For many people, the Bible is the most important book ever written, and it has exerted the greatest influence on history of any book ever published. No other book has survived the ravages of time and maintained its literary and contextual integrity as has the Torah of the Bible.
The Bible is actually a compilation of many books, and the Book of Genesis is the foundation of all of them. 1 The book describes the creation of the earth and heaven and delineates the generations of man. It lays the foundation for the entire Bible by giving vital information on the origin of all things. Man has no other source of this information outside his own desires and his interpretation of this world. The Bible would be incomplete and incomprehensible to man without Genesis.
The Book of Genesis has received renewed interest in recent decades because of the growth of scientific investigations in the fields of anthropology and archaeology and the search for man's heritage. How old is the earth? When did man appear upon this earth and how did he come into existence? Scientists have proposed several theories. One such theory, the Big Bang Theory, 2 proposes that the universe was originally an infinitely compact and singular state enclosing a space even smaller than an atomic particle. The beginning of the universe occurred when the ball grew, not in a violent explosion as the name suggests, but through a rapid expansion. This expansion resulted in the breaking away of the galaxies and planets, and the universe is still expanding. The cosmic microwave background radiation is considered as compelling evidence for the Big Bang Theory. This is all based on the presupposition that the small compact particle existed. But where, how, and when did the particle originate? It is contrary to the First Law of Thermodynamics and all scientific theories that something could be created out of nothing unless a supernatural event occurred to create the particle. The answer to this question, how did this compressed particle come into existence, is not provided. The Bible asserts that God spoke and the creation occurred. The energizing force for creation was God's spoken word. He created a physical world where nothing had existed. This is the supernatural event that is unacceptable to many in the scientific community. It also causes problems for some theologians. Walter Brueggmann writes:
The relation of verses 1 and 2 (Genesis 1:1-2) is not obvious. Verse 1 suggests God began with nothing. Verse 2 makes clear there was an existing chaos. It is likely that verse 2 is a more primitive, traditional notion, whereas 1 is more reflective about its theological claim. By the time of the New Testament, it was affirmed that God created out of nothing (cf Rom. 4:17, Heb.11:3).3
Science indicates that the earth is billions
of years old and man has been on the earth for millions of years,
but many people believe that the book of Genesis indicates that
the earth and man were created by God in the relatively short
past. There are many treatments of the differences of opinion
between the creationists and the evolutionists on the age and
development of both the earth and man. Many biblical scholars
accept the statement of Genesis as to the creation of the universe
and man, but indicate that Genesis does not rule out the possibility
of large periods of time in the creation process.
Benjamin B. Warfield indicates that:
The Bible does not assign a brief span to human history: this is done only by a particular mode of interpreting the Biblical data, which is found on examination to rest on no solid basis. . . . It must be confessed, that the impression is readily taken from a prima facie view of the Biblical Record of the course of human history, that the human race is of comparatively recent origin. 4
Gleason L. Archer evidently does not accept the literal interpretation of the Genesis account of creation and bases his interpretation on the evidence from the fossils and fissionable minerals in the geological strata that indicates the Earth is billions of years old. 5 He also states that the interpretation of the Hebrew word "yom" allows for periods of time between the days of creation, and that one cannot be certain that the creation was accomplished in six literal and consecutive solar days as Genesis indicates. Archer states:
To be sure, if we were to understand Genesis 1 in a completely literal fashion - which some suppose to be the only proper principle of interpretation if the Bible is truly inerrant and completely trustworthy - then there would be no possibility of reconciliation between modern scientific theory and the Genesis account. This viewpoint expresses the presuppositions of science on the formation of the earth and accomodates the Bible to science. Archer indicates "that to take the Word absolutely literally would require that in Matthew 19:24 (and parallel passages) Christ actually meant to teach that a camel could go through the eye of a needle." But it is abundantly clear that Christ did not actually mean to teach that a camel could go through the eye of a needle, but was simply using the familiar rhetorical figure of hyperbole in order to emphasize how difficult it is spiritually for a rich man (because of his pride in his material wealth) to come to repentance and saving faith in God. 6
Interpretation of Scripture is neither an art nor a science; it is both. Biblical interpretation is governed by general rules, principles, and methods of interpretation, but one cannot determine a fixed set of rules that will cover every instance or apply in all circumstances. This ignores context and eliminates the Holy Spirit from the learning and interpreting process. One should adopt an approach to understanding the meaning of words that considers precisely their referential, denotative, connotative, and contextual meanings. In this paper, the phrase "the earth was divided" will be interpreted to mean that the actual earth was physically divided. In contrast, some authors totally ignore this Scripture (Genesis 10:25), and relate the division of the earth to the flood in Noah's time, some five generations earlier. 7 One of the major problems in biblical and in scientific interpretation is that interpretations are made without having all the data required or considering all the available data. Most difficulties arise because there is insufficient data to make a firm decision.
