The table of the nations
The Table of the Nations lists the descendants of the three sons of Noah, who had survived the flood. “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Gen 6:9). “The sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was peopled”. (Gen 9:18-19). Shem was the oldest son (10:21), Ham was the youngest (9:24), which gives the actual order of their births.
The Table of the Nations is arranged in order of the three sons of Noah, beginning with Japheth, then Ham, and finally Shem, even though this is different from their birth order or the order they are normally listed. After the descendants of each son is a brief summary with wording similar to this, “These are the descendants of (Japheth, Ham, Shem) in their lands, with their own language, by their families, in their nations” (v5,20,31). The table concludes with a final summary, “These are the families of Noah’s sons, according to their genealogies, in their nations; and from these the nations spread on the earth after the flood”. (v32).
The same genealogy is listed at the start of the lengthy genealogy in 1 Chronicles (1 Chr 5-26). Josephus also gives an account of the table of the nations, giving some extra information about many of the nations (Ant 1.6.1-5)
It is an interesting study to compare the names listed in the Table of the Nations with other references to them through the rest of the Old Testament, as well as any evidence that can be found from early historical writings and inscriptions. The identification of some names can be more certain, while others are less so. Over the period of history many names become modified and altered, so the identification of many remains uncertain.
The three sons of Noah
The family of Japheth is listed down to the third generation. There are seven sons of Japheth, and two of these (Gomer and Javan) have their descendants listed. Many of these names with a reasonable level of certainty can be identified as the ancestors of the Indo-European nations.
1. Gomer → Ashkenaz, Riphath, Togarmah
4. Javan → Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, Dodanim
Japheth, second of three sons of Noah (10:2)
In the mythology of the ancient world, Japheth was regarded as the father of many peoples, particularly the Indo-European nations. Iapetos, who is probably to be identified with Japheth, was the legendary father of the Greeks. He was believed to the son of heaven and earth, and the father of many nations. The very similar name, Iyapeti, was believed to be the ancestor of the Ayrians in India. In Hindu Vedas and early Upanishads, Pra-Japati, which could be translated as Father Japheth, was the sun and lord of creation, and the source of life for those descended from him. The chief Roman god was Iu-Pater (Father Jove), which later became Jupiter. It is likely that all these names are corruptions of the original name Japheth.
Early Irish Celts, early Britons, and several other pagan European races traced the descent of their royal houses from Japheth. This included the Saxons, who knew him as Sceaf, as well as the Scandinavians.
Josephus wrote this, “Japheth had seven sons. Beginning from the mountains Taurus and Amaus, they proceeded along Asia as far as River Tanais and along Europe to Cadiz, and settling themselves on the land which they light upon, which none had inhabited before, and they called the nations by their own names” (Ant 1.6.1). The River Tanais is to the North-East of the Black Sea.
Generation II: The Seven Sons of Japheth (Gen 10:2)
The descendants of Japheth spread all over Europe, with one major branch of the family migrating eastwards into Persia and India.
1. Gomer, first of seven sons of Japheth
Gomer founded a people known to the ancient Greeks as the Cimmerians, or Gimirrai, who lived north of the Black Sea and on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The Greek writers Herodotus and Plutarch both identified Gomer with the district of Cimmeria, north of the Black Sea. The name of this district is probably to be identified with the modern Crimea.
It is likely that one branch of the descendants of Gomer later moved westward. The traditional Welsh belief was that descendants of Gomer came to Wales from France about 300 years after the flood. In the Welsh language Gomeraeg became Cymraeg, the Welsh word for the Welsh language. It is likely that the name of Gomer is also preserved in the names of Cambria (Wales) and Germany. France was called Gaul for many centuries, including by the Romans, North-Western Spain is called Galicia, from the Greek name for Gomer, today.
Ezekiel described Gomer, as “those who dwelt in the uppermost parts of the north” (Ezek 38:6). In Assyrian records, the Gimirraya were defeated by Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal records the Cimmerian invasion of Lydia in days of King Gugu (660 BC).
Josephus wrote, “Gomer founded those whom the Greeks now call Galatians (Galls), but were then called Gomerites” (Ant 1.6.1).
Nennius describes Gomer as the ancestor of the Gauls, but does not mention his three sons. The Maiostu people of China trace their ancestry from Noah, through Gomer.
Gomer was the father of three nations, Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah (v3), which are described below.
2. Magog, second of seven sons of Japheth
According to Josephus, Magog founded the Magogites, who are called Scythians by the Greeks. (Ant 1.6.1). It is the ancient name for the land now part of Romania and Ukraine. It is most probable that they were assimilated into the people of Ashchenaz, together forming the Scythian hordes.
The names of Gog and Magog appear in the Book of Revelation representing the final opponents of the Messiah (Rev 20:8). They also appear frequently in the same sense in Jewish apocalyptic literature. Ezekiel described Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, who comes out of the remotest parts of the north to invade Israel (Ezek 38:2,15, 39:1).
Nennius describes Magog as the ancestor of both the Scythians and Goths. The Irish Celts trace their lineage from Japheth through the line of Magog.
3. Madai, third of seven sons of Japheth
Madai is the Hebrew name for the Medes, who were his descendants.They lived in North-Western Iran, south and west of the Caspian Sea, and were the ancestors of modern Iranians.
The Medes are mentioned many times in the Bible. Assyria deported the northern tribes of Israel to Media (2 Kg 17:6, 18:11). The Medes fought with Babylon against Assyria, then with the Persians against Babylon. It was King Darius the Mede who had Daniel thrown into the den of lions, signing a document which according to the law of the Medes and Persians could not be changed (Dan 6:8)
Josephus wrote that Madai founded the Madeans, called Medes by Greeks. (Ant 1.6.1)
The land of the Medes was often mentioned in Assyrian historical records, being conquered by Shalmaneser III (858 - 824 BC) and Adad-nirari III (810 - 781 BC), Tiglath-pileser III (743 BC), and Sargon II (716 BC).
The Greek historians Strabo and Herodotus both confirm that the Medes were of Indo-European origin. Herodotus wrote, “These Medes were called anciently by all people Arians; but when Medea, the Colchian, came to them from Athens, they changed their name. Such is the account that they themselves give” (History 7:62)
4. Javan, fourth of seven sons of Japheth
Javan is the Hebrew word for Greece (Dan 8:21). Isaiah refers to Javan and Tubal as some of the nations living in distant coastlines (Is 66:19). In the Septuagint (LXX) translation of this passage, Javan is translated as Hellas (Greece).
According to Josephus, Javan founded Ionia, from whom all Grecians are derived (Ant 1.6.1). Homer's Iliad says that Iawones was ancestor of the Ionians (13.685). The Assyrian records of Sargon II (721 - 705 BC) describe a major sea battle against Javan's descendants the Iamanu. Nennius traces the ancestry of many European nations to Javan, including the Romans, Britons, Albans, Saxons, Bavarians, Thuringians and Lombards.
Javan was the father of four nations, Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim (v4), who are associated with regions north and west of the Middle East. They are described below.
