This chapter traces the lines of Japheth Shem and Ham, beginning with Japheth. It may surprise you that Japheth is the eldest since in the previous chapter (9:18) they were listed as Shem, Japheth and Ham and it is usual to place the eldest first. But the writer (thought to be Moses) appears to have placed them in order of God’s ranking, that becomes clearer a few verses later, when Noah spoke prophetically over them. [Shem was born when Noah was aged 502 and Japheth when Noah was aged 100 (deducible from close study of Genesis; 5:32, 7:11; 11:10.)] But then just to confuse you they are now spoken of in the order of Japheth the eldest, Ham the youngest (9:24), and Shem the line whereby Israel emerges as a nation. By this order the writer has chosen to save the best until last.
The Japhethites include Gomer and Magog. Gomer are thought to have been the original inhabitants of Southern Russia (modern Crimea) who in the 7th century BC largely left and moved to Western Asia, modern day China. Magog is thought to be either modern Russia or Turkey. Japheth’s other descendants were maritime people, or sailors.
Ham’s notable sons included Egypt, Canaan, and Cush that many believe this to be modern Ethiopia, but it is more likely to have originally been towards southern Iraq or Saudi Arabia. This is supported by the mention of Nimrod, the son of Cush, who was a great warrior and hunter whose centres included Babylon, and Shinar, thought to be modern Syria, and Iraq where Nineveh became a great city in the north on the banks of the River Tigris.
The Philistines came out of Calushim and Caphtorim (Captor is thought to be modern Crete) (Amos 9:7).
Shem’s notable descendants included Aram (modern day Syria), and Sheba (primarily modern Yemen). In the days of Peleg, the earth was divided, presumably by the tectonic plate shifts that are commonly dated millions of years ago by scientists who should be asking how Moses knew about that long before their scientific speculation.
Lord how wonderfully You have ordered the nations. May Your favour upon my life lift me high in Your present order.