Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.
The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras…
The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan…
…And children were born also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder (the elder brother of Japeth according to the RSV). The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram.
Genesis 10:1-2, 6, 21-22 (Emphasis, notes mine)
Japeth and Shem both loved and respected their father and patriarch king; neither looked forward to the day they would have to lead their posterity away from him to fill the earth as God commanded. Although Ham was still bitter over the curse their father had put on his son Canaan, and the blessings his brothers had received (and he had not), he was close to his brothers and would not stay if they left. God had commanded them to fill the earth, although, He had not said when they had to do it. Thus, there was confusion over how and when this was to be done. So it was, that Noah told them when their sons’ sons got married, they would leave his domain and head off into their respective lands in which he gave them.
After some time, their numbers did begin to swell. It was here that Ham’s son Cush proposed an alternative solution to their growing dilemma. He argued to his uncles (Shem and Japeth), as well as to his cousins (Gomer, Magog, Elam, Asshur, et. al.) that since God had not said when they had to leave, or even how far, they could both meet God’s intent, as well as not moving too far from their aging patriarch Noah. He proposed they simply move further south to the fertile and warmer plains of Shinar (Shem’s territory). He further argued that Noah, who was now over 700 years old, was getting up in years, and they didn’t know how much longer he would be around.
This solution sounded palatable to all three brothers.
However well-meaning they might have appeared on the surface, Cush’s intentions were not altruistic. He was seeking a means to avenge his father's missing blessing, as well as his younger brother Canaan, for the curse placed on him by his grandfather. He was also seeking to diminish the blessing Noah put on Shem and Japeth by subordinating their rightful land claims. Strategically, he decided to play on their affections for their beloved patriarch, and get them to delay claiming their respective lands by having them all settle in one location (Shinar).
Cush further plotted that if they did this, they would inevitably begin intermarrying to the point where their land-claims would be confused and complicated by the intermingling bloodlines. Moreover, he and his brothers Mizraim, Put, and Canaan had already conspired to then set out on discrete scouting parties to claim and settle the rest of the lands while the rest dawdled, thus establishing “beachheads” for the line of Ham forever. To add insult to injury, Cush's son, Nimrod, was ascending quickly in popularity and in position. He would use Nimrod to began asserting his authority there in the meantime.
Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.” And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land, he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city). Genesis 10:8-12
The brothers (Shem, Japeth, and presumably even Ham) were unaware of Cush’s secretive plans to ultimately disenfranchise them all of their lands. Cush’s son Nimrod was growing fast, and he was a terribly fearsome sight to behold. He was big, over 7ft in height, and had a commanding presence wherever he went. He was a natural and had already displayed his leadership prowess leading the caravans south to the plains of Shinar.
Nimrod began taking on more assertive roles like scouting missions to areas all along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers to find suitable areas to settle. He would then come back to the main party with his reports. He suggested they break their camps up into the small communities in the areas he had spotted, and thus, would help them settle into them, thus, fulfilling the commands to fill the earth. Few dared to challenge him on this issue, as he began asserting himself more aggressively into the role of leader over these growing enclaves.
Nimrod’s primary city he established and the one he spent the most time at, was Babel. It was here he founded his base of operations and used it to organize his forces loyal to himself. He suggested they build a tower “which reached into the heavens” should God ever decide to flood the world again. At first, this idea seemed ludicrous given God’s promise by way of the rainbow, but enough time had passed and Noah’s descendants began to forget. The only ones now who had been alive during the flood were the four patriarchs (Noah, Shem, Japeth, and Ham) and their spouses. None of their descendants had known the world before and had everything passed to them in oral tradition to the point it was now becoming almost legend. Thus, by inserting doubt into God's promise, building a tall tower indeed seemed like a pragmatic mission.
However, Nimrod also had a more nefarious reason for building the tower (aside from escaping a future flood). The tower would take time to build, thus by preoccupying their dispersal, he could help carry out his father’s wish to avenge Canaan and their patriarch’s (Ham) name by uniting all three families into a single bloodline under his authority.
Author’s note: Although presumably unknown to Nimrod, Satan had previously attempted to contaminate the gene pool by having fallen angels intermingling with human women. He almost succeeded in the end, reducing the human population down to Noah and his family by way of God's judgment. This second attempt by Satan was for the same effect, however, he was now limited to using a man to prevent the coming of the future Messiah by contaminating the bloodlines through human intermarriage.
It was here that we pick up on the story with the ongoing construction at Babel. Presumably, the people were from all three families, and they had been convinced that building this tower was the right thing to do.
Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:1-4
The Lord, already knowing the intentions and machinations of Ham, Cush, Canaan, and Nimrod, would not allow this plan to move forward. They (the Triune Godhead) decided that they would not only split man up by confusing their languages, but would also take the three lines (Shem, Ham, and Japeth) and physically disperse them across the face of this new world.
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. Genesis 11:1-9
And the ramifications of this judgment are still felt around the world today.
Volume III (March 29th) will look more at Babel and the dispersion of mankind