Genesis 11
Pulpit Commentary
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
Verse 1. - And the whole earth. I.e. the entire population of the globe, and not simply the inhabitants of the land of Shinar (Ingiis; cf. Genesis 9:29). Was. Prior to the dispersion spoken of in the preceding chapter, though obviously it may have been subsequent to that event, if, as the above-named author believes, the present paragraph refers to the Shemites alone. Of one language. Literally, of one lip, i.e. one articulation, or one way of pronouncing their vocables. And of one speech. Literally, one (kind of) words, i.e. the matter as well as the form of human speech was the same. The primitive language was believed by the Rabbins, the Fathers, and the older theologians to be Hebrew; but Keil declares this view to be utterly untenable. Bleek shows that the family of Abraham spoke in Aramaic (cf. Jegar-sahadutha, Genesis 31:47), and that the patriarch himself acquired Hebrew from the Canaanites, who may themselves have adopted it from the early Semites whom they displace& While regarding neither the Aramaic, Hebrew, nor Arabic as the original tongue of mankind, he thinks the Hebrew approaches nearest the primitive Semite language out of which all three were developed.
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.
Verse 2. - And it came to pass, as they journeyed. Literally, in their journeyings. The root (גָקַע, to pull up, as, e.g., the stakes of a tent when a camp moves, Isaiah 33:20) suggests the idea of the migration of nomadic hordes (cf. Genesis 12:9; Genesis 33:17). From the east. Ab oriente (Ancient Versions, Calvin, et alii), meaning either that they started from Armenia, which was in the east respectu terrae Canaan (Luther), or from that portion of the Assyrian empire which was east of the Tigris, and called Orientalis, as distinguished from the Occidentalis on the west (Bochart); or that they first traveled westwards, following the direction of the Euphrates in one of its upper branches (Bush); or that, having roamed to the east of Shinar, they ultimately returned occidentem versus (Junius). The phrase, however, is admitted to be more correctly rendered ad orientem (Drusius, Lange, Keil, Murphy), as in Genesis 13:11. Kalisch interprets generally in oriente, agreeing with Luther that the migrations are viewed by the writer as taking place in the east; while T. Lewis prefers to read from one front part (the original meaning of kedem) to another - onwards. That they found a plain בִּקְעָה; not a valley between mountain ranges, as in Deuteronomy 8:7; Deuteronomy 11:11; Psalm 104:8, but a widely-extended plain (πεδίον, LXX.), like that in which Babylon was situated (Herod., lib. 1:178, κέεται ἐν πεδιῳ μεγάλῳ; cf. Strabo, lib. 2:109). In the land of Shinar. Babylonia (cf. Genesis 10:10). The derivation of the term is unknown (Gesenius), though it probably meant the land of the two rivers (Alford). Its absence from ancient monuments (Rawlinson) suggests that it was the Jewish name for Chaldaea. And they dwelt there.
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.
Verse 3. - And they said one to another. Literally, a man to his neighbor; ἄνθρωπος τῷ πλησίον αὐτοῦ (LXX.). Go to. A hortatory expletive - come on (Anglice). Let us make brick. Nilbenah lebenim; literally, let us brick bricks; πλινθεύσωμεν πλίνθους (LXX.); laterifecimus lateres (Calvin); lebenah (from laban, to be white), being so called from the white and chalky day of which bricks were made. And burn them thoroughly. Literally, burn them to a burning; venisrephah lisrephah, a second alliteration, which, however, the LXX. fails to reproduce. Bricks were usually sun-dried; these, being designed to be more durable, were to be calcined through the agency of fire, a proof that the tower-builders were acquainted with the art of brick-making. And they had - literally, and there was to theme - brick for stone. Chiefly because of the necessities of the place, the alluvial plain of Babylon being void of stones and full of clay; a proof of the greatness of their crime, seeing they were induced to undertake the work non facilitate operis, nec aliis commodis, quae se ad manum offerrent (Calvin); scarcely because bricks would better endure fire than would stones, the second destruction of the world by fire rather than water being by this time a common expectation (Com a Lapide). Josephus, 'Ant., lib. 1. cp. 4; Herod, lib. 1. cp. 179; Justin, lib. 1. cp. 2; Ovid, ' Metam.,' 4:4; and Aristoph. in Avibus (περιτευχίζειν μεγάλαις πλίνθοις ὀπταῖς ὥσπερ Βαβυλῶνα), all attest that the walls of Babylon were built of brick. The mention of the circumstance that brick was used instead of stone "indicates a writer belonging to a country and an age in which stone buildings were familiar, and therefore not to Babylonia" (Murphy). And slime. Chemer, from chamar, to boil up; ἄσφαλτος (LXX.); the bitumen which boils up from subterranean fountains like oil or hot pitch in the vicinity of Babylon, and also near the Dead Sea (lacus asphaltites). Tacitus, ' Hist.,' 5:6; Strabo, 16. p. 743; Herod., lib. h c. 179; Josephus, 'Antiq.,' lib. 1. c. 41 Pliny, lib. 35. 100. 15; Vitruvius, lib. 8. c. 3, are unanimous in declaring that the brick walls of Babylon were cemented with bitumen. Layard testifies that so firmly have the bricks been united that it is almost impossible to detach one from the mass ('Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 499). Had they. Literally, was to them. For mortar. Chomer. The third instance of alliteration in the present verse; possibly designed by the writer to represent the enthusiasm of the builders.
