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Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History

The Post-Flood Period: Out and About


Human rationality has wrought a terrible toll on the biblical text causing needless tension between science and the Bible. Another example of this concerns the post-flood period migrations of Noah's three sons.  Traditionalists have attributed all the present-day inhabitants of the globe solely to the wanderlust of Shem, Ham, and Japheth and their descendants.

The languages of the Noahic tribes were scrambled at the tower of Babel, as the explanation goes, and off they went to become Eskimos, Aztecs, Norsemen, Pygmies, Apaches, Laplanders, Chinese, Japanese, and so forth. No matter how much hot-air rhetoric is exhausted on this notion, world history will not capitulate, and neither will the Bible.

Unwelcome Rearranging

When my daughter was three years old, already she understood a biblical truth that has escaped the attention of many Bible commentators. That might sound like a bragging parent, but consider: "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes" (Matt. 11:25).

What could a child of three possibly know that grown-up authorities on the Bible would not know?  She knew Genesis 10 comes before Genesis 11. Now, I admit I kept it simple by just asking her to count to 20, and truth to tell, she sometimes got confused after 15, but rarely did she make a mistake between 1 and 12.  My guess is that my daughter is not too unusual. Most grade school children, and even high school students too, could list the chapters of any Book of the Bible in correct chronological order if they just counted in the normal manner.

A condition we might call biblical dyslexia does not appear to set in until seminary school.  It is here and in Christian colleges all over America that human rationality suppresses what we learned and trusted as youngsters. The overpowering tendency has been to put Genesis 11 ahead of Genesis 10 so that everyone can get their tongues confused at Babel before they dispersed and took off for distant lands. This is a mistake that has heaped confusion on top of confusion needlessly.

The order of presentation in the first eleven chapters of Genesis requires no rearranging for enhanced palpability. For example, critics of Bible integrity have pointed to the fact that the order of creation in Genesis 1 is different from Genesis 2, changing from animals first, and then man - to man, and then animals. We saw a reason for that. Adam had to name only those animals God created expressly for his pleasure in Genesis 2.  In turn, Noah had to save the descendants from this smaller group, and was thus spared the toil of building a bigger ark.

Here again, the Bible has it right and the commentators have it wrong. The dispersion of Noah's sons with their children and flocks in Genesis 10 comes before the confusion at Babel in Genesis 11 primarily because the post-flood dispersion happened at an earlier point in history than the tower of Babel incident. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

Dispersing the Nations

Genesis 10 announces the dispersion of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Nimrod led at least one Hamitic group that helped rebuild cities, including Babylon.  Asshur, a Semite, led an expedition and set out to build cities up north, assisted or resisted by the local populations. Other Semites set out as recorded in Genesis 10:30. The dispersion of the nations emanating from the three sons of Noah is completed in Genesis 10. The next event of importance takes place in the land of Shinar described in the next chapter of Genesis.

The Bible negates the idea that all of us could have descended from Noah by the way the dispersion is narrated.  The scattering of the sons after the flood is not recorded as a global intrusion.  From the description alone we can see how far Noah's offspring ventured.

Genesis 10:1: "Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood."

The verses following Genesis 10:1 list Noah's sons and grandsons. The pattern blurs a bit as some descendant lines are named to the third or fourth generation, and some are named beyond that.  The names of some tribes are included; presumably they derived from the founding patriarchs of those generations.  Later, lands that were settled by these tribes bore the same names, such that new immigrants would take on the name of the land, whether they were descendants or not.

Through further biblical references, and aided by history and archaeology, we have some idea of the migrations of these peoples and tribes. Please keep in mind, Bible scholars do not all agree on the eventual homelands of Noah's progeny. For our purposes, the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary is the primary reference, a scholarly work, and typical of what could be found in other Genesis commentaries.

Sons of Japheth

Genesis 10:2.  Japheth had seven sons: "Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras."  Gomer may have started the tribe of the Cimmerians from whom came the Cumri or Cymry, some of whom migrated later to Wales and Britanny. Josephus attaches Magog to the Scythianson the Sea of Asof and the Caucasus.

The Medes are derived from Madai. Javan is given credit for founding the Greeks. Herodotus placed descendants of Tubal on the east of Thermodon.  Meshech relates to the Moschi "in the Moschian mountains between Iberia, Armenia, and Colchis." [i] Tribal offshoots of Tiras have been associated with Thrace, Egypt, and Assyria.

