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This T and O map, which abstracts that society's known world to a cross inscribed within an orb, remakes geography in the service of Christian iconography and identifies the three known continents as populated by descendents of Shem (Sem), Ham (Cham) and Japheth (Iafeth)

The Table of Nations or Sons of Noah is an extensive list of descendants of Noah which appears in Genesis 10 of the Hebrew Bible, representing an ethnology from an Iron Age Levantine perspective. The significance of Noah in this context is that, according to the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 6), the population of the Earth was completely destroyed during the Flood because of the wickedness of the Earth's inhabitants. And Noah and his family were the sole survivors to continue the human race; consequently all humans on Earth are descendant from him and thereby related.

Historicity and coverage

The world according to the Mosaic account (1854 map)

A literal interpretation of Genesis 10 suggests that the present population of the world was descended from Noah's three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives. Until the mid-19th century, this was taken by many as historical fact, and still is by many Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Many others regard the list as part of Jewish folk legend.

There are disputes about how many of the peoples of the Earth this story was intended to cover, and as to its accuracy. Many Jews, Christians, and Muslims retain the belief that the table applies to the entire population of the earth, while others read it as a guide only to local ethnic groups.

In the Biblical view, the listed children of Japheth, Shem and Ham correspond to various historic nations and peoples. In the typical interpretation, these sons of Noah correspond to three races: European, Semitic, and African. Alternate divisions claim: Euro-Asian Japhet, Semitic Shem, and African Ham.

Secular scholarship rejects the historicity of the list, and holds instead that the genealogy is merely a traditional one, aimed at explaining the relations between the ethnic groups of the ancient Near East, perhaps re-edited at the time of the text's final composition in the 7th century BC.

Table of nations

Shem, Ham and Japheth. Illustration by James Tissot 1904.

According to Genesis 10, Noah had three sons:

The names of these sons are thought to have significance related to Semitic roots. Ham means "warm".[1] Shem merely means "name" or "renown", "prosperity".[2] Japheth means "open".[3]

It then proceeds to detail their descendants. The identification of several of the first generation is aided by the inclusion of the second, although several of their identifications are less certain. (The copy of the table in the biblical book of 1 Chronicles chapter 1 has occasional variations in the second generation, most likely caused by the similarity of Hebrew letters such as Resh and Daleth). Forms ending in -im are plurals, probably indicating names of peoples, and not intended as the name of a single person.

Japheth's descendants

  • Gomer, son of Japheth. Usually identified with the migratory Gimirru (Cimmerians) of Assyrian inscriptions, attested from about 720 BC).
    • Ashkenaz, son of Gomer. It has been conjectured that this name arose from a misprint in Hebrew for "Ashkuz", by reading a nun for a vav. Ashkuz and Ishkuz were names used for the Scythians, who first appear in Assyrian records in the late 8th century in the Caucasus region, and at times occupied vast areas of Europe and Asia. Additionally, in Medieval Hebrew, Germany is known as Ashkenaz, and is the origin of the term Ashkenazic Jews.
    • Riphath (Diphath in Chronicles), son of Gomer. Identification with Paphlagonians of later antiquity has been proposed, but this is uncertain.
    • Togarmah, son of Gomer. Some Armenian and Georgian traditions have claimed descent from Togarmah; other authors have attempted to connect them with Turkic peoples.
  • Magog, son of Japheth. This name appears in the Assyrian texts as mat gugu, The Land of Gugu, and means Lydia. Gugu is known in Greek texts as Gyges. Is claimed as an ancestor in both Irish and Hungarian medieval traditions. Flavius Josephus, followed by Jerome and Nennius, makes him ancestor of the Scythians who dwelt north of the Black Sea.
  • Madai, son of Japheth. The Medes of Northwest Iran first appear in Assyrian inscriptions as Amadai in about 844 BC.
  • Javan, son of Japheth. This name is said to be connected with the Ionians, one of the original Greek tribes.
    • Elishah, son of Javan. Identifications have been proposed with various Aegean peoples such as Elis of northwestern Peloponnesos, or Ellis of Phthia.
    • Tarshish (Tarshishah in Chronicles), son of Javan. Has been variously connected with Tarsus in Anatolia, or Tartessus in southern Spain.
    • Kittim, offspring of Javan. Usually connected with Kition in Cyprus, but name appears in other texts with a variety of interpretations.
    • Dodanim (Rodanim in Chronicles), offspring of Javan. Usually connected with large Aegean island of Rhodes near the coast of Asia Minor.