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.
Verse 4. - And they said. Being impelled by their success in making bricks for their dwellings (Lange), though the resolution to be mentioned may have been the cause of their brick-making (Bush). Go to, let us build us a city. Cf. Genesis 4:17, which represents Cain as the first city builder. And a tower. Not as a distinct erection, but as forming a part, as it were the Acre-polls, of the city (Bochart). Whose top may reach unto heaven. Literally, and his head in the heavens, a hyperbolical expression for a tower of great height, as in Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:1 (cf. Homer, 'Odys,' 5:239, ἐλάτη τ η΅ν οὐρανομήκης). This tower is commonly identified with the temple of Belus, which Herodotus describes (1. 181) as being quadrangular (two stadia each way), and having gates of brass, with a solid tower in the middle, consisting of eight sections, each a stadium in height, placed one above another, ascended by a spiral staircase, and having in the top section a spacious temple with a golden table and a well-furnished bed. Partially destroyed by Xerxes ( B.C. 490), it was attempted unsuccessfully to be rebuilt by Alexander the Great; but the remaining portion of the edifice was known to be in existence five centuries later, and was sufficiently imposing to be recognized as the temple of Belus (Pliny, 6:30). The site of this ancient tower is supposed by George Smith to be covered by the ruin "Babil," a square mound about 200 yards each way, in the north of the city; and that of the tower of Babel to be occupied by the ruin Birs-Nimrod (situated six miles south-west of Hillah, which is about forty miles west of Bagdad), a tower consisting of seven stages, said by inscriptions on cylinders extracted from the ruin to have been "the Temple of the Seven Planets, which had been partially built by a former king of Babylon, and, having fallen into decay, was restored and completed by Nebuchadnezzar" ('Assyrian Discoveries,' 12. p. 59; 'Chaldaean Genesis,' p. 163; cf. Layard's 'Nineveh and Babylon,' chap. 22. p. 496). It is, however, prima facie, unlikely that either Babil or Birs-Nimrod is the exact site of Babel. The original building was never finished, and may not have attained any great dimensions. Perhaps the most that can be said is that these existing mounds enable us to picture what sort of erection the tower of Babel was to be. And let us make a name, שֵׁם; neither an idol temple, ֵשם being = God, which it never is without the article, הַשֵׁם - cf. Leviticus 24:11 (Jewish writers); nor a monument, as in 2 Samuel 8:13 (Clericus); nor a metropolis, reading אֵם instead of שֵׁם, as in 2 Samuel 20:19 (Clericus); nor a tower that might serve as a sign to guide the wandering nomads and guard them against getting lost when spread abroad with their flocks, as in 2 Samuel 8:13; Isaiah 55:13 (Perizonius, Dathe, Ilgen); but a name, a reputation, as in 2 Samuel 8:13; Isaiah 63:12, 14; Jeremiah 32:20; Daniel 9:15 (Luther, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Lange, Murphy, Wordsworth, Kalisch). This was the first impelling motive to the erection of the city and tower. The offspring of ambition, it was designed to spread abroad their fame usque ad ultimos terrarum fines (Calvin). According to Philo, each man wrote his name upon a brick before he built it in. The second was to establish a rallying point that might serve to maintain their unity. Lest we be scattered abroad. Lest - antequam, πρὸ, before that, as if anticipating that the continuous increase of population would necessitate their dispersion (LXX., Vulgute), or as if determined to distinguish themselves before surrendering to the Divine command to spread themselves abroad (Luther); but the more exact rendering of פֵן is μή, ne, lest, introducing an apodosis expressive of something to be avoided by a preceding action (cf. Gesenius, ' Hebrews Gram.,' § 152, and Furst, 'Lex.,' sub voce. What the builders dreaded was not the recurrence of a flood (Josephus, Lyra), but the execution of the Divine purpose intimated in Genesis 9:1, and perhaps recalled to their remembrance by Noah (Usher), or by Sham (Wordsworth), or by Eber (Candlish); and what the builders aimed at was resistance to the Divine will. Upon the face of the whole earth. Over the entire surface of the globe, and not simply over the land of Shiner (Inglis), or over the immediate region in which they dwelt (Clericus,. Dathe, et alii, ut supra).
