This is very loosely related to my previous question on the same text.

Genesis 10:25:

To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother's name was Joktan.

My previous question on this text focused on the phrase "in his days." However, I would now like to focus on the phrase "the earth was divided." What does this phrase refer to? Given that the next chapter in Genesis discusses the Tower of Babel, is that what this text had in mind? If not, what are some other possible explanations for this text?


2 Answers 2



Ellicott lists 2 possibilities:

Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided.—This may refer to the breaking up of the race of Shem into separate nations, which severally occupied a distinct region; and so, while Joktan took Arabia, and in course of time expelled the Hamites from that country, Asshur, Aram, and Peleg occupied the regions on the north and north-west. But as Peleg, according to the Tôldôth Shem, was born only 101 years after the flood, Noah’s family could scarcely have multiplied in so short a time to as many as 500 people; and Mr. Cyril Graham considers that the name refers to “the first cutting of some of those canals which are found in such numbers between the Tigris and the Euphrates.” This is made more probable by the fact that Peleg in Hebrew means water-course.


Note that the verb, פָלַג (palag) is a very rare verb which only occurs four times in the OT:

  • Gen 10:25 & 1 Chron 1:19 both refer to Peleg and the great division.
  • Job 38:25 - God has divided the water course for the overflowing water
  • Ps 55:9 - Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues; for I see violence and strife in the city.

[NOTE: The proper name "Peleg", meaning "division" is closely related to this verb "palag" meaning to "divide" and I see no justification for Ellicott's claim that it means, "water course".]

Thus, it is significant that the verb "palag" is used to mean and directly refer to the division of the languages in Gen 11, an event inseparable from the Tower of Babel as per Gen 11:9.

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