Part of the problem with understanding the Bible, I’m sorry to say, is that the church experience typically isolates Old Testament “Bible stories” in Sunday School – Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Noah and the Ark, The Tower of Babel, Abraham Offers Isaac, and so on. If we take everything recorded in the Bible as a coherent historical record we will understand so much more of God’s entire message to us.
The account of the Flood in Genesis 9 wraps up with a database of Noah’s key descendants in Genesis 10. When the narrative resumes “stories”, the spotlight is on tyrant Nimrod, the grandson of Ham.
It is a given that under any tyrant’s rule there are refugees fleeing war, genocide, slavery, and displacement from prized territories.
We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.
An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement…nearly 1 person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution…
(Christian Armenians on a death march during the Islamic Ottoman genocide.)
Those who don’t understand the absolute necessity of belonging to a nation haven’t grasped the dire consequences of not belonging to a state.
The pogroms by medieval European states were possible because the Jews were not citizens of, therefore not under the protection of, the state. The Holocaust of 6 million Jews occurred because they were stateless, unprotected by Germany’s laws, and unable to obtain access to another country’s protection through immigration.
Hannah Arendt is considered one of the most important modern thinkers. She spent her entire life critically discussing statelessness as a core concern of human rights and international politics…Her book The Origins of Totalitarianism is a fundamental reference…
Arendt wrote about the refugee crisis during World War II in a brief essay entitled, “We Refugees.” …In 1993…the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben reflected on Arendt’s essay within the context of his time…Arendt’s argument that statelessness is a consequence of the modern nation-state forms the backbone of much of Agamben’s powerful critique of sovereignty. The political and legal structure of the nation-state based on the rights of…citizen excludes those who are not citizens. The exclusion of the stateless, as we witness today, results in the administration of the excluded by national agencies, smugglers, strangers, charities, international organizations and, most tellingly, the police. Agamben is, of course, right. “We Refugees” needs to be read in the context of Arendt’s…The Origins of Totalitarianism.
Now that we have realigned our Sunday School coloring book images with the reality of human nature, let’s examine the line of Melchizedek Shem as the mass of humanity scattered into nations at the Tower of Babel.
“And God…said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion…” (Genesis 1:26-28)
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord…Thou…didst set him over the works of thy hands:” (Letter to the Hebrews 2:3-7)
Part of the great salvation we should not neglect is the protection and resources available though membership in a nation whose prime directive is to “...provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity….”
So while Nimrod is obviously a highly significant individual, we shouldn’t let him distract us from the presentation of the main character. That would be God’s Anointed Son, Seed of the Woman in the order of Melchizedek, Father / Leader of those who remain loyal to Creator God.
Look closer at Genesis 10 with this concept in mind. After listing all of Ham’s fierce descendants grouped into nations according to their gods, without pausing for a breath we read “Unto Shem also…”
The literary account is subtle, even offhand, as if God expresses through a grammatical shrug that he is not impressed with the terrifying army assembled against his small group of faithful followers.
“These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations. Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber…were children born.” (Genesis 10:6-21)
This literary clue is repeated in Genesis 11, where once again we see the narrative contrasts the rebel nations under Hamite Nimrod with the faithful order of Melchizedek without missing a beat.
“And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one…and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do…Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because…from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. These are the generations of Shem..:” (Genesis 11:6-10)
We know that not all of Shem’s offspring followed “the LORD God of Shem” (Genesis 9:26). They broke into nations such as Akkad and Assyria headed by their patron gods and goddesses.
Therefore Shem’s national identity is expressly identified as “the father of the children of Eber.” In other words, the Eber clan, AKA the Hebrews, was the one nation ruled by YHVH, Creator Singularity and his human vicar Melchizedek Shem
The timeline provided by the genealogical record from Shem to Abram informs us that everyone listed in Genesis 11-12 program was alive and active at the same time, and the backdrop to Eber’s role in history falls into place.
Eber was born about 200 years after the flood. He was the last of the long-lived ancestors, living 464 yrs until 1817 BC. He outlived his great grandfather Shem, and died during Abraham’s lifetime.
|AM||BC||Birth / Event||
|0||-4004||Death imposed, calendar begins|
|930||-3074||Adam aged 930 yrs|
|1056||-2948||1st generation: Noah born, lives 950 yrs|
|1558||-2446||2nd generation: Shem born, lives 610 yrs|
|Approximate same for Ham & Japheth|
|1658||-2346||3rd gen: Arphaxad born, lives 438 yrs|
|Approximate same for brother Assur|
|Approximate same for 1st cousin Cush son of Ham, lives ~ 430 yrs|
|1693||-2311||4th gen: Shelah born, lives 433 yrs|
|1723||-2281||5th gen Eber born, lives 464 yrs|
|1734||-2270||Historic Sargon begins rule per short chronology, but exact dates unknown|
|1757||-2247||Peleg born, lives 239 yrs|
|1787||-2217||Reu born, lives 239 yrs|
|1789||-2215||Sargon overthrown after 55 yr reign|
|1819||-2185||Serug born lives 230 yrs|
|1849||-2155||Nahor born lives 148 years|
|1878||-2126||Terah born lives 205 years|
|4th gen Nimrod born, lifespan ~400 yrs|
|1900||-2086||Nimrod reigns at ~40 yrs old, Tower of Babel begins shortly after|
|1948||-2056||Abram born, lives 175 yrs|
|1978||-2020||Tower of Babylon construction stops about now as workforce breaks up|
|1996||-2008||By now division of physical earth by aftershocks expedited separation of nations||Peleg|
|2006||-1998||Shem moves from cave to Mount Zion?||Noah|
|2018||-1986||Abram age 70 leaves Ur fleeing Nimrod|
|2048||-1956||Sodom & Gomorrah – Nimrod still alive new name of Amraphel to glorify him|
|2048||-1956||Isaac born, lives 180 years||Serug|
|2096||-1908||Arphaxad, approx for Assur & Cush|
|2108||-1896||Jacob & Esau born, Jacob lives 147 years|
|2148||-1856||Esau kills Nimrod per Jewish legend||Approximate for Nimrod|
|2158||-1846||Shem, approx. for Ham|
|2199||-1805||Joseph born, lives 110 years|
|2216||-1788||Joseph to Egypt|
|2235||-1769||Amram son of Kohoth son of Levi born|
|2238||-1766||Jacob & Family to Egypt|
|2309||-1695||Moses son of Amram born|
|2319||-1685||Joseph, end of Genesis|
|2389||-1615||The Exodus under Moses aged 80|