And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
The New Testament is always converting into blessings the curses of the Old Testament. The burdens and severities of the Law are not only the types but the very substances of Gospel liberty and truth; the confusion of Babel leads to a greater harmony, and its dispersion ends in a more perfect union.
I. After the flood the whole earth was of one language and one speech. Now not even one country has one language within itself. No two persons that ever meet have it. The words may have the same spelling, but they do not carry to the hearer exactly the same sense in which they were spoken. There is not on this earth, in any fraction of it, one language and one speech; hence a great part of our sin and misery.
II. Even if there were a language perfectly the same, yet, until there was a setting to rights of disorders which have come into human thought, and until minds were themselves set in one accord, there could not be unity.
III. The men of the old world determined to do two things which real unity never does. They resolved to make a great monument to their own glory, and they thought to frustrate a law of God and to break a positive rule of our being. Their unity was a false unity. They sought their own praise, and it ran contrary to the mind of God. Their profane unity was dashed into hundreds of divergent atoms, and was carried by the four winds to the four corners of the earth.
IV. What were the consequences of this scattering of the race? (1) It carried the knowledge of the true God and of the one faith into all the lands whither they went; (2) God replenished the whole surface of the globe by spreading men over it; (3) it was a plea for prayer, an argument for hope, a pledge of promise.
V. From that moment God has steadily carried on His design of restoring unity to the earth: His choosing of Abraham, His sending of Christ, the coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, were all means to this very end.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 103.
From the text we gather these practical suggestions:—
I. Examine carefully the quality and meaning of every new plan of life.
II. Beware of the sophism that Heaven helps those who help themselves.
III. Regulate ambition by the Divine will.
IV. If we make great plans, let us make them in God's name and carry them out in God's strength.
V. Let us learn what is meant by all the unfinished towers that we see around us.
VI. Co-operation with God will alone secure the entire realisation of our plans.
Application: (1) We all have plans; (2) examine them; (3) remember the only foundation, on which alone men can build with safety.
Parker, Pulpit Analyst, vol. ii., p. 181.
References: Genesis 11:1-9.—Expository 2nd series, vol. i., p. 232; Parker, vol. i., p. 176. Genesis 11:1-10.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 270.
Genesis 11:4(with Acts 2:3-4)
I. Three motives may have led to the building of the Tower of Babel: (1) a feeling that in union and communion lay the secret of man's renown and strength—that to disperse the family was to debilitate it; (2) a remembrance of the deluge, and a guilty dread of some similar judgment, leading them to draw close to each other for support; (3) man was awaking to self-consciousness and a knowledge of his own resources. He was gaining a glimpse into the possible progress of civilisation. The tower was to be a focus where the rays of his power would be concentrated.
II. To all philanthropists this narrative preaches this simple and sublime truth—that genuine unity is not to be effectually compassed in any other manner than by striking at the original root of discord. Every scheme for the promotion of brotherhood which deals only with the external symptoms of disunion, and aims at correcting only what appears on the surface of society, is ultimately sure of frustration.
III. In His own good time and manner God realised the presumptuous design of the Babel-builders, and united in one central institution the scattered families of man. In the mediation of His Son He has reared up a Tower whose top reaches to heaven. It was in order to gather the nations into this world-embracing community that the apostles of Christ went forth charged with a message of peace and love. When the Spirit descended at Pentecost the physical impediment obstructing union—that difference of language which the sin of Babel had introduced—was removed. The apostles spake with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
E. M. GOULBURN, Occasional Sermons, p. 361.
References: Genesis 11:4-9.—C. A. Fowler, Parochial Sermons, p. 137; J. Cumming, Church before the Flood, p. 499; S. Leathes, Studies in Genesis, p. 81.
Genesis 11:9I. God is not the Author of confusion, but of peace. Yet once, in His wise compassion, He made confusion in order to prevent it; He destroyed peace, that in the end he might restore it.
The history of Babel is far more than a record of the defeated attempt of wicked men to accomplish an impossible folly. The building of that tower was the first great act of presumptuous rebellion against God subsequent to the flood, and therefore it was meet that a measure of vengeance should fall upon it such as, while the world stood, should never perish from the memory of mankind. And, as God so often orders, the crime of these men became their punishment. "Let us make a name," they cried, "lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth." And this very thing it was which caused them to be scattered.
II. God, who hath made of one blood all nations of men, did, by that exercise of His power, the best thing that could be done to check and retard the rapid growth of evil, and to prepare the means by which man might be brought back to obedience. While there was but one tongue, men easily corrupted each other; when there were many, evil communications were greatly hindered. God marred the Babel-builders' work, but it was in order to mar their wickedness; and meanwhile He had His own gracious designs for a remedy. It was on the day of Pentecost that that remedy was first applied. Those cloven tongues of fire which, on that day, rested on the heads of the apostles, undid, to as great an extent as will be permitted in this world, the confusion of Babel.
F. E. Paget, Village Sermons (Advent to Whit-Sunday), p. 223.
References: Genesis 11:9.—D. J. Vaughan, The Days of the Son of Man, p. 280; G. Huntington, Sermons for the Church's Seasons (Advent to Trinity), p. 276. Genesis 11:27.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 181. Genesis 11:27-32.—Expositor, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 281. 11:27-25:10.—J. Monro Gibson, The Ages before Moses, p. 159. Genesis 11:32.—H. Grey, A Parting Memorial, p. 232.
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.
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.
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.
And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men 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.
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
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.
These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.
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.
But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
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.
And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.