Genesis 10:21
(21-23) shem . . . the brother of Japheth the elder.--Really, the elder brother of Japheth. Though the rules of Hebrew grammar will admit of no other rendering, it is remarkable that both the Syriac and the Vulg. make the same mistake as our own version. In designating Shem as "the father of all the children of Eber," attention is called to the fact that the descendants of Peleg, his elder son, are omitted from this table, and reserved for the Toldoth Shem. (See Genesis 11:10.)

The nations descended from Shem were:--

1. Elam.--According to Mr. Sayce (Chald. Gen., p. 196), "the primitive inhabitants of Elam were a race closely allied to the Accadians, and spread over the whole range of country which stretched from the southern shores of the Caspian to the Persian Gulf." But just as the Semitic Asshur expelled a Hamite race from Assyria, so another branch of this conquering family occupied Elymais. It is now called Chuzistan, and was the most easternly of the countries occupied by the Semites. But see Excursus to Genesis 14 on the conquests of the Elamite Chedorlaomer.

2. Asshur.--This Semitic stock seems to have been the first to settle on the Tigris, as the Hamites were the first to settle on the Euphrates. Finally, as we have seen (Genesis 10:11), they conquered the whole country.

3. Arphaxad.--Heb., Arpachshad. We may dismiss the idea that he was connected with the region called Arrapachitis, for this correctly is Aryapakshata, "the land next the Aryans." Really he appears as the ancestor of Eber and the Joktanite Arabs.

4. Lud.--Probably the Lydians, who, after various wanderings, settled in Asia Minor.

5. Aram.--As Asshur means plain, so Aram means highland. It was originally the name of the Lebanon ranges, and thus Damascus is called Aram in 2Samuel 8:5. Subsequently the race so extended itself as to possess Mesopotamia, a lowland country, but called, as early as Genesis 24:10, "Aram of the two rivers." The greatness of Aram will be best seen by examining those places in our version where Syria and Syrian are spoken of, and which, in the Hebrew, are really Aram.

To the Aramaean stock belonged also four outlying dependencies--(1) Uz, the land of Job, a district in the northern part of Arabia Deserta; (2) Hul and (3) Gether, regions of which nothing is known; and (4) Mash, a desert region on the western side of the Euphrates (Chald. Gen., p. 276).

Verse 21. - Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, - as Ham of Canaan (Genesis 9:22; vide ver. 24) - the brother of Japheth the elder. Either the eldest brother of Japheth (Syriac, Arabic, Vulgate, Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Kalisch); or the brother of Japheth who was older (LXX., Symmachus, Onkelos, Raschi, Aben Ezra, Luther, Clerieus, Michaelis, Dathe); or the elder of Japheth's brothers, as distinguished from Ham the younger, i.e. the son who was older than Ham, But younger than Japheth (Murphy, Quarry; vide Genesis 5:32). Even to him were children born.

10:15-32 The posterity of Canaan were numerous, rich, and pleasantly seated; yet Canaan was under a Divine curse, and not a curse causeless. Those that are under the curse of God, may, perhaps, thrive and prosper in this world; for we cannot know love or hatred, the blessing or the curse, by what is before us, but by what is within us. The curse of God always works really, and always terribly. Perhaps it is a secret curse, a curse to the soul, and does not work so that others can see it; or a slow curse, and does not work soon; but sinners are reserved by it for a day of wrath Canaan here has a better land than either Shem or Japheth, and yet they have a better lot, for they inherit the blessing. Abram and his seed, God's covenant people, descended from Eber, and from him were called Hebrews. How much better it is to be like Eber, the father of a family of saints and honest men, than the father of a family of hunters after power, worldly wealth, or vanities. Goodness is true greatness.Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber,.... And for the sake of those Shem is particularly said to be the father of, is this genealogy given, and indeed the whole book of Genesis wrote: Eber was the great-grandson of Shem, and is here spoken of by anticipation, and Shem is called not the father of either of his immediate sons, but of the posterity of this man; because the Hebrews sprung from him in his line, among whom the church of God and the true religion were preserved, and from whom the Messiah was to come, as he did: the word Eber, Jarchi interprets, "beyond the river, Euphrates" or "Tigris", or both, as describing the seat of the posterity of Shem; but as this too much straitens them, since they inhabited on both sides, Dr. Hyde (d) has shown that the word used may refer to both, to those beyond these rivers, and to those on this side; see Numbers 24:24.

the brother of Japheth the elder; he was the brother of Ham too, but he is not mentioned because of the behaviour towards his father, and because of the curse that was upon him and his; but Shem's relation to Japheth is expressed to show that they were alike in their disposition; and it may be to signify, that in times to come their posterity would unite in spiritual things, which has been fulfilled already in part, and will be more fully by the coalition of the Jews, the posterity of Shem, and of the Gentiles, the posterity of Japheth, in the Christian church state: and from hence we learn that Japheth was the eldest of Noah's sons, though some render the words, "the elder brother of Japheth" (e); and so make Shem to be the eldest; but as this is contrary to the accents, so to the history: for Noah was five hundred years old when he began to beget sons, Genesis 5:32 he was six hundred when he went into the ark, Genesis 7:11 two years after the flood Shem begat Arphaxad, when he was one hundred years old, and Noah six hundred and two, Genesis 11:10 so that Shem must be born when Noah was five hundred and two years old; and since he begot children, there must be one two years older than Shem, which can be no other than Japheth, since Ham is called his younger son, Genesis 9:24.

even to him were children born, who are reckoned as follow.

(d) Hist. Relig. Pers. c. 2. p. 47, 48. (e) "fratre Japheth majore". V. L. Samar. Syr. Ar. "frater major natu ipsius Japheth", Tigurine version; "fratri Japheti majori", Cocceius; so some in Vatablus.

Genesis 10:20
Top of Page
Top of Page