereafter tends to reinforce and perpetuate itself as the family grows from a tribe into a nation. Where differences in national character do seem to exist, no implication is intended that there is any intrinsic superiority of one kind over another. We are arguing for the existence of differences, not superiorities. In the sum, we are all much alike. This is of fundamental importance.
The possibility that this idea is not foreign to Scripture was noted by Dr. R. F. Grau, who, over 80 years ago, commented: (16)
The object of the document which we are considering is not so much to call attention by these names to three individuals (Shem, Ham, Japheth) andl to distinguish them from one another, as to point out the characteristics of the three races and their respective natural tenclencies.
It is customary now to divide the world’s present population into three racial stocks, Caucasians (essentially, the White Man), Negroids, and Mongoloids. It is exceedingly difficult to define successfully the distinguishing characteristics of any one of these
15. National Character: compare, for example, Hamilton Fyfe, The Illusion of National Character (Watts, London, 1946, 157 pages) with many anthropological studies of native peoples (by Margaret Mead, for example) and modern nations (e.g., Ruth Benedict on the Japanese).
19. Grau, R. F., The Goal of the Human Race, Simpkin, Marshall, etc., London, 1892, p.115..
three, although it might seem quite otherwise. Negroids are presumably black but the Australian aborigines are not Negroid, though quite as black. The straight black hair, the brown “slant” eyes, the epicanthic fold, and other features commonly accepted as characteristically Mongoloid, can be observed frequently among people who are classed as Caucasians. To repeat, although everyone thinks it is a simple matter to distinguish the three groups — and in most cases they can — it is virtually impossible to write down a foolproof description which will clearly mark out what tribe or nation belongs within which group. There is, however, one way in which it could be done — especially if we limit our view to a much earlier period in history when racial mixture had not proceeded very far — and this is to trace the earliest true representives of each tribe to their known ancestors and set forth in some kind of genealogical tree the relationships of these ancestors. Viewed in this light, the method of Genesis 10 is probably the only valid way to go about it.
In this Table, we again meet with three groups of people, the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. But these three groups do not correspond with the current classification of races, for in this Table it is apparent that Negroid and Mongoloid are classed as one family, and the trilogy is reconstituted by setting the Semitic peoples in a distinct class by themselves. So then, we have the Japhethites who can be conveniently equated for our purposes with the Caucasians, Indo-Europeans, or White Man; the Hamites who are held to encompass the Negroid and Mongoloid branches, i.e., the so-called colored races; and the Shemites who comprise both the Hebrew people (ancient and modern), the Arabs, and a few once powerful nations, such as the Assyrians and Babylonians. This is a very sketchy outline, but it will serve for the moment until the details of the Table can be examined more specifically.
Now, it is my firm belief that God has endowed these three groups — which we shal1 henceforth refer to normally as Japhetites, Hamites, and Shemites ï¿½ with certain capacities and aptitudes which, when properly exercised, have made a uniqtle contribution in the total historical developrnent of mankind and which, when allowed to find full cooperative expression during a single epoch, have invariably led to the emergence of a high civilization.
This subject has been explored at some length by the author
and was the basis of an accepted Ph.D. thesis. (17) It is presented in simple outline in Part 1, “Shem, Ham, and Japheth in Subsequent World History,” and one critical aspect of it is examined in some detail in Part IV, “The Technology of Hamitic People.”
In a nutshell my thesis is this: that mankind, considered both as individuals and as a species Homo sapiens, has a constitution which seeks satisfaction in three directions: (18) physically, intellectually, and spiritually. There are people who live almost entirely for the physical; we often speak of them as “living to eat.” There are people who live almost entirely in the intellectual, who gladly surrender a meal to buy a book. There are people to whom the things of the spirit are completely paramount. Such people often go into permanent “retreat,” and for a large part of Christian history they formed a class. Most of us probably live in these three realms with approximate]y equal emphasis, depending upon circumstances at the time.
A survey of history with this thought in mind, applied to nations or races rather than to individuals, reveals that Japhethites have originated the great philosophical systems; the Shemitic peoples, the great religious systems whether true or false; and, surprising as it may seem to one not familiar with the evidence, the Hamitic people have supplied the world with the basis of almost every technological advance. This is not the time or place to attempt a demonstration of this thesis, since it has been undertaken in the two Papers mentioned above. The extent of the evidence is remarkable indeed, although all the more so in that only in recent years has the debt of the white man to the coloured man been recognized to any extent. New discoveries are constantly being made as the result of a continuing research into the origin of inventions, and these bear out the above observation in quite unexpected ways.
