Genesis 11:1-32 – Tower of Babel and Call of Avram

Genesis 11:1-32 – Tower of Babel and Call of Avram

Gen 11 – Explains how the dispersion of the nations described in chapter 10 took place. How this occurred is described in the events of Genesis 11. It explains why Nimrod left Babel (Babylon) and moved to Assyria. It also describes what happened in the days of Peleg. We learn in this chapter about the tower of Babel which was a Ziggurat used for the worship of the stars. This was a perversion of the signs that God placed in the heavens as a testimony of His work in creation.  The stars, planets, the sun, and the moon were created to serve man (Gen 1:14; Ps. 19:1-2).  Astrology, whose roots were in Babel taught that the stars impacted the destiny of human life, as opposed to God, and therefore they were worshipped and studied. This system and worship served the purposes of Satan in several ways.  Not only did it direct worship and focus away from a loving Creator, but it also served to unify man under one government.  The unifying of government and religion is a scenario of the last days outlined in the book of Revelation.  Babel and later Babylon were a primary source for the world’s substitute religious ways directing man away from the one true God and the one way He designated for man to approach Him. The idea of ritualism, idolatry, and worldly philosophy pervasive in Churchianity has its roots in Babylon.  In Gen 9:1 God commanded the sons of Noah to be fruitful and fill the earth.  To help make this possible God ordained human governments. We see this implied in the command of (Gen 9:6)  “”Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” God saw different populations divided into workable clans that would eventually become nations. These clans and later nations would be rewarded or punished based on their faithfulness to God and His ways.  Israel was described as God’s first born among the nations (Ex 4:22) and was to be an example for all nations. We shall see this as we continue our studies in Genesis. 

V. 1-3 – Immediately after the Flood, “the whole earth” was speaking only one language. This description reflects the unity of the human family, which descended from Noah’s sons. It also anticipates the expanding sin of mankind (11:6). People migrated eastward after the flood to Mesopotamia and began to build a city there.  Perhaps they thought they could get back to the garden by naming the two major rivers the Tigris and Euphrates after two of the four streams mentioned in Eden in Gen 2.  What the language was at this time has been the source of much debate, but in all likelihood it was Hebrew/Chaldee/Aramaic.  This is likely because the name of people and places have meanings only in those languages.  Language is an amazing gift, God has described Himself as “The Word”, and Jesus is the “Living Word”. The reason man was given the ability to communicate was primarily for fellowship with God, and secondarily to speak with one another.  It was man’s actions to subvert this gift that God’s judgment came on Babel came.  As we saw in Gen 10 Nimrod was the leader of the people and began to organize them in the production of bricks and mortar for the construction of a building.  In a river valley good stones are not readily available so building materials needed to be fashioned. The tar was from the abundant fossil fuel in the area. 

V 4 – The intention of the city and the tower was to achieve greatness (a “name”), and to strengthen their resolve to remain together, rather than spread throughout the world as God had commanded. This strategy has not gone out of style; virtually every nation seeks to make a name for itself. Archaeologists have unearthed these step-towers, known as ziggurats, which (unlike the Egyptian pyramids) were used as temples.  These builders were not concerned about God’s plans they had their own “so that we may make a name for ourselves” They determined not to allow God’s will to be accomplished “so that they would not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  The tower was not only for political/propaganda purposes but it also served as a religious rallying point as well. Karl Marx was correct when he said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses”.  Religion like opium is addictive and can distract from a personal relationship with God.  Satan is the author of religion.  Man sees religion as pleasing to God, but in fact mocks God and His will for their  lives.  It is man reaching up to God in a way that seems right to him, rather than acknowledging his weakness and frailty and coming to God in His appointed way.  Samuel rebuked King Saul and his religious approach (1 Sam 15:22) “But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”  What was true for Israel is true for the church and each of us individually today.  Cain thought his offering was suitable, but it was not what God required. 

V 5-6 – The Lord is generally slow in reacting to the imaginings and ungodly plans of man.  But in this case the Lord felt immediate action was needed.  This is the second time that we find God leaving heaven and coming “down” to earth.  The first is when He walked in the garden, one might also construe that He came down when Enoch walked with the Lord in Gen 5:22.  The appearance of God in the flesh is a “theophany”. When this occurs, it is a pre-incarnation appearance of Jesus.  The action was likely taken because if left unchecked it would quickly eliminate God’s testimony on the earth.  The Lord saw the problem as the unity of their language.  It is this kind of ungodly unity that will mark the first 3 ½ years of peace during the reign of the antichrist. 

V. 7 – So, God confused their languages or tongues; the miraculous undoing of this judgment occurred in Acts chapter 2 as a sign that God was providing the way back to Himself.  Wycliffe Bible translators have undertaken the immense task of putting the Word of God in all the languages of the world.  There are thousands of different languages on the face of the earth, the root of these different languages was founded here thousands of years ago. 

