This is it! The last post of 12 weeks of posts on the Bible Study, “In the Beginning God.”
I have thoroughly enjoyed this study on the first eleven chapters in Genesis, and I hope you have as well.
We have studied the Creation, the Fall, Adamic Covenant, Cain and Abel conflict which led to the first murder, the ungodly line of Cain and the godly line of Seth, Noah, the Ark, and the Great Flood, Noahic Covenant, the sons of Noah and their families, and now, the Tower of Babel, judgement on the family lines, and an introduction to Abraham.
Let’s get started!
Chapter eleven begins with: “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.” Most Scholars agree that the whole earth means the population of the earth at that time. “Had one language and one speech” means one lip, one beginning language. In Chapter ten, the author, which we understand to be Moses as the writer or compiler, established the Table of Nations which lists how the people were dispersed after the “Tower of Babel” event of Chapter 11. Does that make sense? The “Table of Nations” is the list of the people who were dispersed at the confusion of languages at Babel (Gen. 11: 5-9).
So now that we have this background info, let’s move on to verse 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.” What does “from the east” mean? This is referring to the general location of where the Ark rested in the mountains of Ararat. Remember that in Genesis 9:7 God told Noah and his sons to “…be fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it.” We also see it in verse 1 of Genesis 9. This was a repeat of the Adamic Covenant to populate the earth in Gen. 1:28. God had a charge for man: to fill the earth. Here, in this verse, the people were together, journeying together as a group. They were not fulfilling their God-given charge to populate and fill the earth. God had gloriously saved a remnant from the judgement of the Flood, but they were not being obedient to the LORD. This group had multiplied but refused to go out to fill the earth. This is disobedience which is sin, and sin has consequences. It is unadulterated rebellion.
The people, the offspring of Noah through his sons: Shem, Japheth, and Ham, settled on a plain in a region called Shinar. Shinar is believed to be a site in what would be known eventually as ancient Babylon in southern Mesopotamia. This is most likely modern-day Iran. The people dwelt there (v.2) together.
Instead of filling the land, they built a city (v.4). The people made bricks from the clay of Shinar and baked the brick to harden them. They used brick because no stone was available, and to secure the brick they used mortar (v. 3). In verse 4, we see their rebellion, and we see their arrogance and pridefulness. “Come let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the whole earth.” To build a city was in direct rebellion of God’s mandate to fill the earth. The tower shows their arrogance in that they believed they could approach God on their terms instead of His. Man must approach God in reverence and in humility. The building of this grand tower that they bragged would reach the heavens, indicates they were neither humble, nor did they revere God. They were arrogant. We can assume they knew who God was, because they were most likely taught about what He had done to preserve a remnant from the water judgement of the earth, but, like in the Garden, they believed a lie.
How true is this quote from the book, The Genius of Ancient Man: Evolution’s Nightmare:
“It is important to note that the rebellion at Babel did not begin with the building of the tower. It was really set in motion in Genesis 3 with the serpent’s first attack on God’s Word. Satan deceived man, cast doubt on God’s truth, and tempted man with the independence; that disobedient bit of fruit was man’s first attempt to ‘be like God, knowing good and evil’ (Genesis 3:5). Babel was simply the next step in Satan’s plan to undermine God’s authority and to become like Him.”1
They wanted to be people of renown; they wanted to be known for their great city making feat. They wanted bragging rights; again, it shows their arrogance, and also their pridefulness. The unification to build the city was their way of defying God. The people on the plains of Shinar unified together and rebelled against God. Their faith was not in God, but in themselves. (Humanism? Is it not?)
Retrospective Question: What does your life attest to: faith in yourself or faith in God? Ouch, right?
Satan, as the deceiver, perverts. That is his method of operation because he cannot create. He took a concept, city building, which originated with God (Psalm 46:4 and Revelation 21:2) and used it to usurp God’s authority over man. Satan used Nimrod, a son of Cush, who was a son of Ham, to build Babel. (See Genesis 10: 10.) He used the people as agents to establish a one-world government and a one-world religion. Satan counterfeited God’s governance and God’s worship for his own means to lead people away from worshiping the One True God. (The book, “The Genius of Ancient Man: Evolution’s Nightmare” goes into detail about this topic. I recommend getting this book. It’s quite fascinating in its depth of information on ancient man’s genius. You can find it on www.masterbooks.net.)
In their deception, man discounted God’s governance over them. They already knew what would happen to them, but they rebelled anyway. They were trying by their own effort to not go out and make new nations. You can see this in verse 4, “lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the earth.” They knew what God wanted them to do, yet it did not matter to them. They sought to follow their own way. It’s still man’s (the whole of mankind) goal to follow after his own way, instead of following after God. (See Romans 1.)
I like this portion from John Piper’s sermon on Genesis 11:1-9 on the human condition we see displayed in the account about Babel. ‘God’s will for human beings is not that we find our joy in being praised, but that we find our joy in knowing and praising him. His will is not that we find our security in cities but in God whom we gladly obey. So the spectacular sin of man is that even after the flood, which was a thunderclap of warning against sin for Noah and his descendants, it turns out that we are no better after the flood than we were before. The human condition is just like it was with Adam and Eve. They will decide for themselves what is best. They think they can even rise up and claim the place of God. This is the story of mankind to this very day apart from redeeming grace.’2
“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built (v.5).” Scripture by using “sons of men” indicates these people were not followers of God. God did not come down to admire what the people had built in unity, instead He came to observe and then bring forth His just consequence for the sin of rebellion. Verse 6 indicates God perfectly understood man’s tendency toward sin, and, as being unified in their rebellion, they would continue to rebel, unified by language and location, but this was not the unification God desired and commanded of them. Man is to seek after God and not after man’s ways. Attempting to approach God from man’s point-of-view and reasoning, is not approaching God in reverence and humility. There was no humility in these rebellers at Babel (see v. 4).