Genesis 10:3.  Gomer had three sons: "Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah." Ashkenaz has been linked with some peoples in the area of Germany, and possibly with the Ascanians in upper Phrygia. The Celts may be offshoots of Riphath, whereas Josephus reckoned Paphlagonia as the land of choice, but neither of these may be accurate.  The Armenians can be traced to Togarmah.

Genesis 10:4.  The sons of Javan were "Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim." Elishah and his tribe may have headed for Sicily or Thessalonica. Spain may have been the land of choice for the offshoots of Tarshish, although Tarsus in ancient Cilicia, birthplace of Paul, is Tarshish in Hebrew.  Kittimites can be found in Cyprus, and possibly, on the shores at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.  Dodanim's descendants are connected with the north of Greece.

Genesis 10:5: "By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations."

The generally accepted interpretation of this verse is that the Japhethites, named in the previous verses, settled in the immediate vicinity of the Mediterranean Sea, with the possible exception of some who may have worked their way into parts of northwestern Europe.

The "islands" mentioned here and elsewhere in the Old Testament are the "islands and coastlands of the Mediterranean, on the European shore from Asia Minor to Spain." [ii]  The prophet Ezekiel accounts for the tribes of four of the seven sons of Japheth, and implies local confines.

The Lord spoke to the prophet in Ezekiel 38:2-6. In God's words, "Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armor, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee" (Eze. 38:3-6).

Take particular note of the last sentence, "and many people with thee."  If the progeny of the sons of Noah accounted for all the peoples of the earth, then who were these "many people" who apparently came from outside the tribes of Japheth?  Also, the lands named (Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya) are not far removed from Israel and Judah, of Babylon where the prophet was a captive resident at the time of his writing. None was called forth from the lands of Borneo or Brazil, for example.

It should be evident that the areas mentioned by historians, as well as the prophet Ezekiel, stop short of defining the entire globe. The traditional approach promulgated by conservative Bible apologists has been that the Japhethites were the seeds sown which led to the population of Europe and parts of Asia. That could only have been possible had they started their migrations many centuries before 2900 BC.

By this time in history, the continent of Europe and the British Isles were sparsely settled, including the southern part of Scandinavia. The Japhethites arrived on the scene too late in human history to account for the origins of the many diverse populations already residing in those parts who were busy cranking out pottery, stone carvings, and making megalithic tombs of giant slabs of stone that still can be seen today.

Just because pockets of populations can be found scattered about that can be traced back to the named patriarchs does not by any stretch of the imagination imply that all existing populations can be so traced. The migrating bands of Japhethites left their mark, no doubt, but they either found vacant land to occupy, or they displaced native inhabitants, or they were assimilated into the existing cultures.

Sons of Ham

Leaving the Japhethites, and turning our attention to the Hamites, we see much the same story - local infiltration, not global migration.

Genesis 10:6.  The sons of Ham are: "Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan."

The descendants of Cush are identified with Eastern Mesopotamia, Arabia, Southern Asia and, perhaps erroneously, with Ethiopia. None of Phut's children are named in biblical history, but he appears to relate to the Libyans with some descendants pushing out as far as Mauritania.

The prophet Isaiah alludes to the local nature of the earliest migrations.  "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea" (Isa. 11:11).

We can see how restricted the area was from Isaiah's vantage point. In the next verse, Isaiah speaks of the "outcasts of Israel" and the "dispersed of Judah" being brought "from the four corners of the earth" (Isa. 11:12). This is a specific prophecy either for the gathering of the Jews, and the founding of the nation Israel in 1948, or it could refer to the gathering unto judgment in the last days.

Genesis 10:8: "And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth."

Genesis 10:10.  Nimrod is called the "mighty hunter." "And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar."

One of the monuments taken from excavations at Uruk is a stela made out of black granite depicting a bearded leader hunting lions:

  • He uses a spear in one example, bow and arrow in the other, for he is represented twice.  There is no inscription; no setting is indicated and there are no followers. The occasion of the hunt remains a mystery ... [iii]

And similarly, the exploits of Nimrod remain a mystery.  Unlike Asshur, no traces of Nimrod have yet been found in the annals of ancient history except for a city named Birs Nimrud.

Sargon of Agade

The middle of the third millennium was tumultuous in war-ravaged Sumer.  Fortress cities fought for supremacy against each other with first one, and then another, vying for and gaining control, only to lose it again in yet another battle. Umma and Lagash were two of the cities most in opposition, and engaged one another in conflict frequently. Around 2450 BC, a monument was raised in Lagash heralding the triumph of King Eannatum over the Ummans.

