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In the Table of Nations, Moses doesn't mention Egypt's (Mizraim's) children by name, only the tribes are mentioned.

Genesis 10:13-14 (KJV)

[13] And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim, [14] And Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (out of whom came Philistim,) and Caphtorim.

But in the case of the other children of Ham, Shem and Japheth, the progenitors of their various nations are mentioned by name, e.g.:

  • Sidon and Heth are mentioned as progenitors of the Canaanite races.

  • Seba, Sabteca, Ramah, etc. are mentioned as progenitors of the Cushitic races.

Why then did Moses omit the names of the progenitors of the Egyptian races?

The case of Phut is even worse since none of his sons are mentioned in the genesis account but are mentioned in the book of Jubilees.

Since Moses wrote under divine inspiration, could there be an underlying reason for the omission? Please help me out with this.

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3 Answers 3

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Genesis 10 shouldn't be read primarily as a list of nations or tribes, but as the descendants of Noah. So Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim, and Caphtorim are the sons of Mizraim. (Or the singular versions. I don't have my Hebrew Bible accessible to check.)

The Israelites evidently believed the earth's nations came from the descendants of Noah, and one example of a nation whose name didn't match the progenitor'so name is in verse 14 where it says the Philistines came from Casluhim. But there are also many names which we can't identify as nations or tribes, and some names which don't make sense to us from the rest of history. How accurate Genesis 10 is would be another question though.

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  • I appreciate your taking time to answer. But you didn't really answer the question. Other nations in Gen 10 have the names of the specific sons from which they originated. But Egypt is the only exception. The sons of Mizraim are not mentioned, just the tribal groups they formed as a collective. So I don't know the reason why Moses would record Mizrahi genealogy this way. That's the question. Why did Moses record Mizrahi genealogy without mentioning the progenitors of those races?
    – user20490
    Jul 28, 2017 at 21:11
  • With the issues we are having about who the ancient Egyptians were, it makes it even harder since the original sons of Mizraim are not mentioned by name. I wonder if Mizrahi people have been a composite stock from the beginning of nations. That's what the question is about.
    – user20490
    Jul 28, 2017 at 21:13
  • @user20490 I think I answered your question: the sons are given just as much as they are given in any other. Other sons/tribes are given with plural names, and some nations are just known by the singular rather than the plural name.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 28, 2017 at 22:55
  • There are some weird things in the Hebrew of the chapter: why are only Mizraim, Canaan and Joktan's progeny each listed with אֶת? Why do only Canaan's progeny each have the definite article? Those are good questions, but not what you asked, I don't think.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 28, 2017 at 22:57
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Let's first understand the question.

Genesis 10 as table of nations

Gen 10 has traditionally been interpreted as a "table of nations" -- e.g. a history of the creation of peoples (as understood at the time) via patrilineal descent from a named descendant of Noah (as listed in this chapter).

  • Peoples at that time could refer to the founding of cities (Babel, Nineveh are mentioned) or what we would think of as countries with borders or even nomadic tribes without a fixed border.

  • Named descendant is important because nothing in the text says that no other (unnamed) children were born and as is often the case, many other children are born (e.g. as we found out with Abraham). Traditional interpretation says the named descendants were named for a reason -- that they were the founder of one of the above "nations" with one exception -- the family history of Arphaxad's children were named to continue the narrative to Abraham.

The scriptural basis for the traditional interpretation is the outline:

  • Japheth in Genesis 10.2-5

Genesis 10.2: The sons of Japheth[..the sons are listed..] By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.(KJV 1900)

  • Ham in Genesis 10.6-20

And the sons of Ham; [.. lists the named descendants...] These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations.

  • Shem in Genesis 10.21-31

21 Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born. 22 The children of Shem; Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram. [...] 31 These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations.

The "their" in "their nations" has traditionally assumed to be the names of the descendants.

Now moderns use a different classification schemes for "nations" than did the ancients and they have different theories of ethnography, and so some resolve this tension by arguing that Genesis 10 isn't supposed to be a table of nations at all, but just a genealogy in which offhanded remarks like "and these people came out of him". Thus there is no rhyme or reason to it, in which case there would be no puzzle to solve.

I will not take that interpretation here, I will assume the traditional interpretation that this is an ethnographic history, based on the verses cited previously.