5. Tubal, fifth of seven sons of Japheth
Tubal was a region in the centre of Asia Minor called Tabal in the Assyrian records of Tiglath-pileser I (1100 BC), where they were associated with the Muski (Meshech). They became the eastern portion of the Phyrigian empire from the 12th to 9th centuries BC. Tabal became a neo-Hittite state in central Turkey, who resisted the Assyrian advance in alliance with surrounding peoples. Part of this region is the modern nation of Georgia, whose capital Tbilisi, may retain the name Tubal.
Together with Tarshish, Javan and Meshech, they were known for their metallurgy and trade with Tyre (Ezek 27:13).
Josephus calls Tubal's descendants the Thobelites, later known as the Iberes or Iberians (Spain) (Ant 1.6.1). Nennius states that the Iberian, Spanish and Italian races were also descended from Tubal.
6. Meshech, sixth of seven sons of Japheth
In the Bible and other ancient literature, the descendants of Meshech are often listed together with the descendants of Tubal. The Bible describes them as a remote barbaric warlike people threatening from the north. (Ezek 32:26, 38:2-3, 39:1, Ps 120:5). The Septuagint translates Meshech as Mosoch.
Ezekiel notes that Meshech was trading bronze vessels and slaves with Tyre, in partnership with Javan and Tubal (Ezek 27:13, 38:2)
Meshech founded a small but formidable warlike kingdom in Asia Minor, known as Moschoi in Greek literature, including the Septuagint, and Muski in Assyrian annals. The Muski later migrated to an area of Armenia, south-east of the Black Sea, establishing mountain strongholds, from where they fought against the Assyrians. They were defeated by Tiglath-pileser I around 1100 BC. After other minor battles over the next few hundred years, Sargon II (727 - 705) decided to conquer the allies of the Muski one by one, first Carchemish, then Que (Cilicia). Mita, the Muski ruler in Asia Minor was defeated in 709 BC. Mita is probably to be identified with the legendary king Midas of Greek tradition.
Assyrian records name them as Tabal and Musku. An inscription of Tiglath-pileser I (1100 BC) records that the Mus-ka-a-ia had an army of 20,000 men. Mushki were also reported in records by Tikulti-ninurta II, Ashurbanipal II, Sargon, and Shalmaneser III.
Josephus says that Mosoch founded the Mosocheni, now known as the Cappadocians. He mentions the city of Mazaca, the original name of the whole nation (Ant 1.6.1)
The Greek historian Herodotus calls the descendants of Tubal and Meshech, Tiberanoi and Moschoi. He writes that, “The Moschi, Tibareni, Macrones, Mosynoeci, and Mares had to pay three hundred talents. This was the nineteenth satrapy” (History 3:94). They also served in the army of Xerxes “The Moschians wore helmets made of wood, and carried shields and spears of a small size: their spear-heads, however, were long”. (History 7:78)
There is also a possible connection between Mechesh and the old tribal name of the Muscovites of Russia, after whom Moscow (Moskva) is named, similar to the Assyrian Musku. The Meschera lowland around Moscow retains the name of Meshech.
7. Tiras, seventh of seven sons of Japheth
Josephus wrote that Tiras ruled over the Thirasians, and the Greeks changed their name to Thracians (Ant 1.6.1). Tiras was worshipped by his descendants as Thuras or Thor, the god of thunder and war. The river Athyras was named after him, as well as the ancient city of Troy, and the Taurus mountain range. The mysterious nation of the Etruscans may also be descended from Tiras. He also may have given his name to the region of Thrace which stretched from Macedonia to the Danube and the Black Sea, including most of Yugoslavia. Greeks referred to the Tyrehenoi, or Tyrrenoi, a nation of marauding pirates.
Herodotus wrote that the Etruscans settled in Italy after leaving Lydia in Asia Minor. (History 1.94). Merneptah of Egypt recorded that in the 13th century BC that the Tursha or Turusha invaded Egypt from the north.
A. Three sons of Gomer (Gen 10:3)
1. Ashkenaz, first of three sons of Gomer, first son of Japheth
Ashkenaz is the Hebrew name for Germany. Jewish writers associated them and their father Gomer with the Germanic races. German Jews today are still called Ashkenazi Jews.
They were found in earliest times in Armenia and regions between Black and Caspian Seas, giving their name to the lake and harbour of Ascanius. The Armenians claim descent from Togarmah and Ashkenaz.
According to Assyrian records from the sixth century BC, the Askuzai were allied with the Mannai (Manneans) in a revolt against Assyria. Jeremiah predicted that the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz will join with the Medes in conquest of Babylon (Jer 51:27)
Herodotus described the Scythai, or Scythians as a warlike people who caused unrest in the Assyrian empire. He also describes their conquest of the Cimmerians, descendants of Gomer (History 1.103-107, 4.1, 11-12)
Josephus wrote that Aschanax founded the Aschanaxians, says that the Greeks knew them as the Rheginians (Ant 1.6.1)
2. Riphath, second of three sons of Gomer, first son of Japheth
The descendants of Riphath gave their name to the Riphaean mountain range, which was considered the northernmost boundary of the earth by early cosmographers. Josephus recorded that Riphath founded the Ripheans, now called Paphlagonians (Ant 1.6.1). Pliny called them Riphaei, Melo called them Riphaces, and Solinus called them Piphlataei.
3. Togarmah, third of three sons of Gomer, first son of Japheth
The descendants from Togarmah settled in Armenia. The names of the countries of Turkey and Turkmenistan are probably derived from Togarmah.
The Hittites in the 14th century BC refer to Tegarama, a region on a main trade route between Carchemish and Haran, later overrun by an enemy from Isuwa (beyond the Euphrates). In Assyrian records of both Sargon II and Sennacherib mention the city of Til-gari-manu, destroyed in 695 BC, 30 miles east of modern Gurun in Turkey. After 695 BC, the descendants of Togarmah were lost, after being scattered by the Assyrians.
Josephus wrote that the Thrugramma were descendants of Togarmah, called Phyrgians by Greeks (Ant 1.6.1)
Ezekiel mentions Togarmah as one of the nations from the north, who with Tubal, Javan and Meshech, supplied horses and mules to Tyre (27:14), and soldiers to Gog (38:6).
B. Four sons of Javan (Gen 10:4)
"From these the coastland peoples spread" (Gen 10:5). All the sons of Javan have connections
with Greek peoples.
1. Elishah, first of four sons of Javan, fourth son of Japheth
Ezekiel refers to Elishah as a coastal people who traded purple to Tyre (Ezek 27:7), probably referring to the Aegean Islands. Elishah was probably the ancestor of Aeolians, or Elysians, who are frequently mentioned in Greek history and mythology. Two Greek towns, Elis, and Elissus, and a region Ellas were named after him. It is probably the origin of Hellas, the Greek name for Greece, the description Hellenic, and the Greek paradise the Elysian Fields.
Josephus wrote that Elisa founded the Eliseans, who are now called the Aeolians (Ant 1.6.1). They are also mentioned in the Armana tablets as Alashia, by the Egyptians as A-ra-sa, and by the Hitttites as Alasiya.
