Peleg: A New HopeSermon passage: (Genesis 10:1-11:2) Spoken on: November 4, 2012
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Noah
Sermon on Genesis 10
We have come to the last sermon of the sermon series on Noah. After this chapter, the name Noah would not be mentioned again in Genesis. And so at this final stop, our journey must end. As we prepare for our departure from this epic story, I’m unsure, perhaps a little apprehensive, if your sojourn has been a fruitful one. You might not have come along with burning questions, nor had any expectations of the series, but like it or not, you have been led through the places of interest in this biblical corner of Noah’s tale. As a travel guide, I would be ashamed if you were to leave empty-handed. What negative horrors might you then leave at Tripadvisor? “Dry and boring trip, 7 Sundays wasted”. “They called it Noah, but I left thinking it was Dunno-ah”. “You can consider visiting the Amos show, but otherwise I slept through the rest.”
No, this cannot be. We may not be the best bible expositors in town, but I have confidence that you must have picked up some valuable mementos along the way. So I have prepared a photo montage of our journey thus far, as a parting reminder of the good times we’ve had. On day one, we entered this land through the Gate of Seth’s Genealogy. Though the fall of Adam and Eve might have left you skeptical of its aftermath, when looking through the generations starting from Seth, we find glimpses of hope in future generations such as Enoch, who walked with the Lord. On day two, truth be told, the days of Noah were indeed daunting – there were champions abound, each more “heroic” than before. Violently, they took whatever they saw that was good, and they failed to see God himself. All these reached a breaking point on day three – the sins of Man before God and His absolute will. And then it rained, and it poured, and it flooded, till all had been destroyed. Just when it all seemed like a return back to watery chaos, on day four, God remembered Noah. By grace he was found, and it was grace that endured. On day five, God made a covenant never again to destroy his creation. However, humanity continues to be prone to sin, as what followed on day six may demonstrate. You can take the Noah out of the disaster, but you cannot take the disaster out of the Noah, and so on day six, Noah cursed Canaan, the son of Ham. Today, day seven, we will look at the descendants of Noah. It may seem like just a long list of names, but it may grant you a perspective that will change your view of the world.
Scholars believe that all the names in this genealogy match the names of the cities, kingdoms or people groups of the ancient world. The following map shows an estimate of the distribution of the descendants of Noah. Generally, the descendants of Japheth moved North and North-West to the European area. The descendants of Ham stayed around northern Mesopotamia or moved South-West to north and east Africa. The descendants of Shem remained in southern Mesopotamia or moved South to Arabia. Nobody moved East, because only the truly desperate live in Bedok and Pasir Ris (kidding, local joke). Joking aside, because of the distribution of many Hamites into Africa, there was a theory in history to use this as a justification for African slavery. However, this kind of theology is absolutely unfounded. As Pastor Wilson made it clear last week, Noah’s curse was specifically on Canaan, and even so, “It does not mean that once a curse is uttered, there is no reconciliation or hope. When someone is cursed, it simply means, God’s blessing is not with this person.” 
However, this does not mean that this list of descendants of Noah, otherwise known as the Table of Nations, comes without any value judgment. I believe that this Table of Nations was written with the hindsight of Israelite history, and the way the list is being presented tells us how the Israelites view the nations around them. The easiest way to uncover the subtle hidden messages would be to identify the peculiarities in the presentation of the list. I would like to share three messages I have identified, since you guys know my fondness for three point sermons.
The first peculiarity is in verse 19. Before this verse, the people groups of Canaan were listed, just like the people groups of Egypt in an earlier verse. However, verse 19 then goes on to list the boundaries of Canaan: “Later the Canaanite clans scattered 19 and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, as far as Lasha.” We do not find such clear demarcation of boundaries for any of the other descendants except Canaan. I think the message is clear. This clarification of boundary is an extension of the previous story where Noah cursed Canaan.
8: 25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” 26 He also said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. 27 May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
This well-defined boundary would provide justification for the Israelites when they later occupied the land of Canaan. It was also a form of limitation in that their promised land did not extend beyond Canaan. And this is why the Table of Nations in no way justifies the slavery of Africans. However, we would be mistaken if we view this as a form of determinism, that the curse of Noah controlled the fate of the Canaanites. The mention of Sodom and Gomorrah in the boundaries of Canaan is a foreshadowing for us that perhaps Canaan deserved its own fate. It was the sin of Canaan that led to its judgment, just as it was so for the later Israelites.
