After the genealogy of chapter 10, chapter 11 begins with the infamous story of the tower of Babel. The story itself is actually quite short, but we learn many things from the peoples’ attempt and failure to reach the heavens. There are a few key phrases in the passage that are worth our focus:
- The whole earth had one language and one speech
- Before the divisive elements of culture, geography, language and ethnicity, at this time after the flood, all of the descendants of Noah lived and were traveling together
- Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
- The people were unsatisfied with the conditions of their life and livelihood on the earth. Living in and on the land was not their desire and they wanted more. At this time, there were still men who could remember God having spoken directly to man (Noah), and the presence of God was a different reality then than it is today. With this different sort of knowledge, the descendants of Noah desired to be more like God and were unwilling to remain in the state within which God had created them.
- Nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them
- The exact meaning here is indiscernible, but if we take it to its full meaning literally, we can surmise that mankind would have been capable of fantastic things, had their language not been confused and diversified
- Come let Us go down and there confuse their language
- The Godhead (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit) appears to be in action in this endeavor
- The Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth
- The very thing that the people avoided happened. In verse 4, the people wanted to build a tower “lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Resisting the will of the Lord will often reveal our own foolishness as we end up doing His will in the end.
The remaining verses provide for us the genealogy from Noah to Abram. Abram, of course, will eventually become Abraham, the man whose lineage would produce the Israelites and Christ the Savior.
Familiar as we may be with the story of Abram and Sarai and who they would eventually become, we are probably not curious at the mention of Sarai being unable to have children. However, if this is our first time reading these words, we might wonder why there is the specific mention of a barren woman in the heretofore male-name-dominated genealogy.
As Terah leaves Ur of the Chaldeans with Abram, Lot and Sarai, they travel to the land of Canaan. But they stop in Haran, where Abram’s father Terah dies.
Please do read along with me next week as we read about the promises that God makes to Abram.