The Time of Peleg
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In this comparative study, doctrine is not in question; but historical fact and clarity are. It deals with the event that took place during the days of Peleg, a descendant of Shem. The versions compared are divided into four categories. They are as follows:

  1. A geological division;
  2. A demographic division;
  3. Either type, depending on interpretation; and
  4. Two different descriptions.
Three non-Bible sources are quoted. The differences appear to have arisen from the interpretations of the translators. The passages are from Genesis 10: 25 and 1 Chronicles 1: 19. For the serious Bible student, there probably is no problem in determining what actually happened. For the person who does little studying and is confined to any one version, there can be a problem.


Versions Compared

 

AB Amplified Bible
HBME The Holy Bible in Modern English
IB Interlinear Bible
IV Inspired Version
KJV King James Version
KTC Knox Translation
LB Living Bible
LXX The Septuagint
MNT Moffatt New Translation
NBV New Berkeley Version
NCV New Century Version
NJB New Jerusalem Bible
NJPS New JPS Version
SGAT An American Translation (Smith-Goodspeed)
TEV Today's English Version


Genesis 10: 25
 
1 Chronicles 1: 19

A Geological Division

HBME ...; and to Heber were born two sons, the name of the first, Peleg; because in his days the Continent was split up; and his brother's name was Joktan.
Footnote: "Peleg" means "split" in Hebrew. "Joktan" means in the Hebrew "Lessened," probably referring to the "lessening" of the original continent by the "splitting" away of the American continents. See Prof. C. A. L. Totten's works upon this great geological convulsion. If we take a map of the two Americas, in Mercator's projection, and cut out the Atlantic, the indentations of the Eastern Americas and Western Europe and Africa fit into place. -- F. F.
...; and to Eber were born two sons. The name of the first Peleg, -- for in his days the earth was split in two. And the name of the other was Joktan.
Footnote: "Peleg" or "Phleg" or "Fleg" in Hebrew was "Split or slit off." This probably refers to the splitting off of the American Continents from Europe and Africa. "Yaktan." "Lessened." To commemorate the lessening of the primeval single mass of land. -- F. F.


A Demographic Division

AB To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg [meaning division], because [the inhabitants of] the earth were divided up in his days, and his brother's name was Joktan.
To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, because in his days [the population of] the earth was divided [according to its languages], and his brother's name was Joktan.
LB Two sons were born to Eber:
      Peleg (meaning "Division," for during his lifetime the people of the world were
            separated and dispersed), and Joktan (Peleg's brother).
Eber had two sons: Peleg (which means "Divided," for it was during his lifetime that the people of the earth were divided into different language groups), and Joktan.
MNT Two sons were born to Eber, one called Peleg (Division) because the inhabitants of the earth were divided up in his day, and his brother called Joktan.
Two sons were born to Eber, one called Peleg (Division) because the inhabitants of the earth were divided up in his day, and his brother called Joktan.
TEV Eber had two sons: one was named Peleg, because during his time the people of the world were divided; and the other was named Joktan.
Footnote: PELEG: This name sounds like the Hebrew word for "divide."
Eber had two sons; one was named Peleg, because during his time the people of the world were divided, and the other was named Joktan.
Footnote: PELEG: This name sounds like the Hebrew word for "divide."