And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
Verse 5. - And the Lord came down. Not in visible form, as in Exodus 19:20; Exodus 34:5 (Onkelos), but "effectu ostendens se propin quiorem quem absentem esse judicabant" (Poole), an anthropomorphism (cf. Genesis 18:21; Psalm 144:5). "It is measure for measure (par pari). Let us build up, say they, and scale the heavens. Let us go down, says God, and defeat their impious thought" (Rabbi Schelomo, quoted by T. Lewis). To see (with a view to judicial action) the city and the tower which the children of men - sons of Adam; neither the posterity of Cain, i.e. the Hamites exclusively, as the Sethites were called sons of God, Genesis 6:2 (Augustine), nor wicked men in general (Junius, Piscator), imitators of Adam, i.e. rebellantes Dee (Mode, Lyre), since then the Shemites would not have been participators in the undertaking (Drusius), which some think, to have been their work exclusively (Inglis); but the members of the human race, or at least their leaders - builded.
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.
Verse 6. - And the Lord said - within himself, and to himself (vide ver. 8); expressive of the formation of a Divine resolution (cf. Genesis 6:7) - Behold, the people - עַס, from root signifying to bind together, expresses the idea of association; גּוי, from a root signifying to swell (Lange), to flow together (Gesenius), to gather together (Furst), conveys the notion of a confluxus hominum. T. Lewis connects it with the sense of interiority, or exclusion, which is common in the Chaldee and Syriac - is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do. One race, one tongue, one purpose. The words indicate unity of effort, as well as concentration of design, on the part of the builders, and a certain measure of success in the achievement of their work. And now nothing will be restrained from them. Literally, there will not be cut off from them anything; οὐκ ἐκλείψει ἀπ αὐτῶν πάντα (LXX.); non desistent a cogitationibus suis (Vulgate, Luther); i.e. nothing will prove too hard for their dating. It can hardly imply that their impious design was on the eve of completion. Which they have imagined to do.
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
Verse 7. - Go to. An ironical contrast to the "Go to" of the builders (Lange). Let us (cf. Genesis 1:26) go down, and there confound their language (vide infra, ver. 9), that they may not understand (literally, hear; so Genesis 42:23; Isaiah 36:11; 1 Corinthians 14:2) one another's speech. Not referring to individuals (singuli homines), since then society were impossible, but to families or nations (singulae cognationes), which each had its own tongue (Poole).
So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
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.
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.
Verse 9. - Therefore is the name of it called Babel. For Balbel, confusion (σύγχυσις, LXX., Josephus), from Balal, to confound; the derivation given by the sacred writer in the following clause (cf. for the elision of the letter l, totaphah for tophtaphah, Exodus 13:16, and cochav for covcav, Genesis 37:9). Other derivations suggested are Bab-Bel, the gate or court of Bolus (Eichhorn, Lange), an explanation of the term which Furst thinks not impossible, and Kalisch declares "can scarcely be overlooked;" and Bab-il, the gate of God (Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Colenso); but the first is based upon a purely mythical personage, Bel, the imaginary founder of the city; and the second, if even it were supported by evidence, which it is not, is not so likely as that given by Moses. Because the Lord did there confound - how is not explained, but has been conjectured to be by an entirely inward process, viz., changing the ideas associated with words (Koppen); by a process wholly outward, viz.. an alteration of the mode of pronouncing words (Hoffman), though more probably by both (Keil), or possibly by the first insensibly leading to the second - the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them. As the result not simply of their growing discord, dissensio animorum, per quam factum sit, ut qui turrem struehant distracti sint in contraria studia et consilia (Vitringa); but chiefly of their diverging tongues - a statement which is supposed to conflict with the findings of modern philology, that the existing differences of language among mankind are the result of slow and gradual changes brought about by the operation of natural causes, such as the influence of locality in changing and of time in corrupting human speech. But

