G2. Genealogy of Shemites (11:10-32)
The first 11 chapters of
Genesis appear as a complete cycle. At creation, chaos (Gen 1:2) became order (Gen
11:1 the whole earth: the known world, not the globe, referring to all the known races.
11:2 migrated from the east: Different versions have either “from the east” or “to the east.” “To the east” is probably more in line with the negative image of going eastward. However, the direction of migration is not an important point.
settled there: permanent settlement, contrary to God’s command of “filling the earth” (Gen 1:28; 9:1).
11:3 come, let us: The phrase occurs 3 times in this passage and is a phonetic play. The making of bricks (“come, let us make bricks”) led to the building of the city (“come, let us build a city”) and then led to the action by God (“come, let us go down and confuse”).
make bricks, and burn them thoroughly: The Mesopotamian plain did not have sufficient rocks and stones for construction. The Hebrew literal translation is “brick bricks and burn for a burning”, perhaps a deliberate play on words that led to the eventual babbling.
11:4 a city: for security and protection, especially in the middle of an indefensible plain.
a tower with its top in the heavens: similar to today’s skyscraper; with great height appearing to reach the heavens (Dt 1:28; 9:1). The tower represented a symbol to reach God’s abode and be equal with God. When man elevate themselves as God, they deserve destruction (Jer 51:53; Dan 8:10). On the other hand, some take this phrase as an attempt to practise astrology in terms of gaining knowledge of the future.
make a name for ourselves: They expressed their objectives: [a] to pursue fame and independence from God, and [b] to avoid being scattered. Only God is worthy of everlasting fame (Isa 63:12) and only God can dispense everlasting fame to His chosen people (Gen 12:2; 2Sa 7:9; 8:13).
lest we be dispersed: With protection of the city, they could stay in the same place. Again, to prevent emigration was contrary to God’s command of “filling the earth” (Gen 1:28; 9:1).
11:5 the Lord came down: God was still higher despite their plan to reach heavens. The descent of God implies judgment, not seeking information.
11:6 the beginning of what they will do: They wanted to be like God and they disobeyed God’s command. If they succeeded, they would have continued to commit other unimaginable sins.
will now be impossible: It does not mean that they would be successful in achieving their plan, but simply means that it would be difficult to restrain them from more conspiracy to sin.
11:7 let us: gathering the angels to complete God’s plan; or possibly expressing the 3 persons of trinity.
confuse their language: The word “confuse” (Heb. balal) can also be translated baffle or babble. It was originally used to describe the mixing of the food in cooking, meaning the components could not be distinguished after mixing.
11:8 dispersed them: The word “disperse” appears 3 times in this chapter (v.4,8,9) and is a main theme. Not dispersed was the main problem and dispersal was the result of God’s action.
Before the Flood, man killed each other and were not at peace and they received God’s judgment. Here, man were in unity and at peace yet they still received God’s judgment. It can be seen that unity of the whole world may not be God’s plan.
Because of the different languages, they could not cooperate so they stopped their construction. It is also possible that their spirit was dampened by the clear signal that God was against their work.
11:10 generations: a new “toledot” section (the 5th of 10 in Genesis).
Shem: Shem was 100 years old 2 years after the Flood. Shem was born when Noah was 502. However, the number 100 may be a rounded number so Shem might be 102 at that time.
11:26 Terah: The name
could be close to the word for “moon”. It is likely that Terah’s family was
involved in the worship of moon god which was common in ancient
There will be a logical
difficulty if Abram was the eldest son. Consider: [a] Terah was 70 years older than Abram (Gen 11:26). [b] Terah moved from
The proper reading should be:
If Abram (age 75) left
While Abram was named before the other 2 sons
of Terah, it does not mean that Abram was the eldest son. It only means that
Abram was in the chosen line. As
11:27 generations: a new “toledot” section (the 6th of 10 in Genesis).
Abram: means “exalted father”; later changed to Abraham, meaning “father of many nations”.
11:29 Sarai: Some
believe that she was the same as Iscah, the daughter of Abram’s elder brother
11:32 Terah died in
† Arrogance (the extreme form of pride) is a common sin of man. Wanting to be like God is another common (and serious) sin. We need to be cautious to guard ourselves against these temptations.