Note: the Greek Septuagint (LXX) of Genesis includes an additional son of Japheth, "Elisa", in between Javan and Tubal; however, as this name is found in no other ancient source, nor in I Chronicles, he is almost universally agreed to be a duplicate of Elisha, son of Javan. Nevertheless, the presence of Elisa (as well as that of Cainan son of Arpachshad, below) in the Greek Bible accounts for the traditional enumeration among early Christian sources of 72 families and languages, from the 72 names in this chapter, as opposed to the 70 names, families and languages usually found in Jewish sources.

  • Tubal, son of Japheth. He is connected with the Tabali, an Anatolian tribe, and both the Iberians of the Caucasus and those of the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal), as well as Illyrians and Italics. In the book of Jubilees he was bequeathed the three 'tongues' of Europe.
  • Meshech, son of Japheth. He is regarded as the eponym of the Mushki Phrygian tribe of Anatolia who, like the Tabali, contributed to the collapse of the Hittites ca. 1200 BC. The Mushki are considered one of the ancestors of the Georgians, but also became connected with the Sea Peoples who roved the Mediterranean Sea. Some consider him father of Moscow, combining his name Meshech (Msc) and his wife's name, Kva (Cwa).
  • Tiras, son of Japheth. This name is usually connected with that of Thracians, an ancient nation first appearing in written records around 700 BC. It has also been associated with some of the Sea Peoples such as Tursha and Tyrsenoi, with the river Tiras (Dniester), and sometimes with the Anatolian region of Troas, dating to the later 13th century BC. In tractate Yoma, of the Talmud, it states that Tiras is Persia.

Japheth is traditionally seen as the ancestor of Europeans, as well as some more eastern nations; thus Japhetic has been used as a synonym for Caucasians. Caucasian itself derives in part from the assumption that the tribe of Japheth developed its distinctive racial characteristics in the Caucasus, where Mount Ararat is located. The term Japhetic was also applied by the early linguists (brothers Grimm, William Jones, Rasmus C. Rask and others) to what later became known as the Indo-European language group, on the assumption that, if descended from Japheth, the principal languages of Europe would have a common origin, which apart from Finno-Ugric, Kartvelian, Pontic, Nakh, Dagestan, and Basque, appears to be the case. In a conflicting sense, the term was also used by the Soviet linguist Nikolai Marr in his Japhetic theory intended to demonstrate that the languages of the Caucasus formed part of a once-widespread pre-Indo-European language group.

In classical times, and among a minority of modern students, various arguments have been proposed that the Roman deity Jupiter may have been a deified Japheth, and further, that he became known in Greek as 'Iapetos', and in Sanskrit as 'Pra-Japati'. Modern linguists dispute whether there are any actual connections between 'Pra-Japati', which translates as Lord of Creatures, Iapetos, Jupiter, a corruption of Dyeus Pater, meaning 'sky father', and Japheth, meaning open, and attempts to connect these deities with Japheth are often regarded as poor scholarship and folk etymology.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Biblical statement that God shall enlarge Japheth (Genesis 9:27) was used by some imperialists as a justification for the "enlargement" of European territories through Imperialism, interpreted as part of God's plan for the world..