At about 2375 BC, Lugalzaggesi of Umma exacted revenge and sacked the city of Lagash, burning their temples. [iv]  The heady aroma of victory was not to endure as the forces of Lugalzaggesi were crushed at Nippur by Sargon the Great, bringing to power a new ruler, a Semite, over all of Sumer and Accad.

Sargon's origins are surrounded in intrigue. Legend has it that a Semite woman found herself embarrassingly with child.  After birth, baby Sargon was placed in a reed basket waterproofed with pitch, and set adrift Moses-style upon the headwaters of the Euphrates.  The basket drifted downstream and was found by a Sumerian farmer irrigating his fields who later reared little Sargon in his home.

Sargon came from Nimrod's city of Accad, though some historians give Sargon credit for its founding.  Starting his career as cupbearer to the king of Kish, Sargon launched an effective military campaign, and after crushing Lugalzaggisi's army, began his rule around 2371 BC. [v] A dynamic, conquering ruler, Sargon left his indelible mark.

The Sumerian kingdom of Lugalzaggisi soon fell entirely into the hands of Sargon, whose full title proudly proclaimed him to be lord and master of the `four quarters of the world,' namely Amurru to the west, Subartu to the north, Sumer and Accad to the south and Elam to the east. [vi]

One of the key factors giving Sargon's rule such historical punctuation was that the inscriptions from his reign were set down in a previously unrecorded language - a Semitic language. A shift to a Semitic tongue after centuries of Sumerian inscriptions was a real attention getter for archaeologists.

In Mesopotamia, Sumerian was gradually replaced in official documents by Semitic Akkadian, though Sumerian was retained in the temples. [vii]

Please note that two distinctly different cultures, Semite and Sumerian, speaking unrelated languages, were together in the same region at the same time.  Not only were there different languages in the world, but different languages were spoken in Southern Mesopotamia prior to the tower of Babel incident, and even before the flood, as both Sumer and Accad can be traced to about 4000 BC. Although many modern languages can be linked with Hebrew, there is no known language that can be traced to Sumerian. Also note, the Sumerian language predates the Semitic.

  • The Sumerian language is quite different in structure and vocabulary from any other known language of the ancient world, and attempts to derive the Sumerians from an original home in the Caucasus mountains, or from the Iranian plateau, on linguistic grounds have so far failed. [viii]

A short testimony from Sargon has been pieced together from two incomplete Neo-Assyrian tablets and one Neo-Babylonian fragment. It begins, "Sargon the mighty king, king of Agade, am I."  Sargon goes on to tell of his humble birth. Following are four lines of the thirty-two line text:

  • And for four and [...] years I exercised kingship.
    The black-headed [people] I ruled, I governed];
    Whatever king may come up after me [...],
    Let him rule, let him [govern] the black-headed people;... [ix]

Building on what we already have learned, these words from the Semite king imply that he was ruling over a people whose racial characteristics were different from his own people. Clearly, it refers to the Sumerians.

Dating the Flood

Historians place the beginning of Sargon's reign at 2371 BC, and that presents a challenge to the traditional date of the flood. Had the flood taken place at 2348 BC, according to the Ussher chronology, how could Sargon, a Semite, have been reigning 23 years before the rain, so to speak?  The Bible does not name him as any of Shem's immediate kin, so Sargon must have been down the list on Shem's family tree.

Difficulties in reconciling biblical history with secular history, and archaeological dates with biblical dates, is nothing new. The Ryrie Study Bible offers one example of how perplexing this problem can be.

  • Date of the Exodus Two principal views exist concerning the date of the Exodus: c. 1445-1440 B.C. during the reign of Amenhotep II (1450-1425) or c. 1290 B.C., during the reign of Raamses II (1299-1232). Scriptural evidence for the earlier date includes the statement of I Kings 6:1 that the Exodus occurred 480 years before the fourth year of Solomon's reign, thus placing it c. 1445.  Further in Judg. 11:26, Jephthah (c. 1100 B.C.) declared that Israel had possessed the land of Palestine for 300 years, which would date the Exodus c.1400 B.C.

Objections to this earlier date include the following: (1) The Exodus could not have taken place until after 1300 because the city of Raamses was named after the pharaoh who was ruling at that time, and Raamses did not rule until 1299.  However, if the Exodus was about 1290 and Moses was 80 at that time, and since the city was built before Moses' birth, the Exodus could not have been as late as 1290 since there is no room for the 80 years of Moses' life between 1299 and 1290.

(2) It is said that the presence of strong opposition to the Israelites from the Edomites (Num. 20:20-21) was impossible before 1300 since the area of southern Transjordan was unoccupied from 1900-1300. Yet excavations in that area have uncovered objects and pottery dating as early as 1600.

