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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

July 8, 2015

Genesis 10, 11:1-9

  1. Verse 1.The nations of the world after the flood all came from the same place...from one of the three sons of Noah (10:1, 32). In other words, God made us one big family. Though we have different languages, cultures, and geographical locations, we are still imprinted with the image of God and share in the dignity of human existence. Notice how God started with one family in the garden, now God will start with one family again. What we need to understand is that this is not an exhaustive genealogy, but a way for the ancient Hebrews to understand their origin. Thus it is not just tracing individual histories, but the development of nations, especially as they related to Israel at the time of the conquest of Canaan. It isn't a complete catalog of all nations, but rather a list that would help Israel understand the origins of the people they would encounter during the conquest. Remember that it is widely accepted that the first five books were written during the time of Moses and shortly after to teach the Hebrews their history. Chapter 10 is actually going to describe how the ancient tribes spread out after the events of chapter 11. Chapter 11 will actually go back in time from the flood and show the connection of Abraham to the ancient tribes. In two chapters the writer will condense thousands of years to draw the connection of Noah to Abraham.

  2. Verses 2-5.This division of the chapter, centering on Japheth, is the shortest. The first thing we must notice about these genealogies is that they only list the men. And in the case of verse three and four, only the descendants of two of the sons are listed. This could mean that the other sons didn't have descendants or their descendants were not important for the story. We are told that the sons of Javan were fishermen and sailors. This would lead us to believe that they settled in coastal areas. Most likely the Mediterranean area of southern Europe and the Middle East.

  3. Verses 6-20. Here we have the account of the descants of Ham. This is a very lengthy section. The nations connected to Ham inhabited northwestern Africa, the western coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and the Fertile Crescent from Egypt to Mesopotamia. Some of these nations figured prominently in the biblical story particularly “Babel" (Babylon, 10:10), "Mizraim” (Egypt, 10:13), and "Canaan" (10:15). Many of the nations mention were the first world powers and great nations. Nimrod is mentioned because he was the founder of Babylon which was a great world power. But, once again, all these scattered nations were the descendants of Ham, who was one of three brothers, descendants of the one Noah. There is no escaping it: God made the world one big family! And we must not forget that before they scattered they most likely looked very similar and spoke a similar language.

  4. Verses 21-32. The descendants of Shem (lit. ”name") are the Semitic peoples who inhabited the eastern lands: modern-day Iraq, Iran, and eastern Saudi Arabia. The genealogy of Shem split at the sons of”Eber” (10:25). From Eber we get the word "Hebrew." The descendants of Eber’s son ”Joktan” are given in 10:26-32, while the descendants of his other son,”Peleg" are found in Genesis 11. It was Peleg's line which led to Abraham and eventually to the Israelites (11:18-26). This is the family that God will be dealing with throughout the entire Old Testament. These are the Hebrews.

  5. Chapter 11. God's plan was that the people spread out and fill the earth. In this chapter we will see that just the opposite happens. Instead of spreading out, the people decided to stay in one place and go up and not out. Instead of trying to fill the earth they want to fill heaven. It was God's plan for flesh to spread out in the earth not for flesh to try to come into heaven. Remember that we said that we were like seeds that needed to be planted. Instead of the seeds wanting to be in the earth the seeds are trying to reach up to heaven. This is not the process. Seeds can't sprout up without going down first. The concept of heaven cannot be a reality without death. What we will see in this chapter is a people who want heaven without God's plan. Verse one highlights a particular condition of mankind which is not in and of itself evil:”... and the whole earth used the same language and the same words” (Genesis 11:1). We would assume, since mankind came from a common ancestor, namely Noah, that all men spoke a common language. Moses began the account of the confusion of languages by drawing our attention to this fact.

