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In looking at the Tower of Babel story we are reminded that even though the bible says that God did the confusing of the languages we realize that all supernatural events were attributed to God because of a lack of understanding of the devil. Jesus opened our eyes to that reality and so we can attribute this event to the devil who is the one that brings confusion. It is interesting to see how the ancestors are mentioned for the purpose of highlighting Abraham who what the friend of God and the Father of the Hebrew nation. His life and that of his descendants, will be the focus of the remaining book of Genesis.

128 Genesis 11
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The Tower of Babel (Explanation of the origin of languages)

11 At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words.

2 As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.

3 They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) 4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”

There are thus three reasons for building the tower.

  1. It would reach heaven and provide safety from another flood. (Did not believe God’s promise.)

  2. It would make them famous, and

  3. Keep them together. (They were to repopulate the earth.)

5 But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building.

This is an anthropomorphism as the omniscient God would have known what was going on. Also implies God is distant.

6 “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! 7 Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

This is another anthropomorphism. It gives the idea that God is threatened by unity of mankind. It also makes God the creator of confusion at this point. This had already happened when the waters of the flood “confused” the creation. Moses sees this development of languages as supernatural and so attributes the confusion it caused to God when it was caused by Satan. It is an explanation how different languages came to be. It was a surprising phenomenon that various different languages developed so quickly after the flood when one family repopulated the earth.

Paul will later say that,

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:33 KJV)

This makes it impossible for God to have caused the confusion in languages.

Meaning of Bab-el: Usually the name Babel is taken to mean confusion. However, it can also mean “Gate Of God” or “Anointed” or “Saturated.” The “el” at the end of the name associates it with god.

8 In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.

Moses gives the explanation of how the plethora of languages developed.

In the Bible, the word "Bab-el" means "gate of God" or "gate of the gods." It is a reference to the city of Babylon, which was known for its grand gates and its association with the worship of many gods. (

Etymology: From the Sumerian phrase Bab-ilim, or gate of god. The names Babel (which is Hebrew) and Babylon (Greek) originally belonged to the same city, and later the name Babylon became proverbially applied to any large and overbearing government (1 Peter 5:13, Revelation 14:8).

At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, ‘Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?'” (Daniel 4:29-30)

This is remarkable because neither the city Babel nor the empire it sat at the heart of was ever as prominent as the Assyrian, Persian, Greek or Roman empires.

We don't hear from Babel/Babylon until the time of king Hezekiah of Judah (2 Kings 20:12). It had spent its history as a minor kingdom (with most notably, king Hammurapi, the hallowed law giver, and by some equated to king Amraphel mentioned in Genesis 14:1, and at best a vassal state of Assyria. But under king Merodach-baladan, Babylon was promoted to significance by engaging in alliances with various neighbors, including Judah (which thoroughly displeased the prophet Isaiah; see Isaiah 39). Babylon's prominence did not last very long; king Sennacherib of Assyria destroyed the city right after he had laid siege to Jerusalem, still during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:13). Babylon was restored and while the power of the Assyrian empire declined, the Chaldeans (Neo- Babylonians) made themselves at home at Babylon's courts. Their most famous son, Nebuchadnezzar, fortified and expanded Babylon, and went out conquering the neighbors, including Judah (2 Kings 24:1). Less than sixty years later, Babylon was overrun by the Persians and the Jews were allowed to go home. Babel's true claim to fame was that it abducted and absorbed the Judahites, who then proceeded to write about it in texts that became holy to many millions of people, placing Babel under the kind of magnifying glass that history wouldn't have. (Excerpted from: Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary) The Line of Descent from Shem to Abram

Moses is tracing the line of Abraham and thus Jacob from Shem for the second time. The first account(10:21-31) is part of the universal account of the repopulating of the earth. This account traces the specific line that results in Israel who is liberated from Egypt under Moses’ leadership.

10 This is the account of Shem’s family. (generation 1)

Two years after the great flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. 11 Afterthe birth of Arphaxad, Shem lived another 500 years and had other sons and daughters. (lived 600 years)

12 When Arphaxad was 35 years old, he became the father of Shelah. 13 After the birth of Shelah, Arphaxad lived another 403 years and had other sons and daughters. (438) (generation 2)

14 When Shelah was 30 years old, he became the father of Eber. 15 After the birth of Eber, Shelah lived another 403 years and had other sons and daughters. (433) (generation 3)

16 When Eber was 34 years old, he became the father of Peleg. 17 After the birth of Peleg, Eber lived another 430 years and had other sons and daughters. (464) (generation 4)

18 When Peleg was 30 years old, he became the father of Reu. 19 After the birth of Reu, Peleg lived another209 years and had other sons and daughters. (239) (generation 5)

20 When Reu was 32 years old, he became the father of Serug. 21 After the birth of Serug, Reu lived another 207 years and had other sons and daughters. (239) (generation 6)

