Splitting Heirs: When the Land was Divided (Genesis 10:25)

Shem’s genealogy (in Gen. 10:2–30) records that “Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg [פֶלֶג], because in his time the earth was divided [נִפְלְגָ֣ה]; his brother was named Joktan” (10:25; NIV). What this “division” was has generated a few popular views, but none has reached consensus. The major interpretations to date are that the division was: (1) geographically, the patriarchal partitioning of territories to Noah’s three sons, or (2) a second distribution of these territories after the first by Noah; or (3) the split of the Pangaea continent into the modern continents or some other geological event; or (4) linguistically, the scattering of people after the confusion of the people who built the tower in Babel. This fresh and focused look at this genealogy results in added support for a new and more satisfying interpretation. A plausible answer is a theological split between these brothers, since Joktan and his lineage are connected to Canaanite settlements (Gen. 10:30).