  6. Verses 2-4. Settling in the valley of Shinar was an act of disobedience. God had commanded men to spread out and fill the land, not to congregate in cities (Genesis 9:1, 7). Verse 3 informs us of the intensity of man's intentions to build a city and a tower. The Hebrews who first heard this story, especially one who had just come from Egypt, would expect any building project to employ stone and mortar. These materials were not plentiful and thus it was necessary to substitute fire-hardened brick for stone and tar for mortar. These men did not begin to build without counting the cost. They anticipated the obstacles and were determined to overcome them. The expression, “will reach into heaven," is not so much spiritual as it is special. It simply implies great height. Arrogance, rebellion, and pride seem to be the root of men's activities here. The last statement of the people of ancient Babel is the key to our passage:”... lest we be scattered over the face of the whole earth" (verse 4). These people could not conceive of blessing and security coming as a result of dispersion, even though God commanded it. They felt most secure when they were living in close proximity. They saw the future as brighter when they could leave a monument to their ingenuity and industry. While rebellion, pride, and unbelief are evident in the story, the underlying problem is one of fear. These men of old must have known of God's command and of His covenant. Otherwise why would they have feared being scattered? But all they had was a promise from God. Their hopes were on abstract words, nothing concrete, and so they placed their faith in bricks and tar. This is the same reason people today have idols. Idols are things man can touch and feel without using faith. God wants his people to live by faith, but man continues to resist that.

  7. Verses 5 and 6 have been disturbing to many because they may seem to diminish the sovereignty of God. There is the appearance that God has let a situation get nearly out of control before He was even aware of it. It looks as though one of the angels has informed God of the incident at Babel and God has hastily descended to investigate the matter. Any such conception has missed the point of the writer. These verses are a beautifully fashioned satire on the folly/foolishness of man's activities. Men had commenced to build a city with a high tower that they thought would make a name for them. Moses is suggesting to us that man's thoughts and efforts, no matter how lofty, are insignificant to God. While the top of the tower may, from the vantage point of earth, seem to pierce the clouds, to the infinite, almighty God it was a barely visible dot on the earth. It was as though God would have to stoop to view it. If God should have to ’descend' to scrutinize this city, it was due to the insignificance of it all, not God’s inability to keep up with His creation. If verse 5 describes the investigation of God, verse 6 informs us of God’s appraisal of the situation. The evil does not lie in the fact that all men spoke one language. This only provided the occasion for man's sinfulness to express itself more easily. Yet it did suggest a means of reversing man’s plans. The completion of this city would in no way threaten the rule of God. Obviously, it would violate the command of God for man to disperse and fill the earth. Verse 6 explains the impact which the success of man’s plans to build this city would have on man. Men would conclude that since they were able to build this city despite many obstacles, they could do anything they set their minds to. In the days of the offspring of Noah at Babel, men placed their confidence in bricks and mortar and the work of their hands. In our time we are just a bit more sophisticated. The men of Babel began to look at work as the cure rather than the curse. They believed that the work of their hands could assure them of some kind of immortality beyond the grave. Here, I suspect, is the driving force behind the workaholic. He cannot ever rest because he (or she) is never certain that a large enough monument has been built. How arrogant we are to think that any monument to ourselves will last for eternity.

  8. Verse 7-9. It is this attitude of arrogant self-confidence and independence of God which God knew was inevitable if man succeeded. Because of this, God purposed to thwart man's plans: "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language that they may not understand one another’s speech" (Genesis 11:7). What we see here is not so much a punishment being meted out as preventive measures being taken. The mechanics of the confusion of language can only be guessed at, but the outcome is evident. The project came to an abrupt halt, a monument to man’s rebellion to God's plan. God had commanded mankind to "fill the earth" (Genesis 9:1). Man preferred to congregate in one place rather than to comply with God's command to spread out. In spite of man's greatest efforts, God's purposes prevailed. God separated the people and caused them to speak different languages. The only way for the people to be really united and reach heaven was through the blood of Jesus Christ implanting the Holy Spirit within them. Instead of trying to reach heaven by their feeble efforts, we can reach heaven through the grace of God and be united as one in Christ.

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