Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Genesis 10:4

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Elishah - As Javan peopled a considerable part of Greece, it is in that region that we must seek for the settlements of his descendants; Elishah probably was the first who settled at Elis, in Peloponnesus.

Tarshish - He first inhabited Cilicia, whose capital anciently was the city of Tarsus, where the Apostle Paul was born.

Kittim - We have already seen that this name was rather the name of a people than of an individual: some think by Kittim Cyprus is meant: others, the isle of Chios; and others, the Romans; and others, the Macedonians.

Dodanim - Or Rodanim, for the ד and ר may be easily mistaken for each other, because of their great similarity. Some suppose that this family settled at Dodona in Epirus; others at the isle of Rhodes; others, at the Rhone, in France, the ancient name of which was Rhodanus, from the Scripture Rodanim.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 1-5

- Section VIII - The Nations

- Japheth

2. גמר gomer “Gomer, completion; related: complete;” Κιμμέριοι Kimmerioi מגוג māgôg “Magog, Caucasian, Skyth.” מדי māday “Madai, middle: Mede.” יון yāvān “Javan”; Ἰάων Iaōn “Sanskrit, Javana; Old Persian, Juna.” תבל tubāl “Tubal”; Τιβαρηνοὶ Tibareenoi משׁך meshek “Meshek, drawing possession, valor”; Μόσχοι Moschoi תירס tı̂yrās “Tiras;” Θρᾷξ Thrax אשׁכנו 'ashkenaz “Ashkenaz,” Ἀσκάνιος Askanios ריפת rı̂ypat “Riphath,” ὄρη Ῥίπαια oree Ripaia תגרמה togarmâh “Togarmah, Thorgom, ancestor of the Armenians.”

4. אלישׁה 'elı̂yshâh “Elishah;” Ἧλις Eelis Ἑλλὰς Hellas Αἰολεῖς Aioleis תדשׁישׁ tarshı̂ysh “Tarshish, breaking, fastness: Tartessus, Tarsus, Tyrseni.” כתים kı̂tı̂ym “Kittim, smiters; Citienses;” Κᾶρες Kares דדנים dodānı̂ym “Dodanim, Dodona, Dardani.”

5. אי 'ı̂y “meadow, land reached by water, island; related: be marked off or bounded (by a water line).” גוי gôy “nation; related: be born;” γεγάασι gegaasi fifth document relates to the generations of the sons of Noah. It presents first a genealogy of the nations, and then an account of the distribution of mankind into nations, and their dispersion over the earth. This is the last section which treats historically of the whole human race. Only in incidental, didactic, or prophetic passages do we again meet with mankind as a whole in the Old Testament.

The present chapter signalizes a new step in the development of the human race. They pass from the one family to the seventy nations. This great process covers the space of time from Noah to Abraham. During this period the race was rapidly increasing under the covenant made with Noah. From Shem to Abraham were ten generations inclusive; and, therefore, if we suppose the same rate of increase after as we have supposed before, there would be about fifteen million inhabitants when Abraham was thirty years of age. If, however, we take eight as the average of a family, and suppose eleven generations after Shem at the one hundredth year of Abraham‘s life, we have about thirty million people on the earth. The average of the three sons of Noah is higher than this; for they had sixteen sons, and we may suppose as many daughters, making in all thirty-two, and, therefore, giving ten children to each household. The present chapter does not touch on the religious aspect of human affairs: it merely presents a table of the primary nations, from which all subsequent nationalities have been derived.

Genesis 10:1-2

The sons of Japheth. - Japheth is placed first, because he was, most probably, the oldest brother Genesis 9:24; Genesis 10:21, and his descendants were the most numerous and most widely spread from the birthplace of mankind. The general description of their territory is “the isles of the nations.” These were evidently maritime countries, or such as were reached by sea. These coastlands were pre-eminently, but not exclusively, the countries bordering on the north side of the Mediterranean and its connected waters. They are said to belong to the nations, because the national form of association was more early and fully developed among them than among the other branches of the race. There is, probably, a relic of Japheth in the, Ιαπετὸς Iapetos Japetus of the Greeks, said to be the son of Uranus (heaven), and Gaea (earth), and father of Prometheus, and thus in some way connected with the origin or preservation of the human race.

