Science in Christian Perspective


Racial Dispersion
Faith Theological Seminary

From: JASA 7 (September 1955): 52-54.

The tenth chapter of Genesis ends with a summary statement about the dispersion of the nations. No clear statement concerning races is here found, though racial information may well be contained in the chapter. Perhaps we need not be lengthy in drawing out such racial information as may be here given.

In approaching the chapter we would mention our assumptions which are the same as the views of the previous speaker-that the Flood of Noah was as wide in extent as the dispersions of man and that therefore all present men are descended from Noah and his family.

We need not adopt the view that has sometimes been expressed that the three sons were black, yellow and white. If they were so, what were their wives? Rather we would say that in these six people were all the genes which have separated out into the modern race. Ham could have been white and his wife yellow.

Shem could have been black and his wife white, etc. Of details we know nothing. This would seem to be obvious enough unless some of the racial characteristics have developed by mutations of various kinds since the flood. And I believe there is some evidence against this in that some of the modern racial characteristics are apparently found in prehistoric manas for instance negroid characteristics in the Grimaldi skeletons. Of course of the six individuals after Noah quite possibly none were pure white or pure negroid with color, physique etc. all associated in the way we visualize the races. Shem may have had the genes for kinky hair and yellow skin, Ham for white skin and Mongoloid eyes etc. But the genes we would have to say were all there whether in evidence in the body characteristics or not.

Now Gen. 10 does not claim to speak of races, but of nations and families and perhaps cultures. Race is a physical term. The A.S.A. Symposium quotes Boas definition that race is the "assembly of genetic lines represented in a population" (p 105). With this in mind we are at a disadvantage in ancient racial studies based upon literary sources. Men were more often described according to language and culture than according to physical characteristics. Yet with limited success we may use culture and language factors to help to indicate races. Breeds of cattle are separated out by artificial selection. Races of men are maintained by a process of selective marriage occasioned by culture barriers. Quite possibly races originated by this same artificial selection factor. And one of these culture barriers is language. The person of foreign speech is a barbarian. One should not 1-nix with such people. People of similar habits, culture, language will mate and continue a race in a higher degree of purity. These are not merely modern nor American prejudices. The word barbarian is Greek and expressed reproach for a speaker of a foreign language. The Egyptians had no dealings with Shepherds nor the Jews with the Samaritans. Race prejudice is apparently quite old and this is what preserves the races as unchanged as they are. Yet of course such race prejudice is often broken down. It is a human factor and does not infallibly Nvork. We intist therefore use language and culture as an indication of race in ancient times with due caution.

As to the study of Gen. 10, 1 would like to try to make one contribution to the study. Gen. 10 several times uses the word "begat." Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn and Heth and the Jebusite etc. In Gen. 11, the postdiluvian gencology the word "begat" is used. But it is not often noted that these two words represent different Hebrew forms. And I believe they have different meanings. In Gen. 11 the form is the causative of the verb "yaladh" to bear. It could more properly mean "begat" or as Dr. MacRae put it "to become an ancestor of." It is so used of Abraham when he begat Isaac, etc, It is a genealogical term. The other form is the simple stem of the verb "yaladh"-to bear. This is used in Gen. 10. It is regularly used of a mother bearing a child. When used with a masculine name as in Gen. 10 it would seem to speak of a general relationship not of a real ancestry. Interestingly, this is the form used of God the Father and the Son in Ps. 2. "This day I have begotten thee" does not mean I have today become your Father in any generative sense.

The conclusion is sustained by the content of Gen. 10 which is regularly called the "table of nations," Gen. 10:15 cay Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn, and the Jebusite and the Amorite etc. Rather obviously the latter terms are designations of national groups. The verse only means that the oldest or greatest city of the land of Canaan is Sidon and its other national inhabitants are Heth, Jebusites, Amorites, etc. Very few of these names need to be names of individuals. In some cases the clan ancestor may be meant. Often not. In Gen. 10:6 one of the sons of Ham is said to be Mizraim. This is the Hebrew name of Egypt and it appears to be a noun in the dual number. Hebrew has a singular, plural and a dual number used for pairs of objects. Early Egypt was born from a union of Northern and Southern Egypt and was celebrated as a union of the two lands. The king of Egypt wore a double crown. It seems clear that this son of Ham was never an individual. It apparently only means that Ham's children colonized Egypt, Ethiopia (Cush), Canaan, and Phut (possibly Punt in East Africa).