Either Geological or Demographic

IB And two sons were born to Eber; the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.
And to Eber were born two sons. The name of the one was Peleg because in his days the earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.
IV ... And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one, Peleg, the other Joktan. And Peleg was a mighty man, for in his days was the earth divided.
[NOTE: This passage is recorded as Genesis 10: 15-16.]
And unto Eber was born two sons; the name of the one was Peleg; because in his days the earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.
KJV 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 unto Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg; because in his days the earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.
KTC Heber had two sons; one was called Phaleg, Division, because in his time the territory was divided up, and his brother's name was Jectan.
..., who had two sons; one was called Phaleg, Division, because in his time the territory was divided up, and his brother's name was Jectan.
LXX And to Heber were born two sons, the name of the one, Phaleg, because in his days the earth was divided, and the name of his brother, Jektan.
[Omitted.]
NBV Eber had two sons, one was named Peleg, because in his day the earth was divided; and his brother was called Joktan.
..., who had two sons: one called Peleg, because it was during his days that the earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.
Footnote: [Peleg] -- "Division," probably referring to the confusion of languages at Babel [Gen. 11: 1-9].
NJPS Two sons were born to Eber: the name of the first was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and the name of his brother was Joktan.
Two sons were born to Eber: the name of the one was Peleg (for in his days the earth was divided), and the name of his brother, Joktan.
SGAT To Eber were born two sons, the name of the one being Peleg [division] (for in his time the world was divided), and the name of his brother Joktan.
And to Eber were born two sons, the name of the one was Peleg, because in his days the earth was divided, and the name of his brother was Joktan.


Two Different Descriptions

NCV Eber was the father of two sons -- one named Peleg, because the earth was divided during his life, and the other was named Joktan.
Footnote: Peleg -- This name sounds like the Hebrew word for "divided."
Eber had two sons. One was named Peleg, because the people on the earth were divided into different languages during his life. Peleg's brother was named Joktan.
Footnote: Peleg -- This name sounds like the Hebrew word for "divided."
NJB To Eber were born two sons: the first was called Peleg, because it was in his time that the earth was divided, and his brother was called Joktan.
To Eber were born two sons; the first was called Peleg, because it was in his time that the earth was divided into two districts, and his brother was called Joktan.


Other Sources

 

Antiquities of the Jews, by Josephus: (I. x. 4)
"Heber beget Joctan and Phaleg: he was called Phaleg, because he was born at the dispersion of the nations to their several countries; for Phaleg, among the Hebrews, signifies division."

Smith's Bible Dictionary: (page 496)
The following is an explanation for the name Peleg, which means division, or part. "The only incident connected with his history is the statement that 'in his days was the earth divided,' an event embodied in the meaning of his name -- 'division.' The reference is to a division of the family of Eber himself, the younger branch of which (the Joktanids) migrated into southern Arabia, while the elder remained in Mesopotamia."

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible:
In the Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, word #776, 'erets, has the following definition: "the earth (at large, or partitively a land): -- X common, country, earth, field, land, X nations, way, + wilderness, world."


Commentary

 

In the first group, it was definitely a geological division which took place. Since Peleg was born just over one hundred years after the flood, why is there no mention of the process of the division of land taking place until this time? The water had long previously receded. Details of this process can be found elsewhere on the Internet. Although there is a possibility that the interpretation made by the translator has truth in it, I feel that other translators have come closer to telling what actually occurred.

In the second group, it was definitely a demographic division that took place. The story of the dispersion from the tower at Babel is described in Genesis 11. The passage which we are examining occurs in the previous chapter. Another genealogical list immediately follows the story of Babel in chapter 11. Although long time spans are often recorded in one chapter, the demographic division is a possibility.

In the third group, either explanation is possible. Thus, the reader of only one version can decide that one is correct, according to the way that the passage is understood.

In the fourth group, there is a difference in translations in the two accounts. This discrepancy may be confusing, but may help the reader to decide one way.

The definition in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is of little help in clarifying what really was divided. However, the reader may be inclined to accept the geological division from what Strong said.

Smith is clear that it was a demographic division. However, he may have limited the dispersion too much when he refers to Eber's family only.

Josephus is clear that it was people who were divided, implying the time of the time of the confusion of languages at the tower of Babel. He states that Peleg was born at the time of the dispersal, thus, the reason for his so being named. There is a lack of clarity elsewhere as to the timing of his birth.

What was divided -- the whole earth, a nation of people, or the family of Eber? You decide. A simple statement, when transferred from one language and culture to another language and culture, can take on more than one meaning. The differences are not the fault of the original writers, but of copyists and translators.