In verse 7 and 8, we see God judging the people for their communal and personal sin. First, God confused their language so that they could not understand each other. The pronoun “US” is used here. This is a reference to the triune God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This confusing of languages forced the people to scatter into groups of the same language which we know to be the family groups described in Genesis 10. The scattering abroad is the second thing God judgement for the people, and thirdly, because they could no longer jointly build a city since they were without a central language, the building of the city ceased. What they were not willing to do in obedience, God forced them to do as a consequence of their disobedience.
In verse 9, we learn the name the city is given, Babel, and we learn its meaning. Babel means that because the LORD confused the language there, the people had to scatter abroad over all the earth. I personally can’t help but wonder if the people had obeyed God originally, would we have such a mixture of languages today? We’ll never know for certain.
In Genesis 11: 10-26 we have the genealogy of Shem once again, but only shown through his son, Arphaxad. If you were to carefully lay out a timeline of the men from Noah to Abram (Abraham), you would see that Noah and Shem were alive when Abram was born. Pretty amazing. Right? That’s the life span of 11 men compared against one another. Noah was Abram’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather (seven greats—WOW! If I counted right. LOL). A person today is blessed to see a great grandson or great granddaughter’s birth. Noah living long enough that he most likely was there when Abraham was born, is truly astounding.
Although we don’t know the names of the other offspring of these men (at least the majority) we know they had other sons and daughters because Scripture tells us it was so.
When we get to the last man listed in the verses 10-26, we are given more than one name of a son. Terah, Abram’s father, has three sons: Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Verses 27-32 inform us of Terah’s genealogy. Again, it is repeated that he fathered three sons. We learn in verse 27 Haran fathered Lot. (We’ll see more of lot in Part Two of our study on Genesis.) Scripture also tells us Haran dies before his father, Terah, in the land of his birth, Ur, which is ran by the Chaldeans. Several sites on the internet point to the Josephus, the Jewish historian, stating that the Chaldeans were descendants of Arphaxad. This makes the Chaldeans, Semites, as are the Hebrews, who are from the line of Abram through Isaac. (Yes, getting ahead of the study, but it helps to establish relations.)
In verse 29, we are given a few more facts about the sons of Terah. Abram and Nahor take wives. Abram’s wife is Sarai, who, in a subsequent chapter, it is revealed she was Abram’s half-sister. Nahor’s wife is also his niece, Milcah, whose father is Haran. We are also told Haran fathered Iscah, also a daughter. Verse 30 indicates that Sarai was barren.
Verse 31 gives us info on a move away from Ur prompted by Terah. Scripture doesn’t tell us why Terah decided to move away from Ur. He took his son Abram, his grandson Lot, and his daughter-in-law Sarai to Canaan, to a city called Haran. It is in Haran where Terah dies at the age of 205 years (see v. 32.)
Here we are, at the end of our study of Genesis 1-11. Have you learned anything new? Any new insights discovered? I hope you have multiple take-aways from these Chapters.
Here are a few take-aways I hope you’ve seen…
God is a God of order.
God’s plan always succeeds.
God is sovereign over all things.
God is the Creator of the Universe and of all living things.
God cares for His Creation.
God is never shocked by mankind.
God requires us to approach Him in humility and reverence.
God expects obedience.
God isn’t fooled by man.
God isn’t surprised by our disobedience.
God will not be mocked.
God is merciful in judgement.
God is self-assured.
God is holy and righteous.
God takes our obedience or lack thereof, very seriously.
Any more you would like to list? Please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section. I do screen comments, just so you know.
Well, what does our study look like going forward from here?
“Part Two” will tentatively begin on August 13.
The first session will be over Chapter 12. I will most likely give the questions for Chapter 12 within the next two weeks. Be prepared for the first session to immediately begin with an overview of Chapter 12. Over the next week, I’m going to work on an outline for the next 12 weeks of the study. I will be able to give you more info when I upload the questions for Chapter 12. This upload (questions) will be a preview which will include a summary of Part One and an introduction to our next 12 weeks (“Part Two”).
Ladies, I hope you’ll join me again in August for Part Two. We are going to delve into a study of our first Patriarch: Abraham. I’m tentatively calling “Part Two,” Patriarchs: Called Out, Abraham.
I can’t wait to get started, but its summer and its good to take a rest sometimes. Of course, you are free to jump ahead, or review back over the previous 12 weeks.
Have a great break! See you, August 13!
1Landis, Don, General Editor. The Genius of Ancient Man: Evolution’s Nightmare. (Jackson Hole: Jackson Hole Bible College, 2012).
2Piper, John. Message on Genesis 11:1-9. https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-pride-of-babel-and-the-praise-of-christ
For Further Information:
Article on Genesis 11:1-9:
Multiple links on the Tower of Babel: