James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.Genesis 11:1-32
THE TOWER OF BABEL
The contents of this chapter seem to precede in time those of chapter 10. There we have the story of how the nations were divided, and here why they were divided. What was true of the race linguistically until this time (Genesis 11:1)? To what locality had they been chiefly attracted (Genesis 11:2)? What new mechanical science is now named (Genesis 11:3)? What two-fold purpose was the outcome of this invention (Genesis 11:4)? What was the object in view? Is there a suggestion of opposition to the divine will in the last phrase of that verse? (Genesis 9:1 and Genesis 1:28.) If we take Genesis 11:5 literally, it suggests a theophany like that in chapter 18, but perhaps the writer is speaking in an accommodated sense. He means that God’s mind was now fastened on this act of human disobedience and rebellion, for such it seems to be. Notice the divine soliloquizing in Genesis 11:6, and the reasoning it represents:
This people are united by the fact that they have but one language; this union and sense of strength have led to their present undertaking; and success here will generate other schemes in opposition to My purposes and to their disadvantage; therefore this must be frustrated. What was the divine plan of frustration (Genesis 11:7)? What was the result (Genesis 11:8)? What name was given this locality, and why (Genesis 11:9)? (Observe that Babylon and Babel are the same.) With this blow of the avenging rod of God came to an end the third experiment God was making with the apostate race. They had again turned their backs on God, making haste to caste into oblivion the terrible lesson of the flood; and so with the confusion of their speech God delivered them up to the lusts of their own hearts. (Compare Romans 1:28.)
(1) From which of Noah’s sons did the Hebrews descend?
(2) What peoples are the descendants of Japheth?
(3) Who seemed to aspire after the first world monarch?
(4) What distinction in the account of the origin of the nations is seen between chapters 10 and 11?
(5) What came to an end at this period?
These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:Genesis 11:10-32
THE ORIGIN OF ISRAEL
THE DIVINE PURPOSE
We have reached a fourth experiment in God’s dealings with the apostate race, only this shall not ultimately be the failure the others proved. It should be understood, however, that in speaking of failure the reference is to man’s part and not God’s. Before the flood the sin of the race was atheism, outright denial of divine authority with the indulgence of sinful lusts it produced and the dissolution of moral and social bonds. But after the flood idolatry took its place just how, or why, it is difficult to say and long before Abram’s time polytheism prevailed both in Chaldea and Egypt.
But God’s purpose from the beginning was the redemption of the race according to the promise of Genesis 3:15, and as incident thereto He will now call out a single individual from the corrupt mass, and make of him a nation. Special training and care shall be given to this individual and this nation that there may be in the earth
1. a repository for His truth to keep alive His name; a channel through which “the Seed of the woman,” the world’s Redeemer, may come among men; and
2. a pedestal on which He Himself may be displayed in His character before the other nations of the world to the sanctifying of His name among them and their ultimate return to His sovereignty. Steady contemplation of this three-fold purpose in the call of Abram and the origin of Israel will prevent any charge of partiality against God for dealing with them differently from other peoples, and will help us to see that all His blessing of them has been for our sake, thus quickening our interest in all that is revealed concerning them.
Israel has thus far fulfilled only part of her original mission. She has retained the name and truth of God in the earth, and given birth to the Redeemer (though she crucified Him), but she has not sanctified God among the peoples by her behavior. For this she has been punished in the past, and is now scattered among the peoples in whose sight she denied Him; but the prophets are a unit that some day she shall be restored to her land again in a national capacity, and after passing through great tribulation, be found penitent and believing, clothed in her right mind and sitting at the feet of Jesus. Then she will take up the broken threads again, and begin anew to carry out the original plan of sanctifying God among the nations. She will witness for Jesus as her Messiah in the millennial age for the conversion of those nations and their obedience to His law. All this will be brought out gradually but plainly as we proceed though the prophets.
THE GENERATIONS OF SHEM AND TERAH (Genesis 11:10-32)
The generations of Shem and Terah are the children who sprang from them and furnished the descent of Abram and the Israelites. Which one of the sons of Shem was divinely chosen for this honor? (Compare Genesis 11:10 with Genesis 10:21.) What seven facts are stated of Haran (Genesis 11:27-29)? Iscah, one of his daughters, not otherwise mentioned, is thought by some identical with her whom Abram married and whose name was changed to Sarai (my princess) after that event. Others, however, base on Abram’s words (Genesis 20:13) that Sarai was a daughter of Terah by a second wife, and thus his half sister.
Still others conjecture that of the supposed two wives of Terah, one was Haran’s mother and the other Abram’s, so that in marrying his niece, he was at liberty to speak of her as his sister, as in Egypt (Genesis 12:19), in the same sense in which he could call Lot his brother though he was also his nephew (Genesis 14:14).
Haran, which is the name of a locality, called Charran, in Acts 7:2-4, must not be confounded with the other word which is the name of Terah’s son, since they are quite distinct. Notice the location of these places on the map, and observe that because of the desert of Arabia they had to travel first towards the northwest (about 650 miles) to the fords of the Euphrates, and then southwest (say five hundred miles) to Hebron or Beersheba, which later became Abram’s favorite abode.
Ur must have been a city of great wealth and influence, so that Abram was brought up under circumstances of the highest civilization. Documents written in his day have recently been brought to light, in which his name is mentioned as borne by men of that land. And as a further mark of historicity, the name of the city itself, Ur of the Chaldees, or Ur-Kasdim, as the Hebrew puts it, was the peculiar form of its name in Abram’s time, though subsequently it had another form. One more feature of interest is that it was the ancient seat of the worship of the Moon, and that Abram and all his family were undoubtedly idolaters, so that this call of God to him, like His call to us in Christ, was entirely of grace. In examining this point, consult Genesis 31:53 and Joshua 24:2-3; Joshua 24:14-15.