Postdiluvian History To The Call Of Abraham And The Patriarchal Constitution And The Division Of Nations

When Noah and his family issued from the ark, they were blessed by

God. They were promised a vast posterity, dominion over nature, and all

animals for food, as well as the fruits of the earth. But new laws were

imposed, against murder, and against the eating of blood. An authority was

given to the magistrate to punish murder. "Whosoever sheddeth man's blood,

by man shall his blood be shed." This was not merely a penalty, but a

prediction. The sacredness of life, and the punishment for murder are

equally asserted, and asserted with peculiar emphasis. This may be said to

be the Noachic Code, afterward extended by Moses. From that day to this,

murder has been accounted the greatest human crime, and has been the most

severely punished. On the whole, this crime has been the rarest in the

subsequent history of the world, although committed with awful frequency,

but seldom till other crimes are exhausted. The sacredness of life is the

greatest of human privileges.

The government was patriarchal. The head of a family had almost

unlimited power. And this government was religious as well as civil. The

head of the family was both priest and king. He erected altars and divided

inheritances. He ruled his sons, even if they had wives and children. And

as the old patriarchs lived to a great age, their authority extended over

several generations and great numbers of people.

Noah pursued the life of a husbandman, and planted vines, probably like

the antediluvians. Nor did he escape the shame of drunkenness, though we

have no evidence it was an habitual sin.

From this sin and shame great consequences followed. Noah was

indecently exposed. The second son made light of it; the two others

covered up the nakedness of their father. For this levity Ham was cursed

in his children. Canaan, his son, was decreed to be a servant of

servants--the ancestor of the races afterward exterminated by the Jews. To

Shem, for his piety, was given a special religious blessing. Through him

all the nations of the earth were blessed. To Japhet was promised especial

temporal prosperity, and a participation of the blessing of Shem, The

European races are now reaping this prosperity, and the religious

privileges of Christianity.

Four generations passed without any signal event. They all spoke the

same language, and pursued the same avocations. They lived in Armenia, but

gradually spread over the surrounding countries and especially toward the

west and south. They journeyed to the land of Shinar, and dwelt on its

fertile plains. This was the great level of Lower Mesopotamia, or Chaldea,

watered by the Euphrates.

Here they built a city, and aspired to build a tower which should

reach unto the heavens. It was vanity and pride which incited them,--also

fear lest they should be scattered.

We read that Nimrod--one of the descendants of Ham--a mighty hunter,

had migrated to this plain, and set up a kingdom at Babel--perhaps a revolt

against patriarchal authority. Here was a great settlement--perhaps the

central seat of the descendants of Noah, where Nimrod--the strongest man of

his times--usurped dominion. Under his auspices the city was built--a

stronghold from which he would defy all other powers. Perhaps here he

instituted idolatry, since a tower was also a temple. But, whether fear or

ambition or idolatry prompted the building of Babel, it displeased the


The punishment which he inflicted upon the builders was confusion of

tongues. The people could not understand each other, and were obliged to

disperse. The tower was left unfinished. The Lord "scattered the people

abroad upon the face of all the earth." Probably some remained at Babel,

on the Euphrates--the forefathers of the Israelites when they dwelt in

Chaldea. It is not probable that every man spoke a different language, but

that there was a great division of language, corresponding with the great

division of families, so that the posterity of Shem took one course, that

of Japhet another, and that of Ham the third--dividing themselves into

three separate nations, each speaking substantially the same tongue,

afterward divided into different dialects from their peculiar


Much learning and ingenuity have been expended in tracing the

different races and languages of the earth to the grand confusion of

Babel. But the subject is too complicated, and in the present state of

science, too unsatisfactory to make it expedient to pursue ethnological

and philological inquiries in a work so limited as this. We refer students

to Max Muller, and other authorities.

But that there was a great tripartite division of the human family

can not be doubted. The descendants of Japhet occupied a great zone

running from the high lands of Armenia to the southeast, into the

table-lands of Iran, and to Northern India, and to the west into Thrace,

the Grecian peninsula, and Western Europe. And all the nations which

subsequently sprung from the children of Japhet, spoke languages the roots

of which bear a striking affinity. This can be proved. The descendants of

Japhet, supposed to be the oldest son of Noah, possessed the fairest lands

of the world--most favorable to development and progress--most favorable to

ultimate supremacy. They composed the great Caucasian race, which spread

over Northern and Western Asia, and over Europe--superior to other races in

personal beauty and strength, and also intellectual force. From the times

of the Greek and Romans this race has held the supremacy of the world, as

was predicted to Noah. "God shall enlarge Japhet, and he shall dwell in

the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant." The conquest of the

descendants of Ham by the Greeks and Romans, and their slavery, attest the

truth of Scripture.

The descendants of Shem occupied another belt or zone. It extended

from the southeastern part of Asia Minor to the Persian Gulf and the

peninsula of Arabia. The people lived in tents, were not ambitious of

conquest, were religious and contemplative. The great theogonies of the

East came from this people. They studied the stars. They meditated on God

and theological questions. They were a chosen race with whom sacred

history dwells. They had, compared with other races, a small territory

between the possessions of Japhet on the north, and that of Ham on the

south. Their destiny was not to spread over the world, but to exhibit the

dealings of God's providence. From this race came the Jews and the

Messiah. The most enterprising of the descendants of Shem were the

Phoenicians, who pursued commerce on a narrow strip of the eastern shore of

the Mediterranean, and who colonized Carthage and North Africa, but were

not powerful enough to contend successfully with the Romans in political


The most powerful of the posterity of Noah were the descendants of

Ham, for more than two thousand years, since they erected great

monarchies, and were warlike, aggressive, and unscrupulous. They lived in

Egypt, Ethiopia, Palestine, and the countries around the Red Sea. They

commenced their empire in Babel, on the great plain of Babylonia, and

extended it northward into the land of Asshur (Assyria). They built the

great cities of Antioch, Rehoboth, Calah and Resen. Their empire was the

oldest in the world--that established by a Cushite dynasty on the plains of

Babylon, and in the highlands of Persia. They cast off the patriarchal

law, and indulged in a restless passion for dominion. And they were the

most civilized of the ancient nations in arts and material life. They

built cities and monuments of power. These temples, their palaces, their

pyramids were the wonders of the ancient world. Their grand and somber

architecture lasted for centuries. They were the wickedest of the nations

of the earth, and effeminacy, pride and sensuality followed naturally from

their material civilization unhallowed by high religious ideas. They were

hateful conquerors and tyrants, and yet slaves. They were permitted to

prosper until their vices wrought out their own destruction, and they

became finally subservient to the posterity of Japhet. But among some of

the descendants of Ham civilization never advanced. The negro race of

Africa ever has been degraded and enslaved. It has done nothing to advance

human society. None of these races, even the most successful, have left

durable monuments of intellect or virtue: they have left gloomy monuments

of tyrannical and physical power. The Babylonians and Egyptians laid the

foundation of some of the sciences and arts, but nothing remains at the

present day which civilization values.

How impressive and august the ancient prophecy to Noah! How strikingly

have all the predictions been fulfilled! These give to history an

imperishable interest and grandeur.