Thorough and correct scientific inquiry depends upon the premise that there is order in the universe, that all the data are available, and that the presuppositions are correct or at least stated for evaluation. The interrelationship between the Bible, specifically Genesis, and the modern scientific community continues to expand and contrast man's views of the universe and its origin.
In spite of changing trends and shifting theological interests, the book of Genesis continues to demand the attention of scholars and scientists throughout the world. 8 Brueggemann 9 indicated that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are among the most important in Scripture. They are among the best known, but they are frequently the most misunderstood. In these first eleven chapters the creation of the earth is specified, the creation of man defined, and the history of mankind launched. Wiseman 10 in his book Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis presents the evidence for the acceptance of the book of Genesis as an ancient historical document, written by Moses, accepted by the patriarchs, and confirmed through archeological research and literary analyses and methods. The scientific theories on the creation of the universe and the beginnings of man do not attempt to delineate the early generations of man, but the Bible does. The biblical listings of the generations have been shown by historical evidence 11 to reflect current beliefs on the births of the nations of the world. Figure 1 illustrates the nations founded by the descendants of Noah.
In the study of Genesis, P. J. Wiseman 12 indicates that "the key to the method of compilation that underlies the structure of the book of Genesis is to be found in understanding of the phrase These are the generations of . . ."
Figure 1 The Nations of Genesis 10
Reprinted from the Atlas of the Bible Lands by permission from Hammond Inc.
In the book of Genesis and in the gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke the generations of man from Adam to Jesus are listed, and the debate continues whether these generations can be taken literally. The word "generation" in the Bible may or may not mean an immediate father-son relationship. It may cover many biological father-son generations or a unique father-son relationship. When the Scriptures specify a father-son relationship, it may mean a lineage rather than a biological father-son connection. An example of this is given in Matthew 1:1 which states "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." This obviously does not mean that Jesus was the biological son of David, but that He came from the lineage of David or was a descendant of David. The connection to David and Abraham designates that the Davidic and Abrahamic covenant have a continuation through this lineage and that the covenant is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Chapter Five of Genesis list the generations
of the descendants of Adam through the sons of Noah. The Scripture
gives the age of the father when his first son was born, and usually
gives the father's age at the time of his death. When the Scriptures
specify that one was begat, it is usually taken to mean the fathering
of an offspring. However, the Hebrew word, yalad, can also
mean "in the lineage of." 13
The descendants of Noah are listed in Chapter Ten and the listing
of descendants is continued in Chapter Eleven.
Figure 2 Lifetimes of the Patriarchs in Genesis 10
If one takes the generation listings in Genesis Five, Ten and Eleven literally, then one can compile Figure 2, which shows the generations from Adam through Joseph. The age of the father at the time his first son was born, the father's age at the time of his death, and the years from Adam are shown in Figure 2. These listings of the generations also point out special occurrences such as in Genesis 5:22-24 where Enoch is given special recognition. The Scripture says, "He walked with God," and the verbal form denotes "to live in close fellowship" and "communion with God."14 He was the father of Methuselah, whose name meant "when he dies it will come."15 This indicates that when Methuselah dies something special would occur, and he lived until about the time of the flood. Jude 16 states:
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgments upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them to all their ungodly deeds which they have committed.
