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1 Chronicles 1:5 The sons of Japheth

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, September 1, 2023

(The Japhethites)

5 The sons of Japheth were Gomer and Magog; Madai, Javan and Tubal; and Meshek and Tiras.

The author now turns to the families of Noah’s sons. This sort of expansion was neither necessary nor really possible for the families that lived before the flood. Apart from the line of believers from Adam to Noah, there was no surviving history of those people. Their family history was destroyed along with them in the catastrophe brought on by their own wicked sinfulness and unbelief. Only the creation account, passed from Adam to Methuselah to Noah and remembered by the other ancient Patriarchs, survived. Of course, the Lord could have inspired any writer to present tales and accounts of those earlier days, but he chose not to. We have everything God wants us to have of the history of the world before the great flood.

The author follows the pattern of Moses from Genesis 10 in these verses. Moses’ pattern was to take a family and treat first those farthest from the line of the Savior. This verse does the same thing. In fact, it is identical to Genesis 10:2. The Hebrew accents divide the seven sons into three groups: two, three, and two.

Japheth and his family settled in the north after the flood, spreading out both east and west of Ararat. The people of Gomer (see Ezekiel 38:6) are associated with the Gimirrai or Kimmerioi in Assyrian inscriptions, and Greek historians thought that they were the ancestors of the Cimmerians of Russia.

The name Magog jumps out at us on account of Revelation 20:8, where “Gog and Magog” are enemies “as numerous as the sand of the sea” and who gather against God’s people for battle. In this context, Magog is simply a territory or family descended from Japheth. These people probably lived in or near the fertile crescent, perhaps to the east in modern Iran, or Scythia. “Gog” means “roof” in Hebrew (Judges 9:51; Isaiah 15:3; Proverbs 21:9). I wonder whether the people of Magog were “from the roof,” since an ancient term for the Pamir Mountain range north of Afghanistan is Bam-i-Duniah, “Roof of the World.” Later on, the term “roof of the world” was moved to Tibet and the Himalayas, but the earlier designation (that is, the Pamirs north of modern Pakistan) fits with this list of regions. Luther, always practical, thought that the “roof” element in the name meant that they are the Scythians “who do not live in houses, as we do, but only in huts or tents.”

The second group begins with Madai; from him came the Medes in the northwest of modern Iran. An Assyrian inscription of King Rimmon-nirari III (812-782 BC) mentioned the Madai. The people of Javan were the Ionian Greeks; the descendants of both Tubal and Meshech (or Muski) settled in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and east. Tubal might have been the father of the Tartars, the people of northern Asia who settled along the Volga and its tributaries. The Meshech of this verse is not the same as the descendant of Shem in verse 17.

The identity and location of Tiras is a knot that remains to be untied. Tiras, apart from being mentioned in this family, is otherwise unknown in the Bible. The Book of Jubilees places his descendants on islands in an ocean (“The seventh portion came to Tiras: four great islands in the middle of the sea that extend to the region of Ham. Then the islands of Kamaturi fell by lot for the descendants of Arphaxad as his inheritance,” Jubilees 9:13-14), but nothing more solid than that can really be said. Other speculations about Tiras being the ancestor of the Thracians (or even the Norsemen) are wild guesses.

Moses has presented Japheth as the ancestor of many peoples who lived far away from the land of Canaan, and whose languages were sometimes related to one another (sometimes not) but whose languages were far-removed from Hebrew. Right from the start, we must notice that our author, like Moses, has no thought of race. The divisions of the people were due to geography, clans, nations (political groups based on conquest) and language. Daniel spoke the same way (“peoples, nations, and languages,” Daniel 7:14), This is repeated by John in Revelation (“peoples, nations, languages, and kings,” Revelation 10:11). “It is significant that nothing is said about a classification by race. The Scripture is silent about how the phenomenon of different races developed. The Scripture knows of only one race: human.”

Japheth, then, is the ancestor of the peoples of the north. The Greeks called him Japetus and made stories about him far removed from the truth of Scripture and of history, but those stories do not lessen the historical truth of this man’s life or family. Many people who trace their family lineage back into northern Europe or Russia can call Japtheth their ancestor. They are certainly a part of the group the Bible calls Gentiles, called by God to faith through the preaching of the apostles. The saving mystery of Christ “is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).

This list shows us the regions in which Japheth’s descendants went to live after the flood, and it also shows us how much God blessed Japheth and his family. Let that at least be a lesson for this day: Notice how much God has blessed you and your family, and praise God for it.

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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