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>Sons of Japheth

>So what are the nations that are mentioned in the Table of Nations? Some are clear from elsewhere in the Bible. Many are mentioned in ancient texts, Josephus gives some identifications, it may be hard to be certain for some.

Several modern authors have documented the identities of these nations. Bill Cooper has summarised many ancient sources in his book After the Flood. Parts of it are probably due for review and update. He has 3 appendices identifying the descendants of the sons of Noah including others mentioned in Genesis outside chapter 10. I will limit discussion in these 3 posts to names mentioned in the Table of Nations.

Sons of Japheth(1): Gomer(2), Ashkenaz(3), Riphath(3), Togarmah(3), Magog(2), Madai(2), Javan(2), Elishah(3), Tarshish(3), Kittim(3), Dodanim(3), Tubal(2), Meshech(2), Tiras(2).

Bracketed numbers are the generational number.

Gomer is thought by some to be the ancestor of the Cimmerians who initially lived near the Caspian Sea, though were driven out later. Josephus however identifies them with the Galatians in the area of modern day Turkey . The Galatians were the ancestors of the Gauls so if this identification is correct this gives us the source of the French.

Ashkenaz is well known to refer to Germanic. The Ashkenazim are thought to be the ancestors of the Germanic peoples though they first settled in Armenia before subsequently moving westward.

Riphath was the ancestor of the Paphlagonians who lived adjacent to the Black Sea. they are mentioned by Herodotus and Xenophon.

The descendants of Togarmah settled in Armenia.

So we can see that Gomer and his family travelled north and settled on the Caspian Sea and across Armenia to the Black Sea.

Magog in Scripture seems to refer north into the region that is now Ukraine or further north into Russia, though others claim he was the ancestor (solely or with the Ashkenazim) of the Scythians.

Madai was the ancestor of the Medes who lived north-west of Persia (both in modern day Iran). They became a world empire and with the Persians (who became the dominant power) conquered Babylon in the time of Daniel.

Javan was the ancestor of the Greeks.

Elishah was the ancester of the Aeolians, a Greek tribe who initially dwelt in the region of Thessaly, west of the Aegean Sea.

The descendants of Tarshish are traditionally said to have lived in what is now Spain. I am not fully convinced of this. Tarshish is where Jonah attempted to flee to. Josephus suggests Tarshish is the region of Cicilia which is part of modern day Turkey, north and north-east of Cyprus. The city of Tarsus, which appears to be etymologically related to Tarshish, is in the province of Cicilia.

The Kittim dwelt on Cyprus.

Dodanim is the Hebrew name for the Dardanians who settled in the Dardanelles, a small strait in East Turkey opening onto the Aegean Sea.

So Javan and his sons occupied the region of Greece and Southern Turkey along the Mediterranean as well as Cyprus. This adds credence to the view that Tarshish is the region of Cicilia (South Turkey) and not Spain.

Tubal’s desendants were the Iberians who dwelt in the region which is now Georgia (north of Armenia). They (or some of them) subsequently migrated over the Caucasus mountains (northern border of Georgia) travelling north-east some distance into what is now Russian territory.

Meshech’s descendants are less certain. Some claim they were the Cappadocians (who dwelt in the region of Turkey), others Russians.

Tiras was probably the ancestor of the Thracians who dwelt in a region north of the Aegean Sea and west of the Black Sea (parts of modern day Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova).

Following the listing of the sons of Japheth we read,

From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations. (Genesis 10)

I am uncertain whether the Japhetic nations mentioned above are to be identified as these coastland peoples or whether the coastland peoples references subsequent tribes descended from them (or possibly just Javan’s line).

Below is a map of the earliest migrations I can identify. Note that they may not be contemporaneous.

Map of Japheth's descendants

  1. superninja
    2008 February 24 at 21:14

    The maps are very helpful.

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