Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Peleg: In His Days The Earth Was Divided - Genesis 10:25 Bible Commentary


It's easy to read the names in Genesis 10 and forget you're reading about real people. The people in Genesis 10 all had their own worries, troubles, joys, sorrows, and sins. They all walked on the same planet that you walk on today. Just because they lived thousands of years ago does not mean they were any less human.

The people in Genesis 10 had longer lifespans than people do today. Most of them probably lived over 100 years (and some of them lived much longer). Peleg was certainly no exception. He was born 1757 years after creation (2247 BC1). He died 209 years later (Genesis 11:19).

Scripture tells us very little about the lives of the people in Genesis 10. In a few cases, Scripture gives the names of the cities or nations they founded (such as Nimrod in Genesis 10:8-12). Peleg is unique in that Scripture attaches a major historical event to his name.

In Peleg's days, God destroyed the Tower of Babel, dispersed people throughout the globe, and confused their language.2 Scripture says:
To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother's name was Joktan. (Genesis 10:25)
Just as Noah's name was prophetic of what happened in his day, so too was Peleg's name prophetic of what happened in his days. The meanings of their names, though, are quite different. "Noah" means comfort and rest (Genesis 5:29), but "Peleg" means division.

As strange as it might seem, Noah outlived Peleg. Noah died 2006 years after Creation. Peleg died a decade before, just 1996 years after Creation.

Although we know little about Peleg, we do know that he had a privilege that few men in history have had: he was part of Jesus Christ's lineage! Although in Peleg's lifetime the world was divided into different nations and tongues, from him came Jesus Christ, who brought people of all nations together into one, universal church!

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  1. ^ This is according to James Ussher's dating system in "The Annals of the World".
  2. ^ This agrees in part with what Josephus says in The Antiquities of the Jews in Book I, Chapter 6, Paragraph 4, "he was called Phaleg, because he was born at the dispersion of the nations to their several countries". That the nations were dispersed at the birth of Peleg is not clearly stated in Scripture, but we can safely conclude that God destroyed the tower of Babel sometime between Peleg's birth 1757 years after creation and his death 1996 years after creation (or, according to Ussher's dating system, between 2247 to 2008 BC). Ussher, however supports a different view, stating that Noah himself divided up the world into different parts and assigned them to his descendants when Peleg was born; the support he gives for this is apocryphal; on close examination this view falls short since some of the people in Genesis 10 were born after Peleg, and Noah would not have assigned parts of the world to nations not yet born; furthermore, Scripture makes clear that God was the one who dispersed the nations into their different lands, not Noah. I've also run into the view that the "division of the earth" is more literal in its meaning and is speaking of the breaking up of the earth's crust and the formation of the continents; while this may have, perhaps, happened during or after the flood, such an interpretation seems forced and is also foreign to the surrounding context of Genesis 10.

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