Fourteen of the primitive nations spring from Japheth. Seven of these are of immediate descent.

(1) Gomer is mentioned again, in Ezekiel Ezekiel 38:6, as the ally of Gog, by which the known existence of the nation at that period is indicated. Traces of this name are perhaps found in the Κιμμέριοι Kimmerioi (Homer, Odyssey Ezekiel 11:14; Herodotus Ezekiel 1:15; Ezekiel 4:12), who lay in the dark north, in the Krimea, the Kimbri who dwelt in north Germany, the Kymry, Cambri, and Cumbri who occupied Britain. These all belong to the race now called Keltic, the first wave of population that reached the Atlantic. Thus, the Γομαρεῖς Gomareis of Josephus (Ant. 1:6.1) may even be identified with the Galatae. This nation seems to have lain to the north of the Euxine, and to have spread out along the southern coasts of the Baltic into France, Spain, and the British Isles.

(2) Magog is mentioned, by Ezekiel Ezekiel 38:6, as the people of which Gog was the prince. It is introduced in the Apocalypse Revelation 20:8, as a designation of the remote nations who had penetrated to the ends or corners of the earth. This indicates a continually progressing people, occupying the north of Europe and Asia, and crossing, it may be, over into America. They seem to have been settled north of the Caspian, and to have wandered north and east from that point. They are accordingly identified by Josephus (Ant. 1:6.1) with the Skyths, and include the Mongols among other Skythic tribes.

(3) Madai has given name to the Medes, who occupied the southern shore of the Caspian. From this region they penetrated southward to Hindostan.

(4) Javan is traced in the Ιάονες Iaones Iones, who settled in the coasts of the Aegean, in Peloponnesus, Attica, and subsequently on the coast of Asia Minor, and accordingly denotes the Greeks in the language of the Old Testament Isaiah 66:19; Ezekiel 27:13; Daniel 8:21. The name Yunau is found in the cuneiform inscriptions of the times of Sargon, referring to a western people.

(5) Tubal and (6) Meshek are generally associated. (Ezekiel 27:13; 38; 39) connects them, on the one hand, with Magog, and on the other, with Javan. Josephus (Ant. 1:6.1) finds Tubal in Iberia, and Meshek in Cappadocia, tracing the name in Mazaca. Their names are seemingly detected in the Tibareni and Moschi, and their seat was probably between the Euxine and the Caspian, whence they spread themselves northward and westward. The names of the rivers Tobal and Mosqua bear a strong resemblance to these patriarchal names.

(7) Tiras is referred by Josephus to Thrace. The name is perhaps discernible in the Tyras or Dniester. The seat of the nation was east of the Euxine, whence it spread to the north. Thus, we have the original starting-points of these seven nations about the Caspian, the Euxine, and the Aegean Seas.

Genesis 10:3

Gomer has three sons, who are the founders of as many nations.

(8) Ashkenaz is supposed to have lain south of the Euxine, and to be traceable in its original name ἄξενος axenos and in the Ascanius and Ascania of Bithynia, perhaps in Scandinavia. Part of the nation may have migrated to Germany, which is called Ashkenaz by the Jews, and where the word Sachsen (Saxon) occurs. It perhaps contains the root of the name Asia.

(9) Riphath seems to have travelled north, and left his name in the Rhipaean mountains. Josephus, however, places him in Paphlagonia, where the name Tobata occurs (Diphath) 1 Chronicles 1:6.