2. Tarshish, second of four sons of Javan, fourth son of Japheth
Tarshish was the ancestor of the peoples of Tarshish, or Tartesis, who are thought to have settled in Spain. It appears to be a land in the Western Mediterranean where there were good deposits of minerals. The Mediterranean Sea was once known as the Sea of Tarshish. Jonah tried to flee from Joppa in one of the ships of Tarshish (8th century BC) (Jonah 1:3). Otherwise its location remains a mystery. The word Tarshish suggests the idea of mining or smelting, so any land rich in minerals could be called Tarshish. The Phoenicians built a class of ships known as ships of Tarshish. Phoenician inscriptions mention Tarshish without describing its geographical location. Some inscriptions from the 9th century BC in Sardinia have the name Tarshish.
Herodotus wrote that Tartessus was an unfrequented port beyond the Pillars of Hercules, now known as the Straits of Gibraltar. “They were driven past the pillars of Hercules, and at last, by some special guiding providence, reached Tartessus. This trading town was in those days a virgin port, unfrequented by the merchants”. (History 4:152)
Strabo located Tartessus in the Gualdalquivir Valley in Spain. Josephus wrote that Tharsus became the Tharsians, an older name of Cilicia and the city of Tarsus (Paul's home town) (Ant 1.6.1)
3. Kittim, third of four sons of Javan, fourth son of Japheth
Josephus wrote that Cethimus possessed the island of Cethima, now called Cyprus, so all islands and sea coasts are named Chetim by Hebrews. (Ant 1.6.1)
Old Phoenician records name Kittim as Kt, or Kty, who settled on island of Cyprus, giving name to the ancient Cypriot city of Kition, known as Citium by the Romans, which is now the city of Larnaca.
The Bible refers to ships from Kittim in several places. One is by Balaam, “But ships shall come from Kittim and shall afflict Asshur and Eber; and he also shall perish forever” (Num 24:24). Isaiah also mentions ships coming to Tyre from Kittim, which is translated Cyprus (Is 23:1,12). Jeremiah and Ezekiel also refer to the coasts of Kittim, also translated Cyprus (Jer 2:10, Ezek 27:6).
4. Dodanim, or Rodanim, fourth of four sons of Javan, fourth son of Japheth
The Dodanim was a collective name of a people descended from Dodan. The founder was deified by his descendants and worshipped as Jupiter Dodonaeus, joining the names Japheth and Dodan, in the city of Dodona, where there was an oracle.
Dodanim is translated as Rodanim in the Septuagint (1 Chr 1:7). Ezekiel wrote that the Dedanites traded with Tyre (Ezek 27:15). This is translated Rhodians, following the translation in the Septuagint. The name of the island of Rhodes is probably derived from the Rodanim.
Greeks refer to the Dardani, or Dardanians of Asia Minor, who settled in area of Troy. The area is still called the Dardanelles today. Egyptian records refer to the Drdny who were allied to the Hittites, at the battle of Kadesh. Early Britons including Nennius trace descent their from Dardanus.
The family of Ham is listed down to the fourth generation. There are four sons of Ham and
three of these (Cush, Mizraim and Canaan) have their descendants listed, some to a fourth
generation. Many of these names are associated with the enemies of Israel, particularly
following the conquest of the Promised Land. Because of this, the descendants of Ham are
listed in more detail than those of Japheth.
1. Cush → Sebah, Havilah, Sabta, Raamah (Sheba, Dedan), Sabtecha, Nimrod
2. Mizraim → Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim (Philistim), Caphtorim
4. Canaan → Zidon, Heth, Jebusite, Amorite, Girgashite, Hivite, Arkite, Sinite, Arvadite, Zemarite, Hamathite
The descendants of Ham settled mostly in South-western Asia and Africa. Josephus wrote
that the children of Ham possessed land from Syria and Amanus and mountains of Libanus,
seizing all seacoasts as far as the (Atlantic ?) ocean (Ant 1.6.2)
Ham, third of three sons of Noah
Ham was the youngest of Noah's sons (Gen 9:24), even though he is normally listed second .
He was cursed by Noah for telling his brothers about his father's nakedness. “Cursed be
Canaan, lowest of slaves shall he be to his brother” (Gen 9:25). The curse was actually on his
son Canaan, not on all the descendants of Ham.
In the Psalms, Egypt is called the Land of Ham, “He struck all the firstborn in Egypt, the first
issue of their strength in the tents of Ham” (Ps 78:51). “Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob
lived as an alien in the land of Ham” (Ps 105:23). “They performed his signs among them,
and miracles in the land of Ham (Ps 105:27). “They forgot God, their Saviour, who had done
great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham” (Ps 106:21-22). It is possible that
the name of the Egyptian deity Amon is derived from Ham.
Generation II: The four sons of Ham (Gen 10:6)
1. Cush, first of four sons of Ham
The land of Cush was later known as Nubia, in the area of modern northern Sudan. It is often
called Ethiopia by classical writers, and in English Bibles. It was an independent kingdom
from 11th century BC, which conquered Egypt in the eighth century, and ruled it until the
Assyrian conquest in 670 BC.
Josephus wrote, “Time has not at all hurt the name of Cush, for the Ethiopians, over whom he
reigned, are even at this day, both by themselves and by all men in Asia, called Cushites”
Egyptian hieroglyphics record the nation of Kush lying between the second and third cataracts
of the Nile. The Assyrian records of Esarhaddon (681-668 BC) says he made himself king of
It is also possible that the Babylonian city of Kish, which was one of the first cities to be built
after the flood, may be named after Cush.
Six nations descended from Cush are named and described below (v7).
2. Mizraim, second of four sons of Ham
Mizraim is translated 'Egypt' in many English Bibles. The Hebrew word is plural, Misrayim,
probably referring to both Upper and Lower Egypt. Mizraim is the normal word for Egypt in
both the OT and in modern Hebrew. Mizraim is a collective name for the people who settled
in Egypt. It is possible that Menes, who was the founder of the first Egyptian dynasty should
be identified as Mizraim.
Josephus describes the Mesraites in the Ethiopic War, in which seven of the descendants of
Mizraim were destroyed. Josephus lists these nations as: Lubim, Anamim, Lehabim,
Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim and Caphtorim, the same list as the descendants of Mizraim
in the Table of the Nations. He says that Jews call Egypt Mestre, and Egyptians Mestreans.
Variations of the name are found in Ugaritic inscriptions, the Tel Amarna tablets, Assyrian
and Babylonian records and in modern Arabic.
Seven nations descended from Mizraim are named and described below (v13).
3. Put, or Phut, third of four sons of Ham
The descendants of Put settled on the north-African coast to the west of Egypt, in the area of
modern Libya, and is always recorded as having a close connection with Egypt.
Josephus wrote, “Phut also was the founder of Libya, and called the inhabitants Phutites,
from himself: there is also a river in the country of the Moors which bears that name; whence
it is that we may see the greatest part of the Grecian historiographers mention that river and
the adjoining country by the appellation of Phut: but the name it has now, has by change
given it from one of the sons of Mesraim, who was called Lybyos.” (Ant 1.6.2)
Egyptian records frequently referred to Put or Punt. The archives of Darius the Great of Persia
(522 - 486 BC) locate the land of 'Puta' in the region of Cyrenaica, on the coast to the west
4. Canaan, fourth of four sons of Ham
The descendants of Canaan settled in Phoenicia and in the land that was later given to Israel.
