Genesis 11 - Outline of Genesis (MENU page)
11:1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
11:2 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.
Shinar is Babylonia, the area of the Euphrates River, the land of Nimrod (Mic 5:6).
See note at Gen 10:8.
the whole earth was of one language... - ch.11 marks the beginning of Language diversity.
11:3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly.
And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
11:4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top [may reach] unto heaven;
and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
11:5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
11:6 And the LORD said,
Behold, the people [is] one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do:
and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
11:7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language,
that they may not understand one another's speech.
11:8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth:
and they left off to build the city.
11:9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel;
because the LORD did there confound
{HB=balal} the language of all the earth:
and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
The gathering at Babel represents man's first 'association.'
A. Its objects were - -
  1. totally in the earth: 'a city,' and 'a tower.'
  2. with no thought toward God: Note that they were not seeking a way to Heaven.
    Rather, they were intent on building (literally): ''a tower with the heavenlies in its top'' (a reference to astrology). They were engaged in a false religion which ''worshipped & served the creature, more than the Creator.'' (Rom 1:25)
B. Its purpose was humanistic self-exaltation, to the exclusion of God.
  1. let us make brick - Their plan was self-conceived.
  2. let us build us a city - Their hope was self-constructed.
  3. let us make us a name - Their goal was self-commendation.
    A 'name' might provide a false sense of worth (a reputation) and immortality (a remembrance). cp. Psa 49:11-13
  4. lest we be scattered abroad (ie., 'let us maintain our unity.') - Their god was self-confidence.
These underlying attitudes are also present when Babylon later appears in scripture:
  1. Dan 4:30 - 'Is not this great Babylon, which I have built...?'
  2. Babylon in its final form consists of men...
    1. united by a false religion, Rev 17:1-6
    2. united against God (inspite of the confusion of tongues, Rev 17:15)
    3. united politically (with the antichrist), Rev 17:12,13
    4. united around the material things of earth (the economy & commerce, Rev 18:3)
    5. united in rebellion against the Lord, Rev 19:19
C. Its end - judgment.
  1. the confusion of language - v.7
    The great divider of humanity is not race or color, but language.
    Modern man is attempting to overcome this hindrance to self-determination by means of his technology. Translation software is making strides at removing the language barrier between people groups. A few software companies have utilized the Tower of Babel as a logo or theme in their advertising.
  2. the scattering of the nations- v.8
    Their humanistic purpose was brought to nothing. v.4; cp. Psa 2:1-5; Isa 8:9,10
    The final form of Babylon will also come to nothing. Rev 18:1-11
  3. Note that God, in executing His judgment, is not divided in His purpose or Persons.
    He says: ''Come, Let us go down...'' v.7; cp. 1:26
         But why was it necessary, for God, to interrupt the united purpose of mankind? Because, of the danger that all the people of earth, including the line of promise, would embrace the error of this self-centered false religion (v.6). God's purpose was to preserve a godly people, which worshipped the true and living God, in order that the Savior of the world could come through them (as the promised 'seed of the woman,' Gen 3:15). God acted, not to prevent the united world from usurping His position (for that would be impossible), but rather to mercifully provide the way of salvation for all peoples.
Babel- the name:
  • They called their city & tower ''Bab-el'': 'the gate of god.'
    But the name they honored was their own (v.4).
    Through the false religion of Nimrod, men thought they were on a path to godhood (self-deification).
         As we have seen, fallen man still retains something of the image of God, but in a distorted form (Gen 9:6). Before his fall, Lucifer ('light bearer') also reflected God's glory. Like Satan, fallen man has fallen in love with the image which he sees in himself. Focused upon this broken mirror, man turns his back to the God of Glory (Isa 42:8; Acts 7:2). Self-deceived, man, like Satan, wants to "be like God..." but independent of God, and free of His dominion (Isa 14:12-14; Psa 2:1-3). Yet, the image within man is empty, for it is but a dim reflection of the One in whom all fulness dwells (Col 1:19).
         In the final form of Babylon, man will think he has attained his goal. 2The 2:3,4; Rev 13:8
  • God gave a meaning to their name that was consistent with their purpose: 'confusion.'
    In v.9, there is a play on words between Babel and 'confound' {HB= balal, 'to confuse'}. Today, 'Babel' is synonomous with 'babble.'
There is no confusion in the multitude of tongues when they...
Those who submit themselves to the true God, in faith, will be brought into His glory by His means (Joh 1:14-18; 2Cor 4:6; Heb 2:10; Jude 1:25).
 

11:10 These [are] the generations of Shem:
The focus again turns to the line of promise leading to the Messiah.
The families of the earth drift out of sight, except as they interact with this line.
Shem - means 'name.' In Hebrew, 'Ha Shem' ('the Name') is a title for God. cp. Gen 4:26
There is no hope in the 'name' that man would make for himself. v.4
Our only hope is in the Savior whom God promised -
Shem [was] an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
11:11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years,
and begat sons and daughters.
11:12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah:
11:13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years,
and begat sons and daughters.
11:14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber:
11:15 And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years,
and begat sons and daughters.
11:16 And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg:
11:17 And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years,
and begat sons and daughters.
11:18 And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu:
11:19 And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years,
and begat sons and daughters.
11:20 And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug:
11:21 And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years,
and begat sons and daughters.
11:22 And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor:
11:23 And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years,
and begat sons and daughters.
11:24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:
11:25 And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years,
and begat sons and daughters.
11:26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
In the list above, note that -
  • Each man's lifespan divides at the son in the line of the promise (as in ch.5).
  • The average lifespan is rapidly diminishing. Shem lived 600 years, Nahor lived only 148 years. Apparently, post-Flood conditions on earth became less favorable to human longevity. (See the Book Notes at Genesis 5:5.)
Eber - The name 'Hebrew' derives from Eber.
- - In scripture, the first person referred to as a Hebrew is Abram. Gen 14:13
- - Some suggest that, when God confused the tongues at Babel, since Eber represented the line of promise, God graciously allowed Eber to retain the original language spoken by Adam.
11:27 Now these [are] the generations of Terah:
Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
11:28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.
11:29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives:
the name of Abram's wife [was] Sarai;
and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah,
the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.
11:30 But Sarai was barren; she [had] no child.
The geneaology of Shem's descendants (v.10-26) briefly mentions the birth of successive sons in the line leading to the Messiah. Other children are not named. Very few details are given concerning any generation. The genealogy of Terah (in v.27-30) is expanded, to explain the family relationships of Abram, to whom the LORD will make specific promises relating to His purposes.
11:31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son,
and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife;
and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan;
and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.
11:32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.
Ur of the Chaldees was located in lower Mesopotamia,
between Babylon and the southern end of the Euphrates River.
Terah's departure from Ur was apparently prompted by God's call upon Abram. cp. 12:1; Acts 7:2-4
While enroute to Canaan, the family settled at a location about 600 miles upriver from Ur. Apparently, Terah decided not to go any further, named the site in honor of his deceased son Haran, and settled in. Abram's journey to Canaan was interrupted until his father's death.
Abram's life is dated at approximately 2000 B.C.
From the dating in the genealogies of ch.11, the birth of Abram may have been -
  • about 190 years after the Tower of Babel, and
  • about 110 years before the death of Shem.
Caution: In the Hebrew genealogies, words like 'begot' or 'son' do not always refer to the next in line, but sometimes to a grandson or great-grandson. Awareness of this fact will minimize confusion when comparing similar genealogical lists where some individuals appear to be missing. However, this fact also introduces some uncertainty when attempting to date individuals or events.

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