(3) It is claimed that Hazor did not fall to the Israelites until 1300 B.C.  However, Scripture states that it fell twice: first in the days of Joshua (Josh. 11:10-11) and later in the time of Deborah and Barak (Judg. 4:2, 23-24). Further there is evidence in one area of the excavated city of a destruction around 1400.

(4) The destruction of Lachish (Josh. 10:32-39) is said to have occurred 1230-1200 B.C., indicating a late date for the Exodus. But the book of Joshua does not claim that these cities were completely destroyed by Joshua (as Jericho was). Further, since the Stele of Pharaoh Merneptah represents the Hebrews as settled in Canaan when Merneptah's armies attacked them about 1230, the Exodus had to be somewhat earlier than 1290. [x]

Ryrie concludes with a lukewarm endorsement of the earlier date, 1440 BC, agreeing with Wood, Davis, Unger, and Archer. [xi]  Harrison, Wright, Kitchen, Albright and others prefer 1290 BC.  A 150 year ambiguity in the date of the exodus from Egypt affects the estimated date for the flood since all estimates of dates have been done backwards from present to past.

To further confound the issue, Bible texts themselves disagree. Kraft brought out the problem of textual variations:

  • Here the figures vary considerably between those in the Hebrew Masoretic text (A.D. 600-900), from which a part of our English Bible is translated, and the figures in such early texts and versions as the Samaritan Pentateuch (originating before 200 B.C.) and the Greek Septuagint (originating about 250 B.C.).  For example, in the Hebrew text the number of years between creation and the flood adds up to 1,656 years, whereas in the Greek it amounts to 2,242, and in the Samaritan only 1,307. [xii]

Not only do the years from Adam to the flood vary from 1,307 to 1,656 to 2,242 between the three texts, the differences in years from the flood to Abraham are even more startling.  The Masoretic text puts 292 years between the flood and Abraham's birth, whereas the Samaritan Pentateuch records 942! The latter figure is in complete agreement with the Septuagint except the Greek text lists another patriarch, Cainan, between Arphaxad and Shelah, adding another 130 years.  Cainan is dutifully recorded in Luke 3:36, but missing in the received text from which a large part of our English language Bible is derived, adding weight and credibility to the oft-neglected Septuagint. [xiii]

Credit for the 4004 BC date goes to Archbishop Ussher and the received text.  Ramm comments:

  • The date of 4004 B.C. was tagged on to the Bible well before the founding of modern geological theory. This date goes back to the work of James Ussher (1581-1656), an Irishman and Archbishop of Armagh. [xiv]

Ramm goes on to lament that the "dates of Ussher have been almost canonized" due to their inclusion in our English language Bibles for centuries.

Raising ignorance to an art form, Lightfoot refined Ussher's work. Adam's creation, according to the famed Hebrew scholar from Cambridge, took place on October 23, 4004 BC at approximately 9:00 AM (forty-fifth meridian time, of course). [xv]  This led Brewster to remark:

  • Closer than this, as a cautious scholar, the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University did not venture to commit himself. [xvi]

If we can learn from the many mistakes of others, it may do us well to exercise caution, and concentrate more on the sequence of events and their approximate dates of occurrence. Pertinent data can guide us toward that end. One bit of corroborating evidence reported in The Cambridge Ancient History relates to the date of the flood.

  • This important landmark in the dawn of history was associated with the person of a Sumerian king named Ziusudra who was reigning at Shuruppak, precisely where a clean flood stratum has been found. [xvii]

Mallowan, from analysis of the flood deposits at Fara (Shuruppak), put the flood date at about 2900 BC. [xviii]  According to the Watelin-Langdon chronology, the flood deposit at Kish was dated at 3000 BC. [xix]  The Early Dynastic Period in Mesopotamian history commences with the first post-flood rulers at Kish starting at 2900 BC, and ending at 2371 BC with the arrival of Sargon, who begins the Sargonid Period.

Between Ussher's estimated biblical date for the flood and Mallowan's archaeological date is some 550 years, not a particularly alarming disparity. If young-earth creationists can live with discrepancies in the billions of years, a mere 500 or 600 should not be all that disturbing.  For those who prefer less ambiguity, though, there is another approach.

If we set the date of the Exodus to coincide with the reign of Raamses II, preferred by most Old Testament scholars today, and the years from the flood to Abraham is taken from the Septuagint, the quoted text of the New Testament authors, that would yield a date of 2978 BC, almost exactly the same as the archaeological date.  If the Exodus took place in the reign of Amenhotep II, the biblical date for the flood would be 150 years sooner, still close to the archaeological date.