When the philosophical bent, which originated with the Greeks and the Aryans and was successively elaborated by Western Man, was finally wedded to the technical genius of Hamitic
17. Custance, A. C., “Does Science Transcend Culture?” Ph.D. thesis, presented to Ottawa University, 1958, 253 pp., illustrated.
18. Hugh Dryden wrote, “Man’s life at its fullest is a trinity of activity ï¿½ physical, mental and spiritual. Man must cultivate all three if he is not to be imperfectly developed” (“The Scientist in Contemporary Life,” Science, vol.120, 1954, p.1054). Similarly, Viktor E. Frankl of Vienna wrote, “Man lives in three dimensions: the somatic (physical or bodily), the mental, and the spiritual,” (Digest of Neurology and Psychiatry, Institute of Living, Hartford, Connecticut, vol.1, 1940, p.22).
peoples in Africa, Asia, and the New World, there arose the modern phenomenon of Science, enormously enlarging the fruits of this marriage. But the tendency when the union of these two is most fruitful, has always been for a kind of dehumanized civilization to appear. The true and necessary spiritual component was supplied initially through the Shemites and later by their direct spiritual descendant, the Christian Church. Without this spiritual component, civilization is in danger of annihilating man as an individual of worth. Without the Hamitic contribution, the contribution of Japheth led nowhere ï¿½ as in Greece. Without the contribution of Japheth, the contribution of Ham stagnated as soon as the immediate practical problems of survival had been sufficiently solved. This kind of stagnation can be illustrated by the history of some of the great nations of antiquity, the Egyptians, for example. These interactions are examined elsewhere, but the important point to underscore at this juncture is that the various contributions of the various nations and peoples do not appear as contributions made by any one “family” unless one has the clue of these family relationships, which Genesis 10 supplies. Given this clue, and allowing that it is a true historical record, these three components for a high civilization — the technological, intellectual, and spiritual ï¿½ suddenly appear in a new light when it is realized which particular group of people made the most fundamental contribution in each area. The dwelling of Japheth in the tents of Shem, that is, the occupation by Japheth of a position originally possessed by Shem; the taking away of a kingdom from the latter to give it to the former, all these biblical phrases assume a new significance. In short, Genesis 10, by dividing the whole race into three families in a way which does not concord with modern concepts of racial groupings, is not thereby discredited but shown to be based upon a much clearer insight into the framework of history. To my mind, there is no question that when we see history as God sees it in its totality and at the end of time, we shall discover that this Table was a fundamental clue to the meaning of it: and, we would repeat, it serves this purpose because it has a structure which does not agree with modern attempts to re-define the interrelationships of the world’s peoples.
Now a few thoughts may be in order with respect to the more mechanical aspects of its structure. First of all, it may be noted that the division of mankind into three basic families was not derived from traditions maintained by nations living
around Israel or within their ken, because these nations did not have any such traditions. The Egyptians distinguished themselves from other peoples on the basis of colour, classing the Asiatics as yellow, the Libyians as white, and the Negroes as black. (19) But in this Table of Nations the so-called coloured peoples are not distinguished from one another (for instance, the blacks from tle yellows) but are classed, it my understanding of the text is correct, within a single family group. And although it is true that the name “Ham,” meaning “dark,” may have reference to the skin colour ï¿½ as the word “Japheth” may have reference to fair-skinned people ï¿½ the principle does not hold entirely, for some, at least, of Ham’s descendants were fair. Indeed, according to Dillmanln, there were in ancient times fair-skinned as well as the more familiar black-skinned Ethiopians. (20) There is no indication that the Hittites vere black-skinned, and the same is probably true of the descendants of Sidon, etc. On the other hand, the Canaanites and the Sumerians (both descendants of Ham) refer to themselves as ”blackheaded” people (21) ï¿½ a designation which seems more likely to have reference to skin colour rather than colour of hair, since almost all people in this area have black hair anyway; a hair-colour distinction would be meaningless.