(1) modern philology has as yet only succeeded in explaining the growth of what might be called the sub-modifications of human speech, and is confessedly unable to account for what appears to be its main division into a Shemitic, an Aryan, and a Turanian tongue, which may have been produced in the sudden and miraculous way described; and

(2) nothing prevents us from regarding the two events, the confusion of tongues and the dispersion of the nations, as occurring simultaneously, and even acting and reacting on each other. As the tribes parted, their speech would diverge, and, on the other hand, as the tongues differed, those who spoke the same or cognate dialects would draw together and draw apart from the rest. We may even suppose that, prior to the building of Babel, if any of the human family had begun to spread themselves abroad upon the surface of the globe, a slight diversity in human speech had begun to show itself; and the truthfulness of the narrative will in no wise be endangered by admitting that the Divine interposition at Babel may have consisted in quickening a natural process which had already commenced to operate; nay, we are rather warranted to conclude that the whole work of subdividing human speech was not compressed into a moment of time, but, after receiving this special impulse, was left to develop and complete itself as the nations wandered farther and ever farther from the plains of Shinar (cf. Kurtz, 'Hist. of the Old Covenant,' vol. 1. pp. 108-117 (Clark's For. Theol. Lib.), and 'Quarry on Genesis,' pp. 195-206).

CHALDAEAN LEGEND OF THE TOWER OF BABEL. Berosus, indeed, does not refer to it, and early writers are obliged to have recourse to somewhat doubtful authorities to confirm it. Eusebius, e.g., quotes Abydenus as saying that "not long after the Flood, the ancient race of men were so puffed up with their strength and tallness of stature that they began to despise and contemn the gods, and labored to erect that very lofty tower which is now called Babylon, intending thereby to scale the heaven& But when the building approached the sky, behold, the gods called in the aid of the winds, and by their help overturned the tower, and cast it to the ground! The name of the ruin is still called Babel, because until this time all men had used the same speech; but now there was sent upon them a confusion of many and diverse tongues" ('Praep. Ev.,' 9:14). But the diligence of the late George Smith has been rewarded by discovering the fragment of an Assyrian tablet (marked If, 3657 in British Museum) containing an account of the building of the tower, in which the gods are represented as being angry at the work and confounding the speech of the builders. In col. 1, lines 5 and 6 (according to W. St. C. Boscawen's translation) run -

"Babylon corruptly to sin went, and
Small and great mingled on the mound;"

while in col 2, lines 12, 13, 14, 15, am-

"In his anger also the secret counsel he poured out
To scatter abroad his face he set
He gave a command to make strange their speech
... their progress he impeded."
('Records of the Past,' vol. 7. p. 131; cf. ' Chaldaean Genesis, p. 160.)

