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.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Quote of the Day #199 - J. C. Ryle


A quote from J. C. Ryle:
Hearken, my believing reader. What is the cause of your weakness? Is it not because the fountain of life is little used? Is it not because you are resting on old experiences, and not daily gathering new manna—daily drawing new strength from Christ?
~J. C. Ryle (Alive Or Dead?)

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nimrod: A Mighty Hunter Before the Lord - Genesis 10:8-12 Bible Commentary


Think of all the famous cities which fill this planet. There are the Londons and Romes of this world, known for the wealth and influence they've had throughout history. The founders of such cities tend to become mythical figures. They go down in history as legends, fearless people never took "no" for an answer.

In some cases, the founders of such cities were even deified. For instance, Romulus, the founder of Rome, was later recognized as a god by the Romans.

It's tempting to think that founding an ancient city like Rome is about as good as it gets. There is, however, something better. What if a single person founded not only one Rome-like city, but two?

Such a person exists. His name is Nimrod.
Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 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, Accad, and Calneh, 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. (Genesis 10:8-12)
Nimrod founded two of the greatest cities in all of history: Babel and Nineveh. If Romulus received such reverence for founding one city, what sort of praise must Nimrod have received?

Nimrod's Character

There is an old proverb about Nimrod that goes like this: Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord. We know of this proverb through the writings of Moses (Genesis 10:9). It seems from this proverb that the ancient pagans must have looked upon Nimrod with admiration, perhaps even fear. The phrase mighty hunter seems to indicate that Nimrod was skilled in slaying beasts (perhaps dinosaurs, which, in all likelihood, existed in his time).

Nimrod was not only skilled in hunting beasts, but also people. Moses writes of Nimrod that "he was the first on earth to be a mighty man" (Genesis 10:8). From this it can be gathered that Nimrod was the first person in the post-flood world to subdue people, forming nations and governments. Doubtless, Nimrod, in his days, must have perfectly fit the image of a maniacal dictator.

From the beginning of his days, Nimrod strove against the Almighty. So great was his hatred of God that he is known for founding the city which was home to the Tower of Babel!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Quote of the Day #198 - William Gurnall


A quote from William Gurnall:
Some Christians, having been injured by a serious fall into sin, will be very careful for awhile as to where they walk and the kind of company they keep. But as the soreness of their consciences wears off, they forget to keep watch and become as careless as ever. A shopkeeper who has just been robbed is very careful to lock up his store thoroughly. He may even stay up late to watch it for several nights, but as time passes he relaxes his guard and at last gives it no further attention.

Josephus, in his Antiquities, tells us that the sons of Noah lived only on the tops of high mountains for some years after the flood, not daring to build houses on lower ground for fear of being drowned by another deluge. But as time passed and no flood came, they ventured down into the plain of Shinar where their former fear gave way to one of the boldest, most arrogant attempts against God that man ever pursued. They tried to build a tower high enough to reach heaven (Gen. 11:2-4). The very men who at first were so fearful of drowning that they would not venture down the hill, at last ventured on a plan to protect themselves against all future attempts from the God of heaven to judge them.
~William Gurnall (The Christian In Complete Armor Volume One, Chapter 5, Part 3)

This quote was taken from the book The Christian In Complete Armor Volume One - A modernized abridgement of the Puritan Classic by William Gurnall, published by Banner Of Truth.


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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Overview Of The Names In Genesis 10 - Genesis 10 Bible Commentary


If you read Genesis 10 without doing some research, you will be bored. The treasures in the chapter are buried deep and you must do a little work to uncover them.

You probably don't recognize many of the names listed in Genesis 10, and it's not really your fault either. As time has progressed, more and more of the names in Genesis 10 have fallen into obscurity. Numerous linguistic barriers now exist, including Hebrew and Greek— and even if you were familiar with both of those languages, you would still run into problems. Why? Because there are also historical barriers that get in the way of understanding Genesis 10.