Canaan indeed in Gen, 9 may be presented as an individual from whom in some unspecified way the land of Canaan was colonized. But surely we shall agree that there is no justification for making Canaan the father of the negroes much less the source of an assumed curse on that race.

I should say before leaving this that higher criticism has long obscured the difference in verbs between Gen. 10 and 11 by calling them different documents each with his characteristic vocabulary. Also I should say that the antediluvian genealogy of Gen. 5 uses the causative term properly "begat" like Gen. 11; whereas Gen. 4 the genealogy of Cain uses the single verb and is a table of nations for the Cainites.

It follows that racial information from Gen. 10 will be gathered with caution. The races there are all mixed up. Ham is the general source of the Egyptians, but also for the Canaanites. Some of the Canaanites were Jebusites. The Jebusites of Jerusalem in later days bore names which identify them as Hurrians who spoke a language without known relation to Semitic, Egyptian or European. The Sidonians on the other hand spoke Phoenician, or Semitic language, at least at one stage.

The detailed identification of some of these names in Gen, 10 is difficult, thogh some are clear, A number of these early names of Gen. also appear later in the Bible, though it is not certain that the national group is unchanged. Early Tubal may be unrelated to late Tubal though the area occupied may be the same we sometimes speak of the Indians as the first Americans. Some suggested equations given by E. A. Speicer of University of Pennsylvania in classes are:

Goner-gimirai of Assyrians, Cimmerlans of Josephus, related to Cyinbri of Wales, the Celts whose language is somewhat related to Hittite.

Magog-possibly a form of the phrase Land of Gog not well known.
Madai-the Medes of Assyrian times
Javan-the Ionians an old tribe of the Greeks.
Tubal-a tribe in Cappadocia-E. Anatolis
Mesheck-Muski of Assyrian records near Phrygia (N. of Assyria)
Tiras-the Etruscans, or people of Troy.
Ashenz-Assyrian Ashinzi or Scythians,
Togarmeh-Tilgarimmeh a chief city in Tubal.

More of these would be given but time does not permit. Also some of these identifications are by no means sure. But they are presumably better than some current identifications with Moscow, Tobolsh, etc. because they are comparisons within a more or less related language and time horizon with careful phonetic correspondencies observed as nearly as we can with limited information.

One feature of the chapter may be worthy of notice. When it tells in vs 6-12 of the sons of Ham it relates a colonization that reached from Cush (apparently Ethiopia) across the straits into So. Arabia and thence up into Southern Mesop and Northern Mesop. The tribes of Seba Havilah etc. are not sure, but seem to be So. Arabic. They send forth a hero Nimrod not otherwise known who colonized Babel, Ereck, and Accad in the land of Shinon. We know when these cities were founded. Shinar is the Hebraized name-accurately rendered for ancient Stmer. It is not certain whether the first inhabitants were Sunerian or Semitic. The Sunerian language is unrelated to anything we know and the home of the Sunerians is unknown. If the earliest or at least early inhabitants were Semitic as they surely were soon after, then this movement would be a Semitic movement pointing to a home of the Semites in Arabia or even across the straits in Africa.

Bloomfield cautiously admits that the Semitic language connected with Egyptian and others in a Semitic Hamitic family may be distantly akin to the Indo European (Language p 65) This would fit well enough the latter in Gen. 10, but much more than this we can't say.

We should not think that all the descendants o Noah are here detailed. Nor should we think the author wrote about all the races that he knewNegroes were well known in ancient Egypt as the pictures show. Phineas, who had an Ethiopian name, may well be one of these Negroes as might Moses' wife-an Ethiopian. Some of the people of Cush might be negroes in Gen. 10. Or the negroes may have been So. Egyptian group, not negro. Modern Ethiopians are not negroes.

A final suggestion is purely speculative. If we argue that all modern races have descended from Noah's family, we could also feel that there were races that entirely died out at the time of or before the flood. If all the cows in the world today were destroyed except a few pure bred jerseys and Holsteins, there would thenceforward be no Angus, Guernseys etc. It is possible that there were pre-Noahic racial genes which were completely lost. It seems that the Carmel skeletons show mixtures of Neanderthal characteristics with those of modern man. Neandertheloids apparently interbred with others. If Noah's family happened to have none of these genes, the Neanderthal characteristics would have died out completely or of course they could have been lost in some other way by accident of climate etc.

Gen. 10 tells us of numerous nations that peopled the near East after the flood. All were descended from Noah's family. The list may not be complete and it is racially quite mixed up, We should not treat it as a genealogy, but it may be used to give some valuable information on early colonization.