These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
Verse 10. - These are the generations of Shem. The new section, opening with the usual formula (cf. Genesis 2:4; Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1), reverts to the main purpose of the inspired narrative, which is to trace the onward development of the line of promise; and this it does by carrying forward the genealogical history of the holy seed through ten generations till it reaches Abram. Taken along with Genesis 5, with which it corresponds, the present table completes the chronological outline from Adam to the Hebrew patriarch. Shem was an hundred years old (literally, the son of an hundred years, i.e. in his hundredth year), and begat Arphaxad. The English term is borrowed from the LXX., the Hebrew being Arpaehshadh, a compound of which the principal part is כשד, giving rise to the Chashdim or Chaldeans; whence Professor Lewis regards it as originally the name of a people transferred to their ancestor (cf. Genesis 10:22). Two years after the flood. So that in Noah's 603rd year Shem was 100, and must accordingly have been born in Noah's 503rd year, i.e. two years after Japheth (cf. Genesis 5:32; Genesis 10:21). The mention of the Flood indicates the point of time from which the present section is designed to be reckoned.
And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
Verse 11. - And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years (making his life in all 600 years), and begat sons and daughters (concerning whom Scripture is silent, as not being included in the holy line).
And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah:
Verses 12, 13. - And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years (the first indication of a change having transpired upon human life after the Flood, the average age of paternity prior to that event being 117, the earliest 65, and the latest 187), and begat Salah. Shalach, literally, emission, or the sending forth, of water, a memorial of the Flood (Bochart); or of an arrow or dart (vide Genesis 10:24). And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years (making a total of 438, i.e. 339 years less than the youngest complete life in the prediluvian table, - Enoch's, of course, being excepted, and 162 less than Shem's: a second indication of the shortening of the period of existence), and begat sons and daughters.
And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber:
Verses 14, 15. - And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber. Literally, the region on the otherside (πέραν); from עָבַר, to pass over (cf. ὑπέρ, Greek; uber, German; over, Saxon). The ancestor of the Hebrews (Genesis 10:21), so called from his descendants having crossed the Euphrates and commenced a southward emigration, or from the circumstance that he or another portion of his posterity remained on the other side. Prof. Lewis thinks that this branch of the Shemites, having lingered so long in the upper country, had not much to do with the tower building on the plain of Shinar. And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years (in all 433 years, or five years less than Arphaxad), and begat sons and daughters.
And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg:
Verses 16, 17. - And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg. Division; from palag, to divide. For the reason of this cognomen vide Genesis 10:25. And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years (thus reaching the age of 464, the longest-lived of the postdiluvian fathers), and begat sons and daughters.
And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu:
Verses 18, 19. - And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu. Friend (cf. of God, or of men), or friendship; from a root signifying to pasture, to tend, to care for. Bochart traces his descendants in the great Nisaean plain Ragan (Judith 1:6), situated on the confines of Armenia and Media, and having, according to Strabo, a city named Ragae or Ragiae. And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years (thus making his entire age 239 years), and begat sons and daughters.
And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug:
Verses 20, 21. - And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug. Vine-shoot, from sarag, to wind (Gesenius, Lange, Lewis, Murphy); strength, firmness, from the sense of twisting which the root bears (Furst). And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years (in all 239), and begat sons and daughters.
And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor:
Verses 22, 23. - And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor. Pantie. (Gesenius); from nachar, to breathe hard, to snort. Piercer, slayer (Furst); from an unused root signifying to Bore through. And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years (or 230 in all), and begat sons and daughters.
And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:
Verses 24, 25. - And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah. Terach, or turning, tarrying; from tarach, an unused Chaldaean root meaning to delay (Gesenius); singularly appropriate to his future character and history, from which probably the name reverted to him. Ewald renders Terach by "migration, considering Tarach = arach, to stretch out. And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years (148 in all, the shortest liver among the postdiluvian patriarchs), and begat sons and daughters.
And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Verse 26. - And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram. First named on account of his spiritual pre-eminence. If Abram was Terah's eldest son, then, as Abram was seventy-five years of age when Terah died (Genesis 12:4), Terah's whole life could only have been 145 years. But Terah lived to the age of 205 years (Genesis 11:32); therefore Abram was born in Terah's 130th year. This, however, makes it surprising that Abraham should have reckoned it impossible for him to have a son at 100 years (Genesis 17:17); only, after having lived so long in childless wedlock, it was not strange that he should feel somewhat doubtful of any issue by Sarai. Kalisch believes that Stephen (Acts 7:4) made a mistake in saying Terah died before his son's migration from Charran, and that he really survived that event by sixty years; while the Samaritan text escapes the difficulty by shortening the life of Terah to 145 years. And Nahor, who must have been younger than Haran, since he married Haran's daughter. And Haran, who, as the eldest, must have been born in Terah's seventieth year. Thus the second family register, like the flint, concludes after ten generations with the birth of three sons, who, like Noah's, are mentioned not in the order of their ages, but of their spiritual pre-eminence.

