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Chapter 11

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ch. 11:1 - 9   ch. 11:10-32

The Tower Of Babel (ch. 11:1 - 9)


Verse 1 tells us that all people in the world spoke one language and a had common speech.  Note the difference between one language and common speech.  The common speech may suggest all had the same dialect and the same mannerisms of language.  There weren't any variation from one area to another.


Verse 2 tells us that men moved to the east.  You might ask, "to the east of where?"  Many scholars believe that the movement east is from where the ark settled, wherever that might be.  Many feel the ark settled in what is now northern Turkey, while others suggest it landed farther east.  But the place where man moved to is stated specifically in this verse.  It is in the area of Shinar.  Shinar is in modern Iraq, around what would become the city of Babylon.


In verse 3 we see a movement beginning in man.  Man began to build, and in this case they built with brick instead of stones.  In making the bricks they used tar, an oily material instead of mortar.  It seems obvious to me that these people discovered what has become so important to this area of the world and that is oil.   


The main reason why these people invented brick to build with is because in this area of the world, unlike in Palestine , stones were at a premium.   


I should also comment on the cities that were being constructed.  Historians tell us that in the early stages of cities people actually didn't live in the cities.  They still lived rural lives.  The cities featured a temple and building that we would call government or commercial buildings. 

The next step in this movement is seen in verse 4.  Man agreed to come together and build a city so they  could make a name for themselves and not be scattered all over the world.  They would also build a tower in the city that could reach to the heavens.  Many Sunday school teachers over the years have taught that this tower was meant to reach heaven where God is, but the text really doesn't say that.  It was to reach the heavens,  and if I continue to interpret the word "heavens" consistently, that doesn't mean heaven.  It simply means the skies above.  These men wanted to build an impressive tower to show off their abilities.  As the text says, they wanted to make a name for themselves through the building of this tower.  Things have not changed since those days.  Man still does that today.  We build to make a name for ourselves.  We build towers too.  The CN tower in Toronto, Canada, was built to make a name for its builders, and other towers around the world have been built to do the same.  


The tower that was being constructed here was for religious purposes, not for military defensive purposes.  In the ancient eastern world these towers were places where the gods would come down to earth and live and thus where people could worship these gods.  They could be very large, often triangular shaped towers with stairs going around the tower to the top.  These stairs were meant for the god to come down and live in the tower's temple.             


We also note in verse 4 that one reason for building the city and the tower was to prevent being scattered around the world.  This is in direct opposition to what God told both Adam and Noah.  Man was to reproduce and fill the whole earth.  These men wanted to centralize themselves into one place.  Man always wants to centralize, and reach into themselves, when God says to move out, and reach out, not be inward in things we do. 


In verse 5 we see that God came down to see the tower that these men were building.  I think this language of "coming down" is anthropomorphic.  I don't think God has to come down to see anything.  He sees everything quite clearly from where He is.  The point to be made here is that God noticed what these men were doing. 


In verse 6 God says that because these men have one language, they will be able to do whatever they want.  Having one language made it easy for man to  communicate and build their plans.  Having one language seemed to be one of the underlying issues here that helped man to make a name for himself, when all along, God wanted them to respect and promote His name, not theirs.


We also notice here that God says that man's capabilities are endless.  I'd suggest the reason for this is because we were created in God's likeness and image.  This tells me that if given the time, we as humans could do pretty well anything, and we've come a long way already.  I don't think God will allow us to do anything and everything we want.  There are limits to what we will be able to achieve. He will shut things down on the earth prior to this happening.  Nevertheless, we see that God says that man has endless possibilities. 


In this chapter God confuses the language of man.  Man from this time on have different languages and different dialects.  We've been trying to compensate for this ever since.  I think computers are one way to compensate.  The computer, along with the internet, has broken down the walls that resulted from this confusion.  Man, in his attempt to promote himself, will have this final promotion seen in the coming of the anti-christ at the end of this age.  I'm sure computers will play a big part in the rule of the anti-christ.


In verse 7 we see how God would deal with this.  He said, "let us come down and confuse their language."   Once again we see the word "us' in reference to God as we've seen earlier in Genesis.  You can't prove the Trinity from this one verse, but you can prove the plural nature of God, and when I say "plural nature of God," I need to stress that God is one.  Within this "oneness is plurality."


So God confused the language of men so it would make it hard for them to communicate.  Well, for the most part, we've got around this confusion of languages.  We are pressing onward to our goal of making a name for ourselves and centralizing ourselves.  Once again, this will ultimately take place in the last seven years of this age with the rule of the one world government led by the anti-Christ.