At the time of the conquest under Joshua, the population consisted of the tribes descended
from Canaan, known as the Canaanites. Both Sanchuniathon and Phylo of Biblos confirm that
the Canaanites derived their name from their founder. In spite of their Hamitic descent, they
spoke a Semitic language.
Josephus wrote, “Canaan, the fourth son of Ham, inhabited the country now called Judea, and
called it from his own name Canaan.” (Ant 1.6.2). Varieties of the name Canaan were used by
the Greeks, Phoenicians, Egyptians and Assyrians. The Hurrians referred to dyed cloths as
Eleven sons of Canaan are listed and described below (v15-18).
A. Four Sons of Cush (Gen 10:7a, 1 Chron 1:9)
1. Sebah, first of six sons of Cush, first son of Ham
He founded the nation later known as the Sabeans on the south-west coast of Arabia, as
recorded by Josephus (Ant 1.6.2). The Greek historian Strabo wrote about the city of Sabai,
with a harbour known as Saba on the west coast of the Arabian peninsula. Isaiah also
mentions the Sabeans, “The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia, and the
Sabeans, tall of stature, shall come over to you (Cyrus) and be yours, they shall follow you;
they shall come over in chains and bow down to you.” (Is 45:14).
2. Havilah, second of six sons of Cush, first son of Ham
There were two tribes of Havilah, one Hamitic, and one Semitic. His descendants settled on
the east coast of Arabia on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Josephus names him Evilas, the
founder of the Evileans, who are called Getuli (And 1.6.2).
3. Sabta, third of six sons of Cush, first son of Ham
His descendants settled on the eastern side of Arabia. Sabta's name is preserved in the ancient
city of Shabwat, modern Sabota, the capital of Hadramaut (Hazarmaveth). Josephus wrote that Sabas founded the Sabeans (Ant 1.6.2). They are named Sapta by Ptolemy and Messabathi by Pliny.
4. Raamah, fourth of six sons of Cush, first son of Ham
Inscriptions of ancient Sheba indicate that Raamah's descendants settled near the land of
Havilah, to the east of Ophir. They traded with the descendants of Zidon and Tyre. There is
still a place called Raamah near Ma'im in south-west Arabia.
The Septuagint names him Regma. Josephus wrote, “Ragmus the Ragmeans; and he had two
sons, the one of whom, Judadas, settled the Judadeans, a nation of the western Ethiopians,
and left them his name; as did Sabas to the Sabeans” (Ant 1.6.2)
Raamah had two sons, Sheba and Dedan (v7), which are described below.
5. Sabtecha, fifth of six sons of Cush, first son of Ham
His descendants settled in southern Arabia, in modern Yemen. Josephus wrote, “Sabathes founded the Sabathens; they are now called by the Greeks, Astaborans” (Ant 1.6.2).
6. Nimrod, sixth of six sons of Cush, first son of Ham (Gen 10:8-12)
His name means 'Let us rebel!' It was probably given to him by Cush, in resentment against
the curse on Canaan. Instead of being a slave to Shem (9:24,26), he would become a ruler.
He is given a longer description in the Table of the Nations, “He was the first to become a
mighty warrior. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a
mighty hunter before the LORD.’ The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and
Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria, and built
Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.”
(Gen 10:9-12). It appears that Nimrod developed a complex of cities forming an empire
centred in Babylon, which spread to the north into Assyria. The Assyrian city of Calah was
also known as Nimrud.
Nimrod was the most notorious man in the ancient world, who is credited with instigating the
great rebellion at Babel, and of founding the worst features of paganism, including magical
arts, astrology and human sacrifice. There is much evidence that he was worshipped from the
very earliest times. His image was incorporated into the Chaldean zodiac as a child seated on
his mother's lap, who were both worshiped, she as the Queen of Heaven, and her son.
A mountain near Ararat has been called Nimrud Dagh (Mount Nimrod) from the earliest
times after the flood. The Caspian Sea was once called the Mar de Bachu, meaning Sea of
Bacchus, Baachus being the son of Cush. It is named this on Walter Raleigh's map of the
world in 1634. Bacchus was worshipped as the god of wine and fertility by the Romans.
The city of Calah was founded by Nimrod and became one of the chief cities of Assyria, also
being known as Nimrud. This became the royal seat and military capital in 9th century BC.
The Plain of Shinar was known as the Land of Nimrod. Iraqi and Iranian Arabs still speak the
name of Nimrod with awe. Acccording to legend, the tomb of Nimrod is in Damascus.
The Jerusalem Targum says this about Nimrod, “He was powerful in hunting and in
wickedness before the Lord, for he was a hunter of the sons of men, and he said to them,
‘Depart from the judgement of the Lord, and adhere to the judgement of Nimrod!’ Therefore
it is said, ‘As Nimrod the strong one, strong in hunting, and in wickedness before the Lord.’”
In his account of the Tower of Babel, Josephus follows the Rabbanic tradition in saying that Nimrod led the rebellion against God, and became a tyrant in Babylon, and the instigator of the building of the Tower of Babel (Ant 1.4.1-3)
For more about the Tower of Babel and the role of Nimrod, see the Tower of Babel page.
The prophet Micah said this, “They shall rule the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land
of Nimrod with the drawn sword” (Micah 5:6)
His name may be the basis of Ninurta or Ninus, the Assyrian god of war and founder of
Nineveh, as well as Marduk the Babylon king of the gods.
B. Seven Descendants of Mizraim (Egypt) (Gen 10:13, 1 Chron 1:11-12)
All seven of these descendants of Mizraim were listed by Josephus as being destroyed
or defeated in the Ethiopic War. “Now all the children of Mesraim, being eight in number
possessed the country from Gaza to Egypt, though it retained the name of one only, the
Philistim; for the Greeks call part of that country Palestine. As for the rest, Ludicim, and
Enemim, and Labin, who alone inhabited in Libya, and called the country from himself,
Nedim, and Phethrosim, and Chesloim, and Cephthorim, we nothing of them besides their
name, for the Ethiopic war, which we shall describe hereafter (Ant 2.10), was the cause that
those cities were overthrown.” (Ant 1.6.2).
1. Ludim, first of seven sons of Mizraim, second son of Ham
The Ludim settled on the north coast of Africa, and gave their name to Libya. Several times
the land of Lebu provided Egypt with mercenary troops. Jeremiah lists three nations who help
the Egyptians at the Battle of Carchemish (605 BC), “Let the warriors go forth: Ethiopia
(Cush) and Put who carry the shield , the Ludim, who draw the bow” (Jer 46:9). Some
scholars have identified the Ludim with the Lydians of Asia Minor, but this is less likely.
2. Anamim, second of seven sons of Mizraim, second son of Ham
Very few records of these people are found, probably because of their destruction in the
Ethiopic War. Assyrian records of Sargon II mention the land of A-na-mi adjacent to the land
of Kaptara (Caphtor).
3. Lehabim, third of seven sons of Mizraim, second son of Ham
These people were destroyed by the Ethiopic War, so it is difficult to locate their home. Libya
is most likely.