From this table it appears that 292 years, according to the Hebrew text, passed away between the Flood and the birth, or 292 +75 = = 367 between the Flood and the call of Abraham. Reckoning, however, the age of Torah at Abram's birth as 130 (vide Exposition), the full period between the Deluge and the patriarch's departure from Haran will be 367 + 60 = = 427 years, which, allowing five pairs to each family, Murphy computes, would in the course of ten generations yield a population of 15,625,000 souls; or, supposing a rate of increase equal to that of Abraham's posterity in Egypt during the 400 years that elapsed from the call to the exodus, the inhabitants of the world in the time of Abraham would be between seven and eight millions. It must, however, be remembered that an element of uncertainty enters into all computations based upon even the Hebrew text. The age of Terah at the birth (apparently) of Abram is put down at seventy. But it admits of demonstration that Abram was born in the 130th year of Terah. What guarantee then do we possess that in every instance the registered son was the firstborn? In the case of Arphaxad this is almost implied in the statement that he was born two years after the Flood. But if the case of Eber were parallel with that of Terah, and Joktan were the son that he begat in his thirty-fourth year, then obviously the birth of Peleg, like that of Abram, may have happened sixty years later; in which case it is apparent that any reckoning which proceeded on the minute verbal accuracy of the registered numbers would be entirely at fault. This consideration might have gone far to explain the wide divergence between the numbers of the Samaritan and Septuagint as compared with the Hebrew text, had it not been that they both agree with it in setting down seventy as the age of Terah at the date of Abram's birth. The palpable artificiality also of these later tables renders them even less worthy of credit than the Hebrew. The introduction by the LXX. of Cainan as the son of Arphaxad, though seemingly confirmed by Luke (Luke 3:35, 36), is clearly an interpolation. It does not occur in the LXX. version of 1 Chronicles 1:24, and is not found in either the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Targums or the ancient versions, in Josephus or Philo, or in the Codex Beza of the Gospel of Luke. Its appearance in Luke (and probably also in the LXX.) can only be explained as an interpolation. Wordsworth is inclined to regard it as authentic in Luke, and to suppose that Cainaan was excluded from the Mosaic table either to render it symmetrical, as Luke's table is rendered symmetrical by its insertion, or because of some moral offence, which, though necessitating his expulsion from a Hebrew register, would not prevent his reappearance in his proper place under the gospel.

Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
Verse 27. - Now (literally, and, intimating the close connection of the present with the preceding section) these are the generations - the commencement of a new subdivision of the history (Keil), and neither the winding-up of the foregoing genealogy ('Speaker's Commentary') nor the heading only of the brief paragraph in vers. 27-32 (Lange; vide Genesis 2:4) - of Terah. Not of Abram; partly because mainly occupied with the career not of Abram's son, in which case "the generations of Abram" would have been appropriate, but of Abram himself, Terah's son; and partly owing to the subsidiary design to indicate Nahor's connection, through Rebekah, with the promised seed (cf. Quarry, p. 415). Terah begat Abram, "Father of Elevation," who is mentioned first not because he happened to be Terah's eldest son (Keil), which he was not (vide Genesis 11:26), or because Moses was indifferent to the order in which the sons of Terah were introduced (Calvin), but because of his spiritual preeminence as the head of the theocratic line (Wordsworth). Nahor, "Panting," not to be confounded with his grandfather of the same name (ver. 25). Haran, "Tarrying," the eldest son of Terah (ver. 26), and, along with Abram and Nahor, reintroduced into the narrative on account of his relationship to Lot and Milcah. That Terah had other sons (Calvin) does not appear probable, And Haran begat Lot. לוט; of uncertain etymology, but may be = לוּט, a concealed, i.e. obscure, low one, or perhaps a dark-colored one (Furst).
And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.
Verse 28. - And Haran died before his father. Literally, upon the face of his father; ἐνώπιον τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ (LXX); while his father was alive (Munster, Luther, Calvin, Rosenmüller); perhaps also in his father s presence (Keil, Lange), though the Jewish fable may be discarded that Terah, at this time an 'idolater, accused his sons to Nimrod, who cast them into a furnace for refusing to worship the fire-god, and that Haran perished in the flames in his father s sight. The decease of Haran is the first recorded instance of the natural death of a son before his father. In the land of his nativity. Ἐν τῇ γῇ ῇ ἐγεννήθη (LXX.). In Ur of the Chaldees. Ur Kasdim (Genesis 11:31; 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7). The Kasdim - formerly believed to have been Shemites on account of

