|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:5-9 Here is an expression after the manner of men; The Lord came down to see the city. God is just and fair in all he does against sin and sinners, and condemns none unheard. Pious Eber is not found among this ungodly crew; for he and his are called the children of God; their souls joined not themselves to the assembly of these children of men. God suffered them to go on some way, that the works of their hands, from which they promised themselves lasting honour, might turn to their lasting reproach. God has wise and holy ends, in allowing the enemies of his glory to carry on their wicked projects a great way, and to prosper long. Observe the wisdom and mercy of God, in the methods taken for defeating this undertaking. And the mercy of God in not making the penalty equal to the offence; for he deals not with us according to our sins. The wisdom of God, in fixing upon a sure way to stop these proceedings. If they could not understand one another, they could not help one another; this would take them off from their building. God has various means, and effectual ones, to baffle and defeat the projects of proud men that set themselves against him, and particularly he divides them among themselves. Notwithstanding their union and obstinacy God was above them; for who ever hardened his heart against him, and prospered? Their language was confounded. We all suffer by it to this day: in all the pains and trouble used to learn the languages we have occasion for, we suffer for the rebellion of our ancestors at Babel. Nay, and those unhappy disputes, which are strifes of words, and arise from misunderstanding one another's words, for aught we know, are owing to this confusion of tongues. They left off to build the city. The confusion of their tongues not only unfitted them for helping one another, but they saw the hand of the Lord gone out against them. It is wisdom to leave off that which we see God fights against. God is able to blast and bring to nought all the devices and designs of Babel-builders: there is no wisdom nor counsel against the Lord. The builders departed according to their families, and the tongue they spake, to the countries and places allotted to them. The children of men never did, nor ever will, come all together again, till the great day, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and all nations shall be gathered before him.
Verse 8. - So (literally, and) the Lord scattered them abroad (as the result of the confusion of their speech) upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. I.e. as a united community, which does not preclude the idea of the Babylonians subsequently finishing the structure.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence, upon the face of all the earth,.... Hence that which they feared came upon them, and what they were so careful to guard against befell them, occasioned by those measures they took to secure themselves from it; for not being able to understand one another, they left off their design, and as many as spoke the same language joined together, and so parted in bodies; some went one way, and some another, and settled in different places, until at length, by degrees, the whole world was peopled by them, which was the will of God should be done, and was brought about in this way. The Heathen writers themselves ascribe this dispersion to a divine Being, as well as speaking different tongues. Eupolemus (n) says, that first the city of Babylon was built by those that were saved from the flood, who were giants; and then they built tower, so much spoken of in history, which falling by the power of God, the giants were "scattered throughout the whole earth". One would think this writer, by his language, must have read this account of Moses: some of them say the fall of the tower was by storms and tempests raised by the gods. So the Sybil in Josephus (o) says,"the gods sending winds overthrew the tower, and gave to every one his own speech, and hence the city came to be called Babylon.''Agreeably to which Abydenus (p), an Assyrian writer, relates, that"the winds being raised by the gods overthrew the mechanism (the tower) upon them (the builders of it), and out of the ruins of it was the city called Babylon, when those who were of the same language, from the gods spoke a different one, and of various sounds.''And so Hestiaeus (q), a Phoenician writer, speaking of those who came to Sennaar or Shinar of Babylon, says, from thence they were scattered; and, because of the diversity of language, formed colonies everywhere, and everyone seized on that land which offered to him. These writers indeed seem to be mistaken as to the destruction of the tower, and that by tempestuous winds; otherwise they agree with Moses in the confusion of languages, and scattering of the people at the tower of Babel: in what year this was done is not certain; it was in the days of Peleg, who was born in the year one hundred and one after the flood; and if it was at the time of his birth, as many are of opinion, both Jews (r) and Christians, it must be in the above year; but the phrase used does not determine that: the eastern writers (s) say, that it was in the fortieth year of the life of Peleg, and then it must be in the year after the flood one hundred and forty one; but others, and which is the common opinion of the Jewish chronologers (t), say it was at the end of Peleg's days; and whereas he lived two hundred and thirty nine years, this must happen in the year three hundred and forty after the flood, and so it was ten years, as they observe, before the death of Noah, and when Abraham was forty eight years of age. But of this see more in Buxtorf's dissertation concerning the confusion of the Hebrew language. It follows here:
and they left off to build the city; it seems they had finished the tower, but not the city, and therefore are only said to leave off building that; though the Samaritan and Septuagint versions add, "and the tower"; for not understanding one another, they were not able to go on with their work, for when they asked for one thing, as before observed out of Jarchi, they had another brought them; which so enraged them, that the Targum of Jonathan says they killed one another; and, say some Jewish writers (u), they fought one with another upon this occasion, until half the world fell by the sword. (Unlike traditions of the Flood, legends of the Tower of Babel and confusion of speech are not common. (12) That said, noteworthy support for the biblical account comes from Babylonia itself, where a damaged inscription reads:"Babylon corruptly proceeded to sin, and both small and great mingled on the mound. ...All day they founded their stronghold, but in the night he put a complete stop to it. In his anger he also poured out his secret counsel to scatter them abroad, he set his face, he gave a command to make foreign their speech.'' (13-15)This appears to have some basis in an historical event and is very close to the biblical account. Likewise, the Roman mythographer Hyginus (floruit 10 BC) writes:"Men for many generations led their lives without towns or laws, speaking one tongue under the rule of Jove. But after Mercury interpreted the language of men--whence an interpreter is called hermeneutes, for Mercury in Greek is called Hermes; he, too, distributed the nations--then discord began amoug the mortals.'' (16)Taken from p. 47, "Creation Technical Journey". Volumn Nine, Part 1, 1995, published by "Creation Science Foundation Ltd.", Brisbane, Australia. (12) Strickling, J. E., 1974. "Legendary evidence for the confusion of tongues." Creation Research Society Quarterly, 11:97-101. (13) Sayce, A. H. (ed.), "Records of the Past" (old Series), Vol. VII, p. 131f. (14) "Journey of American Oriental Society", 88:108-111 (1968) (15) Smith, J., 1876. "Chaldean Account of Genesis", Scribners, New York. (16) Hyginus, C. Julius, Fabulae 143. Editor)
(n) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 17. p. 418. (o) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 4. sect. 13. (p) Apud Euseb. ut supra, (Praepar. Evangel. l. 9.) c. 14. p. 416. (q) Apud Joseph. ut supra. (Antiqu. 1. 1. c. 4. sect. 13.) (r) Vid. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 75. 2.((s) Elmacinus, p. 28. Patricides, p. 13. apud Hottinger. Smegma Oriental. p. 267. (t) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 1. p. 1. Juchasin, fol. 8. 1. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 1. 2. (u) Pirke Eliezer, c. 24.
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