4. Naphtuhim, fourth of seven sons of Mizraim, second son of Ham
These people settled in the Nile Delta and western parts of Egypt. Egyptian records mention
the p't'mhw, the people of the marshland or delta, or northland, or Na-patoh-im.
5. Pathrusim, fifth of seven sons of Mizraim, second son of Ham
These people migrated to Upper Egypt, between Cairo and Aswan. The district of Pathros
bears their name.
When predicting the recovery of the remnant, Isaiah lists people from Egypt (Misraim), from
Pathros, and from Ethiopia (Cush), moving from north to south (Is 11:11). Jeremiah lists
Pathros with regions of Egypt, “The word that came to Jeremiah for all the Judeans living in
the land of Egypt, at Migdol, at Tahpanhes, at Memphis, and in the land of Pathros” (Jer
44:1). He also mentions Pathros with Egypt, “all the people who lived in Pathros in the land
of Egypt” (Jer 44:15).
Egyptian records refer to p't'rs, or Ptores, meaning the southern areas of Egypt. The Assyrian
king Esarhaddon (681 - 668 BC) records his conquest of the Paturisi, so they were evidently
not completely destroyed in the Ethiopic War. He boasted as being king of Musur, Paturisi
6. Casluhim, sixth of seven sons of Mizraim, second son of Ham.
Their location is unknown, but the Table of the Nations names them as the ancestor of the
Philistines, who are described below. A location in northern Egypt is most likely.
7. Caphtorim, seventh of seven sons of Mizraim, second son of Ham
Many people have tried to identify Capthor with Crete, so the Philistines could identified as
the Sea Peoples of the 13th century BC. However evidence for this is questionable. The
Philistines were already in Canaan at the time of Abraham in the 19th century BC (Gen 21:32,
26:1-18). The Table of the Nations lists the Caphtorim as descendents from Ham and
Mizraim (Egypt). Jeremiah describes the Philistines as the remnant of the coastline of
Caphtor (Jer 47:4).
It appears that only the descendants of Japheth inhabited the Mediterranean islands, like
Cyprus, and Crete, and not the descendants of Ham. The early Cretans were a Indo-European
people, in race, culture and language.
Josephus wrote about the Cephthorim, saying, “we nothing of them besides their name, for
the Ethiopic war, which we shall describe hereafter, was the cause that those cities were
overthrown.” (Ant 1.6.2). This conflict was limited to Egypt and Ethiopia, and did not
involve the islands in the Mediterranean, like Crete.
Egyptian records refer to kftyw or Kaphtur, to describe the area of Phoenicia, not the island of
C. Eleven sons and descendants of Canaan, fourth son of Ham (Gen 10:15-19, 1 Chron 1:13-
More information is given about the descendants of Canaan, as many of these people were the
inhabitants of the land at the time of the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua.
“Afterwards the families of the Canaanites spread abroad” (v18), and, “And the territory of
the Canaanites extended from Sidon, in the direction of Gerar, as far as Gaza, and in the
direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha” (v19).
For more information about the enemies of Israel at the time of the conquest of the Promised Land, see the Enemies of Israel page.
1. Zidon, first of eleven sons of Canaan, fourth son of Ham
His descendants settled on the Mediterranean coast of Canaan, where his name is still
retained in the modern city of Sidon. Originally known as the Zidonians, they were later
known as the Phoenicians. Josephus wrote that Sidonius was called by Greeks Sidon (Ant
2. Heth, second of eleven sons of Canaan, fourth son of Ham
Heth was the ancestor of the Hittite nation, which became a great empire through Old
Testament times. These were the first people to smelt iron on a large scale. The Armana
tablets contain letters between the Hittite emperor, Subbiluliuma and Amenhotep IV of
Egypt. Rameses II records how he engaged the Hittites at the battle of Kadesh, in the earliest
recorded battle involving massed battle chariots. Heth's name was retained in the Hittite
capital of Hattushash, now modern Baghazkoy in Turkey. The Hittites are referred to as the
sons of Heth in Hebrew, which is translated as Hittites (Gen 23:3,5,10,18,20).
Some people have suggested that following the collapse of the Hittite empire, the remnant of
the Hittite people migrated to the far east. In cuneiform inscriptions, Hittites are often
recorded as Khittae, which might possibly have been modified to Cathay.
3. Jebusite, third of eleven sons of Canaan, fourth son of Ham
The remainder of the descendants of Cannan are named by their collective name, ending -ite.
So the Jebusites were probably descended from a son of Canaan called Jebus.
His descendants settled in the mountainous regions of Judea. Their chief city was later called
Jerusalem (Judges 19:10), which was taken by David (2 Sam 5:6-10). Their strong and
natural fortifications enabled them to withstand the armies of Israel.
4. Amorite, fourth of eleven sons of Canaan, fourth son of Ham
His descendants settled in the land of Canaan. Initially adopting a nomadic lifestyle, they
soon organised themselves into a very powerful and aggressive nation. The Amorites later
conquered Babylonia, and one of the most famous kings of Babylonia, Hammurabi, contains
the name Amurru. Akkadians described the Amurru as a desert people unacquainted with
civilised life, grain, houses, cities or government.
5. Girgashite, fifth of eleven sons of Canaan, fourth son of Ham
They settled east of the Jordan, between Galilee and the Dead Sea. Their descendants are
probably the Gadarenes of the NT. Josephus calls him Gergesus (Ant 1.6.2). Similar names
are found in Urgaritic, Hittite and Egyptian records.
6. Hivite, sixth of eleven sons of Canaan, fourth son of Ham
This people moved from Canaan to the foothills of Lebanon during the Israelite conquest of
the Promised Land under Joshua. King Solomon later conscripted the remnant of the
Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites as slave labour in his building projects (1 Kg 9:20-
21). Josephus named him Eueus (Ant 1.6.2).
7. Arkite, seventh of eleven sons of Canaan, fourth son of Ham
The Arkites were known for the worship of Astarte. Their city is still known today as Tell-
Arqa, 20 km north-east of Tripolis. Arqa was known to Thutmose III of Egypt as Arkantu,
who conquered it in his 16th or 17th campaign. Arqa was taken by Tiglath-pileser III in 738
BC. Josephus wrote, “Arucas who possesed Acre, in Libabus” (Ant 1.6.2). Assyrian
inscriptions of both Shalmaneser II, and Tiglath-pileser III describe the Arkites as being
rebellious. The Arkites are also mentioned in Egyptian records, and the tel-Amarna tablets.
8. Sinite, eight of eleven sons of Canaan, fourth son of Ham
The name of these people can be identified with the northern Phoenician city-state of
Siyannu. Their name is still found in the modern towns of Nahr as-Sinn, and Sinn addarb,
which are near Arqa. Siyanni and the nearby city of Ushnatu formed a vassal state controlled
by the Ugarit, until they came under the control of the Hittite king of Carchemish around 1300
BC. They were one of the coalition of twelve nations, including Israel, who fought against the
Assyrians at the Battle of Qarqar (853 BC). In 738 BC, they came under the control of Assyria
when conquered by Tiglath-pileser III. They appear in records from the Phoenicians and
Assyrians, and are mentioned by the historians Strabo and Hieronymous.
