What is the origin and role of the various races of people?
The map on the previous page covers the area of the Mediterranean Sea and shows Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea near the lower end of which lie the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. This whole area is called the land of Canaan throughout Scripture and today is the land of Israel. We will continue to refer to it as the land of Canaan, because the Canaanites, the offspring of this grandson of Noah were occupying the land of Canaan. This carries all the way into the coming of the Nation of Israel. We’ll soon get to that in Genesis 12, which I consider to be the benchmark of Genesis. From that chapter we get the setting of everything that leads into our own doctrine in the Church Age. When it comes to the choosing of a bride for Isaac, Abraham had been told by God that Isaac was not to marry a Canaanite woman. It goes back to what happened in Genesis 9. We have to go slowly; there’s a reason for everything. This is not a bunch of Jewish myths cooked up around a campfire. This is the literal unfolding of God’s detailed program – it all fits. Nothing is in the picture that doesn’t belong there. After Canaan is cursed, Noah says in verses 26 & 27:
“And he said, `Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.'”
I’ve always been careful not to imply that through these three sons of Noah and because of the curse placed on the son of Ham that God has made some races inferior or others superior. We are going to see the whole human race coming from these three men and they are going to be different in their roles. I like to use the word “role” in more places than one. For example, in the game of football, the team’s lineman has a different role than a running back, and a wide receiver has a totally different role from the quarterback. Some are on camera much more than others. But if you remove one of those team members, what happens? The people who are most visible can do nothing because each member of that team has to play out his role for the whole thing to work. It’s the same way now with these three basic races of humanity – none is superior over the other, but each has its own particular role to fill.
What are the roles that God has stipulated? The offspring of Ham who, in the next chapter are predominately responsible for the building of the Tower of Babel, make their way to the land of Canaan. From Canaan we know there took place a migration south into southern Africa and southern Arabia, and they were probably the forebears of the Queen of Sheba. Then, from the Euphrates River we have the establishment of the offspring of another son of Noah, Shem. From the line of Shem we will follow predominately the man Abraham, who becomes the father of the Nation of Israel as well as the Arabs. So the Middle Eastern people are primarily the descendants of Shem. And then from the Tower of Babel, as they migrated up toward western Russia and Europe, we find the offspring of Japheth (the white race or Caucasians). The offspring of Japheth will migrate to Europe, Scandinavia, Great Britain, western Russia and the northern coasts of the Mediterranean.
Reflect on human history. We know that from the Tower of Babel, some of the population moved toward the orient, China. From China, the Mongolians were probably the ones who migrated across the Pacific, becoming the forerunners of the American Indians. Never forget, those people had a tremendously advanced civilization. The Chinese were way ahead of the Caucasians when it came to materials such as silk and spices, to mathematics, and many other areas. So there is no superiority in the Caucasians over some of the other races, but the role they were assigned to play is different. When God said in verse 27 that He would enlarge Japheth, I believe we can see where it came about. Go to Acts 16. Until this time, the Caucasians or Japhethites were barbarians. Historically, when Rome was at the pinnacle of its power, it was overrun by the Gauls from the North who sacked Rome and burned it. They were the people of Europe. So these Japhethites had little impact on the human race until Acts 16. Paul had been spending time in Asia Minor – today’s Turkey. Go to verse 6:
“Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,”
After being in Asia Minor, Paul had planned to go to the east, but the Holy Spirit stopped him and sent him west to Greece instead, and from thence the Gospel went to Europe and simply overwhelmed it. As the Gospel went over Europe, the people there were prompted by their convictions to go to America. We see now, in the last several hundred years how the Caucasian race has taken things that were lying dormant for so long and exploded them with their intellectualism and technology; yet I think the engine behind it was Christianity itself. Again, all of this ties together. Paul would have gone back to Asia but the Holy Spirit said, “No, I want you to go to Europe,” and from Europe the Gospel came to us.
BABEL, “FALSE GODS”
Remember, we saw that after the flood, Noah and his family were given instructions to repopulate the earth and begin to cultivate it. Following our last session, one of my students mentioned to me that he had heard somewhere that prior to the flood there had been no fermentation. Nevertheless the Scriptures make it clear that the alcohol got the best of him and he became drunk. A sad commentary on all this is in verse 28 where it says:
“And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.”
Isn’t it amazing that there is never another mention of Noah’s activities after this drunken episode? The only reason I can give for this is that the catastrophe that occurred to him in verses 20-22 destroyed his testimony. We as believers have to be so careful. The devil is constantly out to trip us up and if we fall far enough, we can certainly lose our testimony. It doesn’t take long, either! I think everyone, even in the secular world knows that it takes a lifetime to build a reputation, but it only takes a moment to destroy it. It can happen politically, in the business world, and even in Christian circles. I think perhaps this is the reason that Noah lost his influence. We’re going to see in the moments that follow how the entire human race began to decline spiritually almost immediately after the flood, in spite of all the knowledge that Noah and his sons had concerning the will of God.
These were adult people who went into the ark; they had complete memory of everything that was before the flood. It would be just as if you and I found ourselves in the ark and when we came out following the flood, we’d remember all the technology that we had enjoyed, all the things that were on the earth before the catastrophe. So it was with Noah and his family. These eight people had complete recollection, and it was only the grace of God that kept things from moving along too fast and kept technology from erupting again until God was ready for it to do so, as we’ve seen in the last eighty or ninety years. So these three sons of Noah, who with their wives came out of the ark, became the parents of the three great classifications of people that then overspread the earth. You might break it down this way:
1. Out of the line of Shem came all the great “religions” (although I don’t like that word), Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. When I refer to the line of Shem, the primary man is Abraham.
2. Out of the line of Ham we have a lot of the original discoveries and inventions as we’ll see in Chapter 12.
3. Out of the line of Japheth, even though they were primarily uncivilized barbarians, came a people that became expert in the arts, sciences, music (the Beethoven’s and Tchaikovsky’s), and the inventors of the industrial revolution (not taking credit away from contributions made by Oriental immigrants who came to America).
Come back to the migrations of the peoples as the Bible lays them out, and as we illustrated last time. The Japhethites migrated into what is present day Europe and western Russia; the Hamites ended up primarily in the land of Canaan and points south; and the sons of Shem populated the lands of the Middle East. I also prefer to put the oriental peoples in the line of Shem (although I may be wrong in that). Those three basic groups of people come from these three sons of Noah. Let’s go to Chapter 10. We won’t examine this chapter verse by verse, but I want you to see that the sons of Japheth are mentioned in verses 2 through 5. In verse 6 we have the genealogy of the Hamitic people:
“And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan.”
Then, it’s important that you look at verses 8 and 9:
“And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, `Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.”
Keep this fact in mind because we’re going to be talking about Nimrod for the next few moments. He was the son of Cush who was the son of Ham. However, to keep moving genealogically through the chapter, go down to verse 21. There we pick up Shem’s offspring. Out of the line of Shem we’ll come to the family of Abraham in the last part of Chapter 11. Terah, the father of Abraham came out of the line of Shem. Also in those verses is something I think is very interesting (though there is no way for me to prove it) in Chapter 10, verse 25:
“And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days was the earth divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan.”
What I’m referring to is the so-called “theory of the continental drift.” It states that the continents of the world were at one time together in one land mass. If you look at a map today, you’ll see that with some effort and imagination the earth’s continents could be fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle. For instance, the eastern coast of South America could easily be matched to the western coast of Africa. I’m not saying this is true, but I am saying it is possible that the continents drifted apart and wound up as we now know them, and if they did, it was during the lifetime of Peleg, for it was during his lifetime that the earth was divided.