Genesis
1-4 The Tower of Babel Built 5-9 The Confusion of Language 10-26 Descendants of Shem to Terah 27-32 Terah and Abram
The Tower of Babel Built

1Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. 2It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3They 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. 4They 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.”

According to some, there are about thirty thousand people on earth at this time. They are all still together. Together they head east. It is the direction in which Cain went (Gen 4:1616Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.; cf. Gen 3:23-2423therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.24So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.). It is the direction that speaks here of leaving God. In the east, they find a plain, which speaks here of complacency. Abraham later seeks the mountains (Gen 12:88Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.), which speaks of wanting to be close to God.

The plain is in the land Shinar. There lies the origin of Babel (Gen 10:8-108Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth.9He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.”10The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.) and idolatry (Zec 5:5-115Then the angel who was speaking with me went out and said to me, “Lift up now your eyes and see what this is going forth.”6I said, “What is it?” And he said, “This is the ephah going forth.” Again he said, “This is their appearance in all the land7(and behold, a lead cover was lifted up); and this is a woman sitting inside the ephah.”8Then he said, “This is Wickedness!” And he threw her down into the middle of the ephah and cast the lead weight on its opening.9Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and there two women were coming out with the wind in their wings; and they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heavens.10I said to the angel who was speaking with me, “Where are they taking the ephah?”11Then he said to me, “To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar; and when it is prepared, she will be set there on her own pedestal.”). Here people want to make a joint effort: they want to build a city with a tower that serves as a bridge to reach the sky. There seems to be interest in God.

It is remarkable that the first builders of cities, both in the old world (Gen 4:1717Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son.) and here in the new world, are not men of the best character or the best name. Tents are the homes of those who fear God, while the first cities are built by those who rebel against Him and apostatize from Him. We see that also here. The people want to build this city with the tower to their own honor and name. They want to make a name for themselves on earth. They also build with self-made stones. This is in opposition to God’s actions. God does everything in honor of His own Name (Isa 63:12,1412Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses,
Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name,
14As the cattle which go down into the valley,
The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest.
So You led Your people,
To make for Yourself a glorious name.
; Jer 32:2020who has set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, [and] even to this day both in Israel and among mankind; and You have made a name for Yourself, as at this day.).

The material they use, bricks, is made of clay from the earth and is therefore fragile and vulnerable. It suits man in his earthly, fragile existence (Job 33:66“Behold, I belong to God like you;
I too have been formed out of the clay.
). Because man is not aware of this, he dares to build such a structure. God builds His city with very different materials: precious stones (Isa 54:11-1211“O afflicted one, storm-tossed, [and] not comforted,
Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.
12“Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies,
And your gates of crystal,
And your entire wall of precious stones.
; Rev 21:18-2118The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.19The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald;20the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.). He builds his spiritual house with living stones (1Pet 2:55you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.).

What is happening here is the contemporary Christianity to the core. The nominal Christians want to be included, they want their opinion to be taken into account in political issues and decision-making. And do they not have great names in their history to boast of, theologians of name? But having a big name on earth does not automatically mean that that name is also written down in the heaven. In the construction of the city and the tower of Babel it is in any case a pursuit of unity and power. This is what we see in the ecumenical movement, the unity struggle of the churches led by the roman-catholic church, the spiritual Babylon, become reality.


The Confusion of Language

5The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6The 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. 7Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9Therefore 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’s response to this endeavor will not take long in coming. People have said to one another: “Come, let us …” (verses 3-43They 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.4They 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.”). Now the LORD says: “Come, let Us …” – “Us” is the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To involve the human being as it were in His considerations the LORD comes down to take note of their works. It is to convince man of what He knows as the Omniscient. After His conclusion God speaks right. He pronounces the verdict and carries it out. He does not do this by a new flood or by opening the earth, but by a confusion of language.