(1) Abram's settlement among them,

(2) the preservation of the name Kesed among his kindred (Genesis 22:22),

(3) the close affinity to a Shemite tongue of the language known to modern philologists as Chaldee, an Arameean dialect differing but slightly from the Syriac (Heeren), and

(4) the supposed identity or intimate connection of the Babylonians with the Assyrians (Niebuhr) - are now, with greater probability, and certainly with closer adherence to Biblical history (Genesis 10:8-12), regarded as having been a Hamite race (Rawlinson, Smith); an opinion which receives confirmation from

(1) the statement of Homer ('Odyss. ,' 1:23, 24), that the Ethiopians were divided and dwelt at the ends of the earth, towards the setting and the rising sun, i.e., according to Strabo, on both sides of the Arabian Gulf;

(2) the primitive traditions

(a) of the Greeks, who regarded Memnon, King of Ethiopia, as the founder of Susa (Herod., 5:54), and the son of a Cissian woman (Strabo, 15:3, § 2;

(b) of the Nilotic Ethiopians, who claimed him as one of their monarchs; and

(c) of the Egyptians, who identified him with their King Amunoph III., whose statue became known as the vocal Memnon (vide Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 48);

(3) the testimony of Moses of Chorene ('History of Armenia,' 1:6), who connects in the closest way Babylonia, Egypt, and Ethiopia Proper, identifying Belus, King of Babylon, with Nimrod, and making him the son of Mizraim, or the grandson of Cush; and

(4) the monumental history of Babylonia, which shows the language of the earliest inscriptions, according to Rawlinson "differing greatly from the later Babylonian," to have been that of a Turanian people (cf. 'Records of the Past,' vol. 3. p. 3). The term Ur has been explained to be identical with It, a city (Rawlinson); the Zend Vare, a fortress (Gesenius); Ur, the light country, i.e. the land of the sun-rising (Furst); and even Ur, <[Vol 1/Genesis/173]PGBR> fire, with special reference to the legendary furnace already referred to (Talmudists). Whether a district (LXX., Lange, Kalisch) or a city (Josephus, Eusebius, Onkelos, Drnsius, Keil, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary'), its exact site is uncertain. Rival claimants for the honor of representing it have appeared in

(1) a Persian fortress (Persicum Castellum) of the name of Ur, mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus (75. 100. 8) as lying between Nisibis and the Tigris (Bochart, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch);

(2) the modern Orfah, the Edsssa of the Greeks, situated "on one of the bare, rugged spurs which descend from the mountains of Armenia into the Assyrian plains" (Stanley's 'Jewish Church,' 1:7); and

