December 23, 2013

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe                      

 

 


Lesson II.A.1: The Generations of Shem—Gen. 11:10-26.                                                               

 

 

Gen. 11:10-26 (KJV)

 

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

11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.

12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah: 

13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.

14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber:

15 And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.

16 And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg:

17 And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters.

18 And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu:

19 And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters.

20 And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug:

21 And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters.

22 And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor:

23 And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.

24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:

25 And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters.

26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.


Commentary


This is a very important passage because it gives us the family line of Abraham from Shem. It is important because Jesus Christ will be born to a descendent of Abraham.

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

 

These are the generations of Shem, or a genealogy of the posterity of Shem; not all of them are listed, only those in the line which led to Abraham, because the Holy Spirit is documenting the genealogy of Jesus Christ from Adam to show that the prophesy given in Genesis 3:15 was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The genealogy began in Chapter 5 with the generations from Adam to Shem; and here the genealogy continues with the generations from Shem to Abram (Abraham). Matthew records the Generations from Abraham to Christ, the Son of God.

 

Shem was one hundred years old, and begat Arphexad two years after the flood. This makes it pretty clear that Shem was younger than Japheth. That can be shown from the fact that Noah was five hundred years old when he began to beget sons (Genesis 5:32); he was six hundred when he went into the ark (Genesis 7:11); two years after the flood Shem begat Arphaxad, when he was one hundred years old, and Noah six hundred and two (Genesis 11:10), so that Shem must be born when Noah was five hundred and two years old; and since Noah begot children when he was five hundred, there must be one of his sons who is two years older than Shem, which can be none other than Japheth, since Ham is called his younger son (Genesis 9:24).

 

11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.

 

Shem lived, after he begat Arphaxad, five hundred years; therefore, he must have been six hundred years old when he died.  That would mean that he was living when Abraham was born and for some time afterwards. Melchizedek would also have been alive at that time, and it is the general opinion of the Jews, as well as many Christians that they had a meeting, though there is no way to confirm it.

 

Shem begat sons and daughters; of whom we have no record, which again is understandable because the Messiah did not spring from them. The purpose of this genealogy is to trace the direct line from Shem to Abraham. It should be noted that in the register of the patriarchs, and their children after the Flood, the phrase "and he died" is not added as it was before the Flood. It was probably added because those living before the Flood lived a long time, but after the Flood men did not live as long, so the phrase “and he died” is omitted.

It is interesting that one Arabic writer says, that Shem died in the month Elul, on a Friday, at the close of the year of the world 2758. A Jewish writer says he died in the fifteenth year of Jacob, and that he saw twelve generations; according to Bishop Usher, he died in the morning of 2158.

 

12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah: 

 

Arphaxad lived thirty five years, and begat Salah. Arphaxad is the first on record that had a son born to him so early. Salah means "a sending forth." It is said that Arphaxad gave his son this name to commemorate the Flood.

 

13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.

 

His children’s names are not mentioned, with the lone exception of Salah. The Arabic writer mentioned in verse 12 says Arphaxad died in the month Nisan, 2696; and a Jewish writer says he died in the forty eighth year of Isaac, and he also says that in his days they began to build the city of Babel.

 

14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber:

He had a son born to him five years sooner than his father did.

 

15 And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.

The same Arabic writer mentioned above says that Eber died in the month, Adar, which is called Barhamath, at the close of 2950; and a Jewish chronologer says he died in the fourteenth year of Jacob.

 

16 And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg:

17 And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters.

 

Eber lived to the ripe old age of eight hundred and sixty. He begat sons and daughters, one of which is mentioned in Genesis 10:25, whose name is Joktan. According to the same Jewish writer mentioned before, he died in the seventy ninth year of Jacob. The Arabs have given Joktan the name Cahtan, and they claim him as their parent, at least, of their principal tribes; and say he was the first that reigned in Yaman, and to put a crown on his head.

 

18 And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu:

 

And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu, or Ragau, as he is called in the Septuagint version, the letter "g" pronounced as it is in Gaza and Gomorrah.

 

19 And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters.

Peleg lived, after he begat Reu, two hundred and nine years, little more than half the age reached by his father. Arabic writers say he begat Melchizedek the priest, and that he died in the month Elul, 3126; and a Jewish writer says he died in the forty eighth year of Abraham.

 

20 And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug:

And Reu lived thirty two years, and begat Serug. He is thought to have given his name to a city called Sarug, which, according to an Arabic geographer was near Charrae, or Haran, in Chaldea; and another Arabic writer speaks of a city in Mesopotamia that is called "Sarug,” to this day.

 

21 And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters.

And Reu lived, after he begat Sarug, two hundred and seven years, so he lived for a total of two hundred and thirty nine years, the exact age of his father, when he died. During his time various kingdoms arose; according to the same Arabic writer, Nimrod began to reign at Babylon when Reu was one hundred and thirty. He is thought to be the first king to reign upon earth. According to the Jewish writers, the kingdom of Egypt began during his lifetime and continued until the time of Octavian; and the kingdom of the Bohemians, the metropolis of which was Prague, and the kingdom of the Amazons, which continued to the time of Alexander. The Arabic writers also say that idolatry prevailed during his time; the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, and other things; and images of men and women were made by the Babylonians and Egyptians, who were worshipped by them, instead of the true God. According to a Jewish writer, he died in the seventy fifth year of Abraham.

