Genesis 10 covers a significant span of time while Genesis 11 gives a closer look within that time span much like Genesis 2 was a closer look within the overall creation account in Genesis 1. So, Genesis 10 says “each with its own language” (verses 5, 20) because it is assumed that the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 has occurred within this genealogy.
The descendants of Jepheth (oldest son) are mentioned briefly because they are not part of the Old Testament narrative. We do know that they spread across Eurasia from the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea to Spain.
The descendants of Ham (youngest son) are given in more detail because they do play a major part in the Old Testament narrative as enemies of God’s chosen people. The general area where Ham’s descendants settled was southwest Asia and northeast Africa. Cush is the upper Nile region. His sons and grandsons are identified as locating in Arabia. The son of Cush is Nimrod who was a ruler of Babylon. (Many secular historians believe that Nimrod is Sargon I who was an early ruler of Akkad). His kingdom extended to Assyria where he built Nineveh. We will hear about these places especially when we get to the captivity of Israel and Judah and read the prophets.
In addition, Mizraim means “two Egypts” because Egypt was divided into an Upper and Lower portion. Put is considered what the ancient Egyptians called “Punt” which is now Somalia.
The most notable name is Canaan because much of the drama coming in the Old Testament (and into our modern times) takes place here in what is modern day Israel but was called Palestine prior to 1947. The sons of Canaan mentioned in 10:15-19 are all the various peoples of Canaan. These small city-states will come into conflict with the nation of Israel. Of note are the Jebusites who are the inhabitants of what would later be known as the city of Jerusalem (Joshua 15:63, Judges 1:21).
And last but not least are the descendants of Shem (middle child). Eber is the origin of the Hebrew word for “Hebrew.” Shem’s descendants occupied the area north of the Persian Gulf. The most important descendant of Shem is Abram who will be our next main character in the “Hall of Faith” of Hebrews 11!
God is setting us up for the rest of the Old Testament by telling us about all the peoples that resulted from Noah's three sons. It is really quite exciting as the puzzle pieces fit together. God is amazing!
It might be helpful to do a family tree for the descendants of Noah to get a visual picture especially when we talk about the Tower of Babel tomorrow.
PRAYER from Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship by Kenneth Boa
How great are Your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep. Senseless people do not know; fools do not understand that though the wicked spring up like grass and all the evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever. But You, O Lord, are exalted forever. (Psalm 92:5-8)
(This is a book that I use to guide me in my prayer times.)