Verse 8 tells us that the Lord "scattered" them and they stopped building their city. How He scattered man is uncertain to me.  The text does not say.  Somehow  He made things such that they did not want to stay on the Shinar plain. 


Once again, it's our tendency to want to stay put, to settle in, to act inwardly, but God seems to want us to reach out and move on.  He even had to push the first Christians out of Jerusalem.  He used persecution to do this.   Jesus told His followers to go to the uttermost parts of the earth.  In order for them to do that, they had to leave Jerusalem , and in order for them to leave Jerusalem it seems God had to send persecution to scatter them. 


In verse 9 we see that the place where the tower was located was called Babel.  It appears that the name "Babel" came about after God confused the languages because the word "Babel" means "confusion." Thus we get the city and empire name of Babylon from Babel.  The tower was built where the future city of Babylon would be built, and some feel will be built again at the end of this age for prophetic reasons.  Babylon in the Bible is a real place.  It's both a city and an empire.  But it's also used symbolically as the kingdom of men.  In God's eyes, the kingdom of men leads to confusion as the word Babel , from which Babylon comes from.  


This section ends by God scattering man from this one central place.  He forced them to move out across the earth, something He told them to do n the first place.


From Shem To Abram (ch. 11:10 - 32)


From verses 10 to 26 we see the lineage of Shem.  I will not comment on these names.  I will make note that God said in Genesis 6:3 that man would now live 120 years.  It is clear from this portion of chapter 11 that this did not take place all at once.  You notice people living 200 and 300 years, but still, that's a long cry from the 900 years that men used to live.  Noah lived 950 years.  What you can see is that there is now a progression downward in the life span of man.


It is interesting to note that there were 10 generations from Shem to Abram, just as there was 10 generations from Seth to Noah.


In verse 27 we see the name Terah.   He was the father of Abram, Nehor, and Haran.  The text also says that Haran became the father of Lot , whom we will see more of later.


Verse 28 tells us that Haran died while his father Terah was still alive.


Verse 29 tells us that Abram and Nehor married, at which time they all lived in Ur.  Abram married Sarai.  Nahor married Milcah who was actually his brother's daughter.  So Nahor married his niece.


Verse 30 also tells us that Sarai had no children.  This is most likely mentioned here because this plays an important part in the whole story of Abram.


Verse 31 tells us that Terah took Abram and his wife Saria, along with lot out of Ur and headed toCanaan, but they didn't get there.  They settled in Haran.  Remember Canaan the son of  Ham who was prophetically cursed by God through the words of Noah.  See chapter 9, verse 25. 


Ur is east of the Euphrates River, and so is Haran.


Verse 32 tells us that after living 205 years, Terah died in Haran.


Before we leave this chapter we should turn to Stephen's message that he spoke to the Jewish leaders just before they killed him.  In Acts 7 Stephen begins his defense, and in verse 2 he starts with Abraham.  Before I state what Stephen says, there's two ways of looking at Stephen's words.  One is that there are some problems and discrepancies.  If you don't believe that, then you believe that what Stephen says is inspired by the Holy Spirit and fills In some information that we don't see in Genesis.  I believe what Stephen says is inspired and complements Genesis 11 and 12, yet beyond that, there might well be some oral tradition that gives Stephen some knowledge that we don't see in Genesis.


Stephen says that God appeared to Abraham while he still lived in Mesopotamia, before he went to Haran.  The Genesis account that we've just looked at says that Terah took Abram, along with the others, and they were supposed to go to Canaan.  What Genesis doesn't tell us is that God appeared to Abram and told him to go to Canaan.  I suppose, since Terah is the head of the family, this is why the text says that he took his family. It doesn't say that Abram led his family out of their country. We need to understand that God told Abram to go to Canaan, not Terah. 


In Acts 7:3 we learn that God told Abram to leave his extended family, and from Genesis we know that he was to go to Canaan, but we also know from Genesis that he did not go to Canaan.  He only got to Haran and stayed there.  He did not obey God right away.  We learn from the Acts account that Abram didn't go to Canaan until after his father died.  Why this was we can only speculate.


It's only speculation, but I wonder if Terah's son Haran as anything to do with the establishment of the place called Haran.  If it does, then that might be why Abram stayed there instead of going all the way to Canaan.  The place would have meant something to his father.


God actually had to tell Abram to leave Haran and go to Canaan, as seen n Acts 7:4.  The Acts account goes on to say some very important things which effects Biblical prophecy in connection with Israel which we won't talk about now. 


You also might remember that Noah prophesied that Canaan would serve Shem, and this was God's intention when He told Abram to go to Canaan.  



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