Ham's descendants

  • Cush, son of Ham. The Empire of Kush to the south of Egypt is known from at least 1970 BC, but this name has also been associated by some with the Kassites who inhabited the Zagros area of Mesopotamia, the Sumerian city of Kish.
    • Seba, son of Cush. Has been connected with both Yemen and Eritrea, with much confusion with Sheba below. (The Shibboleth-like division amongst the Sabaeans into Sheba and Seba is acknowledged elsewhere, for example in Psalm 72, leading scholars to suspect that this is not a mistaken duplication of the same name, but a genuine historical division. The significance of this division is not yet completely understood, though it may simply reflect which side of the sea each was on.)
    • Havilah, son of Cush. Usually considered to be a part of the Arabian peninsula near the Red Sea.
    • Sabtah, son of Cush. Sometimes connected with Hadhramis (their ancient capital being Saubatha) in eastern Yemen.
    • Raamah, son of Cush. Has been connected with Rhammanitae mentioned by Strabo in the southwest Arabian peninsula, and with an Arabian city of Regmah at the head of Persian Gulf.
    • Sabtechah, son of Cush. Possibly Sabaiticum Ostium, Sabaeans living around a specific harbour in Eritrea.
    • Nimrod, son of Cush, also identified as a mighty hunter before God, and the founder of ancient Babel, Akkad, Sumer, and possibly cities in Assyria. The Hebrew wording of Genesis 10:11 has led to some ambiguity as to whether Asshur here is the son of Shem or a city built by Nimrod; either interpretation can be found in various modern versions.
  • Mizraim, son of Ham. Mizraim is a name for Upper and Lower Egypt and literally translates as Ta-Wy in Ancient Egyptian ("The Two Lands"). The -aim in Mizraim represents dual number. Arabic-speaking modern Egyptians refer to their country as miṣr.
    • Ludim, offspring of Mizraim. Sometimes considered a scribal error for Lubim, a reference to the Lebou of Eastern Libya.
    • Anamim, offspring of Mizraim. There is a reference in an Assyrian inscription from Sargon II's time to Anami, a tribe located in Cyrene, Libya.
    • Lehabim, offspring of Mizraim. Identification uncertain, possibly Libya.
    • Naphtuhim, offspring of Mizraim. Has been connected with Na-Ptah, the Egyptian form of Memphis.
    • Pathrusim, offspring of Mizraim. Possibly connected with Egyptian word Pa-To-Ris meaning southerners.
    • Casluhim ("from whom came the Philistim"), offspring of Mizraim.
    • Caphtorim, offspring of Mizraim, associated with Caphtor, probably Crete, Cyprus, or both.
  • Phut, son of Ham. Ancient authorities are fairly universal in identifying Phut with the Libyans (Lebu and Pitu), the earliest neighbors of Egypt to the west. (Although more recent theories have tried to connect Phut with Phoenicia, or the currently unidentified Land of Punt.)
  • Canaan, son of Ham. This is known to be the name of a nation and people who settled the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean in what is now called Israel and Lebanon.
    • Sidon, firstborn son of Canaan, and name one of the oldest city-states on the Phoenician coast.
    • Heth, son of Canaan, considered ancestor of "Hittites", a people of Canaan, possibly connected with Hatti, a powerful entity in Anatolia.
    • "the Jebusite", offspring of Canaan, a tribe that lived around Jerusalem, that was formerly known as Jebus according to the Books of Kings.
    • "the Amorite", offspring of Canaan, a people living between the Jordan and Euphrates rivers by at least 2000 BC, known as Amurru to the Akkadians and Egyptians.
    • "the Girgasite", offspring of Canaan, known to the Egyptians as the Kirkash. It is suggested they settled east of the Jordan River between Lake Kinneret and the Dead Sea.[4]
    • "the Hivite", offspring of Canaan
    • "the Arkite", offspring of Canaan, probably city-state of Arqa in Phoenicia.
    • "the Sinite", offspring of Canaan, possibly connected with the Wilderness of Sin, or the Sinn river in Syria.
    • "the Arvadite", offspring of Canaan, refers to the Phoenician city-state of Arwad.
    • "the Zemarite", offspring of Canaan, refers to the Phoenician city-state of Zemar.
    • "the Hamathite", offspring of Canaan, refers to Syrian city of Hamath.

