So far we have looked at the account of creation, Adam and Eve, Adam’s family tree, the reason for the Flood, Noah, the flood, God’s covenant, the blessing and cursing of Noah’s sons. And last time we began to look at the Tower of Babel and how nations would be formed.

(It may be useful to hand out or display maps for this study)



(an enlargement from Map002)

Genesis 10:1-32

1 This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood.

Remember from earlier (Genesis chapter 5) that this phrase was probably the end of the clay tablet written (or owned) by Shem, Ham and Japheth. Remember too that although this is the order in which Noah’s sons are normally listed, it is not the order in which they were born: Japheth was oldest (Genesis 10:21), Shem was next and Ham was the youngest (9:24).

As we read this chapter we are introduced to individuals whose names will eventually be used as the names of towns, cities, peoples and nations. Look out for names that are familiar from your reading of the Old Testament.

2 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras.

3 The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah.

4 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittim (Cyprus) and the Rodanim.

5 (From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.)

It may well be that Moses added verse 5, the note in verse 13, and the explanation of the Canaanite expansion in verses 17 and 18 as he copied Shem’s tablet (Genesis 11:10) as Shem obviously wouldn’t have known these facts.

Only two of Japheth’s children have their children listed. Possibly they had already moved away and either the information was not available or it was considered unimportant. Generally it seems that Japheth’s descendants headed north and west. Ham’s descendants generally headed south west towards North Africa.

6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan.

7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteca.

The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan.

(Mizraim became Egypt, Cush named the area of the Upper Nile, south of Egypt, although his son Nimrod stayed in Babylon. Put is thought to be somewhere in North Africa)

8 Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The first centres of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech (another name for Uruk – we’ll mention this again in a moment ), Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar. 11 From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh (back up the Tigris River, towards Mt Ararat),

Rehoboth Ir, Calah 12 and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

13 Mizraim was the father of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites,14 Pathrusites, Casluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites (Crete).

15 Canaan was the father of Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hittites, 16 Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, 17 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 18 Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites.

Later the Canaanite clans scattered 19 and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon towards Gerar as far as Gaza, and then towards Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.

20 These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

21 Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber.

The sons of Shem were important in that it was from them that the Nation of Israel would be born and because of this, Shem’s descendants are further detailed in chapter 11.

22 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram. (Aram and the Arameans will crop up repeatedly in the Old Testament. They generally occupied the area now called Syria)

23 The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshech.

24 Arphaxad was the father of Shelah, and Shelah the father of Eber.

25 Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan.

26 Joktan was the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah,28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba (Modern-day Yemen), 29 Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan.

30 The region where they lived stretched from Mesha towards Sephar, in the eastern hill country (Both these locations are unknown today).

31 These are the sons of Shem by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

32 These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.

That was a very brief account of how the World was initially populated with people spreading thinly, driven by a very natural desire to live among people they understood – the same thing happens today when people emigrate to new lands: they often seek out those who speak their language, and settle together.

While the people were emigrating, the animals were also increasing their numbers and filling the world as it was then. Some spread equally, some stayed together. Some would already be establishing migration patterns which they would continue to follow after the world was divided.

Now Chapter 11:10-26 – Terah’s tablet (v27), very specifically tracing just his own family line. Important to him, but important to us as it takes us to the birth of Abram.


10  .  .  .  .  Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. 11 And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters.

12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. 13 And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber. 15 And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. 17 And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu. 19 And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug. 21 And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters.

22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor. 23 And after he became the father of Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters.

24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah. 25 And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters.

26 After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.

It is possible to add the ages given and come up with a definitive number of years after the flood until Abram’s birth: 292. This means that using other Biblical dates we can arrive at a date of the flood around 4316 years ago. But here we enter the world of controversy, because not only are biblical scholars divided, suggesting 1072, 1172, or 942 years from the Flood to Abram, but also archaeologists demand several thousand years to fit their layers in and historians also struggle to match dates with contemporary records from other nations. (If you find this interesting there are many theories to be found on the internet, but very few facts. I looked, but was spending far too much time so came back to this study!).

Historians suggest that the first civilisations in the world began in the ‘Fertile Crescent’. (Indicate on map) and using their dating we have:

9000bc – Early pottery is found.

8350bc – Jericho was a settlement of 4 acres

8000bc – Traces of the first cultivated cereals found in the Levant and to the south and east of the Dead Sea there were two farming settlements of over 24 acres.

7350bc Jericho was a walled city of 10 acres (The first in the world).

7000bc Copper is being worked.

6000bc there was a settlement in Southern Turkey covering 32 acres containing ceramic pottery and other evidence of wealth such as obsidian and semi-precious stones. The houses had elaborate ornaments and wall paintings.

4000bc saw the first bronze castings and the first use of the plough.

Remember that these discoveries only relate to a few sites and dates are best guesses that can’t really be relied upon, and are often revised.

As society develops, there will always be those who lead and those who are led. Consider the playground. A small group of boys forms a gang. One of them is the leader. As a gang they are quite likely to take sweets etc. from other boys. An astute boy asks ‘Can I join your gang?’ In order to join he may have to fight, or give something. But after that, he is accepted as part of the gang and he has its protection and a share in its winnings.

Early civilisation was just like that. If your tribe looked weak you would probably be raided by the stronger one from over the hill. It would be in your own interest (in fact - all your interests) to form an alliance (and maybe give some sheep or a wife to the head man).  Once several tribes have grouped together they may be able to ward off an attack from any other tribe – or even be strong enough to carry out raids of their own.