Through the judgment of the confusion of language, God breaks man’s striving together. A large and powerful stronghold is being demolished. The confusion of language is being undone on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-111When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.2And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.3And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.5Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven.6And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.7They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?8And how is it that we each hear [them] in our own language to which we were born?9Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,11Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our [own] tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”), when the Holy Spirit is poured out. Baptism with the Spirit creates a unity that is according to God’s thoughts. This unity, the unity of God’s church, is based on the work of Christ as the Lamb. Christ will receive the honor for this from the mouth of those whom He has purchased for God with His blood “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5:99And they *sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood [men] from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.; Rom 15:66so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.). In the kingdom of peace there will also be a unity among the nations of the earth in serving God (Zep 3:9-109“For then I will give to the peoples purified lips,
That all of them may call on the name of the LORD,
To serve Him shoulder to shoulder.
10“From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
My worshipers, My dispersed ones,
Will bring My offerings.
).

The unfinished city is named “Babel”, which means ‘confusion’. This city will be the leading power in the world. It is a concentration of ungodly powers. At the same time it becomes clear that the unity that has been pursued and that has been seen as power by man is judged by God with a confusion of languages. What they wanted to prevent by their efforts, scattering (verse 44They 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.”), is exactly what happens by God’s judgment.

With this, the story of the early history of man on earth has come to a fitting conclusion. She describes how the generations of the earth have become hopelessly scattered and wandering around on earth, with no view. The solution comes in the next section. From the scattered nations God builds a people that will become the channel of His grace. God does not yet deal with the human race. The following section prepares us for God’s work for and with His people.


Descendants of Shem to Terah

10These 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; 11and Shem lived five hundred years after he became the father of Arpachshad, and he had [other] sons and daughters. 12Arpachshad lived thirty-five years, and became the father of Shelah; 13and Arpachshad lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Shelah, and he had other sons and daughters. 14Shelah lived thirty years, and became the father of Eber; 15and Shelah lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Eber, and he had [other] sons and daughters. 16Eber lived thirty-four years, and became the father of Peleg; 17and Eber lived four hundred and thirty years after he became the father of Peleg, and he had [other] sons and daughters. 18Peleg lived thirty years, and became the father of Reu; 19and Peleg lived two hundred and nine years after he became the father of Reu, and he had [other] sons and daughters. 20Reu lived thirty-two years, and became the father of Serug; 21and Reu lived two hundred and seven years after he became the father of Serug, and he had [other] sons and daughters. 22Serug lived thirty years, and became the father of Nahor; 23and Serug lived two hundred years after he became the father of Nahor, and he had [other] sons and daughters. 24Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and became the father of Terah; 25and Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years after he became the father of Terah, and he had [other] sons and daughters. 26Terah lived seventy years, and became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.

The records of the generations of Shem are given. This shows that the descendants of Shem finally also fell into idolatry (Jos 24:22Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, [namely], Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.). Then the LORD calls Abram. His calling and his person are the subject of this records of generations and the following chapters. God’s answer to the construction of the city and the tower of Babel is the judgment of the confusion of language. Then God now goes on to call a man, Abram, who, as a heavenly minded man, is brought by Him to a land where he may live before God.

If everything is immersed in idolatry, God does not, according to His promise, put an end to it by a new judgment. He lets the nations go on their own ways (Acts 14:1616In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways;) and starts something new with Abram. With Abram’s calling, God will teach us a principle of great significance: separation from evil. God is going to teach that to Abram, step by step. He also wants to teach us this, step by step.


Terah and Abram

27Now 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. 28Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29Abram 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. 30Sarai was barren; she had no child. 31Terah 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. 32The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.

Verse 31 shows that Terah, Abram’s father, takes the initiative to leave for Canaan. God, however, did not appear to Terah, but to Abram in Ur of the Chaldeans: “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘LEAVE YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RELATIVES, AND COME INTO THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.’ 4 Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, [God] had him move to this country in which you are now living” (Acts 7:2-42And he said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,3and said to him, ‘LEAVE YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RELATIVES, AND COME INTO THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.’4Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, [God] had him move to this country in which you are now living.).

God has ordered Abram to leave his family and go to Canaan. It seems that family ties are still too strong to respond fully to God’s call. That this is so, seems to be confirmed by the stay of Abram in Haran. That is still not Canaan. Abram goes to Canaan, when his father Terah died in Haran. Only then is he free to go.

We must all learn this lesson. When it comes to the voice of the Lord in our lives, family ties should not prevent us from obeying that voice. Then we must get away from it, learn to apply death to it, so that these bonds do not prevent us from going the way the Lord wants us to go. The Lord Jesus says: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Lk 14:2626“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.).


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