I’m quite aware, however, that it is customary in reconstructions based upon skeletal remains to picture the Sumerians as anything but negroid. But this is not fatal to our theory for, as we have already noted with respect to the Australian Aborigines, not all black-skinned people are negroids, and were we dependent only upon skeletal remains of these Aborigines vith no living representatives to guide us, we should have no way of knowing, that they were black-skinned at all. The same may apply to tle Sumerians and Canaanites. There is little doubt that the people of Sumer and of the Indus Valley culture were akin. (22) The descriptions of the Indus Valley people in early Aryan literature indicate that they were negroid in type. (23) The
19. Dillmann, Genesis: Critically and Exegetically Expounded, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1897, vol.1, p.318.
20. Dillmann, ibid., p.319.
21. The Canaanites: in thle Prism of Sennacherib the Sumerians, according to Samuel Kramer, (From the Tablets of Sumer, Falcon’s Wing Press, 1956, p. 60). Hammurabi’s Code (Deimel transcript, R. 24, line 11) also refers to them as ”Blackheaded ones.”
22. See, for exarmple, V. G. Childe, “India and the West Before Darius,” Antiquity, vol.13, 1939, p.5ff.
23. Piggott, S., Prehistoric India, Pelican Books, 1950, p.261.
Fig. 1.The probable routes of migration as the world was first peopled.
famous little “Dancing Girl” from the Indus Valley is certainly negroid, and it is equally evident that genes for black skin still form a large component in the gene pool of the present Indian population. In his Races of Europe, (24) Coon has a section with descriptive materials devoted entirely to the many racial types which have contributed to the present population of Europe. In speaking of gypsies and dark-skinned Mediterraneans, he includes two photographs of one young man of clearly “negroid” appearance, and comments as follows:
Of much greater antiquity outside of India is a dark-skinned [in the photo, almost black], black-eyed, and straight-haired Mediterranean type which appears with some frequency in southern Iran and along the coasts of the Persian Gulf. This young sailor from Kuwait will serve as an example. The origin and affiliations of this type have not as yet been fully explained.
Interestingly enough, a further illustration from southern Arabia shows a young man who, as Coon puts it, “except for his light unexposed skin colour . . . could pass for an Australian aborigine.” The use of the word “unexposed” inevitably made me think of Ham’s reaction to his exposed father. For if Ham was dark all over, he may have expected his father was also, and his surprise at discovering otherwise might have so disturbed him as to cause him to be forgetful of his filial duty. At any rate, it is clear that in this area of the world, once occupied by the Sumerians, there still remain “unaccountable” evidences of a very dark-skinned component in the population. All these lines of evidence lend support to the contention that the Sumerians may have themselves been a black-skinned people.
The three families are not predicated on the basis of language, either. Again it is perfectly true that the children of Japheth, in so far as they have given rise to the Indo-Europeans, would seem to be a single linguistic family. The same may be said of the Shemites. But when we come to the descendants of Ham we run into difficulties for it appears that in historic times the Canaanites, Philistines, and many Cushites spoke Semitic languages, while the Hittites (also Hamites, from Heth) may have spoken an Indo-European language. The trouble with linguistic evidence in this instance is that it really appears too late in history to be decisive.
It has been suggested that the arrangement of the Table was dictated upon geographical grounds: for example, that the children
24. Coon, C. S., Races of Europe, Macmillan, 1939, 739 pp., illustrated.
>of Japheth spread in one direction — more or less to the north and west, whereas the children of Ham tended towards the south and east, while the children of Shem stayed more nearly at the centre. This, however, would make the document something of a prophetic statement for such a dispersion did not occur until sometime later ï¿½ unless, of course, one gives the document a late date, a point to be considered later. There is evidence that the writer knew only that some of Ham’s descendants had entered Africa, that a large part of Shem’s descendants had settled in Arabia, and that Japheth was still not very far to the north, though spreading along the shorelines of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. In fact, the picture presented indicates a Cush quite close at hand which was not the same as the Cush later to be found in Ethiopia. Thus, although the Table recognizes, as indeed it had to do, that some dispersion had already taken place in which the members of each family had migrated in more or less the same general direction, this knowledge was not the basis of the threefold division, but rather stemmed from it.
While the writer admits that his genealogy employs not merely the names of persons but also of places and families, even making use at times of language as a guide, it seems pretty clear that the structure of his Table is dependent ultimately upon a true understanding of the original relationships of the founding fathers of each line to their more notable descendants and to one another. To my mind, the very structure of the Table predicates this kind of knowledge of the facts. On no other basis can one account for the circumstance that for centuries certain statements have seemed to be clearly contrary to the evidence, and that only as more light has appeared has the Table proved itself to be perfectly correct where properly tested.
