Generations of Noah

The Generations of Noah, also called the Table of Nations or Origines Gentium,[1] is a genealogy of the sons of Noah, according to the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 10:9), and their dispersion into many lands after the Flood,[2] focusing on the major known societies. The term nations to describe the descendants is a standard English translation of the Hebrew word "goyim", following the c. 400 CE Latin Vulgate's "nationes", and does not have the same political connotations that the word entails today.[3]

This T and O map, from the first printed version of Isidore's Etymologiae (Augsburg 1472), identifies the three known continents (Asia, Europe and Africa) as respectively populated by descendants of Sem (Shem), Iafeth (Japheth) and Cham (Ham).
The world as known to the Hebrews according to the Mosaic account (1854 map, Historical Textbook and Atlas of Biblical Geography by Lyman Coleman)

The list of 70 names introduces for the first time several well-known ethnonyms and toponyms important to biblical geography,[4] such as Noah's three sons Shem, Ham and Japheth, from which 18th century German scholars at the Göttingen School of History derived the race terminology Semites, Hamites and Japhetites. Certain of Noah's grandsons were also used for names of peoples: from Elam, Ashur, Aram, Cush, and Canaan were derived respectively the Elamites, Assyrians, Arameans, Cushites, and Canaanites. Likewise, from the sons of Canaan: Heth, Jebus, and Amorus were derived Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites. Further descendants of Noah include Eber – from Shem (from whom come the "Hebrews"); the hunter-king Nimrod – from Cush; and the Philistines – from Misrayim.

As Christianity spread across the Roman Empire, it carried the idea that all people were descended from Noah. But the tradition of Hellenistic Jewish identifications of the ancestry of various peoples, which concentrates very much on the Eastern Mediterranean and the Ancient Near East (described below), became stretched and its historicity questioned.[citation needed] Not all Near Eastern people were covered, and Northern European peoples important to the Late Roman and Medieval world, such as the Celtic, Slavic, Germanic, and Nordic peoples were not covered, nor were others of the world's peoples, such as sub-Saharan Africans, Native Americans, and peoples of Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, and Australasia. Scholars derived a variety of arrangements to make the table fit, with for example the Scythians, which do feature in the tradition, being claimed as the ancestors of much of northern Europe.[5]

According to Joseph Blenkinsopp, the 70 names in the list express symbolically the unity of humanity, corresponding to the 70 descendants of Israel who go down into Egypt with Jacob at Genesis 46:27 and the 70 elders of Israel who visit God with Moses at the covenant ceremony in Exodus 24:1–9.[6]

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