On Wednesdays I’ve been reading and reflecting on the book of Genesis, gradually working my way through. Today I’ve been reading another section of genealogy, which describes the descendents of Noah spreading over the land after the flood. As I’ve said before, this might seem dull and monotonous from a Western mindset, but there are some interesting details we might pick up if we’re paying attention.
One thing I that I find interesting about this genealogy, which we might take for granted in our current era, is that this genealogy describes all of humanity as having a common origin. Today we might take it for granted that all of humanity came out of Africa (or out of Eden) but this wasn’t the case in the ancient world.
One of the details I noticed in the genealogy was the commentary on the name of Peleg, a descendent of Shem. The next says that Peleg got his name (which seems to mean ‘irrigation channel’ – something that divides the land) because in this time the land was divided. It also says that his brother’s name was Joktan, which appears to mean ‘small’. I wonder if this entry is saying that during this period humanity was dividing into small, national groups.
The other interesting detail I noticed is actually earlier, but I’ve brought it up later because I think it shows a different dynamic to the rest of the text. While the rest of the genealogy describes differnt people groups spreading out and finding their own lands, Nimrod is described the first person to become a mighty warrior and as ‘a mighty hunter before YHWH.’ Nimrod’s kingdom is said to begin with a few cities (including the legendary city of Babel) in the land of Shinar, but from there he expands his terriory (presumably through war) into Assyria, where he builds more cities.
I think Nimrod’s actions discribed here go in an opposite direction to the rest of the genealogy. The rest of the genealogy generally describes humanity spreading out and diversifying into small, national groups after the flood. Instead, Nimrod is settling and building territories, and adding other nations to his territory. I think we’ll see this in more detail in the stiry of Babel, which I’ll probably look at next week.