According to Genesis, the human race both before and after the Flood ignored God's direct command to spread out and fill the earth.1, 2 Despite God's warnings about the seriousness of disobedience, several generations of post-Flood people refused to budge from the Mesopotamian flood plain. To get the people moving, God had to destroy the civilization of Babel. He brought such a severe disruption of communication that people finally scattered themselves over the six habitable continents.3
According to Genesis, the disperson of humanity proceeded until an event described in Genesis 11:9 as "the dividing of the world in the time of Peleg."4 One possible take on this passage incorporates geology: Prior to Peleg's time, all of Earth's land masses were linked for ease of human migration. After that time, the people of one land mass were cut off from the people of the other land mass. A new geologic study confirms this possibility. Arctic researchers using mass spectrometer carbon-14 measurements found remains of land plants—above-sea-level plants—across the entire length of what is now called the Bering strait. These plants were alive between 40,000 and 11,000 years ago.5 The Bering strait must have been a land bridge during that era, and a survivably warm one, at that. The plant fossils dated 11,000 to 14,000 years old indicate a mean summer temperature ranging between 11.5 and 13°C (53 and 56°F).
This discovery supports a biblically and scientifically consistent hypothesis for humanity's spread. If God commanded Adam and Eve and their descendents to fill the earth about 40,000 years ago, the Bering land bridge would have made obedience possible. If God repeated the command a few thousand years later at the time of the Flood, Noah and his descendents could still have obeyed. A few generations later, when God took action to initiate that spread, the command to "fill the earth" could be fulfilled under the best existing conditions. A few thousand years later, migration became vastly more difficult, requiring significant technological advances, which did, in fact, develop later in modern times.
Let's compare this chronology with the present archeological and anthropological data. Some time before about 35,000 years ago, humans and civilization sprang up in the Mesopotamian flood plain, centered in Babel. Roughly 33,000 years ago, humans began to spread out over Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. About 12,000 years ago, large numbers of people began to settle in North and South America. About 11,000 years ago, migration from Siberia to the Americas ceased.
My guess is that Peleg's lived about 11,000 years ago. This scenario and its dates remain tentative, of course. Don't be surprised if you see revisions in the months and years ahead. Nevertheless, such a scenario had no factual foundation just a few months ago. This rapid advance in the scientific verification of anthropologically and biblically important dates—and the perfect consistency of these dates—strengthens our case for the divine inspiration and complete reliability of biblical revelation.
1. Genesis 1:28, Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV).
2. Genesis 9:7, NIV.
3. Genesis 11:1 -9, NIV.
4. Genesis 8:25, NIV.
5. Scott A. Elias, Susan K. Short, C. Hans Nelson, and Hilary H. Birks, "Life and Times of the Bering Land Bridge," Nature, 382 (1996), pp. 61-63.