Now we are ready for the problem:

The Problem

For some of the people named, there is no known "people" (as defined above) associated to them in the traditional understanding. This was tackled by Josephus in his Antiquities Book 1, Chapter 6, with a two pronged answer:

  1. He observes that known nations are associated to all named descendants except for some in the line of Ham [Ignoring Arphaxad-Abraham, which purpose we already know], so this issue only affects Ham, who is cursed so that his nations will not amount to much. Therefore Josephus says that these nations just disappeared or the names were forgotten: "Some indeed of its names are utterly vanished away; others of them being changed, and another sound given them, are hardly to be discovered"

  2. However for the specific case of the children of Mizrayim, he argues that tradition states most of these were wiped out by Moses in the Ethiopic war:

Now all the children of Mesraim, being eight in number, possessed the country from Gaza to Egypt: though it retained the name of one only, the Philistim, for the Greeks call part of that country Palestine. As for the rest, Ludieim, and Enemim, and Labim, who alone inhabited in Libya, and called the country from himself, Nedim and Phethrosim, and Chesloim, and Cephthorim, we know nothing of them besides their names. For the Ethiopick War, which we shall describe hereafter, was the cause that those cities were overthrown. [Josephus Antiquities]

The Ethiopic war is described in Book 2 chapter 10 and describes a war between Egypt and its neighboring nations in which Moses participated as a military leader for Egypt. The war takes an entire chapter, so it's unlikely that Josephus invented it -- e.g. there must have been some tradition that he drew on, but no record survives. It is sad how much of the written materials of antiquity have been lost -- e.g. the burning of the Library of Alexandria -- so we can't really assess the reliability of Josephus' sources. But it is known that Egypt often waged war against its neighbors in Africa.

Alternate Solution

While I can't judge the accuracy of the Ethiopic War account, we can group it into the larger explanation that Egypt was a multi-ethnic state, and thus whatever peoples came out of Mizrayim that were in Egypt or its environs would be absorbed and lost.

The reason for this was the Nile and its regular flooding, which attracted people from all over, none of whom dominated. Thus there aren't any "Egyptian races" as everyone mixed together in a place called Egypt. The frequent visits of the patriarchs down to Egypt testify of this mixing.

The above is represented in the symbolism of Egypt as representing "the world" and also explains why the name Miṣrayim which, unlike many of the other names of people in this list, is unanimously the name for Egypt in Hebrew, Ugaritic, Akkadian, Phoenician, Syrian, Old Persian, and Arabic -- and yet is completely different from what the Old Egyptians called themselves -- either km.t "the black land" or tȝ.wy "two lands" for upper and lower Egypt.

It is conjectured that miṣrayim is a dual form of either Akkadian miṣru - or Arabic miṣr -- both of which mean "border/region". Thus miṣrayim would be a translation of the name the Egyptians called themselves(1) which is not an ethnic name at all, but a name describing the geography of the region! Therefore it may be the case that one of the sons of Ham was named after this geographic area, which became a mix of many different ethnic groups, similar to how Haran, son of Terah, lived in Haran (Gen 11.26).

Thus unlike Josephus' explanation of a specific war wiping out the named descendants progeny, this explanation calls on assimilation. Of course, it's speculative, but one piece of textual support would come from the reference to Philistine in verse 14:

And Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (out of whom came Philistim,) and Caphtorim.

This verse is repeated in 1 Chronicles 1.12. Note that the original Hebrew does not have a parenthesis.

Who are the Casluhim? Well, we don't know but Bochart claims they are the Colchians, which was an Egyptian colony on the coast of the black sea(2). The Caphtorim we know are Cretans. The point is that both of these are outside Africa and thus would not be subject to assimilation, and so would remain as nations. Moreover the claim that the Philistines are related to the Cretans is pretty amazing to read in an ancient text, as it is now believed to be true from DNA studies and contradicts Josephus' explanation that Philistines migrated from Egypt.

So, again, quite speculative, but there is an alternate explanation of assimilation other than war. Of course it could be both.


  1. Helmer Ringgren and Heinz-Josef Fabry, “מִצְרַיִם,” ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, trans. Douglas W. Stott, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 520.

  2. Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 408.

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The tribe names are their actual names if they are the first in the tribe. Mizraim for example was a real person. His family became the tribe named for him.

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