The Book of Hebrews 17 discloses that by faith Enoch was translated and did not see death. Enoch was truly a unique individual in the list of the Patriarchs. The next man God gave special note was Noah, "for he found grace in the sight of the Lord," 18 and he walked with God as did Enoch. Noah was taken from the world as was Enoch. The flood came in the days of Noah. Before Noah's time, God repented that He had made man and He specified that man's life time would be shortened to 120 years. 19 Figure 3 is a plot of the ages of the Patriarchs, and it indicates that the lifetime of 900 plus years ended with Noah. Noah's father died at the age of 777 years, possibly in the flood. Noah's great grandson, Nimrod, was recognized as a mighty hunter and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel. 20
Figure 3 Age of the Patriarchs in Genesis 10
This kingdom led to the tower of Babel, the confusion of the tongues, and the scattering of the people "abroad upon the face of all the earth." 21 A descendant of Noah's son Shem was Peleg, and the Scriptures again make an additional comment, "And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided." 22 This statement is repeated in I Chronicles 1:19 in the listing of the descendants of Adam. In I Chronicles only Nimrod and Peleg are associated with special comments other than their name. Genesis Eleven tells us why Nimrod received special comments, but why did God mention that during the days of Peleg "the earth was divided," unless something special and significant took place? Each time comments were added to one of the names of the descendants of Adam something very important took place during his lifetime. These individuals were very prominent in God's plan, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. In each of these references to an individual, the event of his day is covered by other Scriptural definitions or explanations. In the case of Peleg, we are told only that in his days the earth was divided.
It is shown in Figure 3 that when special recognition was given to an individual, a change in lifetime and physical placement occurred. Enoch was translated at an early age, when he was 365 years old, compared to the average lifetime of 900 years of his contemporaries. Enoch was taken from this world to heaven and possibly has a specific task to perform in the future. When the flood came, the lifetime was reduced by approximately 50 percent from Noah to Shem. The flood removed Noah from his country. When the earth was divided, the lifetime was reduced by another 50 percent and the people were removed from their lands and scattered over the face of the earth. The generations from Peleg to Joseph saw another 50 percent reduction in the average lifetime. Abraham was called out of his home, Ur, and told to go to a land he would be shown. Joseph was also removed from the land of his birth and taken to Egypt to prepare for the great famine that was to come. God has placed emphasis on these men because of special circumstances during their life time.
The explanations of Genesis 10:25 in several
annotated reference or study Bibles are in conflict. 23
Some indicate that the land is divided and others that the people
are scattered or dispersed. Most Bibles do not give additional
information other than that the word Peleg means division. The
name Peleg does mean division, but it can also mean an earthquake.
24 The word used for "divided"
(Hebrew palag) 25 as used in
Genesis 10:25 means literally to split apart, and the word used
for "scattered" or "divided" (Hebrew parad)
as used in Genesis 10:5 means to disperse, break through or separate
(oneself). Josephus mentioned that "he was called Phaleg,
because he was born at the dispersion of the nations to their
several countries; among the Hebrews, Phaleg (Peleg) means division."
26 Josephus had no knowledge of the
continental drift, and he could not have considered this aspect
of the possible meaning of the verse. Most commentaries do not
consider or make additional comments on this passage of the earth
division in Genesis 10:25.
Donald. G. Barnhouse states,
Some have thought that this verse is the clue to what is known as "continental drift," that the land masses of the earth, originally together, began to separate at this time, and people with original ideas of truth went into every quarter of the globe. Thus, we have the origin of all the pagan myths that parallel the truth of God. 27
Barnhouse relegates the continental drift idea to a myth and discounts the scattering of the people throughout the earth. This appears to be an unwarranted conclusion from the passage in Genesis 10:25, since there is not any data or Scripture that backs this viewpoint.
A. P. Ross simply states, "that an event is said to
have taken place in the days of Peleg (10:25) would suggest that
he too was thought to be an individual," 28
and Ross does not give any further comment on this verse in Genesis.