Africans were thus anciently understood to be the sons of Ham, particularly his descendant Cush, as Cushites are referred to throughout scripture as being the inhabitants of East Africa, and they and the Yoruba still trace their ancestry through Ham today. Beginning in the 9th century with the Jewish grammarian Judah ibn Quraysh, a relationship between the Semitic and Cushitic languages was seen; modern linguists group these two families, along with the Egyptian, Berber, Chadic, and Omotic language groups into the larger Afro-Asiatic linguistic family. In addition, languages in the southern half of Africa are now seen as belonging to several distinct families independent of the Afro-Asiatic group. Some now discarded Hamitic theories have become viewed as racist; in particular a theory proposed in the 19th century by Speke, that the Tutsi were supposedly Hamitic and thus inherently superior, (while the Hutu were seen as just Bantu) is regarded by some sources[5][6][7] as having ultimately led to the Rwandan Genocide.

Shem's descendants

Shem is held to be founder of the Semitic peoples. Religious Jews and Arabs consider themselves sons of Shem through Arpachshad (thus, Semites).

  • Elam, son of Shem. The Elamites called themselves the Haltamti and had an empire (capital Susa) in what is now Khuzistan, modern Iran. Elamite, however, is a non-Semitic language. It has been controversially grouped with the modern Dravidian languages, into "Elamo-Dravidian".
  • Ashur, son of Shem. The Assyrians traced themselves to the god-ancestor Ashur and the city he founded by that name on the Tigris.
  • Arpachshad, (also transcribed Arphaxad) son of Shem. He or his immediate descendants are credited in Jewish tradition with founding the city of Ur of the Chaldees, possibly Urfa modern southeastern Turkey, although it has also been identified by some (following the archaeologist Wooley) with the Sumerian city of Ur on the south bank of the Euphrates.
  • Lud, son of Shem. Most ancient authorities assign this name to the Lydians of Eastern Anatolia (Luddu in Assyrian inscriptions from ca. 700 BC). This name may also be connected with the earlier Luwians who lived in approximately the same area.
  • Aram, son of Shem. There are references to a campaign against 'Aram' as early as 2300 BC in the inscriptions of Naram-Suen of Akkad. His descendants settled in the city of Haran. There were a number of places named Aram including one in Damascus and another called Aram-Naharaim or Aram of two Rivers since it was situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. There is also Aram-Tzova which is mentioned in Psalms 60.
    • Uz, son of Aram. Possibly the ancestors of the Nabataeans, extending from Southern Jordan to Northwestern Saudi Arabia; also mentioned in Job.
    • Hul, son of Aram. Unknown; possible connection with Lake known in Aramaic as Hulata.
    • Gether, son of Aram. Father of Thamud in Arabic tradition.
    • Mash, son of Aram (1 Chronicles has Meshech). Unknown; suggestions include Mashu, an unknown region of cedars mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh (possibly Lebanon), and E-Mash-Mash, the main temple at Ninevah in Assyria.

Arpachshad's family (genealogy of Abraham)

The genealogy at this point lists several generations of Arpachshad's descendants, on account of their connection with the Hebrew nation and the rest of Genesis:

  • Cainan is listed as the son of Arpachshad and father of Shelah in some ancient sources. The name is omitted in the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible, but the Greek Septuagint and genealogy of Jesus in St. Luke 3:36 include the name.
  • Shelah (also transcribed Salah) son of Arpachshad (or Cainan).
    • Eber son of Shelah, implicitly indicated as the eponymous ancestor of the Hebrews.
      • Peleg, son of Eber. Sometimes connected to Phalgu, an ancient town located where the Euphrates and Chaboras meet. In the table, it is said that the Earth was divided in the days of Peleg. A threefold division among Ham, Shem and Japheth preceding the Tower of Babel incident, is elaborated on in some ancient sources; others assume the 'division' occurred immediately following it, with the scattering of the nations.
      • Joktan, son of Eber. Sometimes identified with Jectan, an ancient town near Mecca. Considered, as Qahtan, to be the ancestor of the "Pure Arabs".
        • Almodad, son of Joktan. Has been identified with al-Morad, somewhere in Yemen.
        • Sheleph, son of Joktan. Identified with Salif, Northwest Yemen. The capital of the Salif was Sulaf.
        • Hazarmaveth, son of Joktan. Identified with Hadhramaut in East Yemen.
        • Jerah, son of Joktan. Identified with Jerakon Kome in South central Yemen.
        • Hadoram, son of Joktan. Identification has been proposed with Hurarina, a town of Southern Arabia mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions of Ashurbanipal. Hurarina also happens to be the name of a fruit tree exclusive to Shewa, Ethiopia.
        • Uzal, son of Joktan. Identified with Azalla in Central west Yemen. Azal is the ancient name of San'a.
        • Diklah son of Joktan. Uncertain, although a connection with Deqlath (the Syriac form of Tigris) has been suggested.
        • Obal, son of Joktan. Identified with the Abil in Central west Yemen. The Abil are, according to ancient inscriptions, placed west of the Azalla.
        • Abimael, son of Joktan. Though Abimael is unidentified as a tribe it has traditionally been considered to be a northern Arabian group.
        • Sheba, son of Joktan. Like Sheba son of Raamah and Seba son of Cush, identified with Sabaeans of Southern Yemen/Coastal Eritrea.
        • Ophir, son of Joktan. Identified with Afir of Southwest Yemen. Ancient inscriptions place them between the Huwailah and Sabaeans (roughly where Ma'afir is now).
        • Havilah, son of Joktan. Identified with Huwailah and Kwahlans of Northwest Yemen.
        • Jobab, son of Joktan. Identified with Labibi of Southwest Saudi Arabia. Their capital was Juhaibab, which ancient inscriptions locate near Mecca.

