The Days Of Peleg
By James Donahue
Peleg, a fifth generation descendant of Noah, is briefly
mentioned in the tenth chapter of the Book of Genesis:
“And unto Eber were born two sons: the name
of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan.”
And within that brief story we find a mystery. There
is no explanation of the dividing of the Earth, or why Peleg’s name should be uniquely associated with it. If Peleg
and Joktan were brothers, why wasn’t the Earth divided in their days?
This vexing little question has rippled through my
mind ever since I once did an extensive study in Genesis. Obviously the same question has crossed the minds of a few theologians
and even an occasional geologist.
There is a theory, based mostly upon new and intricate
maps of the ocean bottoms and shapes of the land, that the continents have been split apart, possibly more than once. For
example, if you could push Europe and Africa flush against North and South America, they would almost fit perfectly together
like parts of a jigsaw.
Creationist Dr. John Morris dismisses the thought
that such a splitting of continents occurred quickly, during the life of Peleg. He argues: “any scheme of rapid separation
would itself cause havoc on the earth. If the Atlantic Ocean opened up rapidly, the destructive tsunamis, earthquakes and
volcanoes would make life impossible on earth.”
We tend to agree with Morris on this. Had such an
event occurred so soon after the catastrophic events that brought Noah and his followers back to dry land, we should have
yet a second myth (memory) of escape similar to the flood story.
It also begs the question: If Noah had help from outside
forces that perhaps moved a remnant of humanity through time, why would they be dropped on the planet at a time preceding
a second catastrophic event of that magnitude?
Yet the author of this story within the Book of Genesis
clearly chooses to separate Peleg from the rest of the names in the genealogy of the family of Noah by saying that in his
days was the earth divided.
The very name Peleg is similar to the Hebrew word
Palag, which means “divided.”
Clearly something significant was going on in the
known world during Peleg’s time. A careful study of Chapter 10 gives us an important clue. The genealogy breaks down
into families of the three sons of Noah. Each family moved off into various parts of the known world and established small
tribal kingdoms that later grew to be countries with apparent borders.
Even if they were not yet able to make paper and publish
maps of the territory, the people of that day may have been very capable of establishing territorial jurisdictions. It seems
to be human nature to do stuff like this and even go to war over border disputes.
After only five generations, when Peleg lived, it
seems that the human race forgot its genetic and family links and was already drawing lines in the sand, marking territorial
differences. The racial, religious and political bigotries were already being established.
Thus a conclusion by Morris seems most plausible.
“The traditional interpretation relates Peleg’s
day to the division of language/family groups at the Tower of Babel. Comparing the lineage of Shem, which includes Peleg,
to the lineage of Ham, which includes Nimrod, leader of the rebellion at Babel, we find it likely that Peleg was born soon
after the dispersion (assuming the genealogies are complete).
“Thus it would have been reasonable for his
father Eber to name a son in commemoration of this miraculous event.”