Calculating the Flood
Archbishop Ussher's Creation Date: 4004 BC
Years to the Flood (Masoretic Text) -1656  
The Flood 2348 BC
Duration of Flood - 1 Year -    1  
The Flood Ends 2347 BC
Years to Abraham (Masoretic Text) - 292  
Abraham's Birth 2055 BC
Years Abraham to Exodus - 615  
The Exodus (Early Date) 1440 BC
The Exodus (Early Date - 1440 BC) 1440 BC
Years Abraham to Exodus 615  
Abraham's Birth 2055  
Years Flood to Abraham (Septuagint) 1072  
Duration of Flood - 1 Year     1  
Date of Flood (Early Date) 3128 BC
The Exodus (Late Date - 1290 BC) - 150  
Date of Flood (Late Date) 2978 BC

The Asshur Expedition

Genesis 10:11: "Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city of Rehoboth, and Calah." Asshur began the Assyrian empire in the northeast corner of Upper Mesopotamia where the Tigris river runs from northwest to southeast. Here mounds of ruins can still be found today along both banks of the river.

  • The knowledge about some of the cities buried under these mounds was never lost. That the mound of Nimrud on the east bank, close to the point where the Greater Zab flows into the Tigris, was the town of Kalakh mentioned in Genesis 10:11 was told by the natives to a British representative of the East India Company who explored the site in 1820. They even knew that the country to which this town had once belonged was named ‘al-Assur'. [xx]

The data in Genesis 10:11, confirmed by archaeology and history, once again underscores the reliability of the biblical account.  Building cities, however, does not mean Asshur started from scratch on virgin soil. Although the excavations at the city of Asshur only hint at previous habitation, the underlying ruins beneath Nineveh revealed levels of occupation that preceded the arrival of the Assyrians by roughly 1,000 years. The artifacts recovered at Nineveh were related to the pre-flood Ubaid or Halafian cultures, not to the Semite or Sumerian peoples.

  • The comparison suggests that the early population of Assyria was more or less identical with the pre-Sumerian population of southern Babylonia; the absence of any remains corresponding to the so-called Early Dynastic period of Babylonia makes it clear, on the other hand, that the Sumerians never occupied Assyria. [xxi]

Pottery and artifacts dating to the pre-flood period at Nineveh is unmistakable evidence of a pre-existing populated site upon which Asshur could build an Assyrian city, but the testimony runs deeper then that.  Cuneiform writing found at the site reveals the city already was called "Ninua" before the Semites discovered it. [xxii]

In the Land of Pharaohs

Genesis 10:13,14.  Mizraim and his sons are associated with Egypt. By no means does that signify they gave birth to the entire Egyptian populace.  With the exception of the Philistines, who came from Casluhim with reinforcements from Caphtor, the rest of Mizraim's sons leave only sparse traces in various parts of Egypt. Pathrusim is associated with the island of Pathros where John was exiled.

Excavations in Egypt have uncovered the remains of a variant race of peoples who began moving in at the beginning of the dynastic period.

  • Physically these peoples differed unmistakably from the predynastic Egyptians: whereas the latter were unusually small in stature and possessed long and narrow skulls (about 132 mm. in breadth), the newcomers were more massively built and their skulls (about 139 mm. in width) were appreciably broader than those of their predecessors. [xxiii]

Although the origin of these immigrants is unclear from purely fossil findings, Semitic (or Hamitic) elements began to appear in the vocabulary of the Egyptian language, and it is entirely possible that these newcomers brought it with them. [xxiv]  Semitic (or Hamitic) traces appeared in Egypt after the first dynasty began with Narmer, who ruled about 3100 BC, and are not found prior to that date.

The existence of ancient peoples living in Egypt has been well established. The predynastic period in Egypt dates to 4000 BC.  There is also evidence of population concentrations in the floodplain of the Nile dating as far back as 6000 to 5000 BC. [xxv]  The building of the Aswan dam encouraged salvage programs in that area that uncovered "a virtually uninterrupted sequence of occupation from the Paleolithic to the Mesolithic in southern Egypt - that is, from about 30,000 to 10,000 B.C." [xxvi]  Not to belabor the point, but there is also evidence that the Nile valley was first explored as early as 700,000 years ago. [xxvii]

It might do well to say here that Bible historians in the past have made attempts to join up disparate populations and find links to Noah on the premise that all the world's populations are descendants.  Secular anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians are not so restricted. As a result, the best matches between biblical and secular history have come from those investigators who have not allowed their work to suffer from prejudiced assumptions.