(10) Togarmah is said to have been settled in Armenia. By a tradition in Moses Chorenensis, Haik, the ancestor of the Armenians, is the son of Thorgom, the son of Gomer. At all events, the Black Sea might convey colonies from Gomer to Asia Minor and Armenia.

Genesis 10:4

Javan has four sons, who are the heads of nations.

(11) Elishah is noted by Ezekiel Ezekiel 27:7 as a nation whose maritime country produced purple, which agrees with the coast of Laconia or the Corinthian Gulf. The name has been variously sought in Elis, Hellas, and Aeolis. The last is due to Josephus. It is possible that Elea or Velia, in the south of Italy, may contain some reference to the name.

(12) Tarshish is conjectured by Josephus to be the people of Cilicia; which, he affirms, was anciently called Tharsus, and the capital of which was Tarsus. But whether this be the primitive seat of Tarshish or not, it is almost certain that Spain retains the name, if not in Tarraco, at least in Tartessus.

(13) Kittim is discovered, by Josephus, in Cyprus, where we meet with the town of Citium Κίτιον Kition He adds, however, that all the islands and the greater part of the seacoasts are called Χεδίμ Chedim by the Hebrews. We may therefore presume that the Kittim spread into northern Greece, where we have a Κίτιον Kition in Macedonia, and ultimately into Italy, which is designated as “the isles of Kittim” Numbers 24:24; Isaiah 23:1; Jeremiah 2:10; Ezekiel 27:6; Daniel 11:30.

(14) Dodanim leaves a trace, perhaps, in Dodona, an ancient site of the Hellenes in Epirus, and perhaps in Dardania, a district of Illyricum.

Genesis 10:5

Thus, we have discovered the ancient seats of Japheth,

d Iapetos - , around the Caspian, the Euxine, the Aegean, and the north of the Mediterranean. From these coastlands they seem to have spread over Europe, northern, western, and southern Asia, and, both by Behring‘s Straits and the Atlantic, they at length poured into America. So true is it that Japheth was enlarged, and that by them were “the isles of the nations divided.”

In their nations. - We here note the characteristics of a nation. First. It is descended from one head. Others may be occasionally grafted on the original stock by intermarriage. But there is a vital union subsisting between all the members and the head, in consequence of which the name of the head is applied to the whole body of the nation. In the case of Kittim and Dodanim we seem to have the national name thrown back upon the patriarchs, who may have themselves been called Keth and Dodan. Similar instances occur in the subsequent parts of the genealogy. Second. A nation has a country or “land” which it calls its own. In the necessary migrations of ancient tribes, the new territories appropriated by the tribe, or any part of it, were naturally called by the old name, or some name belonging to the old country. This is well illustrated by the name of Gomer, which seems to reappear in the Cimmerii, the Cimbri, the Cymri, the Cambri, and the Cumbri. Third. A nation has its own “tongue.” This constitutes at once its unity in itself and its separation from others. Many of the nations in the table may have spoken cognate tongues, or even originally the same tongue. Thus, the Kenaanite, Phoenician, and Punic nations had the same stock of languages with the Shemites. But it is a uniform law, that one nation has only one speech within itself. Fourth. A nation is composed of many “families,” clans, or tribes. These branch off from the nation in the same manner as it did from the parent stock of the race.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
This chapter shows concerning the three sons of Noah, that of them was the whole earth overspread. No nation but that of the Jews can be sure from which of these seventy it has come. The lists of names of fathers and sons were preserved of the Jews alone, for the sake of the Messiah. Many learned men, however, have, with some probability, shown which of the nations of the earth descended from each of the sons of Noah To the posterity of Japheth were allotted the isles of the gentiles; probably, the island of Britain among the rest. All places beyond the sea from Judea are called isles, Jer 25:22. That promise, Isa 42:4, The isles shall wait for his law, speaks of the conversion of the gentiles to the faith of Christ.
Cross References
The Table of Nations_(1)
The Table of Nations_(2)
The Table of Nations_(1)
The Table of Nations_(2)