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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 1:7 Japheth and Faithfulness

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, September 5, 2023

7 The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittim, and the Rodanim.

Notice that by this verse, the author (following Moses, of course) tips his hand that he is no longer talking about sons within a nuclear family, but descendants in general; nations and the people of regions that were descended from Javan.

The land of Elishah is mentioned in Ezekiel 27:7 as the source of dye for “awnings… of blue and purple from the coasts of Elishah.” In the New Testament, Lydia of Philippi was a dealer in such purple dye.

Tarshish has two interpretations, and I am torn between them. First, Tarshish is often associated with Tartessus on the Atlantic coast of Spain, just about the most distant place known to most writers of the Bible. This was the place Jonah was running to (Jonah 1:3) when the Lord commanded him to visit the capital city of Israel’s enemies, the Assyrians. The Scriptures often mention “ships of Tarshish,” either bound for that distant port or sailing out of its harbors: Psalm 48:7, 72:10; Isaiah 23:1,6,10,14, 60:9; Ezekiel 27:25. But Luther follows a tradition from the ancient Church Fathers that this Tarshish was Tarsus, the native land of Paul the Apostle (Acts 9:11). Paul’s Tarsus was the capital of the province of Cilicia, and it was known by this name by the Hittites in Old Testament times. The difference is that Paul’s Tarsus could not be a harbor for ships or a sailing destination (but sailing is not a part of this passage).

The Kittim were a maritime people, probably from Cyprus, who intermarried with the Casluhites and produced the mixed nation of the Philistines (see 1 Chronicles 1:12).

The Rodanim were probably also a maritime people; the island of Rhodes is often thought to be related to this name. Ezekiel 27:15 may be a reference to the same people.

These descendants of Javan were, for the most part, the people of southern Europe: the Greeks, the natives of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain); and the peoples of the Mediterranean islands. Isaiah directs our attention again and again to these people, reminding us that the gospel is not just for a few people or familiar-looking people or even just the people close by, but for everyone: “Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD; exalt the name of the LORD, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea” (Isaiah 24:15).

Isaiah also reminds us that faith in Christ will be expressed by these people: “Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them” (Isaiah 42:10).

It seems that for a long time the people of Japheth retained a right faith and a faithful worship of the true God. They made great discoveries and advances for the world. For even though the Ark of Noah was not built for sailing, but only for floating, they showed their abilities in sailing and in navigating by inhabiting so many islands and being able to find their way around the Sea with such success. Luther’s conclusion has great merit: “Since God gave permanence to their rule, I believe that they retained the true forms of worship that they had received from their fathers and that were in use in the church. God overturns the kingdoms of the ungodly and the idolaters; He does not found them.” After a while, they descended into idolatry. They began to worship the creation rather than the creator (Romans 1:25). This sad sin is always a danger.

This is especially something we should take to heart. Hezekiah prayed: “You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth” (2 Kings 19:15). And again: “Nations are in uproar; kingdoms fall, he lifts his voice, and the earth melts” (Psalm 46:6). And Asaph prayed: “Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name” (Psalm 79:6). The Lord does indeed lift up those who acknowledge him, and he tears down those who do not. Our task is not to point fingers at those who we think are unfaithful. Our task is to be faithful ourselves, because it is so easy to slip and fall, and our task is to share our faith with anyone we can. We pray:

“Keep my tongue from sin” (Psalm 39:1).
“Keep falsehood and lies far from me” (Proverbs 30:8).
“Keep me from shame… keep me from terror” (Jeremiah 17:18).
“Keep me from deceitful ways” (Psalm 119:29).
“Turn our hearts to you, O Lord, to walk in all your ways” (1 Kings 8:58).

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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