Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. From these three, all the nations of the world were populated. 1 Chronicles identifies the lineage from all three. It is a long list of names.  Verses 1 through 4 give us the line from Adam to Noah’s sons. Verses 5-7 give us the list of those descended from Japheth. Verses 8-16 give us the names of those that descended from Ham. 1 Chronicles 1:17-27 gives us Shem’s descendants. It says, The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. And the sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Meshech. Arpachshad fathered Shelah, and Shelah fathered Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg (for in his days the earth was divided), and his brother’s name was Joktan. Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.  Shem, Arpachshad, Shelah; Eber, Peleg, Reu; Serug, Nahor, Terah; Abram, that is, Abraham.”

I think we see two different lines in this genealogy that might be worth looking at. Eber is the father of both lines. The lines seem to divide with Peleg on the west while Joktan was the line on the east. This might be seen in the genealogy that was recorded earlier in Genesis at the incident of the tower of Babel. Whereas we’ll see Abraham come through the line of Peleg, we’ll see the children building the tower of Babel might come from Joktan. This might be why the text adds a little comment regarding Peleg. It adds, “For in his day, the earth was divided.” Barker observes, “Thus a dividing line is drawn through the descendants of Shem on either side of the city of Babylon, falling between the two sons of Eber, Peleg, and Joktan. One line leads to the building of Babylon, and the other to the family of Abraham. A hint to this division is in v.25. Typically, the ‘earth’ refers to the ‘inhabitants of the land.’ Thus not only is the land divided in the confusion of languages (11:1), but two great lines of humanity diverge from the midst of the sons of Shem: those who seek to make a name for themselves in the building of the city of Babylon and those for whom God will make a name in the call of Abraham.”[1]

From the line of Abraham come those who trust in God. From Babylon comes the line of those who trust in the works of their own hands.  Abraham’s call was to trust God to fulfill his unconditional promise to make him a great nation. Abraham attempted to help God along with that promise several times in his life but was always frustrated in his efforts. When they thought Sarah was the infertile one, Abraham took Hagar and had a son with her whom they named Ishmael. But he wasn’t the one. It has been observed that when Abraham feared himself to be the infertile one, he attempted to have Sarah impregnated by either Pharaoh or Abimelech. God would not allow it. The dividing line still exists today. There are those who trust God’s promises of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Then there are those who feel they have to help God fulfill that promise with their own efforts and the works of their hands. This is the dividing line in the world today as well. The Bible teaches us that we are saved by Grace. In Romans 11:6, Paul tells us that if we’re saved by grace, then works have no place to play in our salvation because if they did, “grace would no longer be grace.” “Grace is, by definition, unearned, and Scripture makes it clear that God’s grace in salvation destroys the argument for human effort.”[2]

[1] Barker, Kenneth L., and John R. Kohlenberger III. 1994. Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition: Old Testament). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] What is the biblical understanding of faith vs. works? |