Genesis 11:10
These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
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(10-26) These are the generations of Shem.—Here also, as in Genesis 5, there is a very considerable divergence between the statements of the Hebrew, the Samaritan, and the Septuagint texts. According to the Hebrew, the total number of years from Shem to the birth of Abram was 390, according to the Samaritan, 1,040, and according to the LXX., 1,270. These larger totals are obtained by adding, as a rule, one hundred years to the age of each patriarch before the birth of his eldest son, and the LXX. also insert Cainan between Arphaxad and Salah. The virtual agreement of two authorities, coming from such different quarters as the Samaritan transcript and the LXX. version is remarkable, but scholars have long acknowledged that these genealogies were never intended for chronological purposes, and that so to employ them leads only to error.

Like the genealogy of Seth, in Genesis 5, the Tôldôth Shem also consists of ten generations, and thus forms, according to Hebrew ideas respecting the number ten, a perfect representation of the race. With the exception of Arphaxad (for whom see Genesis 10:22), the names in this genealogy are all Hebrew words, and are full of meaning. Thus—

Salah means mission, the sending out of men in colonies to occupy new lands.

Eber is the passage, marking the migration of the head-quarters of the race, and the crossing of some great obstacle in its way, most probably the river Tigris. With this would begin the long struggle between the Semitic and Hamitic races in Mesopotamia.

Peleg, division, may be a memorial of the separation of the Joktanite Arabs from the main stem, but see Note on Genesis 10:25. Through him the rights of primogeniture passed to the Hebrews.

Reu, friendship, seems to indicate a closer drawing together of the rest after the departure of Joktan and his clan, which probably had been preceded by dissensions.

Serug, intertwining, may denote that this friendship between the various races into which the family of Shem was by this time divided was cemented by intermarriage.

Nahor, panting, earnest struggle, indicates, most probably, the commencement of that seeking after a closer communion with God which made his descendants withdraw from contact with the rest and form a separate community, distinguished by its firm hold of the doctrine of the unity of the Godhead. From the words of Joshua (Joshua 24:2) it is plain, not only that idolatry was generally practised among the descendants of Shem, but that even Nahor and Terah were not free from its influence. Yet, probably, the monotheism of Abraham was preceded by an effort to return to the purer doctrine of their ancestors in Nahor’s time, and the gods which they still worshipped were the teraphim, regarded both by Laban and Rachel (Genesis 31:30; Genesis 31:34) as a kind of inferior household genius, which brought good luck to the family.

Terah, wandering, indicates the commencement of that separation from the rest caused by religious differences, which ended in the migration of Abram into Canaan.

In Abram, high-father, we have a prophetic name, indicative of the high purpose for which the father of the faithful was chosen. There is a difficulty about the date of his birth. We read that “Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran;” and in Genesis 11:32 that “the days of Terah were two hundred and five years.” But St. Stephen says that Terah died in Haran before Abram’s migration (Acts 7:4), and in Genesis 12:4 we are told that Abram was seventy-five years of age when he departed from that country. Either, therefore, Terah was a hundred and thirty years old when Abram was born—and Abram was a younger, and not the older son—or the Samaritan text is right in making the total age of Terah a hundred and forty-five years. The latter is probably the true solution: first, because Nahor died at the age of a hundred and forty-eight, and it is not probable that Terah so long outlived him; for human life, as we have seen, was progressively shortening after the flood: and secondly, because Abram, in Genesis 17:17, speaks of it as almost an impossibility for a man to have a son when he is a hundred years old. Had he been born when his father was a hundred and thirty, he could scarcely have spoken in this way.

Genesis 11:10. Observe here, 1st, That nothing is left upon record concerning those of this line, but their names and ages; the Holy Ghost seeming to hasten through them to the story of Abraham. How little do we know of those who are gone before us in this world, even those that lived in the same places where we live! Or, indeed, of those who are our contemporaries, but in distant places. 2d, That there was an observable gradual decrease in the years of their lives. Shem reached to six hundred years, which yet fell short of the age of the patriarchs before the flood; the three next came short of five hundred, the three next did not reach to three hundred, and after them we read not of any that attained to two hundred but Terah; and not many ages after this Moses reckoned seventy or eighty to be the utmost men ordinarily arrive at. When the earth began to be replenished, men’s lives began to be shortened; so that the decrease is to be imputed to the wise disposal of Providence, rather than to any decay of nature. 3d, That Eber, from whom the Hebrews were denominated, was the longest lived of any that were born after the flood; which perhaps was the reward of his strict adherence to the ways of God.