The Cursed Canaanites

Genesis 10:15-18.  From Noah's grandson, Canaan, came Sidon and Heth, followed by the Jebusites, Amorites, Girgasites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, Arvadites, Zemarites, and the Hamathites.

Sidonians dwelt at the "northern borders of Canaan or Phoenicia." [xxviii]  The Hittites are the sons of Heth, and initially occupied a stretch of land south of the Black Sea before they began their conquering ways.  Jebusites inhabited Jerusalem.  Amorites remained closely associated with the Canaanites, and ranged from "the mountains of Judah and beyond the Jordan in the time of Moses." [xxix]

The Arkites found their space in the south of Lebanon, also the home of choice for the Sinites, though no one seems to know exactly where. The Arvadites took up residence on a "small rocky island of Arados to the north of Tripolis." [xxx]  Zemerites were the "inhabitants of Simyra in Eleutherus." [xxxi]  The town of Hamath, located about 115 miles north of Damascus, was founded by the Hamathites.

Genesis 10:19: "And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha."

The Canaanites took the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. In 1977, the Canaanite city of Ebla was brought to light at Tell Mardikh in Syria. Dating to the Chalcolithic period, Ebla appears to have been a major trading partner with Mari and Uruk. The clay tablets excavated from Ebla revealed a cuneiform style of writing similar to that found at Shuruppak and Abu Salabikh, dating to the same period.

Canaanites, descendants of Ham, spoke a Semitic dialect. (One might say a Hamitic dialect.) The language "belongs to an archaic phase of the Northwest Semitic languages, which include Ugaritic of 1400-1200 B.C., Phoenician, and Biblical Hebrew." [xxxii] In other words, the sons of Noah ended up speaking virtually the same language meaning there was never a scrambling of tongues in the sense that their basic language might have been permanently altered.

Today there are roughly 5,000 languages in the world of which between 50 and 200 are unrelated stocks.  By contrast, Accadian, Canaanite, and Amorite languages, as well as later Hebrew, are quite similar and closely related. The building of the tower and the confusion that brought construction to a halt was an event affecting only those listed in that same chapter, the descendants of Arphaxad, son of Shem.

Other relatives, nationalities, and maybe slaves too, could have joined in, but we can only speculate on who they might have been; Hamites descended from Nimrod, maybe; local Sumerians, perhaps. But the idea that the population of the entire world was concentrated at Babel, and that all the world's languages precipitated from the confusion of tongues, is ill conceived, and has inadequate biblical support.

Sons of Shem

In contrast to the migrations of the Japhethites who actually crossed a body of water, and the Hamites, some of whom emigrated to northern Africa, the Semites were veritable home bodies.

Genesis 10:22.  The children of Shem are: Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. Scholars have placed Elam at the head of the Elamites, a parallel culture to the Sumerians located to the east on the Persian plateau. The difficulty is that Proto-Elamite artifacts have been found dating as far back as 3200 B.C. [xxxiii]  From excavations at Susa, the capitol city of Elam, archaeologists have uncovered their written tablets. The extinct Elamite language is unrelated to Semitic, Sumerian, or any other known languages.

Any relationship between Elam and the Elamite nation is problematical. Did Elam himself and some of his heirs find a way to win the hearts and minds of the fierce Persian predecessors? About 2700 BC, the Elamites conquered Sumer for a brief time. [xxxiv]  Did they take on Semite advisors who eventually attained the reigns of power? The Achaemenids, precursors to the Persians, left inscriptions in ancient Elamite, but eventually came to speak Aramaic. [xxxv] Where and when did they acquire a Semitic tongue?  Or was "Elamite," the Accadian word for "highlander," used to describe those who came from that mountainous area? Well, we don't know. For the time being, the derivation of the early Elamite empire remains as much a mystery as the origin of the Sumerians.

A possible solution is that the Semites may have named some of their children after geographical areas or towns, whereas Bible interpreters typically have thought the Semites were founding fathers. A clue can be found in Genesis 11:26-32. Terah named his third son Haran, and Terah died in the city of Haran.  Since the city must have been in existence before Terah's son, this implies his son was named for the city.

In Genesis 2:11, Havilah is a land where there is gold, bdellium and onyx.  The Mesopotamian valley is devoid of precious stones, copper, or gold. These items had to be bartered in exchange for cereal grains the Semites and Sumerians harvested in abundance from the rich alluvial soil. From Gowlett:

  • Raw materials other than clay were so utterly lacking on the Mesopotamian plains that almost everything needed to be imported. [xxxvi]

Havilah, the son of Joktan, may have been named for a land known for its gold.  Likewise, Elam may have been named after the land of the Persians, perhaps for their fierceness or some other quality associated with that nearby culture.