The second peculiarity is in verse 8-11. A grandson of Ham, Nimrod, was mentioned as a mighty warrior and hunter. He was also the builder of cities. He built the cities of Babylon in Shinar, and then he built the cities of Assyria, including our familiar Nineveh of the Jonah story. The details of this character are certainly not accidental. The fighting capabilities of Nimrod would remind us of the Nephilim during the time before the flood. Genesis 6: 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. Not only that, the building of the city in Shinar has its parallels in the story of the Tower of Babel. Genesis 11:1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
The history of Israel involved their interactions with their surrounding empires. These included the ancient empire of Egypt and the mighty and overwhelming Assyrian and Babylonian Empires. In the eyes of world history, they were certainly impressive in their own right. The Israelites often had to contend with their formidable forces and oppressive influence. In the face of powerful countries and strong characters, we too may wonder how we are to face them, and how powerless we are. But as the Table of Nations reveals, Nimrod however mighty, was only a man before God. His building of empires was watched by God, and when pride got out of hand, his people were scattered easily by confusion and disunity. The judgment of flood has been withheld forever, so building of cities and empires will never cease. But Israel knows that the rise and fall of kingdoms are all within God’s absolute will.
Still, it would be fair to wonder. The days after the flood were similar to the days before the flood. The sin and pride of Man continued. Now that the bow of judgment is forever rested after the rain, how would God resolve his relationship with Man? What is God’s new plan? This brings me to the final peculiarity in the Table of Nations. In the lists of Japheth and Ham, the sons were mentioned, then the grandsons. Yet, in Shem’s case, in Verse 21, “21 Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber.” Why were the sons of a great-grandson, Eber, also called Hebrew, mentioned in the first line? And when the two sons were later introduced in Verse 25, why were the descriptions for the two of them so dissimilar? “Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg, his brother was named Joktan.” The children and land of Joktan were then listed, why was Peleg’s totally ignored? As it turns out, Peleg would be given special attention in Genesis 11:10-26.
Genesis 11: 10 This is the account of Shem’s family line.
Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. 12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. 14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber. 16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. 18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu. 20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug. 22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor. 24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah. 26 After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.
I think that this is the message of the third peculiarity. Many of the descendants of Noah would go on to build cities and states and even empires. As a disinterested onlooker, we may be wowed by the expansion of humanity. But the Israelites have a vested interest in the state of world affairs. From the table of nations, they are reminded of the sin of Canaan and the pride of Babylon and Assyria. They don’t just see expansions. They see sin and pride in the building of empires. Humanity lies in danger of God’s judgment, just as in the days of Noah. But God will never again use his de-creation power, his plan lays hidden for now. It is only briefly hinted at with the off-hand mention of Peleg. But from Genesis 11 onwards, the story of Abram slowly unfolds. The national identity of Israel was forged in the midst of champions like Nimrod. The sinful and proud nations are troubling. Israel as a nation and the people of God may seem small and insignificant, but if they choose to walk with God, the descendants of Peleg, the descendants of Abram, they could become the hope to humanity, just as Noah was the hope of his generation.
What is the message for us today? Allow me to quote from a commentary in the newspapers two weeks ago. “On April 4, a group of five small states calling themselves the “Small Five”, had presented a draft resolution that was big in significance — improving the “working methods” of the powerful Security Council. The S5, comprising Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore and Switzerland, would prefer that their initiative not be so powerfully stated. Still, it was timely and significant. (The S5 is part of FOSS, which) was initiated in 1992 by Singapore and others as an informal Forum Of Small States. The idea was to find strength in numbers, and to “survive and thrive” by promoting “a predictable and stable rule-based international system”. (The author concludes that) with the major powers in the Security Council locked in conflicting positions, the international community may well need the small states to break the stalemate.” 
I think that the article has insightfully presented the significant role of Singapore in world diplomacy. We may be small, but we have our roles to play and the right things to do. The situation is not unlike Israel during the biblical times. Who would have thought that the descendants of Peleg would conquer the Canaanites and outlast even the Babylonians? We depart from the story of Noah with renewed optimism for mankind. None of us should leave this sermon series empty handed. As for us Christians, we inherit the kingdom of God, we are the people of God. We are surrounded by empires of capitalism, awed by mighty men who are proud before God. But let’s not be faint-hearted. God abides with those who do his will. Noah built his boat. Shem and Japheth treated their father with respect. It doesn’t have to be earth-shaking or famous acts of might. But in believing in God’s promises, we too may bring hope to future generations.
 Wilson Tan, http://www.jubilee.org.sg/sermons/id/415/
 Yang Razali Kassim, “The rise of the small states”, Today (23rd Oct 2012), p 8,10