In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, bringing the curse of sin and its fruits into the world. But God was gracious to promise a Redeemer that would come to crush the head of the serpent and deal with the sin problem. The depravity of man was shown to be a massive problem that evokes God’s righteous judgment when God wiped out all of the earth in the Flood except for eight people who were righteous in His eyes. As these eight repopulated the earth, Genesis 10 highlighted the fact that people were spreading out over the earth into isolated people groups, leaving the reader to wonder how the Seed of the woman, the Redeemer, will be found when He appears. Chapter 11 presents another aspect to this problem: the language barrier.
1 Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. 2 It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
The people did not obey the LORD’s command to spread out over the entire earth, but grouped themselves together and built a city. In this city, they also built a tower that would reach high into the sky. The point of this was to make a name for themselves instead of being scattered throughout the earth. In defiance against God, they wanted to establish their own name over His.
5 The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.
Just as in Genesis 6, the LORD comes to observe what the people are doing. He observes that the people, acting in concert, are capable of great evil. At this time, all the people spoke the same language and dialect (v.1 – same words). So God said,
7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.
God, in an inter-Trinitarian dialogue (“let Us), decides to confuse the language of the people so that they will no longer be able to act in concert. In doing so, God scattered them throughout the earth, just as He had commanded them to do. So the people spread out according to their families, tribes, and nations. According to Genesis 10, this occurred during the days of Peleg.
This also creates another problem for the Seed promise of Genesis 3:15. God promised that the Seed of the woman would come and crush the serpents head, taking care of the sin problem that Adam and Eve had brought into the world. Genesis 10 introduced the problem of the people multiplying exceedingly and spreading out over the earth, and now Genesis 11 amplifies the problem, for the people groups cannot even understand one another. The problem is not simply finding the Messiah in a sea of people spread out over the entire earth. The problem is intensified by the confusion of languages, for how will the peoples communicate to one another when the Messiah is found? The remainder of the book of Genesis (and the Old Testament) begins to answer this question.
To answer the question of how the Messiah will be found in a world full of people who are separated by language and geography, Moses narrows our attention to one family.
10 These are the records of the generations of Shem. Shem was one hundred years old, and became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; 11 and Shem lived five hundred years after he became the father of Arpachshad, and he had other sons and daughters.
12 Arpachshad lived thirty-five years, and became the father of Shelah; 13 and Arpachshad lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Shelah, and he had other sons and daughters.
14 Shelah lived thirty years, and became the father of Eber; 15 and Shelah lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Eber, and he had other sons and daughters.
16 Eber lived thirty-four years, and became the father of Peleg; 17 and Eber lived four hundred and thirty years after he became the father of Peleg, and he had other sons and daughters.
18 Peleg lived thirty years, and became the father of Reu; 19 and Peleg lived two hundred and nine years after he became the father of Reu, and he had other sons and daughters.
20 Reu lived thirty-two years, and became the father of Serug; 21 and Reu lived two hundred and seven years after he became the father of Serug, and he had other sons and daughters.
22 Serug lived thirty years, and became the father of Nahor; 23 and Serug lived two hundred years after he became the father of Nahor, and he had other sons and daughters.
24 Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and became the father of Terah; 25 and Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years after he became the father of Terah, and he had other sons and daughters.
26 Terah lived seventy years, and became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.
Now we meet Abram, who was descended from Shem. What is notable about this genealogy is that Abram was born when all of his ancestors in this list were alive. Shem would have been 390 years old when Abram was born. In fact, according to this genealogy, Shem would have outlived Abram by 35 years. Not only that, but Abram would have been 60 years old when Noah died!
Whether it was genetic or a result of the Post-Flood atmosphere, lifespans decreased dramatically, so that by the end of the list, the lifespans are only around 200 years. Abram himself only lived 175 years. By the time of Moses, the expected lifespan was between 70 and 80 years (Psa 90:10).
27 Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot. 28 Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Sarai was barren; she had no child.
Here we are introduced to characters that will be important to the upcoming narratives. Out of all the masses of people on the earth, the Scripture now narrows down to the family of Terah.
31 Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. 32 The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.
It is recorded here very simply that Terah had plans to travel to the land of Canaan, but stopped for some time in Haran, which was about halfway on their journey. Terah died there in Haran.
Now the focus will be on Abram, who will receive a covenant from God to receive a kingdom: land, people, and kings. Most importantly, the promised Seed would come through the line of Abram to one day reign over the people in the land and bless the whole earth. Of course, it must be apparent that before He could take the throne, the Seed would have to deal with the sin problem. He did this when He came, being born of a virgin, and dying on the cross at the hands of godless men in order to pay the penalty of sins and make full atonement for all those who believe in Him for the forgiveness of sins. To all those who trust in Him, He gives eternal life and citizenship in His kingdom which is to come.