11:10-26 Here is a genealogy, or list of names, ending in Abram, the friend of God, and thus leading towards Christ, the promised Seed, who was the son of Abram. Nothing is left upon record but their names and ages; the Holy Ghost seeming to hasten through them to the history of Abram. How little do we know of those that are gone before us in this world, even of those that lived in the same places where we live, as we likewise know little of those who now live in distant places! We have enough to do to mind our own work. When the earth began to be peopled, men's lives began to shorten; this was the wise disposal of Providence. - Section IX - The Line to Abram

- XXXV. The Line of Abram

18. רעוּ re‛û, Re'u, "friend;" verb: "feed, delight in, enjoy."

20. שׂרוּג śerûg, Serug, "vine-shoot."

22. נחור nāchôr, Nachor, "snorting."

24. תרה terach, Terach, "delay?" Aramaic.

26. אברם 'abrām, Abram, "high father." הרן hārān Haran, "mountaineer."

The usual phrase, "These are the generations," marks the beginning of the fifth document. Accordingly, we now enter upon a new phase of human development. The nations have gradually departed from the living God. They have not, however, stopped at this negative stage of ungodliness. They have fallen into polytheism and idolatry. And the knowledge of the one true God, the Maker, Possessor, and Upholder of heaven and earth, is on the verge of being entirely lost. Nevertheless the promises, first to the race of Adam, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, and next to the family of Noah, that the Lord should be the God of Shem, were still in force. It is obvious, from the latter promise, that the seed of the woman is to be expected in the line of Shem.

The present passage contains the pedigree of Abram from Shem. From this it appears that the sacred writer here reverts to the second year after the flood - a point of time long before the close of the preceding narrative. "Shem was the son of a hundred years," or in his hundredth year, two years after the flood, and therefore in the six hundred and third year of Noah, and consequently three years after Japheth. Abram was the twentieth, inclusive, from Adam, the tenth from Shem, and the seventh from Heber. A second Kenan is inserted after Arpakshad in the Septuagint, and in the Gospel according to Luke. But this name does not occur even in the Septuagint in 1 Chronicles 1:24, where the genealogy of Abram is given. It is not found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Targums, or the ancient versions. It does not appear in Josephus or Philo. Neither is it found in the Codex Bezae in the Gospel of Luke. It must therefore be regarded as an interpolation.

The following table is a continuation of that given at the fifth chapter, and will serve for the comparison of the different forms in which the numbers are presented:

Line of Abram Hebrew Sam. Pent. Septuagint Josephus Date Son's Birth OwnDeath Son's Birth OwnDeath Son's Birth OwnDeath Son's Birth OwnDeath OfBirth OfDeath 11. Shem (97) 2 600 (97) 2 600 (97) 2 600 (97) 12 1559 2150 12. Arpakshad (Καινᾶν) 35 438 135 438 135 535 135 1658 2096 13. Shelah 30 433 130 433 130 460 130 1693 2126 14. Heber 34 464 134 404 134 404 134 1723 2187 15. Peleg 30 239 130 239 130 339 130 1757 1996 16. Reu 32 239 132 239 132 339 130 1787 2096 17. Serug 30 230 130 230 130 330 132 1819 2049 18. Nahor 29 148 79 148 175 304 120 1849 1997 19. Terah

(Haran) 70

60 205 70

60 145 70


7. confound their language—literally, "their lip"; it was a failure in utterance, occasioning a difference in dialect which was intelligible only to those of the same tribe. Thus easily by God their purpose was defeated, and they were compelled to the dispersion they had combined to prevent. It is only from the Scriptures we learn the true origin of the different nations and languages of the world. By one miracle of tongues men were dispersed and gradually fell from true religion. By another, national barriers were broken down—that all men might be brought back to the family of God. Not all the generations of Shem, as appears both from Genesis 11:11, and from the former chapter; but of those who were the seminary of the church, and the progenitors of Christ.