The use of a genealogical tree which does not slavishly demand that individuals only are to be listed, but which allows the inclusion of cities they founded, tribes which they grew into, and districts which they occupied, provides a simple, straightforward, and concise method of setting forth the Origin of Nations.
We come, finally, to the question of the date of this document. It will already be clear that, in our view, it is by no means “late” in the sense in which Higher Critics have understood the term. If it was composed many centuries after the events described, it has avoided anachronisms and certain errors, which
would make it a masterpiece of forgery. So carefully has the supposed forger avoided these kinds of errors that it would seem far simpler and more reasonable to assume he was a contemporary of the terminal events which he describes in the chapter.
Among the lines of evidence which strongly support an early date for this document, the following carry great weight: (1) the small development of Japhetic peoples, (2) the position of Cush at the head of the Hanitic family, (3) the mention of Sidon but not of Tyre, (4) the reference to Sodom and Gomorrah as still existing, (5) the great amount of space given to Joktanites, (6) the discontinuance of the Hebrew line at Peleg, and (7) the absence of any reference to Jerusalem by name.
Let us consider these seriatim.
(1) The small development of Japhetic peoples. The descendants of Japheth were great colonizers and explorers spreading around the Mediterranean and ulp into Europe, and toward the east into Persia and the Indus Valley at a quite early date. Yet this Table views them as settling only in Asia Minor and along the imrnediate Mediterranean coast line.
Furthermore, Javan receives notice, from whom undoubtedly the Ionians are to be traced, but we find no mention of Achaeans or Dorians associated with him, nor of Phrygians with Ashkenaz. Yet one would only have to shift the time setting by a few centuries to make such omissions inconceivable. Indeed, according to Sir William Ramsay, (25) Homer, who wrote somewhere about 820 B.C. or even earlier (Sayce says 1000 B.C.), evolved a jumble of old and new when he produced Askanios as an ally of Priam and Troy, and an enemy of the Achaeans. Either the writer was quite ignorant of subsequent events because he lived before them, or he was extraordinarily careful to avoid the slightest taint of anachronism. For example, he implies that Javan, a son of Japheth, inhabited Asia Minor and the neighbouring Greek coastlands in very early times. Yet there is, I believe, no trace of these old Ionians during the “historical” times of Greece and Israel, but only the survival of the name in one of the Greek states.
(2) The position of Cush at the head of the Hamitic farnily. It has been customary to date this Table as late as the sixth century B.C. But no writer at such a time would have referred to any part of Babylonia as the land of Cush, since by then Cush
25. Ramsay, Sir William, Asianic Elements in Greek Civilization, Murray, London, 1927.
was used exclusively for a quite different region, i.e., Ethiopia. If the writer had been attempting a piece of historic fiction, he would surely have added parenthetically that he was not referring to Ethiopia in the present context. As it was, he evidently foresaw not the slightest confusion in the reader’s mind since the Ethiopian Cush did not exist.
(3) The mention of Sidon but not of Tyre. The onission of Tyre among the states of Palestine is very significant, for similar communities such as Gerar and Gaza, among others, are carefully noted.
Tyre had a quite dramatic history. Founded somewhere about the 13th century B.C., by the 10th century she was mistress of commerce under Hiram. In the 8th century she fell under Assyrian domination, was beseiged by the Babylonians early in the 6th century, and finally came under the Persians in 588 B.C. In 332 B.C. she was once more utterly subdued by Alexander in a classic campaign which forrns part of the subject of a separate Doorway Paper. (26)
In other words, from the 13th century on, this city-state made a considerable noise in the world, whereas Sidon made comparatively little. Indeed, those who were anywhere near contemporary with her, among the prophets, spent much time denouncing her (cf. Ezekiel 27, for example). The two cities, Tyre and Sidon, were constantly referred to together, and in that order ï¿½ and Arvad (also rnentioned in the Table) faded into insignificance before the splendour of Tyre.
The omission of Tyre in this early Hebrew etlnography clearly implies that she had not yet risen to a position of importance ï¿½ if she existed at all. This surely indicates that at least this section of the Table was written prior to the exploits of Hiram in the 10th century B.C.
