Genesis 9:18-11:32 – the Nations’ Ancestors Start Their Dynasties, while Humanity Faces Racism & Non-Biblical Religions for the First Time [1]

My family in Christ, shalom.

Welcome, and thank you for joining me on my journey through the Bible. Last time we saw that the earth had been irreconcilably altered by the Flood. After emerging from the ark, Noah offers an animal sacrifice to God, Who then (in return for?) makes a covenant with humanity: never again will He destroy the whole of His earthly with a flood.

We rejoin this great human adventure just as Noah plants a vineyard – the first human being to do so (Genesis 9:20). One imagines it to have been very productive as Noah himself samples its produce and gets drunk as a result. Returning to his tent Noah undresses and lies down on his bed. All perfectly innocent until we learn that one of his sons, Ham, sees him naked (v. 22a).

I know that there is a lot of debate about how exactly Ham sinned, the majority seeming to favour the theory that Ham physically abused his father at this point. And those who are of this opinion cite Leviticus 18:6-17 and 20:17 believing that “to uncover nakedness” or “uncover the nakedness” in some way ‘supports’ this view. I just cannot see that these Biblical passages imply such a thing. [2] If this is indeed how he sinned then why not be a bit more specific about it in order to prevent future generations from doing the same? I think that instead of committing incest Ham sinned just by seeing something he wasn’t supposed to, and maybe thinking something he wasn’t supposed to (cf. Matthew 5:28).

As if that sin wasn’t bad enough, Ham then goes and brags about his illegitimate observation to his brothers. This does not get quite the reaction that Ham expected, for instead of going to peek at their father’s nakedness, Shem and Japheth walk backwards into Noah’s tent and place “a cloth” over him (Genesis 9:23 JPS). When Noah awakes he absolutely appalled by Ham’s actions.

As is still often the case in hereditary circles, children have a habit of replicating their parents’ characteristics. And as the ‘founder’ of a particular dynasty the stain of Ham’s sin would forever reflect upon his progeny. [3] Thus the curse that Ham receives for his sin condemns his son Canaan:

“Cursed be Canaan;

The lowest of slaves

Shall he be to his brothers

Blessed be the LORD,

The God of Shem;

Let Canaan be a slave to them.

May God enlarge Japheth,

And let him dwell in the tents of Shem;

And let Canaan be a slave to them

(9:25-27 JPS).

So why did Grandpa curse Canaan and not any of his other three brothers? Considering that Hebrew names are often loaded with meaning, it is possible that his father had already committed his dastardly act before Canaan became a named character in the story of salvation in verse 18b. ‘Canaan’ may be derived as ‘lowlands’, although it can also mean “to be low, humble, depressed”. These meanings may be adequate as, looking further ahead in the Bible we find that (1) Canaan would become a land made up of a multitude of tribes and nations who indulged in profane practices (Numbers 33:52; Judges 3:5-7; Psalms 106:34-38), and (2) that the Hebrews – the descendants of Shem’s son Arphaxad (‘a healer’ / ‘a releaser’) [4] – eventually conquered the land of Canaan which God had promised to give them (Exodus 6:4; 33:2; Leviticus 14:34; 25:38; Numbers 13:2; 33:51-52; Deuteronomy 32:49; Joshua 5:1; 1 Chronicles 16:18; Acts 13:19). Also look at Matthew 15:22-28 and see how, even in Yeshua’s day, the Canaanites were still seen as spiritually separate from Israel’s people.

In order to gain a better understanding of the names and characteristics of the descendants of Noah, let us now turn to a consideration of the genealogy in Genesis 10. And in order for this to be explained in a clearer way than I can manage, I will hand you over to the Bible scholar Chuck Missler:

(If you enjoyed this video then I would also recomment you watch “Tracing Your Ancestors – The Table of Nations”.)

With so many tribes and individual names to choose from, let’s just focus on one of these: Nimrod. [5] Nimrod was one of the sons of Cush (‘Ethiopian’), who had himself descended fom Ham (‘warm’ / ‘hot’). This is the only time that Nimrod is mentioned in the Bible, but as his name means ‘we will rebel’, you can probably guess the effect he has on the Bible’s narrative. The centre of Nimrod’s kingdom was what became known as Babel, which is more commonly called Babylon. In a sense the Bible is:

“…a tale of two cities. Jerusalem as God’s city, and Babylon as man’s city or Satan’s city. And they’re gonna be in juxtaposition throughout the Bible”

(the Chuck Missler video above, from 10mins 5secs). [6]

11:1-9 sets out how this city originated. In modern-day Iraq there then-existed an area of land known as Shinar. It was here to which a certain group traveled. [7] Verse 4 suggests that the creation and scattering of nations was already common knowledge, and that the thought of this happening to their group was unsettling:

“And they said, ‘Come, let us build a city, and a tower with its top in the sky, to make a name for ourselves; else we shall be scattered all over the world'”.

