Glimpses in Genesis: The Tower of Babel, Genesis 10, 11.

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.

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Glimpses in Genesis: The Flood, Genesis 4-9.

In Genesis 1-3, we saw that God created a perfect world, inhabited by two innocent people:  Adam and Eve.  We say “innocent”  because they had no knowledge of good or evil.  All they knew was what they had seen and experienced: a perfect world, ideally suited for them.  The sad record is that they didn’t appreciate what they had, didn’t understand what they had and so, listening to their enemy and the enemy of God, they decided to take things into their own hands, with catastrophic results to themselves and their posterity.  Chs. 4 and 5 shows us something of those results: murder and mortality.

Chapter 4 records the first murder, and chapter 5, I have labelled, “The Book of the Dead.”  Chapter 4 tells us that the first murder was over religion: the fact that God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s.  Even though there is no direct record of God telling anyone about sacrifices, it’s obvious that there was something given, which Abel obeyed and Cain did not.

As we get into the post for today, we come to another controversial section of Genesis.

The Flood, Genesis 6-9.

A lot of current wisdom says that this was just a “local” flood, magnified by the ignorance of the people of that time into something more than  it really was.  Is that true?  Or perhaps, as others have suggested, overzealous Christians have tried to make this portion say something that it doesn’t really say.  Is that true?

No, and, no.

A.  The Scripture is clear that this is more than just some local overflowing of a river.

1.  It was a judgment to destroy man, Genesis 6:7; to destroy all flesh, 6:13; everything on the earth shall die, 6:17; all flesh died that was upon the earth, 7:21; all in whose nostrils was the breath of life died, 7:22; He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground, both man and cattle…, 7:23; “…nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done, 8:21; never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, 9:11; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh, 9:15.

In these verses, we go from purpose to process to promise never again to flood the earth to destroy all flesh.  If this was just some local flood, then God lied, because we have floods frequently.  In fact, as I write these words. locales south, north and west of where I live are experiencing the annual flooding of rivers and streams, to say nothing of other areas.  It’s on every TV newscast.

It seems to me that the Holy Spirit, through Moses, is impressing on us that this isn’t just some “local” flood, catastrophic as those can be, but a flood which wiped out the world that had existed until then.

2.  The New Testament verifies a universal flood.  The Apostle Peter wrote, …the world that then existed perished,  being flooded with water, 2 Peter 3:6.  Read down through v. 13 if you think this “flood” was just some local event.

B.  This brings up the question, Why did God do this?

The first question to answer that question is, Who are the “sons of God”?  One popular response is that they were godly Sethites, descendants of Seth, Adam’s son.  The “daughter of men” are said to have been the descendants of Cain.  Intermarriage between these two different lines resulted in compromise, apostasy and sin.  Another view is that they were angels, cf. Job 1:6; 2:1, who cohabited with human women, resulting in monstrous offspring – both physically and spiritually.  Genesis 6:4 refers to giants in the earth in those days, …when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.  A main objection to this view is found in Matthew 22:20, where the Lord referred to angels not marrying.  However, this remark concerned angels in heaven, and Jude 6 tells us that there were angels who left their original sphere of being,  It seems reasonable to me that he’s referring to these beings in Genesis 6.  Marriages between believers and unbelievers do not result in monstrous offspring, just normal human beings.

I hold to the second view.  I believe this was Satan’s attempt to corrupt the human race and by that to frustrate God’s promise of the coming Seed of the woman, who would defeat Satan.  It seems to me that this is further borne out by the description of Noah as a man who was perfect in his generations, that is, in his ancestry.  Ancestry has nothing to do with one’s being righteous, or “just”, which is how Noah is described spiritually.  Noah’s line was the only one that hadn’t been physically corrupted and altered by the unholy union of humans and demons, for that’s what the angels had become.

A universal flood had become necessary to destroy this corrupted humanity.

One argument against such a flood is the amount of water necessary to produce it.  It’s said that there’s not enough water on the planet to do that.  This assumes that conditions then were the same as they are today.

Another argument against the Flood is the idea of God destroying a whole population in judgment.  I’ve dealt more at length with this idea of “judgment” in the post: “Sticks”.

C.  Noah was given specific instructions as to how to escape this flood.

The ark is usually pictured as a boat or ship, like what we’re familiar with.  But it really was just a huge box, designed only to float on the water, not move through it.  It’s dimensions of 450′ by 75′ by 45′ indicate a very stable and seaworthy vessel, similar in size to a modern battleship.  By contrast, the Gilgamesh Epic, from which this and other parts of Genesis and the Old Testament are said to have come, portrays an unstable 180′ cube.

God gave the instructions – complete, clear instructions.  He didn’t ask for input from Noah.  He didn’t call for a committee to study the problem.  There was no “dialogue” with the people.  He just said, “Noah, here.  Build this.”  I think there might be a lot to learn from this.

I wonder what the citizenry thought of this endeavor.  The NT portrays Noah as a “preacher of righteousness,” 2 Peter 2:5.  Some have taken this to mean that Noah went around trying to get people “saved.”  That may be, however, I expect the preparations for this giant undertaking would have given Noah plenty of opportunity to witness.  There would have been the gathering of a LOT of trees to make lumber, there probably being no Home Depots nearby.  Then the structure itself began to appear.  Lot of opportunity to witness.

I wonder what the “science” of that day might have said.  I know I’m projecting what happens today into the story, but I can’t help wondering.  Were there people who said, “What are you talking about, Noah?  What’s rain?”  Genesis 2:6 indicates there was no rain yet, but atmospheric conditions – “mist” (possibly in the early morning) – kept things watered.  I can hear the rationalists and skeptics arguing, “Noah, where’s your tangible, verifiable proof of this?  It doesn’t rain.  It’s never rained.  It’s not going to rain.  Rain is scientifically impossible.”

I expect, after a while, after the novelty wore off and the weather continued to be perfect, that people kind of got used to what was going on over there with that crazy old coot, Noah, and just ignored him.  Life went on.  In Luke 17:27, our Lord described those days, They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

D. “…The flood came and destroyed them all,” Luke 17:27.

It took a long time to build the Ark.  From Genesis 6:3, people have believed that it took 120 years to complete the Ark.  That may be, except that Genesis 11:10 says that Shem was 100 years old two years after the Flood..  So we don’t know for sure, just that it took a long time.  But the time eventually came to an end, and the Flood came.

Some have pictured it like a rain, suddenly dotting the landscape with wet spots, with people jumping aside as the drops hit them, and then the rain coming in a deluge – flood waters rising, people scrambling desperately to find higher ground and safety, banging on the door of the Ark begging to be let in.  That, too, may be, but Genesis 7:10-11 says, And it came to pass after seven days [after Noah and his family and the animals had entered the Ark] that the waters of the flood were on the earth.   …on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.  That sounds to me like one day, everything was dry, and then it wasn’t.  It was overwhelmed with water, although it did also rain for forty days and nights.  The point is, the Flood came, like God promised, and only eight people out of a planet’s population survived.

There’s a lot more we could say about various parts of this event, but we’ve already written over 1500 words.  So let’s just finish with this:

E. Only those in the Ark were spared.

The Ark is a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Only those who are “in Him” are saved.  All humanity, even Noah and his family, went through the Flood!  There was no salvation in the water – which some see as a type of baptism! – only in the Ark.  Those “in the water” perished.  There is no salvation in baptism!  No “entering the kingdom”.  The Flood was a tool to destroy mankind, as we saw earlier, not a means to save it!  The Flood “fell” on the Ark; judgment fell on the Lord Jesus.  ALL in Him are save! and they alone!  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.