Today: The Building of Babylon: In chapter 11 of Genesis, we find the account of the building of the tower of Babel in v. 1-10 and the remainder of the chapter is a detailed genealogy from Shem to Abraham. This is the first narrative division of the book of Genesis as chapters 1-10 cover the creation to the flood, and now this chapter serves as the lynchpin between the flood and the life of Abraham.
[Gen 11:1-32 KJV] 1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. 3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. 4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top [may reach] unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people [is] one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. 10 These [are] the generations of Shem: Shem [was] an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: 11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. 12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah: 13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber: 15 And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 16 And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg: 17 And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters. 18 And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu: 19 And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters. 20 And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug: 21 And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters. 22 And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor: 23 And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. 24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah: 25 And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters. 26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran. 27 Now these [are] the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. 28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees. 29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife [was] Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah. 30 But Sarai was barren; she [had] no child. 31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. 32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.
In Genesis 11 we find that mankind has moved from sowing fig leaves together to building a tower – all attempting to escape the consequences of what is now inbred, inborn sin. Medieval Jewish scholarship places the events of Genesis eleven 700 years after the flood. Along with the suggestion of one continental landmass (called Pangaea by paleo-geologists), we see that humanity at this point shared one common language which linguists and anthropologists reject but cannot disprove. Many theologians believe that this one language was the Hebrew language (the written form of which constituted the Torah, the first five books of the bible). It is widely believed that this language was the language God used to create the earth and the language God communicated to Adam and Eve with. This included the intonation the mystical name of God that otherwise is unspoken and unspeakable being in effect three consonants JHV. Some maintain that to pronounce the 26 letter name of God is to invoke the power of creation, showing us thereby the power of the spoken word as a well-developed belief even in antiquity.
The symmetry of this story in Gen. 11 compared with Acts 2 is interesting because by a single language the builders of the tower of Babel were divided against God, and by a divided tongue on the day of Pentecost were the nations of the earth united under God among the 120 in the upper room. The origin of language in the human species has been the topic of scholarly discussions for centuries. In spite of this, there is no consensus on its ultimate origin or age (in fact for decades now in academic circles the origin of language is not considered a serious study and is effectively banned as a source of debate). In other words, God divided men’s tongues to dis-unify them, and they are dis-unified today on the subject still.
Verse 2 mentions the land of Shinar as being the locale where the tower of Babel was constructed. Where is the land of Shinar? From the extra-biblical Book of Jubilees, there is a reference in Jubilees 9:3 that allots Shinar to Ashur, son of Shem. Jubilees 10:20 states that the Tower of Babel was built with bitumen from the sea of Shinar. Researcher David Rohl theorized that the tower was actually located in Eridu, which was once located on the Persian Gulf, where there are ruins of a massive, ancient ziggurat constructed from bitumen.
In verse 3, the pattern of the building is with uniform brick and mortar. Man builds with brick because it is his nature to simplify and control through uniformity. It is no different today in belief systems across our cultures. Denominations demand uniform doctrine; non-denominational groups demand “alignment” with their leaders. Is this in keeping with God’s character?
[1Pe 2:5 KJV] 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
The temple of God was not built with brick but with hewn stones. We are the temple of God, each one of us, and our life constitutes each person a uniquely fitted place in the economy of God. God rejoices in the uniqueness of His children. Isa. 9:8-11 portrays God as being against those who build with uniform stones. The ancient altars recorded in scripture were natural stones altogether, uncut or unfashioned by human hand. Discipleship is about spiritual fathering not making people into cookie-cutter Christians.
[Exd 20:25-26 KJV] 25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. 26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.
It is human nature to engineer and manipulate and also to look for a legalistic process to bring about an end result. God is saying we cannot approach him in this way. We cannot find a 12-step program that will deposit you in the glory. This offends the natural mind because it wants something easy, reproducible with an end in view. God is calling us to INTIMACY in His presence, not to a tinker toy religion that functions entirely outside His grace and enabling power.
In v. four the people come together to build them a city and a tower. They committed to the project to bring focus to a people in danger of dividing. In other words, they were a purpose-driven group. Are we to gather together around a mission statement or stated agenda, or are we gathering ourselves to Him and making His presence our priority?
In v. 5-9, the Father looks upon the people in their work and makes a chilling statement that unless He intervened nothing would be impossible to them. God didn’t say they couldn’t get something done – He simply condemned the character of it in terms of their motives for doing so. The validity of a people group or a business or a church coming together is not found in its impact on the world around it. You cannot define your value in the kingdom by what you do or do not accomplish. At the same time, realize that unity RIGHTLY or WRONGLY brought about is a potent thing and as a result can be very deceptive. Ex. 34:14 tells us that God is a jealous God. That which consumes your focus, your energy and your resources God will remove because He sent Jesus to facilitate a relationship with you and anything in our lives that impedes that will come to ruin for our own sake and for God’s kingdom’s sake. The division at Babel was a mercy and not a judgment.
The tower they were building was not with the idea of getting a platform high enough they could step out on the clouds to wage war against God. The tower was, in fact, an astronomical observatory because they knew what God told Adam in Genesis regarding the plan of God revealed in the stars:
[Gen 1:14 KJV] 14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
The builders with Nimrod as their leader were gearing up to overthrow the plan of God and in God’s mercy, He thwarted their goals. God will allow relationships to dissolve, churches to close, ministries to fray apart when they lose their emphasis and dependence upon God’s presence. We cannot allow ourselves to become so horizontally divided that we are incapable of vertical focus upon the Father and our relationship and intimacy with Him. Babel is alive and well today. It is a religious system. It is that part of Christianity that exists independent of God’s presence. That’s a strong statement but look at the book of Revelation that describes a Babel of our day as a religious system:
[Rev 18:2, 20-21 KJV] 2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. … 20 Rejoice over her, [thou] heaven, and [ye] holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. 21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast [it] into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.