G. J. Wenham is of the opinion that Genesis 10:25 refers to the division of the people, Genesis 11:8.
Peleg comes from the root ___, to divide; as a common noun it means canal, channel. Here the etymology gives it a more abstract sense, division. Like many biblical names this is prophetic, in that it foreshadows the great events that would take place in Peleg's lifetime. Because in his days, the earth was divided. Here the earth denotes the peoples of the world. But in what sense was it divided? Some suggest that the division was between the sons of Peleg. 29
The problem with the earth of 10:25
meaning people is that in 1:1 and 1:2 the same Hebrew word, erets,
is used, and this is before Adam and Eve were created. However,
Victor P. Hamilton continues this idea:
Eber's two sons are Peleg and Joktan. Additional information is provided about Peleg: in his time the earth was divided. Here obviously is but a torso of a much more extensive tradition. Does this comment mean that the Semitic groups were divided into two branches, Pelegites and Joktanites? Or, in the light of the fact that AKK, palgu means "canal" or "district," does this information point to a culture hero to whom was attributed the construction of irrigation canals? Or, more likely, does this datum presage the Tower of Babel story in which men were driven away, divided from each other, and forced to settle elsewhere? 30
Henry Morris in his book "The Genesis Record" makes the following statement concerning Genesis 10:25;
If it is ever actually proved that the earth once was a single land mass that somehow split apart, with the segments gradually drifting away to form the present continents, then indeed this verse might be understood to refer to such an event. At present, the question of continental drift is still open among scientists; and creation scientists have pointed to a number of unresolved physical difficulties with the whole idea. 31
The above comments are representative of the divergent opinions and interpretations of this verse in Genesis. But II Timothy 3:16-17 indicates that every verse is suitable for instruction. What, then is the message of Genesis 10:25? The Scriptures are quite clear, "in the days of Peleg the earth was divided." The word erets, translated earth, in Genesis 1:1-2 is the same word used in Genesis 10:25 and is usually translated as earth; however, some newer translations interpret the word as "people" in Genesis 10:25. If the land was divided in the days of Peleg, then before the days of Peleg it had to be together, a single unit. Genesis 1:9-10 states that the land was gathered together unto one place:
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and he gathering together of the waters called He Seas: and God saw that it was good,
The Hebrew word qavah, translated as gathered together unto, literally means to bind together or collect. The word maqowm, translated place, means standing, spot or locality and the word yam, translated seas, is not necessarily plural, it means a large body of water. 32 God gathered the land and the water into single units. In the days of Peleg He divided the land and thus formed the seas (plural).
The question raised by these comments on Genesis 10:25 is:
"Does the special comment about
the days of Peleg have specific meaning and reference to the division
of the land, and are the Scripture references applicable to the
Continental Drift and Plate Tectonic Theories?" Some authors 33
ignore or discount this passage and relate the division of the
earth to Noah's flood. However, Scripture indicates the division
was in the days of Peleg, five generations later. If the Scripture
reference to the division of the earth does apply to the Continental
Drift Theory, then the additional questions raised are:
1) Where is the center of the continental movement and how was the energy delivered that initiated the movement and 2) does the Scripture specify where the center of the earth is, and does this center correspond to the center of the initial land mass before the movement of the continents? The analyses of the biblical statement, "in the days of Peleg the earth was divided," the scientific theories of the Continental Drift and the Plate Tectonic Theories, and the physical data that are now available will enable one to assist in closing the apparent gap between the biblical and scientific accounts of the creation of the universe and mankind.
When God gives a spiritual truth in Scripture, it enhances
our relationship and fellowship with Him and has direct application
to our spiritual lives and daily living. When He gives a physical
truth, this also has a direct effect on our physical being and
application to our lives. What, then, is the direct effect and application of "the earth was divided?" The physical anthropological questions are: Was there a direct effect of the displacement of people on the development of countries, governments? Science indicates that homo sapiens migrated from the southern part of Africa. 34 How does the phrase "the earth was divided" relate to race, 35 and to the question of the earth's center? Is there a practical application to our lives of the knowledge that the earth was divided? These questions will be discussed in Chapter 5.
The literature contains many articles and books on the Plate
Tectonic Theory and the Continental Drift. These will be reviewed
in subsequent chapters to determine the various methods and data
used in the development of the theories. A major consideration
must be the determination of the presuppositions for either theory
and how it compares to the information obtained from current considerations
and Scriptural statements. Also, what does Ezekiel
38:12 36 (RSV) mean by the phrase,
"the center of the earth?"
Judges 9:37 also indicates the "center
of the earth" in discussing the land of Israel.
The word is also translated as "navel,
the center of strength." Does this refer to the
epicenter of continental movement, the physical center of the
land mass before the earth was divided, or to some other type
of center? The word used for earth literally means the earth surface.