 

22 And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor:

Nahor was the grandfather of Abraham, and one with the same name was Abraham's brother (see Genesis 11:26).

 

23 And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.

According to the same Jewish writer mentioned in the above verses, Serug died, when Abraham was one hundred years old. The eastern writers say that during his lifetime, idolatry began, the kingdom of Damascus was set up, and Samirus, king of the Chaldeans, invented weights and measures, weaving silk, and the art of dying.

 

24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:

 

Nahor begat Terah, who was the father of Abraham, and the first of the patriarchs of this line of Shem that left the true religion to worship idols.

 

25 And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters.

 

Nahor lived, in all, one hundred and forty eight years; so it is evident that the lifespan of the patriarchs decrease steadily after the Flood. The Arabic writers say that in the days of Nahor there was a great earthquake, which had never happened before; and idolatry increased, with some even offering their children to demons; and God raised a tempest that was like a deluge, which broke their images and destroyed their temples in Arabia, and covered them with heaps of sand, which they say remained until the days of those writers. It is also said that Spain, Portugal, and Arragon were founded during his lifetime. He died, as reported by a Jewish chronologer, in the one hundred and tenth year of Abraham.

 

 

26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

Abram, though named first, does not appear to be the eldest; that distinction belonged to Haran. It seems pretty clear that Abram was not born until the one hundred and thirtieth year of his father's life, for Terah was two hundred and five years old when he died (Genesis 11:32), and then Abram, who was seventy five years of age left Haran to settle in Canaan (Genesis 12:4), and his father died there soon after he arrived. So, if seventy five are taken out of two hundred and five, there will remain one hundred and thirty; hence Abram was born when Terah was one hundred and thirty. The Jews say Terah was the first that found out the way of coining money, and that in his days men began to worship images, and that he was the chief of their priests, but afterwards repented. That he was an idolater is confirmed by Joshua 24:2: “And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.”

 

Haran was certainly the eldest son of Terah, Nahor his second, and Abram his youngest son. Many have been greatly puzzled with the account here, supposing because Abram is mentioned first, that therefore he was the eldest son of Terah: but he is only put first because, once again, we are following the family line that leads to Christ. We have already seen an instance of this [“And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Genesis 5:32).],where Noah is represented as having Shem, Ham, and Japheth in this order of succession; whereas it is evident from other scriptures that Shem was the youngest son, but is named first because of his special standing and position. Pre-eminence is often marked in scripture by setting the youngest son before all the rest, though it is contrary to the normal usage of the Scriptures in other cases. Hence we find Shem, the youngest son of Noah, always mentioned first; Moses is mentioned before his elder brother Aaron; and Abram before his two elder brethren Haran and Nahor. These observations are sufficient to remove all difficulty from this verse.

 

By comparing the chronological data available here and in the genealogy given in Genesis chapter 5 an important difference in the duration of life before and after the flood, is easily discerned. It becomes apparent that the patriarchs after the Flood lived on average only half the number of years of those before the Flood, and beginning with Peleg the average duration of life was again reduced by one half. While 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 by 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 until we come to Terah, who had no children until his seventieth year. Consequently, the human race, notwithstanding the shortening of life, increased with sufficient rapidity to populate the earth very soon after their dispersion. There is nothing astonishing, therefore, that in our study of God’s word we find 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 those of the earlier generations that would still be living, although their number would be by no means small, 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 played an important role in the subsequent history of mankind, namely, Abram as the father of the chosen family, Nahor as the ancestor of Rebekah (see Genesis 11:29 and 22:20-23), and Haran as the father of Lot (Genesis 11:27).

 

The Book of Genesis covers more than 2,000 years and more than 20 generations. Yet, it spends almost a third of its text on the life of one man—Abram. Abram is unique in the way he is called the friend of God (James 2:23); Abraham, Your friend forever (2 Chronicles 20:7); Abraham, My friend (Isaiah 41:8). We all know the value of having friends in high places. Abram had a Friend in the highest place! Once Abraham Lincoln received a request for pardon from a man who deserted the army. When he was told the man had no friends, Lincoln said “I will be his friend,” and he pardoned him.

 

Men and women in the Bible are famous for many different things, but Abram is great because of his faith. Moses was the great lawgiver; Joshua a great general; David a great king, and Elijah a great prophet. Most of us know we can never be great in those things, but we can be great people of faith. We can be friends of God. If you are despondent because you don’t have Abram’s faith, take comfort in knowing you have Abram’s God. He can build in you the faith of Abram, because He built it in Abram himself.

 

You do have faith. You buy a ticket to a sporting event and show up, having faith the ticket is good. You fly in an airplane because you have faith in the airline’s equipment, mechanics, and pilots. You plan a weekend based on the weather report. And you do this even though sometimes there are ticket scandals, sometimes planes crash, and sometimes the weatherman is wrong; but you still have faith. God can build the faith you have into GREAT FAITH.

 

From this point in our study in Genesis, we 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 to them. 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 generations of Shem may be called the holy family, since from it sprang Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, David, Solomon, and all the great ancestors of the Messiah.

 


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