As populations grew, tribes settled. With the introduction of copper tools and weapons, villages became towns and towns became cities. Chiefs became city leaders and started to call themselves kings.  A strong king would attempt to gain dominance over adjoining cities, and all the people then under his authority would be expected to fight for the king and to provide him with goods and services. Ultimately, once an area was sufficiently populated and if the king was powerful enough, the land could be regarded as a country.

Once there was peace and stability in an area, traders would venture further afield, taking goods to sell or exchange. Some would stay in the new land, setting up permanent import/export businesses as they would have the contacts to source whatever they realised would be profitable.

The area around the coastal ends of the Euphrates and the Tigris became a cauldron as first one and then another of the city kings tried to gain supremacy.

Leadership of the area passed between Kish, Uruk and Ur. Although there was no central government, there was a unified culture, religion, and language. This language is today known as Sumerian and was one of a group of languages, including Hebrew, which are generally referred to today as Semitic.


We have seen how the descendants of Shem Ham and Japheth spread out across the world starting from Turkey. But it is thought the first true city was Uruk in Mesopotamia.

So let’s concentrate on Mesopotamia where civilisation is really taking off.

27 This is the account of Terah.

Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29 Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah;

she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.

(At this point it may be helpful to draw a short family tree for Terah using just the facts from verses 27-30. Get people to call out names and relationships. We have no name for Haran’s wife, and Iscah – modern Jessica – is not mentioned again in the Bible. Chart002 has a more complete tree)

31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.

32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.

Why did Terah up sticks with the intention of moving to Canaan? He appears to have been a successful businessman, perhaps a leader in his city. So it may have been a purely business decision – or were things getting too hot politically? Had he supported the wrong person for king? Or was there a more personal reason? In Genesis 11:28 we read: While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth.

Was that the trigger to move, leaving his other son Nahor to carry on the family business? Did he take Haran’s body with him, with the intention of giving him a suitable burial somewhere else?

Or should we see the hand of God directing him? (‘I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.’

Genesis 15:7)

Anyway he packs up and simply sets off up the main road. This was already a trade route from the head of the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, taking in Ur, Babylon, Nineveh, and Haran. Haran itself was at a crossroads where you could also head south to Caanan and Egypt or north to connect with the Silk Road to the East. It may not have been a town then, and it may not have had the name Haran until Terah arrived.

Why did Terah change his mind at this point and settle in Haran?

When did it get that name? And why? Or was Haran named after the town?

Logically, Terah would have named his town ‘Terah’ but maybe he wished to have a lasting memorial for his dead son.

It is possible that the people of the area were already known as ‘Hebrews’. Less than ten years after Abram had arrived in Canaan (16:3) he is referred to as ‘Abram the Hebrew’ (14:13). There are many references in ancient texts to the Abiru or Habiru but no conclusive connection has been made so far.

This completes this study, but a brief history of the region is given below if anyone is interested! Note that the dates are from secular historians, matching them to the Bible dates continues to be difficult!


In those days the Persian Gulf extended further inland, with Ur as an important coastal city. Although the kings of Ur, Kish and Uruk were alternating in their control in the area, none were particularly powerful.

Eventually a King named Sargon (2270-2215BC) from an area known as Akkad, near Babylon took control of these city-states. He established control over the whole area between the two rivers, as far north as the borders with what would become Turkey, and from there his successors expanded into Lebanon, providing a route to the Mediterranean.

This was a time of great prosperity, the arts flourished and literature developed. Many foreign contacts were made and trade was encouraged. Eventually it all collapsed (2100bc) but the concept of a unified Empire had been established for the first time anywhere in the world.

A hundred years later a new Empire emerged in Southern Mesopotamia but it was short-lived and left the cities again competing for power. Meanwhile in the North of the country the Amorites established control but again this foundered in 1700bc. An advisor wrote ‘There is no king who is strong by himself: 10 or 15 kings follow Hammurabi of Babylon, as many follow Rim-Sin of Larsa Ibalpiel of Eshnunna and Amutpiel of Qatna, while 20 kings follow Yarim-Lim of Yamkhad’. But Hammurabi gained control and established an Empire centred on Babylon which survived until it was raided by the Hittites from Turkey in 1595bc.

Meanwhile, civilisation was also developing in Egypt. In 3100bc Menes had unified the country and established the first Dynasty, governing the country from Memphis (Northern Nile). This lasted 500 years during which time hieroglyphic writing was introduced and the Pharaohs of the 3rd and 4th Dynasties built the Pyramids (2500bc). At the end of the 6th Dynasty (2100bc) rule from Memphis broke down and there was a period of civil war with rivals ruling from either end of the Nile.

In 2040bc Mentuhotep re-united the country and Thebes (S Nile) became the centre of government for the next 300 years. Around 1800bc advances were made to the south and trading relations were established with towns in the Levant. Around 1750bc centralised rule again broke down allowing the country to be overrun by the Hyskos. They ruled until around 1500bc when native Kings gradually regained control of the whole country. And it was during this next period that the Valley of the Kings complex was built at Thebes.

By 1500bc Egypt had established control over the whole of the Levant, establishing boundaries roughly East of Cyprus by mounting campaigns to keep insurgents at bay,  rather than to try to establish any real control over the peoples scattered throughout the Levant. They would of course have trading relations with these peoples and rights of passage would be required. However over the next 200 years their control weakened and by 1000bc the Egyptian Empire had collapsed.

Genesis 12Genesis 10

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Genesis (11) Chapters 10:1-32, 11:10-32

Terah, early Civilisations