The Descendants of Noah

After God destroyed most of the world in the flood, He promised that He would never use water to destroy all living things again. After that covenant, the three sons of Noah – Shem, Cham and Japheth – embarked on settling the world anew:

שְׁלֹשָׁ֥ה אֵ֖לֶּה בְּנֵי־נֹ֑חַ וּמֵאֵ֖לֶּה נָֽפְצָ֥ה כָל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole world branched out. (Genesis 9:19)

Genesis 10 relayed the descendants of the three sons and early bibles sought to educate people where each of those children settled by including maps inside the bound volumes. The most famous of these was one completed by a Benedectine Monk named Arias Montanus in the 16th century.

Benedict Arias Montanus Sacrae Geographiae Tabulam ex Antiquissimorum Cultor (1571)

Benito Arias Montanus (1527-1598) was born in Spain and entered the priesthood around 1559 where he gained a reputation as an important biblical scholar. In 1568, he was commissioned by King Phillip II to supervise a new polygot (multi-language) bible which would become part of the king’s scholarly volumes on the bible. This work was to replace the first “Royal Bible” completed by the Escorial Library in 1514.

Written in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Syriac, and printed in Antwerp between 1569 and 1573, the polygot bible caused a stir. Montanus was reported to the Spanish Inquisition for purportedly giving preference to the Jewish rabbinic reading of the scriptures. His trial lasted several years and the Inquisition was finally convinced by the biblical scholar Juan de Mariane that Montanus’s interpretation of the text did not contradict Catholic dogma, acquitting him in 1580.

Montanus’s world map above shows the descendants of Shem, Cham and Japheth in Hebrew and Latin. Japeth’s sons are listed in the center of the map in Roman numerals; Shem’s sons are listed on the right side and indexed with numbers, while Cham’s sons are indexed with letters.

Japhet’s sons are portrayed as covering Europe. Sepharad is located in modern Spain, Sarphat is placed in France and Yavan in Greece – just like the modern Hebrew names for those countries. The lone exception is Madai who is placed in modern Iran. Biblical scholars consider Madai to be connected to the ancient Persian people of Medes.

Cham’s sons are placed throughout the Middle East and Africa, stretching from modern Iran to Morocco and Kenya. Mizrayim and Pelishtim are both located in northern Egypt, while Canaan is found in modern Jordan.

The children of Shem, from whom Abraham and the Jewish people are descended, were placed on the map from eastern Europe, Iraq and Kuwait eastward over China and Russia with a land bridge to the Americas. In a fascinating placement, Montanus placed Ophir both in modern-day California and Peru. It is a curious placement because Ophir was the city from which King Solomon imported gold to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:11). While it was known at this time that the Aztecs in Mexico had considerable gold, gold was not discovered in California for another 275 years.


The descendants of Noah scattered over the planet as described in Genesis 11:31, “according to their families, their languages, their lands and their nations.” They are part of the opening of the bible, before the text narrows its focus to the foundation of the Jewish people relocating from modern Iraq to modern Israel in the story of the Jewish patriarch, Abraham. Much like the nations of the world, the Jews would establish their nation in their land with their own language as descendants of their families’ ancestors of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Relationship of Man and Beast

The Journeys of Abraham and Ownership of the Holy Land

Abraham’s Hospitality: Lessons for Jews and Arabs

The Jewish Holy Land

Ruth, The Completed Jew

Kohelet, An Ode to Abel

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The Journeys of Abraham and Ownership of the Holy Land

One of the most famous cartographers in the world was Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598). Appointed as cartographer to King Phillip II of Spain, the religious Christian Flemish cartographer is credited with creating the first world atlas called “Theatrum Orbis Terrarum” or “Theatre of the World.” The atlas was originally printed in 1570 and became one of the most popular books of its time and resulted in a few printings. In total, there were 178 plates amounting to approximately 730,000 printed copies of the various maps.

In addition to the maps printed in the atlas, Ortelius also produced “Parergon” maps of interesting places. These “classical” maps were produced by Ortelius himself, as opposed to some maps in “Theatrum” which were adopted from other cartographers. The 56 such plates produced roughly 143,000 printed maps.

One of the maps of the Parergon was called “Abrahami Patriarchae” which chronicled the life of the biblical patriarch Abraham. The first map was printed between 1590 and 1595 (975 copies made) with a second plate produced 1592-1624 (2925 copies made). The map shows the journey and life of Abraham with an inset map of his journey from Ur to Canaan, as well as 22 medallions of significant life events. The map highlights Ortelius’s gift as cartographer, artist and historian.

Ortelius
Abrahami Patriarchae Peregrinatio et vitae, 1592

Some notable medallions in the map are detailed below which underscore the belief that God gave Jews the holy land:

  • Medallion 6. Genesis 13: 14-15 “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.”
  • Medallion 10. Genesis 15: 17-21 “17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
  • Medallion 12. Genesis 17:3-8 “Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.
  • Medallion 18. Genesis 21: 27-31 (ownership of Beersheba) “27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?” 30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.” 31 So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.
  • Medallion 20. Genesis 23: 19-20 (ownership of Hebron) 19 Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.”

This map was made by a religious Christian, not a Jew. Many evangelical Christians and others that believe in the Old Testament firmly hold that while the holy land may be holy to all of the monotheistic faiths, the land itself is God’s gift to Jews. Indeed, God is the original Zionist.