How was earth divided at Peleg’s time?

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By BibleAsk Team


The mention of Peleg in the book of Genesis has intrigued readers and scholars for centuries due to the enigmatic statement that “in his days the earth was divided” (Genesis 10:25, NKJV). This brief reference to Peleg’s time has led to various interpretations and speculations regarding the nature of this division.

While some have proposed geological explanations, such as continental drift. Geologists believe that, in the past, the continents formed as a single land mass called Pangaea. And the “continental drift” theory (plate tectonics) introduced the idea that this land mass broke off into continents which slowly drifted apart forming our world today. And some Bible commentators teach that Genesis 10:25 points to this Phenomenon.

Others argue for a human factor, particularly in light of the subsequent narrative in Genesis 11 concerning the Tower of Babel. Examining the context and details provided in the biblical text, along with historical and archaeological insights, can shed light on whether the division referenced during Peleg’s time was of geological or human origin.

The Biblical Context

The reference to Peleg in Genesis 10:25 is mentioned within the genealogical account of Noah’s descendants. “To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan” (Genesis 10:25 also 1 Chronicles 1:19).

The chapter traces the lineages of Noah’s sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—and their descendants, detailing the dispersion of peoples and nations after the flood. Peleg is mentioned as part of the genealogy, but no further explanation is given regarding the nature of the division that occurred during his time. The narrative then transitions into the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, which provides additional insights into the division among humanity.

The Tower of Babel

Immediately following the mention of Peleg, the narrative in Genesis 11 recounts the story of the Tower of Babel. The wicked people of the world tried to build a tower to “make a name” for themselves in rebellion against heaven (Genesis 11:4). According to the text, the people of the earth were united in language and purpose.

However, God intervened by confusing their language so they could no longer understand one another. “That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:9). This resulted in the dispersion of humanity across the earth (Genesis 11:1-9). This event is traditionally understood as the origin of linguistic diversity and the subsequent formation of different nations and cultures.

Geological Division

Scholars and theologians have offered various interpretations regarding the division referenced during Peleg’s time. Some propose a geological explanation, suggesting that it refers to the breakup of continents or landmasses due to processes such as continental drift. However, this interpretation lacks direct biblical support and relies heavily on modern scientific understanding, which may not align with the ancient context of the text.

As for the theory of Pangaea, it is possible that the Lord created on single mass of land at the Creation (Genesis 1:9-10). But this land mass was divided by the natural geological effects of Noah’s flood. The catastrophic flood could easily create a global tectonic shifts and divisions in the surface of the earth thus causing the splitting of the land mass for “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up” (Genesis 7:11).

Human Division

A more widely accepted interpretation among biblical scholars is that the division referenced during Peleg’s time is of human origin, specifically related to the events of the Tower of Babel. The Bible affirms the human division and separation of, “everyone according to his own language, according to their families, into their nations” (Genesis 10:5) and “in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood” (Genesis 10:32). 

And since the confusion of tongues happened around the time of Peleg’s birth, we can easily understand why he got his name Peleg, “division” for “in his days was the earth divided.” Today, there are thousands of languages that can be traced back to the varied linguistic roots of the time of Babel.

This view emphasizes the thematic and narrative connection between Genesis 10 and 11, suggesting that the division mentioned in Genesis 10:25 serves as a precursor or foreshadowing of the events described in Genesis 11. The dispersion of peoples and languages at Babel resulted in the formation of distinct nations and territories, fulfilling the prophecy or statement regarding the division during Peleg’s time.

Historical and Archaeological Insights

While the biblical text provides limited details regarding the division during Peleg’s time, archaeological and historical research can offer additional context. Ancient Near Eastern texts and inscriptions have been discovered that contain accounts of migrations, conflicts, and territorial divisions among ancient peoples. These findings corroborate the biblical narrative of human movements and the establishment of distinct ethnic groups and nations.

Theological Significance

Regardless of the exact nature of the division during Peleg’s time, the biblical narrative underscores important theological themes, including God’s sovereignty over human history, the consequences of human rebellion and disobedience. The division serves as a reminder of God’s judgment on human pride and self-reliance, as seen in the Tower of Babel narrative, while also highlighting His ability to work through human events to fulfill His purposes.

In conclusion, the division referenced during the time of Peleg in the book of Genesis pertains to the events surrounding the Tower of Babel, rather than geological factors such as continental drift. While the biblical text does not provide explicit details, the thematic connection between Genesis 10 and 11 suggests a human origin for the division, particularly in light of the subsequent narrative of linguistic dispersion and cultural diversification at Babel. This interpretation is supported by historical, archaeological, and theological considerations, which highlight the biblical accounts with broader human history and God’s redemptive plan.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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