Genesis 10:25: "And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg ..."  Peleg's name means "to divide," and was so named because "in his days was the earth divided."  This has been taken by some as possibly pointing to the dispersion at Babel, but there is another explanation.  Kings of nation states in Sumer fought continuously with one another. A war-torn land is a divided land with divided peoples.

From Lud came the Lydians who may have remained in the same general area as the Assyrians, though Bush places them in Ethiopia. [xxxvii]  The Aramaeans, founded by Aram, situated themselves in various parts of Syria and Mesopotamia, and from them the Chaldeans descended.  The children of Aram - Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash - are all to be found in close proximity to the same area settled by their father. Joktan is considered to be the head of the primitive Arabian tribes; his sons can be traced largely to places and districts in Arabia. [xxxviii]

Races Not Traceable to the Sons of Noah

Writing in 1888, Alexander Winchell found the wanderings of Noah's sons and all their kin "does not embrace more than one-fifteenth of the territory which we now find populated by man." [xxxix]  Bristling at the theological establishment, Winchell made a caustic comment on Genesis 10:

  • Was this an attempt to explain the origin of all the nations of the world?  Does this genealogical map imply that the regions beyond its limits were then unoccupied by human beings?  Does it mean that the various tribes and nations which are now spread over the earth have arisen from the wider dispersion of the sons of Noah? Have the black tribes of Africa and Australia and Melanesia, and the brown nations of Asia and America and Polynesia, been produced from the posterity of Noah during the interval which separates us from the flood?  Yes, says the catechism, which under cover of religious instruction, assumes to indoctrinate our children in ethnological science. Yes, yes, says the commentator, who experiences no difficulty in swallowing the exegetical and indigestible crudities which have been the heirlooms of the church for two thousand years. Yes, yes, yes, exclaims, too unanimously, the modern teacher of "divine truth" all unconscious that the science of ethnology has made visible advances since Jerusalem was the center of the world. To all these questions I reply in the negative. [xl]

In addition to the relatively recent migrations presenting an insurmountable obstacle, the almost entirely local confines of the Hamites precludes them from being the forerunners to the black Africans, for one example, as has been advocated by many Bible interpreters.

Postulating the Caucasians as emanating from Japheth is equally fraught with difficulty.  And no one yet has proposed any descendant of Noah's three sons who could have been ancestral to the native Americans, whose fossil remains date to as early as 11,600 years ago, [xli] and who must have crossed the Bering Strait during the last ice age, 40,000 to 12,000 years ago when there was a land bridge. [xlii]

The Chinese civilization also has traces into the distant past. Recent archaeological endeavors in China have confirmed the antiquity of the Chinese culture:

Until recently, the Chinese Neolithic has given the impression of appearing fully fledged at about 5000 BC, but earlier stages of the story are now becoming apparent. Hsienjentung, a site in Kiangsi, appears to be older than 6800 BC ... [xliii]

The Australian Aborigines settled the "land down under" at least 38,000 years ago. They, among others, cannot be seen to have roots leading to Noah.

The Ice Man Cometh

The mummified body of a Tyrolean mountaineer, dubbed the "Ice Man," was first spotted September 19, 1991, in the melting Similaun glacier high in the Alps.  Radio-carbon dating placed this newly-famous, tattooed wanderer in the Neolithic Period, between 5,100 to 5,300 years ago. A flint-bladed dagger and copper axe found along with his body corroborated this astonishing date. [xliv]  A report by Time went on to say:

  • is clear that he had well-formed facial features that would not draw stares from contemporary Tyroleans. Says South Tyrolean archaeologist Hans Notdrfter: "He looks like one of our well-tanned ancestors." [xlv]

An adjacent article in that same issue of Time included data bits about the world as it was in the day of the Iceman:

  • about 4000 B.C. there were an estimated 86.5 million people on earth, about eight times as many as there had been 2,000 years earlier. [xlvi]

Put in perspective, the world had over 80 million people in residence a thousand years before the flood, who seem to be ancestral to modern-day human beings.  And about ten million people were scattered around the globe a thousand years before Adam!