In verses 10-32, we find the genealogical record from Shem to Abram. Why must we endure these genealogies? Because they represent what Oliver B. Green called “the scarlet thread” of the bloodline of Christ through time. Now, interestingly, most Jews cannot trace their bloodline or know what tribe they are from. In fact, even those who have an idea because their name is Cohen, etc. cannot know definitely and in actuality do not have a pedigree that would be recognized by the standard set by the Torah. Why would this matter? The book of Revelation declares there will be 144,000 in the last day – 12,000 from each tribe:
[Rev 7:4-8 KJV] 4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: [and there were] sealed an hundred [and] forty [and] four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. 5 Of the tribe of Juda [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad [were] sealed twelve thousand. 6 Of the tribe of Aser [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses [were] sealed twelve thousand. 7 Of the tribe of Simeon [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar [were] sealed twelve thousand. 8 Of the tribe of Zabulon [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph [were] sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin [were] sealed twelve thousand.
If a Jew cannot identify his tribe, then this is a problem. Some would suggest that God will sort them out, but the fact is that when the ten tribes went into captivity, they actually bred themselves out of existence. The term Jew refers not generally to an Israelite but to one of the tribes of Judah. Judah and Levi were the only tribes that maintained any cohesion after the first captivity. Now, why would that matter, doesn’t God know who they are? Doesn’t God just accept them anyway? By the stringent standards of the Torah, this would not be possible. An example of this would be in Ezra 10 when upon returning from captivity, all the men who had taken foreign wives were required to divorce them and disown their children of mixed blood. By Old Testament standards it was not allowed to compromise the bloodlines.
What am I saying? The 144,000 whatever it represents is not literal because it is clearly made up of living men and women on the earth at the time (not saints gone on). Therefore because these tribes have either been bred out of existence or have hopelessly compromised their bloodlines, then the conclusion is that this 144,000 represents something else.
It is also interesting in Rev. 7 that the tribe of Dan (remembered as the Lawgiver and Judge) is not spoken of in the 144,000 which reminds us that the end times is a time that MERCY REJOICES OVER JUDGMENT.
Verse 26-27 introduces us to Terah, Abram’s father. His father was Nahor, and he named one of his sons Nahor as well. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica Nahor (Terah’s father) was the least long-lived of the descendants of Shem. Terah himself had a notable death which implies something in this bloodline that predisposed them to an early death. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran who were disputably triplets like Shem, Ham, and Japheth, Noah’s sons. Terah migrated from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran both areas of which were known for moon worship. Terah’s name is etymologically linked to the Hebrew word for moon implying that he may have been – and also his parents – idolaters. Classical Rabbinic literature suggests that Terah and Abram were at odds with one another because Terah manufactured idols for Nimrod. The suggestion is that Terah lived to see Isaac’s 35th birthday and to see the glory of his son Abraham’s favor with God though they were apparently estranged.
In v. 28 we see Abram’s middle brother Haran died a premature death which precipitated a closer relationship of Abram with his nephew Lot. As Nahor his grandfather Haran (Abram’s brother) dies before his time – perhaps a harbinger of death stalking this bloodline because the enemy sensed that the seed of the woman would come forth out of Abram’s loins. Through Lot, Haran is the ancestor of the Moabites and the Ammonites, bitter enemies of the children of Abraham. Haran’s name means mountaineer. His bloodline shows up again in the lineage of Christ when Jacob married Rachel and Leah who were descended from Haran.
In v. 29, Abram appears and takes a wife. Abram’s name means “My Father is Exalted.” When his name was later changed it became “Father of Nations.” Sarai’s name means “princess” but also carries the connotation of “dominative woman.” The point can be made here that this was not a family that distinguished itself for harmony and fidelity to God in the beginning. Abram’s name is very closely connected in meaning to the “dominative father” a concept that Baal worship arose from. What made Abram special was God’s choice and Terah’s apparent understanding of the prophecy of Noah over his family line (of Shem) that they would rule over Canaan. This is the only possible reason for Terah to uproot his family and move them from their homelands into a strange country surrounded by enemies.
In v. 30 we find that Sarai bore no children. Barrenness in ancient times was considered a curse and a punishment. Whereas today we sympathize with women who haven’t conceived, in ancient times it was akin to leprosy and made the barren woman a pariah who lived under a shadow all her life. In v 31 we see that Terah and not Abram initiates the move to Canaan. The only possible reason for Terah to migrate with his family to Canaan is because Noah prophesied that Shem’s descendants would rule over the descendants of Canaan.
[Gen 9:25-26 KJV] 25 And he said, Cursed [be] Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26 And he said, Blessed [be] the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
Therefore we see the rudimentary beginnings of Abram’s promise were born of a personal prophecy of Noah over his son Shem and his grandson Canaan. One interesting factoid is that Noah was alive up right up to the birth of Abram. Noah died two years before Abram was born, however, both Noah and Abram were contemporary with Nimrod. Abram was said to have met and conquered Nimrod in battle according to extra-biblical sources.
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