This verse suggests how troubled their collective minds actually were by the memories of people departing from their native land and going to far-off places. If such a thing should happen to them then they wanted a memorial to remind future generations of a time when their ancestors were once together. But unfortunately, the motive for building this monument was an afront to the one true God. In building the tower the group sought to violate the divide between Heaven and Earth. (And it wasn’t even dedicated to the King of Heaven!) When God makes plain His outrage in verses 5-7 it is clear that fallen humanity, too liable to give in to sin and to celebrate wrongdoing, meant that in their social activities people were prone to follow their peers in doing ungodly things. To highlight this error for the benefit of His creatures, God Himself stalls their group efforts by causing its different members to speak in different languages. [8] Hence the city is renamed Babel, which means ‘confounded’ or ‘confusion’.

When the Bible next refers the city it has become known as Babylon. It is part of the Assyrian Empire, and the people of Babylon are often referred to as Chaldeans. The city takes on a nature similar to that of the Canaan region, although once the light of God’s worship has replaced idolatry in Canaan it leaves Babylon as Israel’s main spiritual opponent. Pride and idolatry flourish there (2 Chronicles 33:2-9; Isaiah 10:12; 14:4-9; 21:9; Jeremiah 51; Daniel 3:1-12; 4:30; Nahum 3:18; Habakkuk 1:6-11; Revelation 14:8; 17:5; 18:2), and Babylon (and others) do battle with Israel and Judah a number of times in an effort to keep their peoples ignorant of the one true God (2 Kings 15-20; 1 Chronicles 5:26; 9:1; 2 Chronicles 28:20-21; 32; 33:11; 36; Psalms 137; Isaiah 36-37; 38:6; Jeremiah 32:5; 38:2-3; 50:17-18). It’s no wonder that in Left Behind the antiChrist [9] is intent on building ‘New Babylon’!

Genesis 11:10-32 is another genealogy; but one with a diffence. This one chronicles the line of Shem’s son Arphaxad, which is the dynasty from which Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all Israelites descend:

This brings to an end my investigation of what I call ‘the introductory section’ of the Bible. This Introduction establishes that God created the universe and the planets. It sets out how He fashioned the fundamental elements of life here on Earth, with human beings being the last part of His six days of creation (which also institutes the seventh day of the week as the day of rest). We are shown how humanity fell, and how relatively simple it was for Satan to cause it. We see Adam and Eve exiled from the Garden of Eden, no longer able to walk beside God through the beautiful landscapes He so expertly designed. And as God increasingly becomes less of a visible presence to the first couple and their descendants, humanity becomes increasingly incapable of following His precepts. [10]

With God’s creatures careering out of control the Creator, not wishing to control humanity like robots with no sense of free will, sends a Flood to wipe evil off the face of the earth once and for all. But the Almighty enables Noah and his family, plus a selection of animals, to be saved; and from this saved remnant of fallen humanity the nations of the world are born. Humanity however still continues to sin, with some (e.g. Nimrod) even intentionally rebelling against God. And just as with Noah and his family, God is about to raise up and nurture another remnant of fallen humanity; one which continues till this day and has preserved for us and for future generations the treasury of God’s Word.

I hope you have enjoyed my insights into the first eleven chapters of the Bible. I have, and I have learned a lot. I hope that you will join me next time for the start of the specifically Hebrew episode of our journey.

Shalom and God bless you.


[1] Susan and William Trollinger (2016) Righting America at the Creation Museum. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 35.

[2] Although Lev. 18:18 may lead one to think otherwise.

[3] A bit like how present-day Mormons have to account for the practice of polygamy (or plural marriages as they like to call it) in the movement’s Pioneer Era. Indeed, some groups within the LDS movement still try to practice this! (I had no idea what Mormons were or what they stood for until I saw a documentary about such a group being prosecuted by state authorities.)

[4] The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) spells this: Arpachshad.

[5] I confess I thought that I had a pretty good understanding of the Bible, and so I was quite surprised to find out that he wasn’t descended from Canaan!

[6] Although the Scriptures are a treasure trove of faith which have infinitely more to offer.

[7] I think that the way in which Gen. 11:1 is written suggests that everyone, literally everyone on this planet, converged on this part of the world. I don’t think this is possible, especially after studying the creation of a multitude of nations in the previous chapter. I therefore suggest that it is every member of the group that Nimrod leads.

[8] Just as in Acts 2 the apostles becoming able to speak in different tongues has a positive effect on the Church’s mission, here the same sudden linguistic change brings to an end (for now, anyway) a rebellious and wrongly-dedicated act.

[9] Whom (at 10mins 30secs in the video above) Missler characterises as ‘Nimrod II’.

[10] Living long before the events of Christ and the post-Pentecostal outpour of the Church, the raptured Enoch (Genesis 5:18-24) truly stands out as a hero!

2 thoughts on “Genesis 9:18-11:32 – the Nations’ Ancestors Start Their Dynasties, while Humanity Faces Racism & Non-Biblical Religions for the First Time [1]

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