In historiography

In Flavius Josephus

Geographic identifications of Flavius Josephus, c. 100 AD

The 1st century Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews Book 1, chapter 6, was among the first of many who attempted to assign known ethnicities to some of the names listed in Genesis chapter 10. His assignments became the basis for most later authors, and were as follows:[8]

  • Gomer: "those whom the Greeks now call Galatians, [Galls,] but were then called Gomerites".
    • Aschanax (Ashkenaz): "Aschanaxians, who are now called by the Greeks Rheginians".
    • Riphath: "Ripheans, now called Paphlagonians".
    • Thrugramma (Togarmah): "Thrugrammeans, who, as the Greeks resolved, were named Phrygians".
  • Magog: "Magogites, but who are by the Greeks called Scythians".
  • Madai: "the Madeans, who are called Medes, by the Greeks".
  • Javan: "Ionia, and all the Grecians".
    • Elisa: "Eliseans... they are now the Aeolians".
    • Tharsus (Tarshish): "Tharsians, for so was Cilicia of old called". He also derives the name of their city Tarsus from Tharsus.
    • Cethimus (Kittim): "The island Cethima: it is now called Cyprus". He also derives the Greek name of their city, which he spells Citius, from Cethimus.
  • Thobel (Tubal): "Thobelites, who are now called Iberes".
  • Mosoch (Meshech): "Mosocheni... now they are Cappadocians." He also derives the name of their capital Mazaca from Mosoch.
  • Thiras (Tiras): "Thirasians; but the Greeks changed the name into Thracians".
  • Chus (Cush): "Ethiopians... even at this day, both by themselves and by all men in Asia, called Chusites".
    • Sabas (Seba): Sabeans
    • Evilas (Havilah): "Evileans, who are called Getuli".
    • Sabathes (Sabta): "Sabathens, they are now called by the Greeks Astaborans".
    • Sabactas (Sabteca): Sabactens
    • Ragmus (Raamah): Ragmeans
      • Judadas (Dedan): "Judadeans, a nation of the western Ethiopians".
      • Sabas (Sheba): Sabeans
  • Mesraim (Misraim): Egypt, which he says is called Mestre in his country.
    • "Now all the children of Mesraim, being eight in number, possessed the country from Gaza to Egypt, though it retained the name of one only, the Philistim; for the Greeks call part of that country Palestine. As for the rest, Ludieim, and Enemim, and Labim, who alone inhabited in Libya, and called the country from himself, Nedim, and Phethrosim, and Chesloim, and Cephthorim, we know nothing of them besides their names; for the Ethiopic war which we shall describe hereafter, was the cause that those cities were overthrown."
  • Phut: Libya. He states that a river and region "in the country of Moors" was still called Phut by the Greeks, but that it had been renamed "from one of the sons of Mesraim, who was called Lybyos".
  • Canaan: Judea, which he called "from his own name Canaan".
    • Sidonius (Sidon): The city of Sidonius, "called by the Greeks Sidon".
    • Amathus (Hamathite): "Amathine, which is even now called Amathe by the inhabitants, although the Macedonians named it Epiphania, from one of his posterity."
    • Arudeus (Arvadite): "the island Aradus".
    • Arucas (Arkite): "Arce, which is in Libanus".
    • "But for the seven others [sons of Canaan], Chetteus, Jebuseus, Amorreus, Gergesus, Eudeus, Sineus, Samareus, we have nothing in the sacred books but their names, for the Hebrews overthrew their cities".
  • Elam: "Elamites, the ancestors of the Persians".
  • Ashur: Assyrians, and their city Niniveh built by Ashur.
  • Arphaxad: "Arphaxadites, who are now called Chaldeans".
    • Sala
      • Heber (Eber): "from whom they originally called the Jews Hebrews".
        • Phaleg (Peleg): He notes that he was so named "because he was born at the dispersion of the nations to their several countries; for Phaleg among the Hebrews signifies division".
        • Joctan
          • "Elmodad, Saleph, Asermoth, Jera, Adoram, Aizel, Decla, Ebal, Abimael, Sabeus, Ophir, Euilat, and Jobab. These inhabited from Cophen, an Indian river, and in part of Asia adjoining to it."
  • Aram: "Aramites, which the Greeks called Syrians".
    • Uz: "Uz founded Trachonitis and Damascus: this country lies between Palestine and Celesyria".
    • Ul (Hul): Armenia
    • Gather (Gether): Bactrians
    • Mesa (Mesh): "Mesaneans; it is now called Charax Spasini".
  • Laud (Lud): "Laudites, which are now called Lydians".

