Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Genesis - Chapter 11 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. At first everyone spoke the same language,
    2. but after some of them moved from the east and settled in Babylonia,
    3. they said: Let's build a city with a tower that reaches to the sky! We'll use hard bricks and tar instead of stone and mortar. We'll become famous, and we won't be scattered all over the world.
    4. (SEE 11:3)
    5. But when the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower,
    6. he said: These people are working together because they all speak the same language. This is just the beginning. Soon they will be able to do anything they want.
    7. Come on! Let's go down and confuse them by making them speak different languages--then they won't be able to understand each other.
    8. So the people had to stop building the city, because the LORD confused their language and scattered them all over the earth. That's how the city of Babel got its name.
    9. (SEE 11:8)
    10. Two years after the flood, when Shem was one hundred, he had a son named Arpachshad. He had more children and died at the age of six hundred. This is a list of his descendants:
    11. (SEE 11:10)
    12. When Arpachshad was thirty-five, he had a son named Shelah.
    13. Arpachshad had more children and died at the age of four hundred thirty-eight.
    14. When Shelah was thirty, he had a son named Eber.
    15. Shelah had more children and died at the age of four hundred thirty-three.
    16. When Eber was thirty-four, he had a son named Peleg.
    17. Eber had more children and died at the age of four hundred sixty-four.
    18. When Peleg was thirty, he had a son named Reu.
    19. Peleg had more children and died at the age of two hundred thirty-nine.
    20. When Reu was thirty-two he had a son named Serug.
    21. Reu had more children and died at the age of two hundred thirty-nine.
    22. When Serug was thirty, he had a son named Nahor.
    23. Serug had more children and died at the age of two hundred thirty.
    24. When Nahor was twenty-nine, he had a son named Terah.
    25. Nahor had more children and died at the age of one hundred forty-eight.
    26. After Terah was seventy years old, he had three sons: Abram, Nahor, and Haran, who became the father of Lot. Terah's sons were born in the city of Ur in Chaldea, and Haran died there before the death of his father. The following is the story of Terah's descendants.
    27. (SEE 11:26)
    28. (SEE 11:26)
    29. Abram married Sarai, but she was not able to have any children. And Nahor married Milcah, who was the daughter of Haran and the sister of Iscah.
    30. (SEE 11:29)
    31. Terah decided to move from Ur to the land of Canaan. He took along Abram and Sarai and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran. But when they came to the city of Haran, they decided to settle there instead.
    32. Terah lived to be two hundred five years old and died in Haran.

Genesis - Chapter 11

Entered: June 28, 2006
What was going on here? The narrative is not very clear or specific. Because of the action God took, we can assume these people were up to no good. It would seem that the main issue was a defiance of God. They wanted to demonstrate their greatness in construction, make a name for themselves and evidently attempt to prevent what God wanted to do in scattering them. Rather than a submissiveness to God, they were trying to establish themselves as more powerful than Him.

Entered: June 16, 2011

Chronologically, chapter 11 precedes chapter 10. An emphases is made in chapter 10 on the various nations and languages, and chapter 11 explains how this came about. Chapter 11 also narrows the historical record from the human race to just one branch within the human race. That of the Hebrew nation, descendants of Abram. The remainder of the Old Testament is a record of this nation. 

Following the flood, God instructed Noah, as He had told Adam, to "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." (9:1) This account in chapter 11 reveals that mankind was bent on rebellion against this command. Rather than filling the earth, the people began gathering in one place and making plans to avoid being "scattered over the face of the whole earth." (11:4) Furthermore, they said, "let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let us make a name for ourselves." (11:4) This plan did not please God who "came down to look over the city and the tower that the men were building." (11:5) God then thwarted their plans by confusing their language so they could not understand one another. Thus, the people abandoned their plans and scattered "over the face of the whole earth." (11:8) The location of this attempted scheme was then called Babylon.

It was pride that motivated this plan by the people to build a city with a tower reaching to the sky and therefore to make a name for themselves. The root of sin is pride, and the root of pride is rebellion against God. It is pride that leads man to think he knows better than God and to launch out to do his own thing. As desirable as unity might be, which was a goal of these people, it cannot take precedence over obedience to God. The outcome was that God brought on them the thing they feared - being scattered. And their downfall was what they prided themselves in.