One of the important Assyrian gods was called Sin, which could be identified as this son of
Canaan. Worship of ancestors, particularly the founder of the peoples, was very common in
the ancient world. His name may also be linked with well-known Biblical locations, including
Sinai and the wilderness of Sin.
It has been suggested that there is also a link with China. The prefix Sino- is still used today to
describe China. Isaiah refers to a land to the east called Syene, or Sinim (Is 49:12). It is
possible that a branch of the Sinites migrated east and became the origin of the Chinese
9. Arvadite, ninth of eleven sons of Canaan, fourth son of Ham
These people settled on the small island of Arvad, named after their founder, which is today
called Ruad. The island is under one mile around, and was heavily populated. It lies north of
the bay of Tripoli about two miles out to sea. The Arvadites constructed an artificial harbour,
and were famous for their skilful seamanship. Even the Assyrians admired them for this.
Josephus named him, “Arudeus, on island of Aradus” (Ant 1.6.2)
Shalmaneser listed Mattan Baal, king of Arvad as one of the enemies defeated at the Battle of
Qarqar (853 BC). Sennacherib (on his hexagonal prism) lists Abdilihit of Arvad as one of the
three Phoenician kings paying tribute in 701 BC. In the annals of Ashurbanipal, Yakinlu king
of Arvad, in submitting to Assyria, sent his own daughter to Nineveh with a large tribute in
the form of a dowry (664 BC). They are also mentioned on the tel-Amana tablets, as well as
in Egyptian records.
The Persians allowed them to form a federation with Tyre and Sidon. They played an
important part in the conquests of Alexander the Great, when they lent a large fleet to
Alexander for his attack on Tyre.
Ezekiel said that men from Arvad were employed by Tyre to serve as sailors and soldiers,
“The inhabitants of Sidon and Arvad were your rowers; skilled men of Zemer were within
you, they were your pilots” (Ezek 27:8), and “Men of Arvad and Helech were on your walls
all around, men of Gamad were at your towers. They hung their quivers all around your walls;
they made perfect your beauty.” (Ezek 27:11).
Arvad, translated as Aradus in Greek, is included with a list of cities (1 Macc 15:23)
10. Zemarite, tenth of eleven sons of Canaan, fourth son of Ham
The Zemarites settled on the Phoenician coast at the mouth of the River Eleutheros. Their
name is recorded in the modern town of Sumra, on the Mediterranean coast, north of Tripoli,
northern Phoenicia, just north of the border between Syria and Lebanon. In Assyrian and
Egyptian records their city was a strategic centre and an important Egyptian base before the
battle of Kadesh.
11. Hamathite, eleventh of eleven sons of Canaan, fourth son of Ham
The important Hittite royal city of Hamath, meaning citadel, on the Orontes, was named after
their founder, Hamath. This is where Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian armies in 605
BC. The Greeks and Romans called the city Epiphaneia, and today it is again called Hamah.
In the Battle of Qarqar, in 853 BC, the men of Hamath successfully defeated the Assyrian
forces in their attempt to invade the west by mobilising an army of 63,000 foot soldiers, 2,000
light horses, 4,000 battle chariots, and 1,000 camels.
Josephus wrote, “Amathus inhabited in Amathine, which is even now called Amathe by the
inhabitants, although the Macedonians named it Epiphanis, from one of his posterity” (And
A. Two Sons of Raamah (Gen 10:7b, 1 Chron 1:9b)
These are Arabian peoples who settled in the southern part of the Arabian peninsula.
1. Sheba, first of two sons of Raamah, fourth of six sons of Cush, first son of Ham
Mineaean inscriptions from northern Yemen from the 9th century BC indicate that Sheba was the
southern neighbour of Yemen. Sheba was famous as the Land of Spices, one of the four spice
kingdoms (Minea, Kataban and Hadramaut). There are large archaeological ruins, with 60
foot walls, showing that the land was very fertile, being irrigated by ingenious systems from a
great dam across the River Adhanat. In 542 BC, the dam collapsed after 1000 years, which is
recorded in the Koran as a judgement of God.
2. Dedan, second of two sons of Raamah fourth of six sons of Cush, first son of Ham
Their main settlement was in a city now known as Al-ula, 70 miles south-west of modern
Taima. They traded with the Phoenicians.
Isaiah refers to caravans of Dedanites in his oracle concerning the desert plain (Is 21:13).
In his prediction of the fall of Tyre, Ezekiel mentions the trade with the Dedanites, also
mentioning the traders of Sheba and Raamah (Exek 27:20,22)
In the genealogies in Genesis there are two pairs of brothers with the same names. This pair are Hamite, descended from Ham and Ramaah. The other are Semite, descended from Abram and Keturah, through Jokshan (Gen 25:3)
B. One descendant from Caphtorim (Gen 10:14b, 1 Chron 1:12b)
1. Philistines (Philistim) son of of Caphtor, seventh son of Egypt, second son of Ham
The book of Genesis clearly implies that the Philistines occupied parts of Canaan as early as
the time of Abraham (Gen 20) and Isaac (Gen 26). Often today it is assumed that the
Philistines appeared in the 13th century BC, and are the people Egyptian literature calls the Sea
People, from Crete. Their origin is more likely to have been northern Egypt, from where they
migrated north to Canaan.
Josephus wrote about the Philistim; for the Greeks call part of that country Palestine (Ant
1.6.2). It is the Greek name for the Philistines, Palastine, which is the origin of the modern
In his word against the Philistines, Jeremiah wrote, “For the LORD is destroying the
Philistines, the remnant of the coastland of Caphtor” (Jer 47:4). Amos declared that the
LORD brought the Philistines from Caphtor (Amos 9:7).
3. Nations of Shem (Gen 10:21-30, 1 Chron 1:17-27)
The family of Shem is listed down to the fifth generation. There are five sons of Shem and
two of these (Arphaxad and Aram) have their descendants listed, some to a fifth generation.
In the Table of the Nations the line of Shem is traced for five generations as far as Peleg.
Later the Semetic line is extended a further five generations to Abram (Gen 11:10-26).
Sons of Joktan
3. Arphaxad → Shelah →Eber → Peleg, Joktan
5. Aram → Uz, Hul, Gether, Mash
Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah,Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, Jobab.
1. Shem, first of three sons of Noah
The title Semite comes from Shem. His descendants settled mostly to the north and east of
Israel. According to Josephus, Shem was the third son of Noah. He had five sons, who
inhabited the land that began at the Euphrates and reached the Indian Ocean. (Ant 1.6.4)
A. Five sons of Shem (Gen 10:22, 1 Chron 1:17a)
I. Elam, first of five sons of Shem
The founder of Elamites who lived in the Plain of Khuzistan, where the Kerkh River joins the
Tigris, just north of the Persian Gulf. The capital was Susa, now Shush. They called
themselves Haltamti. In Middle Persian huz, the archaic form of the modern Persian name
Khuzistan. Modern Persians are descended from Madai, son of Japheth, and Elam, son of
Shem, so they are a mixed people.