(3) Hur, the most important of the early capitals of Chaldaea, now the ruins of Mugheir, at no great distance from the mouth, and six miles to the west, of the Euphrates (Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1:15, 16; Smith's 'Assyrian Discoveries,' 12:233; 'Records of the Past,' vol. 3. p. 9). Yet none of them is quite exempt from difficulty. A military fort, to take the first-named location, does not appear a suitable or likely place for a nomade horde to settle in; while the second has been reckoned too near Charran, the first place of encampment of the emigrants; and the third, besides being exceedingly remote from Charran, scarcely harmonises with Stephen's speech before the Sanhedrim (Acts 7:2). Unless, therefore, Stephen meant Chaldsea when he said Mesopotamia (Dykes), and Abraham could speak of Northern Mesopotamia as his country (Genesis 24:4), when in reality he belonged to Southern Babylonia, the identification of Ur of the Chaldees with the Mugheir ruin though regarded with most favor by archaeologists, will continue to be doubtful; while, if the clan march commenced at Edessa, it will always require an effort to account for their coming to a halt so soon after starting and so near home; and the Nisibis station, though apparently more suitable than either in respect of distance, will remain encumbered with its own peculiar difficulties. It would seem, therefore, as if the exact situation of the patriarchal town or country must be left undetermined until further light can be obtained.
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.
Verse 29. - And Abram and Nahor took them wives (cf. Genesis 6:2): the name of Abram's wife was Sarai. "My princess," from sarah, to rule (Gesenius, Lange); "Strife" (Kalisch, Murphy): "Jah is ruler" (Furst). The LXX. write Σάρα, changing afterwards to Σαῥῤα to correspond with Sarah. That Sarai was Iscah (Josephus, Augustine, Jerome, Jonathan) has been inferred from Genesis 20:12; but, though receiving apparent sanction from ver. 31, this opinion "is not supported by any solid argument" (Rosenmüller). And the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah (Queen, or Counsel), the daughter of Haran, i.e. Nahor's niece. Marriage with a half-sister or a niece was afterwards forbidden by the Mosaic code (Leviticus 18:9, 14). The father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah, whose name "Seer" may have been introduced into the narrative like that of Naamah (Genesis 4:22), as that of an eminent lady connected with the family (Murphy). Ewald's hypothesis, that Iscah was Lot's wife, is pure conjecture.
But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
Verse 30. - But Sarai was barren; she had no child. Perhaps in contrast to Milcah, who by this time had begun to have a family (Murphy).
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.
Verse 31. - And Terah took - an act of pure human volition on the part of Terah (Kalisch); under the guidance of God's ordinary providence (Keil); but more probably, as Abram was called in Ur (vide infra), prompted by a knowledge of his son's call, and a desire to participate in his son's inheritance (Lange) - Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife. The Samaritan reads, "and Milcah his daughter-in-law, the wives of Abram and Nahor his sons," with an obvious intention to account for the appearance of Nahor as a settler in Charran (Genesis 24:10); but it is better to understand the migration of Nahor and his family as having taken place subsequent to Terah's departure. And they went forth with them. I.e. Lot and Sarai with Terah and Abram (Keil); or, better, Terah and Abram with Lot and Sarai (Jarchi, Rosenmüller, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary); though best is the interpretation, "and they went forth with each other" (Lange, Kalisch). For the reflexive use of the personal pronoun vide Genesis 3:7; 22:3, and cf. Gesenius, 'Gram.,'§ 124. Other readings are, "and he led them forth" (Samaritan, LXX., Vulgate, Dathius), and "and they (the unnamed members of the family) went forth with those named" (Delitzsch). From Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan. Expressive of the Divine destination, rather than of the conscious intention of the travelers (Hebrews 11:8), though Canaan was not at this time unknown to the inhabitants of the Tigris and Euphrates valley (vide Genesis 14:1-12). And they came into Haran. Charran, Καῥῤαι, Carrae, in northwest Mesopotamia, about twenty-five miles from Edessa, one of the supposed sites of Ur, and celebrated as the scene of the overthrow of Crassus by the Parthians ( B.C. 53). And dwelt there. Probably in consequence of the growing infirmity of Terah, the period of their sojourn being differently computed<[Vol 1/Genesis/174]PGBR> according as Abram is regarded as having been born in Terah's 70th or 130th year.
And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.
Verse 32. - And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years. So that if Abram was born in Terah's 70th year, Terah must have been 145 when Abram left Haran, and must have survived that departure sixty years (Kalisch, Dykes); whereas if Abram was born in his father's 130th year, then Terah must have died before his son s departure from Haran, which agrees with Acts 7:4. And Terah died in Haran.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

Bible Hub
Genesis 10
Top of Page
Top of Page