37 The possible "centers of the
earth" as related to Israel will be evaluated from both biblical
and secular perspectives and related to the center of the continental
movement. These centers for evaluation will include but not be
If the analyses of the various data sources and theories indicate that the earth was divided in the days of Peleg, then the question "How does this time frame for the continental drift compare with the scientific literature and currently accepted theories of the Plate Tectonic and Continental Drift Theories?"
Conventional wisdom has essentially ignored the statement in
Genesis 10:25 and has assumed
the scientific theory and explanation of the continental drift
to be correct.
© 1997, 1998, Aaron C Ministries
1 Henry Morris, Genesis Record (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976). Return
2 Science Desk Reference (NewYork: Macmillan and Company, 1995), 314-315. Return
3 Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1946), 29. Return
4 Benjamin B. Warfield, Studies in Theology (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1932), 236 . Return
5 Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), 58-62. Return
6 Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, 58-62. Return
7 John R. Baumgardner, "Numerical Simulation of the Large-Scale Tectonic Changes Accompanying the Flood," in Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh, PA, July 18-23, 1986, by the Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, 1986, 17-28. Return
8 John J. Davis, Paradise to Prison, Studies in Genesis(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), 15. Return
9 Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation, 11. Return
10 P. J. Wiseman, Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis, ed. D. J. Wiseman (Nashville: ThomasNelson Publishers, 1985). Return
11 Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament lntroduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 173; Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation, 91; R. B Dillard and Tremper Longman, III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: 1994), 20. Return
12 P. J. Wiseman, Ancient Records, 14-15. Return
13 Strong's Electronic Bible Dictionary (Austin: Bible Research Systems, 1994). Return
14 Henrt M. Morris, Genesis Record, 156-157. Return
15 J. B. Jackson, A Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1977), 65.
16 Jude 14,15. And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. Return 17 Hebrews 11:5. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. Return
18 Genesis 6:8-9. But Noah was a pleasure to the Lord. Here is the story of Noah: He was the only truly righteous man living on the earth at that time. He tried always to conduct his affairs according to God's will. And he had three sons - Shem, Ham, and Japheth.Return
19 Genesis 6:3. Then Jehovah said, "My Spirit must not forever be disgraced in man, wholly evil as he is. I will give him 120 years to mend his ways."Return
Genesis 10:10. The heart of his empire included Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar. Return 21 Genesis 11:9. That is why the city was called Babel (meaning "confusion"), because it was there that Jehovah confused them by giving them many languages, thus widely scattering them across the face of the earth. [TLB] Return
22 Genesis 10:25. And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name was Joktan. [KJV] Return
23 Liberty Annotated Study Bible (KJV) (Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University, 1985), 26; Ryrie Study Bible (NASB) (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 22; NIV Study Bible (NIV) (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 22. Return
24 Strong's Electronic Bible Dictionary , (1994). Return
25 New Geneva Study Bible ( KJV) (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 26. Return
26 F. Josephus , Josephus Complete Works (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 198l), 32. Return
27 D. G. Barnhouse , Genesis, A Devotional Exposition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 68. Return
28 A. P. Ross , Creation and Blessing, A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 221. Return
29 Ralph P. Martin , ed. Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 1, Genesis 1-15, by Gordon J. Wenham. (Austin: Word, 1987), 230. Return 30 R. K. Harrison , ed., The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Vol. 1, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17, by Victor P. Hamilton. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), 344-345. Return
31 Morris , The Genesis Record, 261. Return
32 Strong's Electronic Bible Dictionary , (1994). Return
33 John R. Baumgardner, "Numerical Simulation of the Large-Scale Tectonic Changes"; John R. Baumgardner, "Patterns of Ocean Circulation over the Continents During Noah's Flood," in Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh, PA, July 18-23, 1994, by the Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, 1994. Return
Leonard Liberman and
Fatimah Jackson , "Race
and Three Models of Human Origin," American Anthropologist
97 (1995): 231-42. Return
35 O. Klineberg , Race Differences (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1935), 188-194.Return
36 RSV - "in the center of the earth"; NASB - "at the center of the world"; KJV - "in the midst of the land"; NIV - "the center of the land"; NCV - "at the center of the world"; TLB - "and the whole earth revolves around them." Return
37 Strong's Electronic Bible Dictionary , (1994).Return