Josephus wrote, “Elam left behind him the Elamites, the ancestors of the Persians” (Ant
1.6.4). They are mentioned many times in the Bible.
2. Asshur, second of five sons of Shem
The founder of Assyria, and name of the earliest capital city of Assyria. He was worshipped
as god by Assyrians. All Assyrian accounts of battles, diplomatic affairs, and foreign bulletins
were read out to his image, and every Assyrian king believed that he wore the crown only
with the permission of Asshur's deified ghost. King Ashurbanipal's name means “Ashur has
made a son”. On Assyrian battle reliefs Asshur is represented by a winged disc above the
battlefield. Asshur is also the Hebrew word for Assyria. Josephus wrote, “Ashur lived at the
city Nieve; and named his subjects Assyrians, who became the most fortunate nation, beyond
others.” (Ant 1.6.4)
3. Arphaxad, or Arpachshad, third of five sons of Shem
The ancestor of the Chaldeans, and of the Hebrews through his grandson Eber. The Assyrians
called their descendants Kaldu, who were expert astrologers, magicians and mathematicians.
There is a 2.5 acre ruin of an ancient settlement called Arpachiya. Josephus wrote, “Arphaxad
named the Arphaxadites, who are now called Chaldeans.” (Ant 1.6.4) “He was the son of
Shem, born twelve years after the deluge.” (Ant 1.6.5)
4. Lud, fourth of five sons of Shem
The ancestor of the Ludim. The land of Lydia in western Turkey is a direct Greek derivation
of the name Lud. Its capital was the city of Sardis, the recipient of a letter in the Book of
Revelation (Rev 3:1-6). The Lydians were famous for their skill as archers, and were
conquered by Cyrus of Persia in 546 BC. The Lydians spoke an Indo-European (Japhetic)
language, found in inscriptions on Egyptian monuments. Assyria and Babylon records refer to
Isaiah lists Lud together with Put, nations which draw the bow (Is 66:19). Ezekiel also lists
Lud and Put as nations allied with Tyre (Ezek 27:10). He also predicts that Ethiopia, Put,
Lud, Arabia and Libya shall fall together with Egypt (Ezek 30:5)
Josephus wrote, “Laud founded the Laudites, which are now called Lydians” (Ant 1.6.4)
Herodotus gives an account of the origin of the Lydians from Lydus. “The sovereignty of
Lydia, which had belonged to the Heraclides, passed into the family of Croesus, who were
called the Mermnadae, in the manner which I will now relate. There was a certain king of
Sardis, Candaules by name, whom the Greeks called Myrsilus. He was a descendant of
Alcaeus, son of Hercules. The first king of this dynasty was Agron, son of Ninus, grandson of
Belus, and great-grandson of Alcaeus; Candaules, son of Myrsus, was the last. The kings who
reigned before Agron sprang from Lydus, son of Atys, from whom the people of the land,
called previously Meonians, received the name of Lydians. The Heraclides, descended from
Hercules and the slave-girl of Jardanus, having been entrusted by these princes with the
management of affairs, obtained the kingdom by an oracle. Their rule endured for two and
twenty generations of men, a space of five hundred and five years; during the whole of which
period, from Agron to Candaules, the crown descended in the direct line from father to son.”
5. Aram, fifth of five sons of Shem
The founder of the Arameans, occupying the area of modern Syria. Aramaic was language of
Israel at time of Jesus, and is still spoken today. Aram is the Hebrew word for Syria.
Josephus wrote, “Aram had the Aramites, which the Greeks call Syrians” (Ant 1.6.4). They
are mentioned many times in the Bible, particularly during the ministry of Elisha in the
Northern Kingdom of Israel. They are also mentioned in Akkadian and Assyrian records.
The Aramaic language became prominent in the ancient near east, being spoken in many
nations, including Assyria and Babylon. Parts of the books of Daniel and Ezra were written in
Aramaic, and it became widely spoken amongst the Jews at the time of Jesus.
A. One son of Arphaxad (Gen 10:24, 1 Chron 1:18a)
1. Shelah, only son of Arphaxad, third of five sons of Shem
Not found in non-Biblical sources apart from Josephus, who lists, “Sala son of Arphaxad”
B. Four sons of Aram (Gen 10:23, 1 Chron 1:17b)
1. Uz, first of four sons of Aram, fifth of five sons of Shem
Because the Arameans were rather nomadic, it is difficult to locate the region where the
descendants of Uz settled. Regions of northern Arabia between Babylon and Edom are most
likely. The land of Uz was Job's homeland, in the east (Job 1:1,3). The area of the Wadi
Sirhan, a shallow flat depression 50 miles east of Amman, 210 miles long and 20 miles wide
is a likely location.
Together with the Philistines, Edom, Moab and the sons of Ammon, Jeremiah prophesied that
they must drink the cup of God's wrath for the nations (Jer 25:20-26). In Lamentations, Uz is
the land where the daughters of Edom dwelt (Lam 4:21).
Josephus says that Uz, son of Aram, founded Trachonitis and Damascus, the country between
Palestine and Celesyria. (Ant 1.6.4)
2. Hul, second of four sons of Aram, fifth of five sons of Shem
His descendants settled to the north of the Sea of Galilee. The lake and valley of Huleh were
named after them.. In Victorian times, the area was notorious for its tribes of Bedouin
robbers. Lake Huleh and its marshes and swamps have now been drained, and the reclaimed
land is settled and farmed. In modern Israel there is a nature reserve there called the Vale of
Hula. In the Book of Joshua, this area was called the Waters of Merom (Josh 11:5,7).
Josephus says that Ul founded Armenia (Ant 1.6.4).
3. Gether, third of four sons of Aram, fifth of five sons of Shem
His descendants settled to the south of Damascus. Josephus calls them Gather, and identifies
them as the Bactrians (Ant 1.6.4). This may not be correct, as Bactria was settled by Japhetic
tribes by late Assyrian times, rather then Semitic.
4. Mash, fourth of four sons of Aram, fifth of five sons of Shem
His descendants were people who lived in Lebanon. In 1 Chr 1:17, he is called Meshech,
which should not be confused with the Meshech from the line of Japheth. Josephus wrote,
“Mesa the Mesaneans; it is now called Charax Spasini” (Ant 1.6.4)
A. One son of Shelah (Gen 10:24b, 1 Chron 1:18b)
1. Eber, only son of Shelah, only son of Arphaxad, third of five sons of Shem
Eber gave his name to the Hebrew people, the children of Eber. His name means one who
emigrates, or crosses over (Gen 10:21), describing a tribe which came from the other side of
the River (Euphrates). Eber is sometimes used as a name for Israel (Num 24:24). Some have
tried to identify him with Ebru, king of Ebla, but this is unlikely.
Josephus wrote, “Heber, from whom they originally called the Jews Hebrews" (Ant 1.6.4).
Abram is described as Abram the Hebrew (Gen 14:13).
A. Two Sons of Eber (Gen 10:25, 1 Chron 1:19)
1. Peleg, first of two sons of Eber, only son of Shelah, only son of Arphaxad, third of five sons of Shem
Peleg was named after the division and scattering of the nations from Babel. According to
Genesis, his name was Peleg, “for in his days the earth was divided” (Gen 10:25). This sets
The Tower of Babel (Gen 11) as being during the fourth generation after the flood.