In Hippolytus

The chronicle of Hippolytus of Rome (c. 234), existing in numerous Latin and Greek copies,[9] make another attempt to assign ethnicities to the names in Genesis 10, in some cases similar to those of Josephus, but with many differences, which are:

  • Gomer - Cappadocians
    • Ashkenaz - Sarmatians
    • Riphath - Sauromatians
    • Togarmah - Armenians
  • Magog - Galatians, Celts
  • Javan
    • Elishah - Siculi (Chron Pasc: Trojans and Phrygians)
    • Tarshish - Iberians, Tyrrhenians
    • Kittim - Macedonians, Romans, Latins
  • Tubal - "Hettali" (?)
  • Meshech - Illyrians
  • Misraim
    • Ludim - Lydians
    • Anamim - Pamphylians
    • Pathrusim - Lycians (var.: Cretans)
    • Caphtorim - Cilicians
  • Put - Troglodytes
  • Canaan - Afri and Phoenicians
    • Arkite - Tripolitanians
  • Lud - Halizones
  • Arpachshad
    • Cainan - "those east of the Sarmatians" (one variant)
      • Joktan
        • Elmodad - Indians
        • Saleph - Bactrians
        • Hazamaveth, Sheba - Arabs
        • Adoram - Carmanians
        • Uzal - Arians (var.: Parthians)
        • Abimael - Hyrcanians
        • Obal - Scythians
        • Ophir - Armenians
        • Deklah - Gedrosians
  • Aram - "Etes" ?
    • Hul - Lydians (var: Colchians)
    • Gether - "Gaspeni" ?
    • Mash - Mossynoeci (var: Mosocheni)

The Chronicle of 354, the Panarion by Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 375), the Chronicon Paschale (c. 627), the History of Albania by the Georgian historian Movses Kaghankatvatsi (7th century), and the Synopsis of Histories by John Skylitzes (c. 1057) follow the identifications of Hippolytus.

In Jerome

Jerome, writing ca. 390, provided an 'updated' version of Josephus' identifications in his Hebrew Questions on Genesis. His list is substantially identical to that of Josephus in almost all respects, but with the following notable differences:

  • Thubal, son of Japheth: "Iberians, who are also the Spaniards from whom derive the Celtiberians, although certain people suppose them to be the Italians."
  • Gether, son of Aram: "Acarnanii or Carians"
  • Mash, son of Aram: Maeones

In Isidore of Seville

The scholar Isidore of Seville, in his Etymologiae (ca. 600), repeats all of Jerome's identifications, but with these minor changes:[10]

  • Joktan, son of Eber: Indians
  • Saleph, son of Joktan: Bactrians
  • Magog, son of Japheth: "Scythians and Goths"
  • Ashkenaz, son of Gomer: "Sarmatians, whom the Greeks call Rheginians".