These are the generations of Shem,.... Or a genealogy of the posterity of Shem; not of all of them, only of those of the line which led to Abraham, by which might appear the true line in which the Messiah from Adam through Abraham sprung:

Shem was one hundred years old, and begat Arphexad two years after the flood; by which it is pretty plain that he was younger than Japheth; See Gill on Genesis 10:21 of Arphaxad his son; see Gill on Genesis 10:22.

These are the generations {k} of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:

(k) He returns to the genealogy of Shem, to come to the history of Abram, in which the Church of God is described, which is Moses' principle purpose.

10–26. The Genealogy of the Patriarchs from Shem to Abram. (P.)

This genealogical table is taken from P. It resembles the table in chap. 5 (1) in the manner of the enumeration of years, (a) at the birth of the firstborn, (b) at the patriarch’s death: (2) in the general length of the list, nine (or, including Cainan, ten) generations: (3) in the last name, Terah, being represented, like Noah, as the father of three sons.

The gradual diminution in the duration of life from Shem (600 years) and Arpachshad (438 years) to Nahor (148 years) should be noticed. See Special Note on the Longevity of the Patriarchs, Genesis 14:17-24.

The period from the Flood to the birth of Abram covers 290 years. In LXX the period is given as 1070, in the Samaritan text as 940. See Note on the Genealogy of Shem, see below.

The names Arpachshad, Shelah, Eber, and Peleg coincide with those in Genesis 10:22; Genesis 10:24-25 (J).


Name  Massoretic Text  Samaritan Text  Septuagint Text  Book of jubilees

    Total  1st Son  After  Total  1st Son  After  Total  1st Son


1.  Shem  100  500  600  100  500  600  100  500  600  102?

2.  Arpachshad  35  403  438  135  303  438  135  430  565  66?

[Cainan]              130  330  460  57

3.  Shelah  30  403  433  130  303  433  130  330  460  71

4.  Eber  34  430  464  134  270  404  134  370  504  64

5.  Peleg  30  209  239  130  109  239  130  209  339  61

              (L. 134)      

6.  Reu  32  207  239  132  107  239  132  207  339  59

7.  Serug  30  200  230  130  100  230  130  200  330  57

8.  Nahor  29  119  148  79  69  148  79  129  208  62

                (L. 125)    

9.  Terah  70  135  205  70  75  145  70  135  205  70

  390      1040      1170      669

              (L. 1174)      

From Flood to Birth of Abram  290      940      1070      567

10. These are the generations] The heading of a new section in P: see Genesis 2:4 a.

Arpachshad] See note on Genesis 10:22, where Arpachshad is the third son of Shem. Possibly Babylonia, or a locality in it, was regarded as the primitive home of Abram’s ancestors.

after the flood] Shem (see Genesis 5:32 and Genesis 7:6) was a hundred years old when the Flood began.