The Hebrew word Peleg means water course, or division. His name corresponds with the
Akkadian word Pulukku, which means dividing up of territory with boundaries. The Assyrian
word, palgu means to divide land with canals and irrigation systems. An ancient name of
Babylon is Place of Canals, or Place of Division, or Place of Peleg. There are ruins of an
Akkadian town called Phalgu where the Euphrates and Chebar (or Chaboras) Rivers join.
Josephus wrote, “he was called Phaleg, because he was born at the dispersion of the nations
to their several countries; for Phaleg, among the Hebrews, signifies division” (Ant.1.6.4)
The descendants of Peleg continue the Semetic line which led to Abram (11:18-26), and
ultimately to the Jewish people and the Jewish Messiah, Jesus (Matt 1:1-16).
2. Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
The ancestor of 13 southern Arabian tribes listed below (v26). Modern Arabs remember him
as Yaqtan, son of Ishmael, and father of all Arabs. Arabs consider that the purest Arabs are
Semitic Arabs descended from Joktan, while Hamitic Arabs are referred disdainfully as
Musta 'rabs, meaning Pretended Arabs. Joktan's name is preserved in the ancient town of
Jectan, near modern Mecca. His name in Hebrew means Younger.
A. 13 Sons of Joktan (Gen 10:26-30, 1 Chron 1:20-23)
The sons of Joktan became tribes who lived in the Arabian desert. “The territory in which
they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephas, the hill country of the east” (Gen
1. Almodad, first of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
Almodad's name is Arabic, and means The Agitator. He probably settled in the southern part
of the Arabian peninsula. Josephus and the Septuagint name him Elmodad.
2. Sheleph, second of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
A southern Arabian tribe, known to pre-Islamic Arabs as Salif. They were identified with a
tribe from Yemen, whose capital Sulaf was about 60 miles north of modern San'aa, otherwise
with Shilph, a district of Yemen, or Shalph or Shulph, other Yemenite tribes.
3. Hazarmaveth, third of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
His descendants populated the 200 mile long valley that runs parallel to the southern coast of
Arabia, known today as The Hadramaut near Aden in Yemen. The kingdom of Hadramaut,
with capital city of Shabwa or Sabteca, was a highly developed ancient civilisation from the
5th century BC, to the 1st century AD. Hadramaut is a direct transposition into Arabic of the name
Hazarmaveth, which means Town of Death.
Josephus names him Asermoth (Ant 1.6.4). Strabo records that the tribe of Hazarmaveth was
one of the four main tribes of Arabs at his time.
4. Jerah, fourth of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
It is likely that his descendants migrated to southern Arabia. There is an Arab city with this
name, known as Jerakon Kome by Ptolemy, which is on the Mara coast close to Hadramaut.
The Hebrew yerah is identical with the word for month, or moon, and this word is found in
many inscriptions in southern Arabia with this meaning.
On the shores of the Sea of Galilee there is a ruined mound called Beth-Yerah, meaning the
house of Jerah, but this is probably not connected with this Jerah.
5. Hadoram, fifth of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
A southern Arabian tribe, whose town is recorded as Hurarina in inscriptions of Ashurbanipal, which lies close to Yarki.
6. Uzal, sixth of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
The name Uzal is recorded by Arab historians as Azal, which is the pre-Islamic name for
San'aa, the modern capital of Yemen, so his descendants are probably modern Yemenis.
Josephus names him Aizel (Ant 1.6.4)
7. Diklah, seventh of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
As his name in Greek is Tigris, the name of the river where he settled, either north of the
Persian Gulf or in the north-eastern corner of the Arabian peninsula. Josephus names him
Decla (Ant 1.6.4). The name is also found in Akkadian and Assyrian records.
8. Obal, eighth of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
A southern Arabian tribe, who Arab historians knew as Ebal, who lived between the Yemeni
cities of Hadeida and San'aa. Josephus named him Ebal (Ant 1.6.4). In Yemeni inscriptions
he is Abil.
9. Abimael, ninth of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
His descendants settled in southern Arabia, which is shown in ancient Sabean inscriptions.
10. Sheba, tenth of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
There are two Sheba's in the Table of the Nations
1. Sheba, tenth son of Joktan in the line of Shem
2. Sheba, son of Raamah, grandson of Cush (Ham)
There is also another Sheba, the first son of Jokshan, grandson of Abram and Keturah (Gen
Two of these are found in Arabia, (from Joktan and Cush), so it is impossible to determine
where this Sheba's descendants lived. It is likely that the Semitic and Hamitic Shebas became
mixed when Semitic groups settled near Hamitic groups. Classical Abyssinian culture shows
a blending of Hamitic and Semitic elements. Southern Arabians crossed the sea to Africa as
traders and colonists to make a great impact on Abyssinian culture. The Old Testament most
frequently identifies Shebans as traders or raiders, trading in gold, frankincense, spices and
jewels (Job 6:19). Through their trading, they founded colonies in various oases in northern
Sheba or Saba was the most prominent of the Arab kingdoms in the first millennium BC. It
was ruled by mukarribs (priest-kings) who supervised both the political affairs and the
polytheistic worship of the sun, moon and star-gods. The capital was Marib, where there are
significant archaeological remains of temples to the moon-god. The Queen of Sheba came to
visit King Solomon (1 Kg 10). Josephus names him Sabeus (Ant 1.6.4)
11. Ophir, eleventh of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
From pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions, this tribe settled between Saba (Sheba) in Yemen and
Hawlan , or Havilah. Its name is preserved in the coastal town of Ma'afir in south-west
Arabia. The gold of Ophir was considered to be among the most precious of materials, by
both the Bible and other ancient documents. Solomon's fleet brought gold from Ophir (1 Kg
9-10). The location of Ophir is disputed. The Biblical association is with the south-western
corner of the Arabian peninsula.
There are also traditions that Ophir was in India, including Josephus, “Solomon gave this
command, that they should go with his own stewards to the land that was of old called Ophir,
but was now called Aurea Chersonesus, which belongs to India”. (Ant 8.6.4)
12. Havilah, twelfth of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
There are two Arabian tribes known as Havilah, which remained as distinct tribes. This
Havilah, twelfth son of Joktan, in the line of Shem, and Havilah, the second son of Cush in
the line of Ham. The name means “stretch of sand”, from the diminutive of the Hebrew word
The Arabian cosmographer Yakut says that their dialect Hawil was spoken by the
descendants of Midian, the son of Abraham. The Semitic tribe of Havilah lived in areas of
northern Arabia, as well as the southernmost tip of the Arabian peninsula, crossing over the
Red Sea from there to the African coast, near the modern state of Djibouti. Their city Aualis,
noted by Ptolemy and Pliny on the Red Sea coast of Africa, is now known as Zeila.
13. Jobab, thirteenth of 13 sons of Joktan, second of two sons of Eber
His descendants settled in the town named after their founder Juhaibab, which according to
Sabean inscriptions is close to modern Mecca.