Isidore's identifications for Japheth's sons were repeated in the Historia Britonum attributed to Nennius. Isidore's identifications also became the basis for numerous later mediaeval scholars.


The Middle East through eyes of the ancient Israelites. Genesis 10 as reconstructed after the Documentary hypothesis.

The text of Gen. 10 includes some apparent "doublets" in the form of two separate lines of descent covering certain groups in Yemen and the surrounding regions — one of these indicating descent from Ham via Cush; the other from Shem via Joktan. Specifically, the Sabaeans (under the similar names Sheba and Seba), Huwaila (under Havilah), and possibly Hadhramaut (if Hazarmaveth is to be equated with Sabtah as a name representing its capital), appear to be in both lineages. (Gen 10:11, translated in the KJV as "Out of that land went forth Asshur, and built Niniveh, etc…", is taken in some modern translations to mean that the city of "Asshur" was one of those built by Nimrod; however, this is but a single verse in the Hebrew, with dual English interpretations, and not a genuine "doublet".)

In the documentary hypothesis, these doublets are taken as certain signs of multiple authorship; on this account, the theory identifies hypothetical Jahwist (J) and Priestly (P) sources as having two quite different genealogies later combined into the present table. It must be remembered that these hypothetical sources have never been archaeologically or otherwise attested, and are only reconstructions by modern scholars who hold this theory. These sources are seen as originating some 150-300 years apart, with the later source, the Priestly, rewriting the Jahwist's account to reflect their own view concerning ethnology. While both sources are considered to have divided the groups into Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the descent beyond these is reconstructed quite differently. To the Jahwist source are ascribed the account of Nimrod and his cities, as well as the descendants of Joktan, Canaan, and Mizraim; while to the Priestly source are ascribed the account of the descendants of Cush and Japheth.

The Jahwist source would thus exhibit a worldview concerned heavily with Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Arab tribes viewed to have originated from around Mecca (a holy site since ancient times), and Canaan. Rather than a table, the Jahwist source is reconstructed as more of a narrative structure. Preceded by the tale of the curse of Ham, the Jahwist reconstruction describes Ham's son Cush fathering Nimrod, who is subsequently described as going on to found the great cities of Mesopotamia, then details the sons of Canaan and Mizraim.

A more genealogical line is given by the Jahwist reconstruction for Shem, going down the generations in a straight line until Joktan is reached, and, like elsewhere in the Jahwist text, though Joktan is not on the line himself, as the son of Eber, a major Patriarch on the line (the eponymous founder of the Hebrews, Eberu), Joktan's own descendants are described. The name of Joktan's purported brother, Peleg, is etymologically related to the word Pulukku in Akkadian, meaning divided by boundaries, and by borders, and Palgu in Assyrian, meaning divided by canals, and by irrigation systems. While Peleg is believed by some to be present in the narrative to indicate origin via the city of Phalgu, the comment after his name, that in his day the earth was divided, is thought in critical circles to simply be a convenient pun in order to insert the story of the Tower of Babel into the Jahwist's narrative. In the Jahwist reconstruction, Japheth has previously been described, within the tale of Ham's curse, as going on to dwell in the tents of Shem, and hence is not indicated as having any children of his own.

According to the dates given by critical scholars, the areas of the Mediterranean and the Caucasus had become much more developed over the years between the Jahwist and Priestly sources. The Egyptians had become much more unified (having largely recovered from the Third Intermediate Period). Thus, while the reconstructed Priestly source does not include the subdivisions within Egypt, it does include details of groups in the eastern Mediterranean (Javan, Tubal, Meschech, Tiras) and Caucasus (Gomer, Madai), attaching them to Japheth, perhaps since his descendants are not identified by the Jahwist. Mesopotamia retained its importance, and the Priestly source, a text reconstructed with a favouritism for long dry lists, extends the detail concerning its genealogy given by the Jahwist, presenting a more complicated ethnological tree. The Arab groups of the Yemen area also seem to have been viewed as retaining importance, as the hypothetical Priestly source considered them still worth detailing, though presenting an origin for them in the more significant Nubia (via Cush), rather than from around Mecca. There is little narrative quality in the text usually ascribed to the priestly source; essentially it resembles simply a raw list of names, with the occasional indication of familial relationship.