V 8 – When the languages of mankind were confused, man was forced to stop building and scattered over the surface of the earth as God had intended.  Likely family members understood each other but otherwise everyone else sounded like babble.  Chaos must have reined, with workers unable to understand their foremen, the king unable to get his servants to do what he wanted them to do.  Fighting and confusion likely forced families and tribes who could understand each other to gather.  Each group scattered to areas where they could provide for their needs and become a cohesive company of people and over time they became nations.  As a tribe would migrate, they would occupy a geographical area where they would initially live at a subsistence level.  Initially they would likely live in caves until more permanent homes could be erected.  As they became more entrenched, they would find building materials and other resources probably progressing in a few years from cave dwellers to the “bronze” and “iron” ages.  The confusing of languages will one day be undone as was prophesied by (Zep 3:9) “”For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, That all of them may call on the name of the LORD, To serve Him shoulder to shoulder.”  A foretaste of this occurred as we mentioned on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. 

V. 9 In the Hebrew the word balal means “mingle” and from that we get the word confuse.  Later those who remained in Babel reinterpreted the name to mean Bab-el which means the “gate of God” rather than have their name associated with the judgment taken by God.  To a degree there is some truth to this, as it is the gate of god but not the God of creation.  Babylon is described as the mother of all harlots, an allusion to its spiritual adultery (Isa 1:21; Nahum 3:4). Nineveh had enticed many nations into her influence through her military power, trade, and prosperity. The mention of witchcraft suggests the use of demonic activity and a means to ensnare the nations.  Hosea 2 & Ezek. 16 speak of Israel’s spiritual adultery. 

V 10-17 – We continue in the unfolding drama of the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15).  The seed went from Adam to Seth the from Seth to Noah, from Noah to Shem (Gen 9:27).  Terah wasa the 9th generation after the flood if the genealogical records have no gaps, and that would mean that Shem was alive until after Terah’s death.  Terah then could have gotten his information from Shem. These verses give the genealogy from Arphaxad to Peleg, “in his time the earth was divided;” (10:25).  Peleg was born about 100 years after the flood which was probably the year of the dispersion at Babel. 

V 18-25 – From the time that the earth was divided we now see a marked drop in the life span of people.  One reason for this was the deleterious effect that the ultraviolet rays had on the human body.  Prior to the flood these rays were blocked by a 300-mile canopy that circled the earth.  A second likely cause for the length of days being shortened is the emotional and physical trauma the dispersion placed on mankind.  In one day their world and their security was turned upside down.  They were now forced to scatter and work together in common language groups.  These small tribes found it more difficult to thrive, and war was still another obstacle along with trauma of different languages shortened the length of man’s days.  Still another factor was the necessity of inbreeding of relatives.   

V 26-32 – Terah was the father of three sons: Abram, Nahor, and Haran.  Nahor and Haran are names of cities in Mesopotamia from whom those names may have come (Gen 24:10; 28:10).  Nahor was named for his grandfather (11:24).  Haran died leaving behind his son Lot who became attached to his uncle Abram.  Haran also had a daughter named Milcah who was raised by Nahor.  When she became old enough her uncle Nahor took her for a wife.  Sarah the wife of Abram was a daughter of Terah as was Abram, but they had different mothers so she was a half-sister.  These kinds of marriages were later be forbidden under God’s Law given to Moses.   Sarah was barren and so Abram, unlike his brothers had no children in Ur and even later when he lived in Haran.  The child of promise was to be born in the promised land. This is a significant passage of Scripture because it chronicles the call and life of Abraham. This is also a transitional passage of Scripture because it launches the movement of God from dealing with humanity as a whole to dealing with one man Abraham and his seed (the Messiah) and his descendants. The world had once again become corrupt involved in idolatry. Even Terah, the father of Abram, had become an idol worshipper (Joshua 24:2). From all that we can tell from Scripture, no one was following the true and living God.  Once again, if the godly line was to be saved if the promised seed was to be sent into the world God Himself would have to intervene and move on the scene of world history. Haran was the father of Lot the nephew of Abram who moved with Abram into the land of Canaan.  Lot believed in God. Scripture clearly says that Lot was counted “just” or “righteous” by God (2 Peter 2:7-8). This statement truly demonstrates the reality of faith apart from works ad Lot allowed himself to relocate to Sodom living in an ungodly situation.  However, God had mercy on him and his daughters saving them from the destruction of Sodom. Nahor worshipped and followed idols (Gen. 31:53) in fact the whole family of Nahor worshipped idols (Gen. 31:19, 32). Nahor married his niece, the daughter of his brother, Haran. She bore Rebecca, who was to become the wife of Isaac.  In v 30 we are told that Sarah was barren and yet Abram demonstrated great faith, by believing God’s promise that God would give him a son, and through that son the promised seed would come who would bless all the nations of the earth. Stephen tells us in Acts 7:2-3 that God appeared to Abram while he was still in Ur, before he left for Haran.  In Genesis 11:31,Terah is said to have taken his family to Canaan, the promised land.  Abram travelled about 600 miles to Haran and for some unknown reason, remained there. While there, Terah died. We see in Genesis 12, that after Tarah’s death, while still in Haran, God appeared to Abram a second time.   

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