(4) The reference to Sodom and Gomorrah as still existing. In view of the dramatic destruction of these two cities of the plain of Jordan, it is inconceivable that a late writer would mention them as in existence at that time and not make some attempt to inform the reader of what happened to them subsequently. It is surely simpler to believe that he was writing prior to their complete disappearance, an event which long antedates Hiram of Tyrian fame and must be set probably somewhere around the 17th century B.C.
26. Custance, Arthur, “Archaeological Confirmations of Genesis”, Part IV in Hidden Things of God’s Revelation, vol.7 of The Doorway Papers Series.
(5) The great amount of space given to the Joktanites. If one were to pick up earlier history books dealing with the settlement of North America by the White Man and his constant exchanges in trade and in war with American Indian tribes, one would continually meet with such tribal names as Ojibway, Huron, Seneca, Cree, Mohawk, and Cherokee. But to readers of the present day only a few of these would strike a chord of recognition. One suspects that the Joktanites were analogously both numerous and important in early Middle East history, particularly the history of Arabia. But within a few centuries, at the most, some circumstance had either reduced many of them to insignificant status as tribes, or so united them as to wash out their individual tribal existences. If a Jewish writer of the 6th century had strung off a list of names like this (even if he could have recovered them with any certainty), it is likely his words would have had very little impact or meaning for his readers. On the other hand, at a much earlier time, it might have been analogous to the earliest writings in America, of the Jesuits, for example, or of Catlin. That they have a genuine base in history is borne out by the names of districts or cities in Arabia which seem clearly to be recollections of much earlier settlements. When one contrasts the detail in this portion (verses 6ï¿½20) with the sparse information given about the line of Shem througll Peleg, it is difficult to argue with any force that the Table was a piece of Jewish propaganda favouring their own antecedents.
(6) The discontinuance of the Hebrew line at Peleg. In view of the great importance attached to the person of Abraham as the father of the Jewish people, it is certainly extraordinary that a writer purporting to present an account of the origin of nations, a writer remember, who is assumed to be himself a Jew, should have neglected entirely to indicate where Abraham originated. Considering that Abraham by almost any reckoning must have been a figure of some importance and well known before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the only conclusion one can draw from this is that the writer did not know of his existence because he was not yet alive or had as yet achieved no prominence.
The impression is reinforced further by consideration of the fact that although Palestine is treated in some detail, cities and territories being clearly delineated, there is a total absence of any mention of the Hebrews. If the object of the Table was to supply the Jewish people with proof of an equally impressive
antiquity with the more prominent nations around them like the Egyptians (Mizriam, verse 6) and Assyria (Asshur, verse 22), would there not have been some mention of the glories of their own nation under Solomon?
(7) And this brings us to one final observation, namely, the reference to the Jebusites without any mention to the city under the more familiar name Jerusalem. This Table occupies itself with the names of individuals, the cities they founded, the tribes they gave rise to, and the territories they settled in. Of these categories the names of cities form a very prominent part. Yet, while the Jebusites are mentioned, their capital city is not singled out specifically, and the circumstance surrounding its change of name to become Jerusalem receives no mention whatever. This would be analogous to a history of early England in which the author, while listing many settlements of importance, makes no mention of London or Winchester. A Canadian historian living before the formation of Upper Canada, if he should refer to a settlement at the mouth of the Humber River in Ontario but make no mention to “Muddy York,” would be dated very early by Canadian standards. If he had casually mentioned that the people of this settlement were called “Muddy Yorkers,” one would be more tempted to place him somewhere around A.D. 1800. However, if he made no mention by way of parenthesis that the town of York later became tbe city of Toronto, one would still assume that he was ignorant of the fact and died before the change was made. This would be particularly the case if he had in the meantime made careful reference to other towns and cities of prominence in early Canadian history.
It seems to me that the total absence of any direct reference here to a city specifically known as Jebus, and even more importantly to the same city as Jerusalem, is a clear indication that the writer lived only long enough to complete a record of events exactly as we have them in this ancient Table. At the very latest, if the above arguments carry weight, he cannot have survived very much beyond the 20th or l9th century B.C.
We turn in the next chapter to a study of certain representative portions of this ethnographic Table in order to show how far it can serve as a guide to ancient history, since it supplies information and vital links that are not otherwise available in our present state of knowledge.
Comments are closed.