Extrabiblical sons of Noah

There exist various traditions in post-bibilical sources claiming that Noah had children other than Shem, Ham, and Japheth, born variously before, during, or after the Deluge.

According to the Quran (Hud v. 42-43), Noah had another unnamed son who refused to come aboard the Ark, instead preferring to climb a mountain, where he drowned. Some later Islamic commentators give his name as either Yam or Kan'an.

According to Irish mythology, Noah had another son named Bith, who was not allowed aboard the Ark, and who attempted to colonise Ireland with 54 persons, only to be wiped out in the Deluge.

Some 9th century manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles assert that Sceafa was the fourth son of Noah, born aboard the Ark, from whom the House of Wessex traced their ancestry; in William of Malmesbury's version of this genealogy (c. 1120), Sceaf is instead made a descendant of Strephius, the fourth son born aboard the Ark.

An early Arabic work known as Kitab al-Magall or the Book of Rolls (part of Clementine literature) mentions Bouniter, the fourth son of Noah, born after the flood, who allegedly invented astronomy and instructed Nimrod.[11] Variants of this story with often similar names for Noah's fourth son are also found in the ca. 5th century Ge'ez work Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan (Barvin), the ca. 6th century Syriac book Cave of Treasures (Yonton), the 7th century Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius (Ionitus[12]), the Syriac Book of the Bee 1221 (Yônatôn), the Hebrew Chronicles of Jerahmeel, ca. 12th-14th cent. (Jonithes), and throughout Armenian apocryphal literature, where he is usually referred to as Maniton; as well as in works by Petrus Comestor c. 1160 (Jonithus), Godfrey of Viterbo 1185 (Ihonitus), Michael the Syrian 1196 (Maniton), Abu Salih the Armenian c. 1208 (Abu Naiţur); Jacob van Maerlant c. 1270 (Jonitus), Abraham Zacuto 1504 (Yoniko) and Jehiel ben Solomon Heilprin c. 1697 (Yuniku).[13]

Martin of Opava (c. 1250), later versions of the Mirabilia Urbis Romae, and the Chronicon Bohemorum of Giovanni di Marignola (1355) make Janus (i.e., the Roman deity) the fourth son of Noah, who moved to Italy, invented astrology, and instructed Nimrod.

According to the monk Annio da Viterbo (1498), the Hellenistic Babylonian writer Berossus had mentioned 30 children born to Noah after the Deluge, including sons named Tuiscon, Prometheus, Iapetus, Macrus, "16 titans", Cranus, Granaus, Oceanus, and Tipheus. Also mentioned are daughters of Noah named Araxa "the Great", Regina, Pandora, Crana, and Thetis. However, Annio's manuscript is widely regarded today as having been a forgery.[14]

According to Jewish tradition the inhabitants of the Ark, including the humans, were not allowed to mate, therefore Noah could not have had any children while on the Ark. Directly after coming out of the Ark, Noah got drunk and according to Jewish tradition was castrated by his son Ham, preventing him from having any more offspring.

See also


  • Dillmann, A., Genesis: Critically and Exegetically Expounded, Vol. 1, Edinburgh, UK, T. and T. Clark, 1897, 314.
  • Kautzsch, E.F.: quoted by James Orr, "The Early Narratives of Genesis," in The Fundamentals, Vol. 1, Los Angeles, CA, Biola Press, 1917.


External links

Sons and Grandsons of Noah in Genesis 10
Sons of Shem Elam Ashur Aram Arpachshad Lud
Sons of Ham Cush Mizraim Phut Canaan
Sons of Japheth Gomer Magog Madai Javan Tubal Meshech Tiras

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Sons of Noah. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.