Genesis 10 is commonly referred to as the “Table of Nations” as it acts as historical documentation as to the first major propagation of peoples to different lands, ultimately becoming 70 different nations (that is the number of descendants in this chapter.) About two of the names in particular, we are given slightly more detail. Of Nimrod, it was written he was “like a mighty hunter”, and of Peleg it was written that “in his days the earth was divided.” Let’s research these names a bit.
Nimrod’s name means “rebellion” or “the valiant” (Blueletterbible.com). These two terms almost seem at odds with each other. For someone to be valiant, we envision a leader, or hero of sorts. And for someone to be rebellious or to incite rebellion seems to imply they are subservient to another and wish to be the ruler. Because scripture tells us he was a mighty hunter (Gen. 10:9), it may seem easier to go with the latter meaning of his name. However we are also told that “The beginning of his kingdom was Babel…” (Gen. 10:10). This is the first mention of the concept of a kingdom in scripture. Additionally we know in Genesis 11 that the Tower of Babel incident occurs in the territory and city that Nimrod founded. God was not pleased with man trying to make a name for himself (Gen. 11:4) by building a thriving city and giant tower, and thus put a stop to it (Gen. 11:8). And so the picture that begins to emerge was that Nimrod may have been simultaneously valiant and rebellious – valiant in the sight of perhaps wicked men, and rebellious in the sight of God. This seems to be the opinion of antiquity and I surmise this reasoning is how it came about.
Peleg’s name simply means “division”, and we are told that “in his days the earth was divided.” (Gen. 10:25) But what does that mean exactly? Is this merely an allusion to the Tower of Babel incident where the confusion of languages caused people to divide? Were there major differing opinions, perhaps on God, and thus the people were divided – such as how Americans today are divided politically? According to Alter’s commentary, the consonants of Peleg’s name for the verbal root “to split” and indicates a stronger verb than division. I have read elsewhere that his name may indicate a great earthquake occurred. The text does state that the earth was divided, which can certainly mean the actual planet, rather than a division of the people (though that does occur in the next chapter.) It is entirely possible that a physical splitting of the earth did occur, and that prior to this the “Pangea” land mass may have existed.
I have much more to write about the Tower of Babel and dispersion of nations, including how I believe chapters 10 and 11 go hand in hand as part of God’s plan. Please come back soon for my next posting!