Merciful. It’s oftentimes helpful to find ‘brackets’ in passages of Scripture, meaning – phrases or word choices that begin and end a passage. We see an example of that in the previous chapter (Gen. 9:1,7); and this chapter we have another: both verse 1 and verse 32 bracket the listing of the ‘table of nations.’ But not only does this bracket introduce and conclude the genealogy of Noah’s sons, it has within it a reminder of God’s mercy – both verses end with the phrase, “after the flood” (Gen. 10:1b; 32b). It’s as though the reader should stop and say – ‘Wow, look at how God so thoroughly replenished the planet that He made desolate. What mercy…’ Sadly, future generations like Nimrod and those at the Tower of Babel would spurn such mercy – forgetting that the populated planet they enjoyed had, not too long before, “perished, being flooded with water” (2 Pet. 3:6b). Let’s be careful not to do the same. We, too, live “after the flood.”
Detailed Record Keeper. Upon reading through Genesis chapter 10 you might think, ‘What attributes of God can be seen through a genealogical record like this?’ Well, you could say – God is in the details. He is, in more ways than one, a detailed record keeper, and the genealogical records of Scripture bear witness of that. Granted, when looking at the Genesis genealogies there was probably more immediate application and clearly seen relevance for the first readers of this inspired record. One could imagine the Israelites seeing not only their own ‘family history’ but the history of their own enemies and marveling at the origin of nations. Even modern day scholars have found this list remarkably unique and helpful to ascertain patriarchal progenitors of modern day nations and people groups. But from a macro-historical view, one cannot help but see how God ensured that there would be incontrovertible historical records genealogically connecting Adam to Abraham via the generations of Noah. But that was never the ‘end game’ of the genealogies. To see that we must go to the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke, where Jesus is genealogically connected to both Abraham and Adam, respectively. Amazing. What does that tell us about God? Well, it reminds us the God of the Bible is a detailed record keeper whose attention to detail helps demonstrate His veracity.
Selective. Now I don’t mean that in the sense of the doctrine of election – that is true, but that’s not what we’re referring to at this point. The selectivity that is noticeable in Genesis chapter 10 is that of an inspired author who chooses to order, include, and arrange details according to His purposes. For example, in Genesis chapter 10 the line of Japheth is mentioned first, followed by the sons of Ham and the sons of Shem. That arrangement, which is different from the way the three sons of Noah are often listed (i.e. Shem, Ham, and Japheth), and which is not genealogically exhaustive, appears to reflect an ascending order of importance for redemptive historical purposes. Especially for the first readers of Genesis, Japheth (10:2-4) would be the least important, the long listing of Ham’s descendants (10:6-20), many of whom have names that Bible readers will be readily familiar with as Israel’s enemies are second, and then, as though the ‘table of nations’ crescendos at this point, there’s the line of Shem (10:21-31; cf.11:10-26), the line through which Abraham and subsequently, Jesus, would ultimately come. The selectivity of God’s inspiration is further demonstrated in the ‘hints’ we are given that chapters ten and eleven do not follow a strict chronology. For example, at the end of the list of Japheth’s descendants we read: “From these the coastland people of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations” (Gen. 10:5 emphasis added), and, “To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided…” (vs.25 emphasis added), both of which intimates that the Tower of Babel event is already anticipated in the chapter that precedes its telling. The master Author is selective in what He has included in inspired revelation and how He has chosen to arrange it – a point for Bible readers to bear in mind when Bible narratives do not follow a strict chronology or meet a person’s literary expectations.
Resolute. God had said post flood that, “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21b), and just as the earth so quickly descended into a depth of depravity to warrant the flood, not too long after Noah and his sons began to repopulate the earth, a man by the name of Nimrod became the architect of a kingdom that would come to epitomize and symbolize rebellion against God. And despite that, the God who cannot be tempted by evil was never tempted, not even for a second, to go back on His commitment to never flood the world again. He is resolute. Steadfastly committed to the display of His glory, the fulfillment of His promises, and the good of His people. And not even the egregious wickedness of Nimrod could change that. As part of the plan of the triune God, the eternal Son had, before time began, set His face towards Jerusalem to die for Nimrod-like rebels who, too, flaunted their rebellion before the face of the Lord (cf. Gen. 10:9).
Sovereign. To see this attribute most clearly, Genesis 10 ought to be read through the lens of Acts 17. When Paul was preaching to the men of Athens he told them that God, “made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed time and the boundaries of their dwellings” (Acts 17:26). That further witnesses to what we already know – what we read about in Genesis 10 is not the result of happenstance but is the sovereign outworking of God’s providence. The God who is sovereign over all the nations of men providentially placed the descendants of Japheth, Ham, and Shem where He predetermined they ought to be. And that Acts 17:26 reality, please excuse the forthcoming double negative, has never not been in effect. It was and has been the case, before, during, and after Genesis 10.