Note: I’ve given up on having “parts” in this study. Even though I may intend to cover a certain amount of material in a particular post, I usually run out of space, so to speak, before I run out of sentences. I don’t know that you really want to read a 3000 word post. I will continue, Lord willing, to go through Genesis in these posts, but there is so much material that a life-time wouldn’t be long enough to go through it properly. Besides, each time I go through it, especially writing, I see something new. Indeed, as I was thinking about the next paragraph, I also gained new insight into the call of Abraham (- for a later post).
In our section of Genesis for today – and I do hope you read the Scripture as well as what I say about it – we see what happened after the Flood, that men didn’t really learn anything from it. In Genesis these chapters also form the link between Noah and Abraham. This section is divided into three parts:
The Table of Nations, ch. 10; 11:10-32.
This “genealogy” is unique in Scripture in that it isn’t just a listing of “father” to “son” to “grandson.” It does start off that way, but then it moves from individuals to tribes or nations, focusing on the land of Canaan, and then to cities. Further, it conveys no real sense of “time,” just of humanity passing from generation to generation. In earlier genealogies, we read that A was “x” years old and begat B, and then lived “x” more years. Then B, and then C, and so forth. We don’t see that here. It’s more about connection than chronology. That’s where attempting to figure out the age of the earth from Genesis breaks down. I don’t have any problem with the idea that the earth is older than 6,000 years; I just can’t see the billions of years that naturalistic science claims. Science starts off with several assumptions in this, the main one being that “God” can’t have anything to do with it. But I digress…
This section does tell us that humanity descended from Noah through his three sons, 10:32 – and records that each group of descendants had its own language, vs. 5, 20, 31. Chapter 11 in part forms a parenthesis telling us of the origin of those languages.
The Tower of Babel, ch. 11:1-4.
This wasn’t a “tower” in the sense we think of it, but a ziggurat, with a top facing heaven. It wasn’t supposed to be a way to heaven, as some have supposed, but a place to observe the heavens. This probably developed into the worship of them.
Is there another significance to this building, besides the fact that it was the occasion for the introduction of several languages into the human race? I can’t be dogmatic about it, because the Scripture is silent, but I think there is something else of significance here.
In Genesis 2:6, we’re told that there was not yet any rain, but the earth was “watered” by a
“mist” that “went up from the earth.” This has led some to the view that there was a sort of a “canopy” of vapor over the earth. This no doubt would have blocked or at least obscured any view upward. This would also explain where a lot of the water came from for the Flood.
With this canopy gone because of the Flood, all of a sudden there was a whole new “world” “out there.” Stars, and more stars. Something only dimly perceived, if at all. Now, with the canopy gone, they could be clearly seen. The tower of Babel was built to make this easier, even as today, men build telescopes on higher elevations to get clearer views.
Revelation 17:8 refers to a woman named “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.” I don’t want to get into a lengthy discussion of the meaning of this. I recommend Alexander Hislop’s “The Two Babylons,” which I understand is available online, or you might try “Abe Books” online, if you like hard copies. Revelation describes the end result of what started here, in Genesis 11. How is that?
According to Genesis 5:4, Adam lived for 800 years after the birth of Seth. He saw 7 generations of his grandchildren. He would have been able to tell them himself about the Garden of Eden and what happened there. Furthermore, we believe that, up until the Flood, men could have gone to the entrance of the Garden of Eden and verified the story for themselves by the presence of the flaming sword which barred their entering. Cf. Genesis 3:24.
With the Flood, all that was obliterated, and there were new vistas for men to explore or examine. What had been passed down from generation to generation, and could have been verified, began to fade away and be corrupted into all the tales around the world which are said to be the origin of the Book of Genesis. Genesis actually gives us their origin.
However, all this was in direct violation of and rebellion against God’s command for men to spread out and cover the earth, cf. 11:4. This leads us to the final section.
The Turmoil of Tongues, 11:5-9.
What man would not do willingly, God made him do through the confusion of his language. Men could no longer understand each other. As a result, their work was halted, their plans were frustrated, and they were scattered over all the face of the earth, vs. 8, 9. God’s will shall be done among men, one way or another.