Genesis 11
Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
One language in the earth, Genesis 11:1. They journey from the east, settle in a plain in the land of Shinar, Genesis 11:2; make bricks, which they burn and use with slime, Genesis 11:3; build a city and tower that they might not be scattered, Genesis 11:4. God sees it, Genesis 11:5. Disapproves their design, Genesis 11:6; defeats it, and scatters them by confounding their language, Genesis 11:7,8; for which reason the place called Babel, Genesis 11:9. The posterity of Shem to Abram, Genesis 11:10-26. Abram takes Sarai to wife, Genesis 11:29. She is barren, Genesis 11:30. He removes from Ur to Haran, Genesis 11:31, where his father dies, Genesis 11:32.

Earth is oft put for its inhabitants, as Genesis 6:21 1 Chronicles 16:23 Psalm 33:8.

Of one speech, which even heathen writers acknowledge; and that probably was the Hebrew tongue.

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.
As they journeyed from the east, i.e. Nimrod and the rest of his confederates of Ham’s posterity; not from Armenia, where the ark rested, which was north from Babel, and is called north in Scripture, as Jeremiah 25:9,26, &c.; but from Assyria, into which they had before come from the mountains of Ararat for more convenient habitation. It may be rendered to the east; but that manner of translation is neither usual nor necessary here.

The land of Shinar, where Babel was, Genesis 10:10.

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.
Let us make brick, for in that low and fat soil they had no quarries of stones. The heathen writers agree that Babylon’s walls were made of brick.

The slime was a kind of clay called bitumen, which, as Pliny testifieth, is liquid and glutinous, and fit to be used in brick buildings, as Strabo, Dion, and others note. And that Babylon was built with this, as is here said, we have the joint and express testimony of Berosus, Ctesias, Dion, Curtius, and many others.

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.
Whose top may reach unto heaven, i.e. a very high tower; a usual hyperbole, both in Scripture, as Deu 1:28 9:1, and in other authors. This tower and its vast height is noted by Herodotus, Diodorus, and others.

Let us make us a name, i.e. a great name, as the phrase is elsewhere used. Compare also 2 Samuel 7:9, with 1 Chronicles 17:8. See also Isaiah 63:12,14 Da 9:15. They take no care for God’s name, and the defence and propagation of the true religion, as duty bound them, but merely out of pride and vain-glory labour to erect an everlasting monument of their wit, and wealth, and magnificence to all posterity.

Their design was not to secure themselves against a flood, which they well knew brick buildings were no fence against; nor would they then have built this tower in a plain, but upon some high mountain; but rather to prevent a total and irrecoverable dispersion. They sought therefore to bind themselves together in one glorious empire, and to make this glorious city the capital seat of it, and the place of refuge and resort upon any considerable occasion.

And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
Not by local descent, for he is every where; but by the manifestation of his presence and the effects of his power in that place.

To see the city and the tower, i.e. to know the truth of the fact, thereby setting a pattern for judges to examine causes before they pass sentence; otherwise God saw this in heaven; but in these expressions he condescends to the capacity of men.

The children of men, so called emphatically,

1. For distinction of them from the sons of God, or the race of Shem, who were not guilty of the sin, and therefore did not partake in the curse, the confusion of their language, but retained their ancient tongue uncorrupted for a good while.

2. To note their rashness and folly, who being but weak and silly men, durst oppose themselves to the infinitely wise and powerful God, who did (as they might easily gather both from his words and works) intend to disperse and separate them, that so by degrees they might possess the whole earth, which God had made for that purpose.

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.
The Lord said this in way of holy scorn and derision. Compare Genesis 3:22.

Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
Let us, i.e. the blessed Trinity. See Genesis 1:26.

Confound their language, by making them forget their former language, and by putting into their minds several languages; not a distinct language into each person, but into each family, or rather into each nation; that thereby they may be disenabled from that mutual commerce which was altogether necessary for the carrying on of that work.

So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
Thus they brought upon themselves the very thing they feared, and that more speedily and more mischievously to themselves; for now they were not only divided in place, but in language too, and so were unfitted for those confederacies and correspondences which they mainly designed, and for the mutual comfort and help of one another, which otherwise they might in good measure have enjoyed.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
Not all the generations of Shem, as appears both from Genesis 11:11, and from the former chapter; but of those who were the seminary of the church, and the progenitors of Christ.

And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.

So that he lived almost all the time of Abraham; which was a singular blessing, both to himself, who hereby saw his children of the tenth generation; and to the church of God, which by this means enjoyed the counsel and conduct of so great a patriarch.

And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah:
2311 No text from Poole on this verse.

And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber:
No text from Poole on this verse. 2281

And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg:
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And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters.
So that he was the longest lived of all the patriarchs which were born after the flood.

And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu:
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And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug:
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And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor:
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And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
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And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:
Nahor was the first patriarch who fell to idolatry.


And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
2056 i.e. Began to beget, as Genesis 5:32.

Abram, who is first named in order of dignity, (for which cause Shem is put before Ham and Japheth, and Moses before Aaron), not in order of time, which seems to be this: Haran probably was the eldest, because Nahor married his daughter; Nahor the second; and Abram certainly was the youngest, because Terah, Abram’s father, lived two hundred and five years, Genesis 11:32, and Abram after his father’s death, Acts 7:4, went out of Haran, when he was seventy-five years old, Genesis 12:4,5; therefore he was not begotten in Terah’s seventieth year, when Terah began to beget his sons, as here is said, but in his one hundred and thirtieth year, and so there remains seventy-five years precisely to Abram’s departure. And Sarai, Haran’s daughter, was but ten years younger than Abram, Genesis 17:17; and therefore Haran was Abram’s elder brother.

Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.

No text from Poole on this verse.

And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.
i.e. In the presence and during the life of his father.

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.
Such marriages of uncles and nieces being permitted then, Exodus 6:20, (as in the beginning of the world the marriages of brethren and sisters were), though afterwards, the church being very much enlarged, they were severely forbidden, Leviticus 18:12,14.

Iscah is either Sarai, as the Jews and many others think, or rather another person. For,

1. Why should Moses express Sarai thus darkly and doubtfully? Had he meant her, he would have added after Iscah, this is Sarai, according to his manner in like cases, Genesis 14:2,7 35:6.

2. He elsewhere calleth her, the daughter, not of his brother, as he should have done, had she been Iscah, but of his father, by another mother.

But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
See Genesis 16:1,2 18:11,12.

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.
See Joshua 24:2 Nehemiah 9:7 1 Chronicles 1:26. Being informed by his son of the command of God,

Terah did not despise it, because it came to him by the hands of his inferior, but cheerfully obeyeth it; and therefore he is so honourably mentioned as the head and governor of the action. Terah and Abram went with Lot and Sarai, as their heads and guides.

Haran is called Charran, Acts 7:4, and by the Romans Carrae, a place in in Mesopotamia strictly so called, in the way to Canaan, and near to it, well known by Crassus’ defeat there: see Genesis 24:10 28:10 29:4.

Dwelt there; or, rested or abode, being detained there for a season; peradventure by Terah’s disease, which begun there, for Genesis 11:32 tells us of his death.

And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.
No text from Poole on this verse.


Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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