The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 11

Gen 11:1

Gen 11; 12: "Two chapters which reveal the contrast between darkness (Gen 11) and light (Gen 12); between the power of the flesh (Gen 11), and the call of faith (Gen 12). Gen 11 shows the nations scattered; Gen 12 shows the way in which the nations are blessed through faith. Mankind set themselves to seek the pinnacle of power, in the building of a tower (like the World Trade Centre!). The clumsy attempt of man to unify himself in defiance of God's offer of unity and peace results in the judgment of Yahweh, the confusion of tongues, and the defeat of the power of flesh" (GEM).

Gen 11: This "division" was later healed: Act 2:8 ("All hear in own tongue"); 1Co 1:10 ("speak same things"); Zep 3:9; Zec 8:23 (one language).

Historical record: Halley 83,84.

"The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man" (Psa 115:16).

Gen 11:2

MEN: Nimrod and his companions: Gen 10:10.

SHINAR: Gen 10:10.

Gen 11:3

"The first man-made association... Cooperation -- excellent in a good work, but disastrous in a bad one."

BRICKS: In ct to the altar of unhewn stones (Gen 8:20; cp Isa 65:3; Exo 20:25).

TAR (SLIME): "Hemar" (boil up, be red). Asphalt, or bitumen. From decayed vegetable matter; sym corruption.

Gen 11:4

TOWER: Did fear of another Flood inspire this? (Josephus). Safety lies not in cities or towers, but in obedience to God's laws.

TO THE HEAVENS: Prob a series of temples to various gods, one upon another. The top would have been used for star-gazing, worship of heavens, astrology. The false worship of Zodiac (HPM 152).

SO THAT WE MAY MAKE A NAME FOR OURSELVES: God had revealed himself as the God of Shem ('name'), but the Babel builders were determined to make a name for themselves rather than be called by God's name (4: 26, AV mg). Perh this also involved having a priest of their own. Ct 12:2, God's declaration to Abraham, "I will make thy name great." See also Psa 49:11-13.

AND NOT BE SCATTERED: The gathering of material forces into one common center would have led to universal despotism and universal idolatry: cp Rev 17:18; Cain in Gen 4:17.

Gen 11:5

Ct the "temple" which God is building: Heb 3:6; 11:10; Joh 14:2; Eph 5:7.

Gen 11:6

"Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder" (Zep 3:9).

THEY HAVE BEGUN TO DO THIS: 'This is the (fresh) beginning of their wicked deeds.'

Gen 11:7

US: Elohim.

GO DOWN: Foreshadowing return of Christ, to vanquish enemies: Tes 51:43.

CONFUSE: Confusion of man, a divine work.

Gen 11:10

Gen 11 genealogy: The lifespan is cut in half or more. Also cut drastically is the age of the father when his first son is born. In this ch the average age when the first son is born is 44; in Gen 5, excluding Noah who was 500, the average is still 106. This all explains why it was considered so unusual for Abraham to have a child at 100 (Gen 17:17). Did a sort of "greenhouse effect" before the Flood allow such long life? And was this removed after the Flood?

SHEM: Gen 10:21.

ARPHAXAD: Gen 10:22.

Gen 11:11

Was Shem "Melchizedek"? (Gen 14:18; Psa 110:4; Heb 5--7).

Gen 11:12

Cainan should be inserted here: Luk 3:36.

SHELAH: Gen 10:24.

Gen 11:17

PELEG: "Division". In his time, descendants of Noah were divided: Gen 10:25.

Gen 11:18

REU: "Friend": Luk 3:35.

Gen 11:20

SERUG: "Shoot, tendril". An ancient city by this name exists near Haran.

Gen 11:24

TERAH: "To turn, tarry, delay" (Gen 12:4n). Terah was an idolater: Jos 24:2.

Gen 11:26

THE FATHER OF ABRAM, NAHOR, AND HARAN: But Abraham was the youngest. Terah begat Abraham at age 130, died 205 (when Abraham was 75: Gen 12:4). Abraham is placed first because most important. Other examples of out-of-order lists: Gen 5:32 (cp Gen 9:18; 10:21).

Gen 11:27

ABRAM: "Exalted father".

NAHOR: "Snorer".

HARAN: "Enlightened".

LOT: "Veiled", "covered".

Gen 11:28

HARAN DIED IN UR: Babylonia, a land of death to those who remained there.

UR OF THE CHALDEANS: "Light of the conquerors" -- ie the Cushites. A great city on Euphrates near Persian Gulf. Headquarters of worship of moon. Royal provincial city. Advanced education, culture, science, business. Center of trade. 2 miles long, 1/2 mile wide. Precious metals, exquisite workmanship (HPM 158). Education was well developed and students learned to read, write, and do some arithmetic. Commerce was at a high point due in part to the shipping industry. Ships carrying gold, copper ore, ivory and various wooden products came into Ur thru the Persian Gulf. The people of Mesopotamia, and therefore Ur, were very religious. Indeed, the people of Ur worshipped the moon god, Nanna, in a ziggurat (ie, a large temple structure) they had constructed. Idols were also found in the walls of most houses. See also WAbr 9,10; Halley 87-89. Now a mass of ruins on a barren desert.

Gen 11:29

SARAI: "Princess". A family of royalty?

MILCAH: "Queen".

ISCAH: "One who looks forth": cp v 31 (or "went forth"). Is Iscah another name for Sarah (by tradition of Jerome, Josephus)? Sarah therefore is Abraham's niece.

Gen 11:30

NO CHILDREN: But through faith she yet conceived seed: Heb 11:11; Isa 54:1; Psa 113:9.

Gen 11:31

This migration: not an isolated incident, but part of a mass emigration of the period. People moving west from Babylonian area, around the Fertile Crescent (WAbr 11). Abraham may have left because of persecution (cp Gen 10:9). He left at the time of the Passover (Exo 12:40,41).

Gen 11:32

205 YEARS: Alternative: Samaritan Pentateuch has 145: cp v 26n (WAc 89).

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