Later DNA testing confirmed that the Ice Man's mitochondrial DNA type fits into the genetic variation of contemporary Europeans, and is "most closely related to mitochondrial types determined from central and northern European populations" [xlvii] - particularly Germany, Denmark, and Iceland. Gene sequencing showed that within the European gene pool, the Ice Man appears to be "more closely related to contemporary Alpine and northern populations." [xlviii]  Considering the 3100 to 3300 BC date, we have hard evidence of a European mountain man no different racially from present-day indigenous populations, who lived at the time of Noah, before the flood, and who died before Shem, Ham, and Japheth were even born!

The sons of Noah may have founded nations, but they also found nations whose history, customs, and traditions were unlike their own, who spoke different languages, and whose skin color was lighter in the north and darker to the south.


[i] George Bush, Genesis (New York: Iveson, Phinney & Co., 1860), 169.

[ii] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary On The Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986), 164.

[ii] I. E. S. Edwards, C. J. Gadd and N. G. L. Hammond, eds., The Cambridge Ancient History Vol. 1, Part 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 80.


[iv] George Constable, ed., The Age of God-Kings: Time-Frame 3000-1500 BC (Alexandria: Time-Life Books, 1987), 32.

[v] C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky and Jeremy A. Sabloff, Ancient Civilizations: The Near East And Mesoamerica, (Menlo Park: The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc., 1979), 163.

[vi] Andre Parrot, Sumer (France: Thames and Hudson, 1960), 170.

[vii] S. G. F. Brandon, ed., Ancient Empires: Milestones of History (New York: Newsweek Books, 1970), 21.

[viii] Ibid., 20.

[ix] James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955), 119.

[x] Charles C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1978), 91.

[xi] Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 229-241.

[xii] Charles F. Kraft, Genesis: Beginnings of the Biblical Drama (New York: Woman's Division of the Christian Service Board of Missions, The Methodist Church, 1964), 74-75.

[xiii] James A. Borland, "Did People Live to Be Hundreds of Years Old Before the Flood?" The Genesis Debate, ed. Ronald F. Youngblood (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), 169.

[xiv] Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954), 121.

[xv] Edwin Tenney Brewster, Creation: A History of Non-Evolutionary Theories (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1927), 108-109.

[xvi] Ibid., 109.

[xvii] Edwards, Gadd and Hammond, eds., The Cambridge Ancient History Vol. 1, Part 2, 244.

[xviii] M. E. L. Mallowan, "Noah's Flood Reconsidered," Iraq Vol. 26, Part 2 (Autumn, 1964), 81.

[xix] Andre Parrot, The Flood and Noah's Ark (New York: Philosophical Library, 1953), 49.

[xx] Edwards, Gadd and Hammond, eds., The Cambridge Ancient History Vol. 1, Part 2, 729.

[xxi] Ibid., 730.


[xxiii] Ibid., 40.

[xxiv] Ibid., 41.

[xxv] Lamberg-Karlovsky and Sabloff, Ancient Civilizations: The Near East And Mesoamerica, 130.

[xxvi] Ibid., 126.

[xxvii] From a pamphlet The First Egyptians published by the McKissick Museum and Earth Sciences and Resources Institute of The University of South Carolina.

[xxviii] Bush, Genesis, 169.

[xxix] Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary On The Old Testament, 169.

[xxx] Ibid., 169.

[xxxi] Ibid., 169.

[xxxii] Giovanni Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1981), 7-10.

[xxxiii] Lamberg-Karlovsky and Sabloff, Ancient Civilizations: The Near East And Mesoamerica, 152.

[xxxiv] Ibid., 181.

[xxxv] Jim Hicks, The Persians (Alexandria, Time-Life Books, 1975), 9-12.

[xxxvi] John Gowlett, Ascent To Civilization (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984), 180.

[xxxvii] Bush, Genesis, 169.

[xxxviii] Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary On The Old Testament, 170.

[xxxix] Alexander Winchell, Preadamites; or a Demonstration of the Existence of Men Before Adam (Chicago: S. C. Griggs and Company, 1888), 89.

[xl] Ibid., 89.

[xli] "Antiquity of oldest American confirmed," Science News vol. 142, No. 20 (Nov. 14, 1992), 334.

[xlii] Roger Lewin, In the Age of Mankind (U. S.: Smithsonian Institution, 1988), 159.

[xliii] Gowlett, Ascent To Civilization, 166.

[xliv] Leon Jaroff, "Iceman" Time (October 26, 1992), 62-63.

[xlv] Ibid., 64.

[xlvi] Ibid., 67.

[xlvii] Oliva Handt et al., "Mitochondrial Genetic Analyses of the Tyrolean Ice Man," Science (17 July 1994), 1775.

[xlviii] Ibid., 1778.