22 When Serug was 30 years old, he became the father of Nahor. 23 After the birth of Nahor, Serug lived another 200 years and had other sons and daughters. (230) (generation 7)

24 When Nahor was 29 years old, he became the father of Terah. 25 After the birth of Terah, Nahor lived another 119 years and had other sons and daughters. (148) (generation 8)

26 After Terah was 70 years old, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. (generation 9)

Abram, 10th generation from Noah, was born when Shem was 390 years old, is unique in the way he is called the friend of God (James 2:23); Abraham, Your friend forever (2 Chronicles 20:7); Abraham, My friend (Isaiah 41:8). Compare John 15:15 where Jesus wants us to be his friends.

We all know the value of having friends in high places. Abram had a Friend in the highest place! Once Abraham Lincoln received a request for a pardon from a man who deserted the army. When he was told the man had no friends, Lincoln, “I will be his friend,” and he pardoned him.

Men and women in the Bible are famous for many different things. Abram is great for his faith. Moses is a great lawgiver; Joshua a great general; David a great king, and Elijah a great prophet. Most of us know we can never be great in those areas, but we can be great people of faith. We can be friends of God.

If you despair in knowing you do not have Abram’s faith, take comfort in knowing you have Abram’s God. He can build in you the faith of Abram because He built it in Abram himself.

You do have faith. You buy a ticket to a sporting event and show up, having faith the ticket is good. You fly in an airplane because you have faith in the airline’s equipment, mechanics, and pilots. You plan aweekend based on the weather report. And you do this even though sometimes there are ticket scandals, sometimes planes crash, and sometimes the weatherman is wrong; but you still have faith. God can build the faith you have.

The Family of Terah

27 This is the account of Terah’s family. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. 28 But Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his birth, while his father, Terah, was still living. 29 Meanwhile, Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. (Milcah and her sister Iscah were daughters of Nahor’s brother Haran.) 30 But Sarai was unable to become pregnant and had no children.

Haran died young and left Lot fatherless. Nahor married his niece, Milcah, his brother Haran’s daughter. Abram married his half-sister, Sarai (Genesis 20:12). Isaac married his niece Rebekah and Jacob married his nieces, Rachel and Leah.

Terah ➢ Abram ------> Ismael (Hagar) |m --------> Isaac -----------------

  • ➢ Sarai

  • ➢ Nahor -------> Bethuel |--------------------- |m

|m ----------->Esau & Jacob > Rebekah |m > Laban ---------- > Leah & Rachel ➢ Haran --------> Lot & Milcah & Iscah ➢

Sarai means princess. Because the name Abram means father, it must have been awkward for Abram to explain that he had no children. Not having a male child meant that one’s wealth would not accumulate for the family. Abram also was ignorant of the resurrection and so the family name would be lost. The idols of Laban which his daughters stole were actually the title deeds for Laban’s land.

Abram was in Ur when he received God’s call (Acts 7:3-4). He took his family with him even though God said to leave them behind. He definitely took Lot with him as a backup in case he did not have a child. Abraham is the father of the faithful not the obedient at this stage in his life. He will blatantly state that Sarai was his sister when she is his wife. His does this twice.

On the other hand, He does trust God enough to leave Ur and move on. The faithful follow part of God’s call but not all of it. They are not perfect. (Hebrews 11:8-10) states that Abram was obedient. This is not a conflict since the author of Hebrews is focussing on his obedience of faith. He moved to Haran and then Canaan at the LORD’s instigation.

31 One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. 32 Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran.

Abram’s story begins in Ur of the Chaldeans (Babylon). Joshua 24:2 describes Abram before the LORD called him. He was from a family of idol worshippers and was probably an idol worshipper himself.Later, when Abram’s grandson Jacob went back to Abram’s relatives in Haran, they were still worshipping idols. Rachel and Leah take their idols with them when they leave Haran with Jacob. They are taking the title deeds of Laban’s property.

Acts 7:2-4 makes it clear the call of Genesis 12:1-3 came to Abram while he still lived in Ur. When he received this call from God, he was only halfway obedient in at least two ways. First, he brought his father Terah (and nephew Lot) with him, when the Lord called Abram out of yourcountry, from your family (Genesis 12:1). The child with Hagar was another backup plan made by Abram. Second, Abram stopped and, at least for a time, dwelt in Haran, which was not the destination God had promised, a land that I will show you (Genesis 12:1).

In chapter 22 additional information is given on Nahor. His wife, Milcah, had 8 sons. The last one, Bethuel was the father of Rebekah who married Isaac. Laban was Rebekah’s brother. The Book of Genesis covers more than 2,000 years and more than 20 generations. Yet, it spends almost a third of its text (chapters 12-50) on the life and descendant’s of one man – Abram.

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