GOD’S PURPOSES TRUMP HUMAN PRIDE
Genesis 10:1-11:32 January 6 2008
The Table of Nations (Gen 10: 1-32) details the spreading of
Noah’s three sons and their descendants throughout the world.
Other lists of Noah’s three sons (Gen.5:32, 6:10) begin with
Shem and then list Hamand Japheth. Here, however, Japheth
occurs first and the list ends with Shem, apparently to focus on
Abram’s [Abraham’s] descent from Shem. Japheth’s descendants
primarily occupied Asia Minor and Europe; Ham’s descendants
settled in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and parts of Arabia; and Shem’s
descendants lived in northern Mesopotamia, Syria, and other
areas of Arabia. the list has 70 nations , a perfect number and
likely symbolizing the inclusion of all people groups
God ends their ability to communicate by confusing their
language and scattered them across the earth (Gen. 11:1-9).
Terah fathered three sons—Abram , Nahor, and Haran, all three
sons married, but Haran died. Haran’s wife had producedchildren,
but Abram’s wife Sarai remained barren. Terah moved his family
from Ur of the Chaldeans, intending to settle in Canaan. Instead
Terah settled in Haran and died there (Gen.11:10-32).
1. Pride Resists God’s Purpose (Gen. 11:1-4)
Gen. 11:1 Now the whole world had one language and a common
speech. 11:2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in
Shinar and settled there. 11:3 They said to each other, “Come,
let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick
instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 11:4 Then they said, “Come,
let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the
heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be
scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
Chronologically earlier than ch. 10, this section provides
the main reason for the scattering of the peoples listed there.
The narrative is a beautiful example of inverted or hourglass
structure . (Gen.11:1) The whole world. The survivors of the
flood and their descendants (Gen.11:4,8-9).
Brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Stone and mortar
were used as building materials in Canaan. Stone was scarce
in Mesopotamia, however, so mud brick and tar were used (as
indicated by archaeological excavations).
The people’s plans were egotistical and proud. Tower. The
typical Mesopotamian temple-tower, known as a ziggurat, was
square at the base and had sloping, stepped sides that led
upward to a small shrine at the top. Reaches to the havens. A
similar ziggurat may be described in (Gen. 28:12). Other
Mesopotamian ziggurats were given names demonstrating that
they, too, were meant to serve as staircases from earth to
heaven: “The House of the Link between Heaven and Earth”
(at Larsa), “The House of the Seven Guides of Heaven and Earth”
(at Borsippa), “The House of the Foundation-platform of Heaven
and Earth” (at Babylon), “The House of the Mountain of the
Universe” (at Asshur). Name. In the OT, “name” also refers to
reputation, fame or renown. (The Nephilim were “men of renown
[lit. ‘name’],” Gen. 6:4.) At Babel (Gen.11: 9) rebellious man
undertook a united and godless effort to establish for himself,
by a titanic human enterprise, a world renown by which he would
dominate God’s creation (Gen.10:8-12; 2Sa 18:18). Scattered.
(Gen. 11: 8).
2. God Trumpe Resistance (Gen. 11:5-9)
Gen. 11:5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower
that the men were building. 11:6 The LORD said, “If as one
people speaking the same language they have begun to do this,
then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 11:7
Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will
not understand each other.” 11:8 So the LORD scattered them
from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
11:9 That is why it was called Babel —because there the LORD
confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD
scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
If. . . Then. If the whole human race remained united in the
proud attempt to take its destiny into its own hands and, by its
man-centered efforts, to seize the reins of history, there would
be no limit to its unrestrained rebellion against God. The
kingdom of man would displace and exclude the kingdom of God.
Let us. (Gen.1:1,26). God’s “Come, let us” from above counters
proud man’s “Come, let us” (Gen.11:4) from below. Not understand
and each other. Without a common language, joint effort became
impossible (Gen.11: 8).
Scattered. Gen.11:4; 9:19. God dispersed the people because of
their rebellious pride. Even the greatest of human powers cannot
defy God and long survive.
Babel. (Gen.10:10). The word is of Akkadian origin and means
“gateway to a god” (Jacob’s stairway was similarly called “gate
of heaven”; Gen.28:17). Confused. The Hebrew word used here
(BALAL) sounds like “Babel,” the Hebrew word for Babylon and the
origin of the English word “babel.”
3. Faith Cooperates with God’s Purposes (Gen. 11:27-32)
Gen. 11:27 This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father
of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot.
11:28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of
the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 11:29 Abram and Nahor
both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name
of Nahor’s wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the
father of both Milcah and Iscah. 11:30 Now Sarai was barren; she
had no children. 11:31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot
son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son
Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go
to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. 11:32
Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.
Account. The word occurs ten times in Genesis —at the
beginning of each main section . The heavens and the earth. (Gen.1:1).
The phrase “the account of the heavens and the earth” introduces
the record of what happened to God’s creation. The blight of sin
and rebellion brought a threefold curse that darkens the story of
Adam and Eve in God’s good and beautiful garden: (1) on Satan
(Gen.3:14); (2) on the ground, because of man (Gen.3:17); and (3) on
Cain (Gen.4:11). (Gen.1:1-2:3)is a general account of creation, while
(Gen.2:4-4:26) focuses on the beginning of human history. Lord God.
“LORD” (Hebrew YHWH, “Yahweh”) is the personal and covenant
name of God ( Ex 3:15), emphasizing his role as Israel’s Redeemer
and covenant Lord ( Ex 6:6), while “God” (Hebrew ELOHIM) is a
general term. Both names occur thousands of times in the OT, and
often, as here, they appear together —clearly indicating that they
refer to the same one and only God.
Ur of the Chaldeans . Possibly in northern Mesopotamia, but
more likely the site on the Euphrates in southern Iraq excavated
by Leonard Woolley between 1922 and 1934. Ruins and artifacts
from Ur reveal a civilization and culture that reached high levels
before Abram’s time. King Ur-nammu, who may have been Abram’s
contemporary, is famous for his law code.
Sarai was barren. The sterility of Abram’s wife (Gen.15:2-3;
17:17) emphasized the fact that God’s people would not come by
natural generation from the Post-babel peoples. God was bringing
a new humanity into being, of whom Abram was father (Gen.17:5),
just as Adam and Noah were fathers of the fallen human race.
They came to Haran. In Hebrew the name of the town is spelled
differently from that of Abram’s brother (Gen.11:26). The
moon-god was worshiped at both Ur and Haran, and since Terah
was an idolater (Jos 24:2) he probably felt at home in either
place. Haran was a flourishing caravan city in the 19th century
B.C. In the 18th century it was ruled by Amorites (Gen.10:16).
The Hebrew word for "tower" typically refers to a tall
structure that provided an observation post and sometimes a
refuge for a city’s citizens. From a tower, soldiers could watch
for an enemy (2 Kings9:17). If an enemy attacked, a fortified
tower could be used to make a last stand and perhaps to survive
the attack (Judg. 9:50-51).
The Hebrew word for "tower" is derived from a verb
meaning "become great". Isaiah referred to towers as symbols
of human pride (Gen. 2:12-15), and thus these structures
represented people’s trust in their abilities rather than in God.
Many Bible students believe the Tower of Babylon was
a ziggurat, a pyramid with stepped side rather than smooth
sides. Babylonians popularized ziggurats in the ancient world.