Verse 10. - These are the generations of Shem. The new section, opening with the usual formula (cf. Genesis 2:4; Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1), reverts to the main purpose of the inspired narrative, which is to trace the onward development of the line of promise; and this it does by carrying forward the genealogical history of the holy seed through ten generations till it reaches Abram. Taken along with Genesis 5, with which it corresponds, the present table completes the chronological outline from Adam to the Hebrew patriarch. Shem was an hundred years old (literally, the son of an hundred years, i.e. in his hundredth year), and begat Arphaxad. The English term is borrowed from the LXX., the Hebrew being Arpaehshadh, a compound of which the principal part is כשד, giving rise to the Chashdim or Chaldeans; whence Professor Lewis regards it as originally the name of a people transferred to their ancestor (cf. Genesis 10:22). Two years after the flood. So that in Noah's 603rd year Shem was 100, and must accordingly have been born in Noah's 503rd year, i.e. two years after Japheth (cf. Genesis 5:32; Genesis 10:21). The mention of the Flood indicates the point of time from which the present section is designed to be reckoned. Genesis 11:10After describing the division of the one family which sprang from the three sons of Noah, into many nations scattered over the earth and speaking different languages, the narrative returns to Shem, and traces his descendants in a direct line to Terah the father of Abraham. The first five members of this pedigree have already been given in the genealogy of the Shemites; and in that case the object was to point out the connection in which all the descendants of Eber stood to one another. They are repeated here to show the direct descent of the Terahites through Peleg from Shem, but more especially to follow the chronological thread of the family line, which could not be given in the genealogical tree without disturbing the uniformity of its plan. By the statement in Genesis 11:10, that "Shem, a hundred years old, begat Arphaxad two years after the flood," the chronological date already given of Noah's age at the birth of his sons (Genesis 5:32) and at the commencement of the flood (Genesis 7:11) are made still more definite. As the expression "after the flood" refers to the commencement of the flood (Genesis 9:28), and according to Genesis 7:11 the flood began in the second month, or near the beginning of the six hundredth year of Noah's life, though the year 600 is given in Genesis 7:6 in round numbers, it is not necessary to assume, as some do, in order to reconcile the difference between our verse and Genesis 5:32, that the number 500 in Genesis 5:32 stands as a round number for 502. On the other hand, there can be no objection to such an assumption. The different statements may be easily reconciled by placing the birth of Shem at the end of the five hundredth year of Noah's life, and the birth of Arphaxad at the end of the hundredth year of that of Shem; in which case Shem would be just 99 years old when the flood began, and would be fully 100 years old "two years after the flood," that is to say, in the second year from the commencement of the flood, when he begat Arphaxad. In this case the "two years after the flood" are not to be added to the sum-total of the chronological data, but are included in it. The table given here forms in a chronological and material respect the direct continuation of the one in Genesis 5, and differs from it only in form, viz., by giving merely the length of life of the different fathers before and after the birth of their sons, without also summing up the whole number of their years as is the case there, since this is superfluous for chronological purposes. But on comparing the chronological data of the two tables, we find this very important difference in the duration of life before and after the flood, that the patriarchs after the flood lived upon an average only half the number of years of those before it, and that with Peleg the average duration of life was again reduced by one half. Whilst Noah with his 950 years belonged entirely to the old world, and Shem, who was born before the flood, reached the age of 600, Arphaxad lived only 438 years, Salah 433, and Eber 464; and again, with Peleg the duration of life fell to 239 years, Reu also lived only 239 years, Serug 230, and Nahor not more than 148. Here, then, we see that the two catastrophes, the flood and the separation of the human race into nations, exerted a powerful influence in shortening the duration of life; the former by altering the climate of the earth, the latter by changing the habits of men. But while the length of life diminished, the children were born proportionally earlier. Shem begat his first-born in his hundredth year, Arphaxad in the thirty-fifth, Salah in the thirtieth, and so on to Terah, who had no children till his seventieth year; consequently the human race, notwithstanding the shortening of life, increased with sufficient rapidity to people the earth very soon after their dispersion. There is nothing astonishing, therefore, in the circumstance, that wherever Abraham went he found tribes, towns, and kingdoms, though only 365 years had elapsed since the flood, when we consider that eleven generations would have followed one another in that time, and that, supposing every marriage to have been blessed with eight children on an average (four male and four female), the eleventh generation would contain 12,582,912 couples, or 25,165,824 individuals. And is we reckon ten children as the average number, the eleventh generation would contain 146,484,375 pairs, or 292,968,750 individuals. In neither of these cases have we included such of the earlier generations as would be still living, although their number would be by no means inconsiderable, since nearly all the patriarchs from Shem to Terah were alive at the time of Abram's migration. In Genesis 11:26 the genealogy closes, like that in Genesis 5:32, with the names of three sons of Terah, all of whom sustained an important relation to the subsequent history, viz., Abram as the father of the chosen family, Nahor as the ancestor of Rebekah (cf. Genesis 11:29 with Genesis 22:20-23), and Haran as the father of Lot (Genesis 11:27).
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