Josephus, a Jewish historian from around the time of Christ, explains this historical barrier:
After this [the destruction of the Tower of Babel] they [the descendants of Noah] were dispersed abroad, on account of their languages, and went out by colonies every where; and each colony took possession of that land which they light upon, and unto which God led them; so that the whole continent was filled with them, both the inland and the maritime countries. There were some also who passed over the sea in ships, and inhabited the islands: and some of those nations do still retain the denominations which were given them by their first founders; but some have lost them also, and some have only admitted certain changes in them, that they might be the more intelligible to the inhabitants. And they were the Greeks who became the authors of such mutations. For when in after-ages they grew potent, they claimed to themselves the glory of antiquity; giving names to the nations that sounded well (in Greek) that they might be better understood among themselves; and setting agreeable forms of government over them, as if they were a people derived from themselves.1
Josephus tells us who we can "blame" for putting up a historical barrier and making Genesis 10 hard to understand: the Greeks. When they spread their culture throughout the world, they renamed many of the places they came across, thus erasing their original names (which appear in Genesis 10) from today's history books.

Josephus goes on to discuss many of the people in Genesis 10. In general, we can conclude that the descendants of Japheth spread northward and westward, taking possession of Europe. The descendants of Ham spread westward and southward, taking Africa. Finally, the descendants of Shem spread eastward, taking possession of Asia.

Since this post is only an overview of the names in Genesis 10, I don't intend to discuss all the names in the chapter. I do, however, want to mention a few them: Javan, Cush, Nimrod, Egypt, Canaan, and Peleg.

Javan was the father of the Greeks,2 a people who have had an incredible amount of influence on Western culture.

Cush was the father of the Ethiopians. From him descended Nimrod and Egypt. Nimrod founded many familiar ancient cities, including Nineveh and Babylon (Genesis 10:8-12). Egypt, of course, founded (you guessed it) Egypt. Egypt also had a son named Casluhim who was the father of the Philistines, a people who show up many times in Israel’s history.

Canaan was the father of many of the nations that Israel rooted out of the Promise Land. He was also the father of Sidon, from whom came the name of the ancient city of Sidon (you may recognize this name from Jesus' rebuke in Matthew 11:21-22).

Peleg is also an important name in Genesis 10. His importance, however, does not come from the nations that he founded, but from Moses' comment about him which suggests that the Tower of Babel was destroyed in his lifetime (Genesis 10:25).

There are many more names in Genesis 10. If you’re interested in pursuing this subject farther, a good place to start would be to read everything that Josephus says on this subject in Book 1, Chapter 6 of his Antiquities Of The Jews (which you can read here).

I've also written posts on two of the key people in Genesis 10: Nimrod and Peleg.

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  1. ^ Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews (Book I, Chapter 5).
  2. ^ Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews (Book I, Chapter 6, Paragraph 1).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Christian In Complete Armor - William Gurnall - Book Review

The Christian In Complete Armor, by William Gurnall, is a book about the "armor of God" in Ephesians 6. In this book, Gurnall weaves devotional thoughts together with insightful commentary, providing the reader with powerful, biblical, soul-nourishing truths.

What stands out most about Gurnall's writing is his constant use of metaphorical language. Here's a good example:
Let this encourage those of you who belong to Christ: The storm may be tempestuous, but it is only temporary. The clouds that are presently rolling over your head will pass, and then you will have fair weather, an eternal sunshine of glory. Can you not watch with Christ for one hour? ... Having already bathed in the fountain of His tender mercies, how can you stand on this side of eternity, afraid to wet your feet with those short-lived sufferings which, like a little splash of water, run between you and glory? (Vol 1, Ch 3, Part 2)
Gurnall is a master at making you think about truth in in fresh, new ways. Charles Spurgeon highly recommended this book, saying, "Gurnall's work is peerless and priceless; every line is full of wisdom... The whole book has been preached over scores of times, and is, in our judgment, the best thought-breeder in all our library".

Gurnall's commentary is a great read for anyone striving to better understand the Scriptures. If you're not convinced, take a look at some of his quotes listed in the Quote Index.




