The Scriptorium

Man of Promise

Abram's genealogy moves the story forward. Genesis 11.10-32

Gleanealogy: Foundations (3)

Pray Psalm 143.1, 2.
Hear my prayer, O LORD,
Give ear to my supplications!
In Your faithfulness answer me,
And in Your righteousness.
Do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no one living is righteous.

Sing slowly, chant-like, and contemplatively Psalm 143.1, 2.
(Divinum Mysterium: Of the Father’s Love Begotten)
Hear my earnest prayer, O Lord! Give ear to my pleas for grace!
In Your faithfulness and righteousness, look upon me with Your face!
Enter not to judgment with Your servant, Lord, with Your loving servant, Lord:
None can stand before Your Word.

Read Genesis 11.10-32

1. What period of time does this genealogy bridge? How do you see that?

2. This is actually two genealogies in one – like pulling out the lengths of a telescope. What is the effect of the second genealogy in preparing for the next section of Scripture?

The genealogy that leads to Abram (Abraham) brings the story of God’s covenant and redemption forward from the catastrophe of the flood to the new day of promise. Abraham is the man of promise, the one with whom God clearly set forth the goal of His project: All the families of the earth are to be blessed (Gen. 12.1-3)!

In Genesis 8-11 the foundations we saw in Genesis 1-5 are shored up and enlarged. Following the cleansing of the earth by the great flood (Gen. 6, 7), the place of God’s redeeming work is renewed, and He extends His covenant to the earth, promising never again to destroy it in a flood, but to keep and bless it indefinitely, and this in spite of the sinfulness of people (Gen. 8.20-22). God appoints the rainbow to remind Him and us of His covenant Word (Gen. 9.8-17).

The first genealogy in this section traces the descendants of Noah’s sons Japheth, Ham, and Shem (Gen. 10.1-32). The primary focus of this genealogy is to account for the origins of the various peoples of the earth. The Hebrew morpheme -im, which appears on the end of so many of these names, indicates the plural, and thus not merely a person but people. The earth God is sustaining is beginning to yield the blessings of food and culture for many peoples, according to God’s covenant and promise (Acts 14.17). In blessing these peoples, and granting them their own cities and borders, God’s intention was that they might seek Him (Acts 17.26, 27). That desire of the Lord has not changed to this day. This genealogy should remind us to pray for the nations of the world, that they might hear the wooing (striving) of God’s Spirit (Gen. 6.3) and seek the Lord while He may be found.

The genealogy of Shem – which will yield the man of promise and, through him, the chosen people – is given last (Gen. 10.21-31). It will be repeated and extended in two genealogies in Genesis 11.10-32), following the interlude of the story of the tower of Babel.

What does this story of hubris and vanity tell us? It is placed after the genealogy giving the various nations and peoples – including Shem – to demonstrate that the rebellion of people against God continued, in spite of the flood and many recurring rainbows. People could see God and His promise in the creation, but they chose to ignore Him and His Word. People want to make their own rules and wield power to their own ends. They were not content to disperse to the ends of the earth, so God, in His grace, undertook to do that for them (Gen. 11.1-9). Then, to show that His plan was still on track, the genealogy of Shem is repeated and extended, all the way to Abram, the man of promise.

As we read through the names of those in Shem’s genealogy we notice no names containing any of the divine morphemes. This suggests that the descendants of Shem were not as God-minded as those who descended from Seth, or those who will follow. Indeed, the names in this genealogy sound much like those of the nations. We also note that people are not living as long as they did from Seth to Noah. God is settling the duration of human life and slowing down the action for us here. The genealogy of Terah (Gen. 11.27-32) puts a gradual brake to these three chapters, extending the narrative and refining the focus on place, as God prepares us for the next stage of His unfolding plan and work. The next stage of God’s project will unfold with the people descended from Abraham in the midst of the place where ungodly nations are flourishing.

1. How does the Spirit use the genealogies of Genesis 10 and 11 to renew our focus on the foundations He established in Genesis 1-5?

2. Why should we care about the nations that rebelled against God? Why did He care?

3. How can the toledoth in this section of Genesis serve to guide your prayers?

We must therefore introduce into this work an explanation of the generations of the three sons of Noah, insofar as that may illustrate the progress in time of the two cities.
Augustine (354-430), City of God 16.3

I pray, Lord, that Your Spirit would strive with lost people everywhere to prepare them for the Gospel, and that He would strengthen and fill me so that I…

Pray Psalm 143.7-12.
Seek the Lord’s will for the day ahead. Call upon Him to teach and guide you, and to fill you with His Spirit. Seek grace to be revived and renewed in Him, according to His promises.

Sing Psalm 143.7-12.
Psalm 143.7-12 (Divinum Mysterium: Of the Father’s Love Begotten)
Answer quickly, O my Lord!  Do not hide from me Your face!
For my spirit fails and I am like those who do not know Your grace.
In the morning let me hear Your steadfast love; Lord I trust You, show my way!
I lift up my soul and pray!

Rescue me from all my enemies!  Lord, I refuge seek in You.
Let me know Your will, O Lord my God; make me know what I must do.
Let Your Spirit lead me on to level ground; save my life!  Preserve my soul!
Rescue, Lord, and make me whole!

T. M. Moore

The poems featured in the Gleanealogy series are by T. M. Moore. To order T. M.’s most recent collection of poems, Bricks and Rungs, click here. The genealogies of Scripture reveal the heart of God in His covenant relationship with His people. To learn more about God’s covenant, order our book, I Will Be Your God, by clicking here. You can learn to sing all the psalms to familiar hymn tunes by ordering a copy of The Ailbe Psalter (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).



T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore