Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 10

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Genesis 10:1. Although this chapter may appear to some unprofitable, it is indeed of great use. 1st, It gives us a true, and the only true account of the origin of the several nations of the world. 2d, It discovers and distinguishes from all other nations, the people in which God’s church was to be preserved, and from which Christ was to come. 3d, It explains and confirms Noah’s prophecy concerning his three sons, and makes the accomplishment of it evident. 4th, It enables us to understand many other parts of Scripture, as well prophetical and poetical, as historical and doctrinal. It is therefore well worth our attention. These are the sons of Noah, Shem, &c. — Although Shem is always named first, when the sons of Noah are enumerated, because he was the progenitor of Abraham and of Christ, and because the church of God was continued in his line, yet it is generally thought he was the youngest of the three, and that Japheth, though always mentioned last, was the eldest.

Verse 2
Genesis 10:2. Moses begins with Japheth’s family, either because he was the eldest, or because it lay most remote from Israel, and had least concern with them at the time when he wrote; and therefore he mentions that race very briefly; hastening to give account of the posterity of Ham, who were Israel’s enemies, and of Shem, who were Israel’s ancestors: for it is the church of which the Scripture is designed to be the history: and of the nations of the world, only as they were some way or other interested in the affairs of Israel.

Verse 5
Genesis 10:5. The posterity of Japheth were allotted to the isles of the Gentiles, which were solemnly by lot, after a survey, divided among them, and probably this island of ours among the rest. All places beyond the sea from Judea, are called isles. Jeremiah 25:22; and this directs us to understand that promise, Isaiah 42:4, The isles shall wait for his law, of the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith of Christ.

Verse 9
Genesis 10:9. Nimrod was a mighty hunter — In the Septuagint it is, He was a giant hunter: — the Arabic has it, He was a terrible giant before the Lord: and the Syriac, He was a great warrior. It is probable he began with hunting, and for this became famous to a proverb. He served his country by ridding it of wild beasts, and so insinuating himself into the affections of his neighbours, he got to be their prince. And perhaps, under pretence of hunting, he gathered men under his command, to make himself master of the country. Thus he became a mighty hunter, a violent invader of his neighbours’ rights and properties. Great conquerors are but great hunters before the Lord. Alexander and Cesar would not make such a figure in Scripture history as they do in common history. The former is represented in prophecy, but as a he-goat pushing, Daniel 8:5.

Verse 10
Genesis 10:10. The beginning of his kingdom was Babel — Some way or other, he got into power; and so laid the foundation of a monarchy which was afterward a head of gold. It does not appear that he had any right to rule by birth; but either his fitness for government recommended him, or by power and policy he gradually advanced himself to a throne. See the antiquity of civil government, and particularly of that form of it which lodges the sovereignty in a single person.

Verse 11
Genesis 10:11. Out of that land went forth Asshur — He was the son of Shem, Genesis 10:22 : and, it seems that, not being able to endure Nimrod’s tyranny, who possessed himself of other men’s territories, (Chaldea, which Nimrod had seized upon, being Shem’s part,) he went away beyond Tigris, where he founded the empire of Assyria, whose chief city was Nineveh, Isaiah 23:13.

Verse 15
Genesis 10:15. The account of the posterity of Canaan, and of the land they possessed, is more particular than that of any other in this chapter; because these were the nations that were to be subdued before Israel, and their land was to become Immanuel’s land. And by this account it appears that the posterity of Canaan were both numerous and rich, and very pleasantly seated; and yet Canaan was under a curse. Canaan here has a better land than either Shem or Japheth; and yet they have a better lot, for they inherit the blessing.

Verse 21
Genesis 10:21. Unto Shem, &c. — The word Shem signifies a name; but two titles are also added whereby to distinguish him: 1st, He was the father of all the children of Eber. Eber was his great-grandson; but why should he be called the father of all his children, rather than of all Arphaxad’s or Salah’s? Probably because Abraham and his seed, from Eber, were called Hebrews. Eber himself, we may suppose, was a man eminent for religion in a time of general apostacy; and the holy tongue being commonly called from him the Hebrew, was retained in his family in the confusion of Babel, as a special token of God’s favour to him. 2d, He is styled the brother of Japheth, perhaps to signify the union of the Gentiles and Jews in the church.

Verse 25
Genesis 10:25. In his days the earth was divided — That is, about the time of his birth it was divided among those that were to inhabit it, either when Noah made an orderly distribution of it among his descendants, as Joshua divided the land of Canaan by lot; or when, upon their refusal to comply with that division, God, in justice, divided them by the confusion of tongues.