For more book reviews click here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Quote of the Day #197 - Charles Spurgeon


A funny quote from Charles Spurgeon:
I heard one say the other day that a certain preacher had no more gifts for the ministry than an oyster, and in my own judgment this was a slander on the oyster, for that worthy bivalve shows great discretion in his openings, and knows when to close.
~Charles Spurgeon (The Necessity of Ministerial Progress)

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Saturday, February 04, 2012

Why Genesis 10 Is In The Bible (Part 2) - Genesis 10 Bible Commentary


This is part two of a two part series, to go to part one click here.

Genesis 10 is the next section in Moses’ short history of the ancient world. In Genesis 4 and 5, Moses wrote about the descendants of Cain and Seth so that his audience would know how the earth was populated before the flood. Likewise, in Genesis 10, Moses wrote about the descendants of Noah so that his audience would know how the earth was repopulated after the flood.

The purpose of Genesis 10, then, was to educate the people of Moses' time concerning the origin of the nations that surrounded them. Moses wanted to make sure that the nation of Israel rejected pagan myths. People did not descend from the gods, but from Adam and then from Noah. Genesis 10 taught the people of Israel the true history of the world. Likewise, Genesis 10 continues to teach history to the church today.

Genesis 10 shows how absurd it would be to consider the early history of Genesis as nothing but allegory. How could such a lie be believed when God Himself traces both Israel and the people Israel rooted out of the Promised Land back to Noah himself? Genesis 10 shows us that the book of Genesis tells one continuous, uninterrupted history. There are no gaps to be found.

Something else you should appreciate about Genesis 10 is its age. The next time you read through the chapter, stop and think for a moment about the sheer ancientness of what you are reading. You are reading the names of the sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons of Noah himself! Is not that thought enough to fascinate you- that God has recorded for you many names that would have otherwise been unknown, many of which are part of your family tree?

A lot can be learned thinking about the purpose of Genesis 10, but just knowing the purpose does not tell you any details about the people named in the chapter. To start learning about some of the people in Genesis 10 read An Overview Of The Names In Genesis 10.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Why Genesis 10 Is In The Bible (Part 1) - Genesis 10 Bible Commentary


This is part one of a two part series.

If you have ever read Genesis 10, you have probably wondered why it is in the Bible. It is, after all, a chapter comprised entirely of names. Even if you have the determination to properly read the entire chapter, you probably begin to zone out after the first paragraph of reading about "this person who descended from this person who descended from this person," etc.

There is nothing wrong with asking why Genesis 10 is in the Bible. In fact, it is a very proper question— a question that should probably be asked of every chapter in the Bible. Asking the "why" question forces you to seriously think about what you are reading. After all, the purpose of the text is the very heart of all biblical interpretation.

I will readily admit that Genesis 10 isn't what you would call "fun" reading. It isn't a novel, and isn't designed to keep your interest.

Consider for a moment that one reason you might find Genesis 10 difficult is because of the way you tend to approach Scripture. When you read Scripture, do you immediately ask how the text applies to you? If yes, then you should instead first ask: "How does this passage apply to its original audience?" It is only when you ask this second question that you can accurately answer the first question. Knowing the cultural context of Genesis 10, then, is vitally important to understanding the chapter.

Moses, the author of Genesis, lived about 1500 years before Christ. When Moses wrote Genesis, his audience would have been familiar with many of the names in the chapter. In particular, they would have recognized the names of the descendants of Egypt, or, as some translations read, Mizraim (Genesis 10:6). The Israelites had, after all, lived in the land of Egypt for hundreds of years.

The people of Israel would have also been familiar with all of the “ites” listed in verses 16 through 18 (the Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, etc). In fact, all of these "ites" were living in the Promise Land when Moses wrote Genesis. The generation after Moses would have been equally familiar with these "ites" since they were the ones who conquered the Promise Land, rooting out many of the "ites" that were living there in the process.

Moses himself was obviously familiar with all the names that he listed in Genesis 10. Though the authors of Scripture sometimes write about things they do not fully understand, Moses would have been familiar with the general layout of the nations and the people who had founded them. Moses, after all, was raised in Pharaoh’s house (Exodus 2:10) and was also a well-educated Egyptian (Acts 7:22).

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