Genesis chapter 10 records the genealogy of Noah. All of the names, bloodlines and geographical places listed here represent how the nations were divided after the flood. Granted, it seems laborious to read all of these names, but each of them have a purpose and a place in the history of mankind. It is true that the names and places and their true significance may be all but lost to us now in the long hall of antiquity, but their record in Genesis establishes their importance.
An intriguing aspect in this chapter is the mention of gentiles. Verse 5 is the first appearance of the word “gentile” in the Bible, and is almost always used to refer to non-Jews. Its’ mention here is intriguing because the Jewish nation had not yet been established by God and the separation mentioned in the verse would have come after the advent of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Whether some descendants of Noah were separated into “gentiles’ after the Tower of Babel is unclear, but as the Old Testament wears on, the distinction between Jew/Gentile is at times stark and ambiguous intermittently, depending on the Jews’ rebellion (idol worship, intermarriage, etc.) mixed with periods of intense faith and obedience.
Nimrod, mentioned in verse 8, was evidently an arrogant man as his description suggests (he began to be a mighty one on the earth). The geography connected to his name would eventually contain the Assyrians, an enemy of Israel. Conversely, in verse 21, the name Eber appears, which is a precursor to the word Hebrew, which will in turn be used to describe Abram (soon to become Abraham) in Genesis 14:13. To see the origins of the terms “Gentile” and “Hebrew” in this way, in this chapter, is intriguing.
At this time, the lineage of Noah and thus all of the names listed in this chapter can be traced back to Adam, the first man: Adam –> Seth –> Enosh –> Mahalalel –> Jared –> Enoch –> Methuselah –> Lamech –> Noah
To Moses, who wrote Genesis (inspired by the Holy Spirit), it was important to record the lineage of the earliest patriarchs. In fact, as time wears on and the Bible story unfolds, establishing Jewish lineage becomes very important in scripture. The first chapter of Matthew establishes Jesus’ lineage to validate hundreds of years’ past prophecy and the apostle Paul recognizes the importance that Jewish tradition placed on lineage in Philippians 3: …”If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews…”
Despite all of the attention and effort that lineages received, they became meaningless when Jesus came and died for all mankind. Now that salvation is for all, the lineage of the Jews is unnecessary to establish any link with God. Throughout Jewish history, however (and as with many Jews today), lineage was very important: it solidified their place in a faith that was based on bloodline.