The Origin of the Nations: We All Came from One Family
The Bible makes it very clear that all people are descended from Adam and Eve. Eve "... was the mother of all living." (Genesis 3:20). Furthermore, the Bible explains that all of mankind are descended from Noah and his wife and Noah's three sons, named Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives. These eight were the only survivors of the global flood (2 Peter 2:5), which took place less than 4500 years ago.
Some have suggested that the flood was only local, but that is clearly not the case. If the flood were only local, there would have been no need to build an ark. Noah and his family could have simply gone on a journey. Nor would there have been any need to bring pairs of all of the animals on board the ark. Genesis 7:19 make it clear that the flood was global. "And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered."
Chapter 10 of Genesis explains how the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham, and Japheth became the progenitors of the various peoples of the earth. The Russians, Italians, Ethiopians, Aztecs, Chinese, Aborigines, Egyptian, and all other peoples came from this one family.
One may then wonder, if we all come from one family, then why do we all look so different? This is not even an issue in scripture. For the most part, God's Word does not even bother to explain it. In fact, only on rare occasions does the Bible give any information about the appearance of an individual or group of people.
None-the-less, we do know that something made the various peoples of the world begin to look different from one another. So that this will not become a stumbling stone to the faith of some, I offer an explanation here.
I am a keeper of many different fresh-water fish. In my small pond, I have several koi, a type of carp originally from Asia. Just a little over 200 years ago, all koi were black, their natural color in the wild. Now there are yellow, white, red, orange, blue, green, black, gray, silver, and multi-colored koi. The major factor in determining the color of koi is genetics, but color is not determined by genetics alone. In his book, "The Completely Illustrated Guide to Koi for Your Pond", page 203, prominent ichthyologist, Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod wrote, "Genetics and environment interact to form the final colors in koi."
Color is not the only variable in koi. From the original full thick scaled pattern have come koi with no scales, koi with tiny scales, koi with alternating rows of scales and bare skin, koi with very shiny scales, and koi with sparsely scattered scales. Some koi have light colored scales with dark centers, which give the scales a reticulated, pine cone appearance. Some koi with very long tails and fins, and some have very shiny skin that reflects the sunlight. Some koi may grow to more than three feet in length, while other koi may barely reach one foot.
It is very easy for a wide range of physical characteristics to develop in only a few generations, as evidenced both by koi and many types of domestic animals. From Adam and Eve came all races. As with the example of the koi, the environment as well as genetics plays a major role in the appearance of people. Latitude, and thus exposure to the sun, has a large influence on the color of one's skin. Look at a map of the eastern hemisphere. Africa is the only eastern continent that crosses the equator. Thus, central and southern portions of Africa have the darkest people in the world. Slightly farther to the north, the people from Egypt, India, and Pakistan are lighter, but still very dark. Moving further to the north you have the lighter Middle Easterners, the Spanish, and the Turks. The French and Italians are still lighter. The more northern Europeans from England and Germany as well as the Russians are fair. Finally, the lightest skinned people of all are found in the far north in Finland, Sweden, and Norway. This is no coincidence. Certainly, sun exposure is not the only factor in determining skin color. However, the incredibly strong correlation of skin pigmentation and latitude in the eastern hemisphere proves that sun exposure is the largest factor in the determining skin pigmentation of groups of people over thousands of years.
The Bible is not completely silent about this. In Luke 11:31, Jesus said, "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here." Referred to as the queen of Sheba, probably from Ethiopia, her visit is described in 1 Kings 10:1-13. Now look at these passages from the Song of Solomon: "I am black, but comely ... I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me ..." (Song of Solomon 1:5-6). By comparison, she says to Solomon several times "... thou art fair ..." (Song of Solomon 1:15-16).
At this point, one may wonder: If sun exposure is the largest factor in the determining skin pigmentation in the eastern hemisphere, then why doesn't this hold true in the western hemisphere? This is a newly settled hemisphere. Most all of the people of Asia, Africa, and Europe are living very near where their ancestors have lived for thousands of years. Not only are we here in the west not where our ancestors lived, but most of us are the product of many nations. For instance, I am descended from a mixture of Irish, German, Dutch, English, Cherokee, and only the Lord knows what other peoples. So for people here in the west, our skin color would be based not as much where we live now, but more on where our ancestors lived for thousands of years.
Some people also have the incorrect notion that the color of one's skin is dictated by the son of Noah from which one is descended. Noah had three sons named Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Genealogical researchers have determined that after the scattering from Babel, Japheth's descendants settled lands that generally lie to the north of the middle east. They have also determined that most of Ham's descendants migrated into Africa. But this is only a rule of thumb and is not always the case. Canaan, one of the four sons of Ham, settled in the land that is now Israel. The Canaanites, having never moved to sunny Africa, were not black, but looked just like other middle eastern people. If the Canaanites had all moved to Sweden after the scattering from Babel, their descendants today would be very fair-skinned. The variation of people's appearances due to climate and other factors is not only plausible, but was unavoidable once the worldwide scattering from Babel occurred (Genesis 11:9), a little over 4000 years ago.
The Jews are a perfect example of this fact. Having been scattered around the world for thousands of years, the Jews now quite frequently look like the people of the country in which they live. Today there are Jews in Israel that have recently migrated from Ethiopia in Africa who are very dark, while the Jews migrating in from Russia are very fair.
Physical size is another variable among the different peoples of the world. Generally speaking, people of many of the far eastern nations are smaller than people descended from the European and African nations. Perhaps this is because they have historically consumed much less meat in their diets. There have been studies showing surprising increases in the height of Japanese men and women over the last generation due to dietary changes that include more protein.
Factors that may effect the physical characteristics of the world's peoples include sunlight exposure, climate, diet, soil content, altitude, activities, lifestyle, and other factors. We did not evolve from separate origins, as many suppose. We all came from the same family, just like the Bible says.
"God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation ...."
Copyright © 1998 Matthew McGee. All rights reserved.