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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 1:6 Grace and the Gentiles

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, September 4, 2023

6 The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Diphath, and Togarmah.

The Targum also adds “And the names of their countries were Asia (אסיא) Persia (ופרכווי) and Barbary (וברבריא).” The Jewish Targum is a kind of commentary on parts of the Old Testament. Ashkenaz was a word used by Medieval Jews to describe western Russia or parts of eastern Europe such as Armenia or the Slavic countries. King David uses a similar word, ashkenah, when he says, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea” (Psalm 139:9). Perhaps the root word “settle” could be associated with “Ashkenaz,” such as a land of settlers, migrants, or exiles. If we are to take the association with “Asia” seriously, we must remember that in ancient times, Asia was not the vast continent to the east of the Caspian Sea including Russia, China, Iran and India, but Asia Minor, or modern Turkey. Peter wrote to the people of “Asia” (1 Peter 1:1). However, another theory among the ancient Church Fathers was “that Ashkenaz meant the Germans. Although this cannot be proved from the Holy Scriptures” (writes Luther), “we gladly agree, since we have nothing else to suggest. Jeremiah mentioned him in chapter 51:27... Eusebius maintains that they were the Goths, but it is established that these were the (ancient) Germans.”

Diphath is spelled Riphath in the parallel verse, Genesis 10:3. There is only a small difference between a Hebrew d and r (ד and ר). Why the author of Chronicles would make a change here is unknown, unless Diphath was a name he thought his readers would recognize rather than the (old-fashioned?) Riphath. The people of Diphath seem to have been associated with the Paphlagonians, on the southern part of the Black Sea near Pontus. This is part of northern Turkey today. Peter also wrote his two epistles to the people of Pontus and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1), both of which evidently occupied the region of Diphath in New Testament times. Pontus was also the home of Aquila, who did mission work with Paul and Apollos (Acts 18:2).

Togarmah appears to be a region either in or identical with Armenia. Togarmah is mentioned in Ezekiel 27:14 in connection with Tyre and in chapter 38:6 as “from the remotest regions of the north.”

These peoples were mostly conquered or subjugated by the Tartars or Ukranians. Noah had prophesied, “May God enlarge Japtheth. Let him dwell in the tents of Shem” (Genesis 9:27). The descendants of Japheth spread out and made their settlements in the north. We see a people who would indeed dwell in the tents of Shem, and later on these people would be visited by Christian missionaries and be brought to faith in Jesus. The Armenians in particular were among the earliest converts to Christianity.  And we should not lose sight of the miracle of Pentecost, when the apostles spoke in the languages of Pontus and Asia, among others, to declare the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:9).

The wonderful works of God begin with creation, preservation, and so on, but we praise him most for his grace. Grace is not man’s disposition or love for God, although it is alarming how many denominations teach this strange doctrine to their people. Grace is God’s disposition and love for man. He shows us his mercy for Jesus’ sake. He sent us Jesus to rescue us from our sins and to teach us God’s message of salvation, for he “destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). God’s word always accomplishes what the Lord sends it out to do (Isaiah 55:11). When we realize when we were brought to faith, and how far removed so many of us are from Shem, how can we see anything but the grace of God, his undeserved love sweeping into our lives and rescuing us from destruction? The God we worship loves us, and through Jesus, he has given us peace.

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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