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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 1:15-16 Ham’s final descendants

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, September 13, 2023

15 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites,

This is another group of Ham’s descendants through his son Canaan. The Hivites (הַחִוִּי) had a similar moral depravity and idolatry as their other Canaanite cousins, but they seemed to have been more civilized, or at least more settled. They were village people, tending to build houses or huts rather than follow flocks living in tents. In Jacob’s time, the city of Shechem was ruled by a Hivite prince named Hamor (Genesis 34:2). One of Esau’s wives, Oholibamah, was the granddaughter of a Hivite named Zibeon. Later references place Hivite settlements as far north as Mount Hermon (Joshua 11:3) and as far south as Gibeon, just a few miles from Jerusalem (Joshua 9:1,7). The very last reference to the Hivites is in Solomon’s time, when he conscripted some Hivites as laborers (2 Chronicles 8:7). Some scholars suspect that the Horites (Genesis 36:20-30; Deuteronomy 2:12, 22) may have been a family of Hivites.

The Arkites (הַעַרְקִי) did not live in Canaan at all, but far west of Egypt on the northern coast of Africa. English readers who are unfamiliar with other languages should beware trying to make any connection between this tribe and the English word “ark.” The city of Arka was a few miles northeast of Tripoli, near but not quite on the shore of the sea in Modern Tunisia. It is just across the sea from Sicily in an area heavily populated by Phoenicians. Carthage was not far away.

King David has a loyal friend named Hushai who was an Arkite. He was the one who was instrumental in turning the tide of Absalom’s rebellion in the third part of David’s reign (2 Samuel 15:32; 16:16-17:23).

The Sinites (הַסִּינִי) are an unknown group. Should they somehow be equated with Mount Sinai? The spelling of Sinai (סִינָי) and the Sinites (סִינִי) is nearly identical. Or should they be associated with the Qin Dynasty of far eastern Asia (221-206 BC)? Qin is pronounced sin or sheen or even cheen, and we derive our word China from it. But the Qin/Chin Dynasty seems far, far too late to be inserted here in 1 Chronicles. But there is no other hint that we have about this family. Yet we know that all of these people were people for whom Christ died. When we carry the Gospel into the world, that thought needs to be on our minds all the time: These are people Jesus died for, too. And like the delighted angel sitting on the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb, we get to tell them (Matthew 28:7).

16 Arvadites, Zemarites, and Hamathites.

Arvad is an island about 30 miles north of Tripolis (the Tripolis in Syria), in the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Cyprus. It is a very small (800 × 500 feet) island but was fortified with stone walls and an enclosed harbor. The Arvadite navy (or squadron) dominated some cities on the coast of Lebanon, and the Arvadite army fought with the Amorites against Egyptian incursions into Phoenicia by Thutmose III during the lifetime of Moses (1472 BC, see the Amarna letters, numbers 28 and 44).

For those who are interested in remembering the chronology of Moses and the Pharaohs of his time, I offer this rhyme:

  In fourteen hundred and ninety-two
  The Pharaoh’s name was Thutmose II
  In fourteen forty-six BC
  The Pharaoh’s name was Thutmose III
  In fourteen six, when Moses died
  Amenhotep II was Egypt’s pride.
  120 years, a long, long while
  Since Ahmose threw babies in the Nile.

The Zemarites are also mentioned in the Amarna letters. They were a Phoenician tribe inhabiting the town of Sumra, a village on the western side of the Lebanon mountain range, between Triopolis and Ruwad. Their name is related to the word for “wool” (2 Kings 3:4), but the relationship of their name to this Hebrew word might only be accidental.

The Hamathites are known with more certainty. Hamath is the highland region north of Galilee, with its famous city Lebo-Hamath (Entrance of Hamath), Israel’s northern border. This area was controlled by Israel in Solomon’s time, but quickly regained independence when the kingdom was divided. The prophet Jonah made a prophecy about the restoration of this part of Israel’s old boundary under the king known as Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25).

These descendants of Canaan came into contact with Israel in different ways, but each needed the message about sin and forgiveness. We all need that message. They were sinful and for the most part they opposed the preaching of the word of God. Esau’s parents were displeased with his Canaanite (Hivite and Hittite) wives. Why? They were concerned that those women would turn their son away from his faith in God and his anticipation of God’s Christ, the Messiah. David brought one Arkite into his inner circle of friends through his own generosity and kindness, but we have very few accounts like that. Jonah the prophet proclaimed that the Canaanite land of Hamath would be retaken by Israel and that the Hamathites themselves would perish. They would be condemned to everlasting hellfire if they did not repent of their terrible sins against the First Commandment. They had dabbled in idolatry, and when someone invites the devil in, he will move in like an unwelcome relative: he moves in to stay. God’s will is that if there is something good we need, we look to him for it and ask him for it. The other side of that is simply this: If there is something wicked we desire, God will not give it, and if the wicked thing (item, opportunity, or action) takes place, then it has been given by the devil, not by God, and we should run shrieking in terror and repentance rather than ever accepting anything from the devil’s hand. The sinful stench of his smoldering, smoking spirit will stick to us more than the foul reek of a bad cigar or the shot musk of a skunk. When anyone suffers trouble or misfortune, sickness or distress, God wants us to run to him, cling to him, and ask him for help. “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7). We must lay down our sins, show them to be sins, ask God to forgive those sins, and having been assured by the gospel that Jesus does indeed forgive us, we must also ask him to guide us in a life away from those sins. We will want to avoid them, run away from them, and abandon those sins and temptations like a drowning men letting go of bags of silver and gold—they would only drag him down into the deeps, they would only fill his burning lungs with saltwater and kill him as he clutched at their useless value. The only right path is to let go of all that and stop fighting the saving hand of God. He loves us, and he will bring us safely home to Paradise where we will never lack anything at all.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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