Thank you for clicking on the podcast and checking it out, I am you host Randy Duncan, and we are making our way through the book of Genesis verse by verse
It has been 3 weeks since I released the last episode. I have had a busy travel schedule, spending time in Indiana, Kentucky, and Boston. I have spent time working on a presentation on a social topic that is outside of my main focus area, so I spent quite a bit of time focusing on that. So I am very excited to be able to sit down and record this episode.
In the last episode we discussed Noah getting drunk, as well as various interpretations as to exactly what was done to him by his son Ham while he lay in his tent. We also discussed the curse on Ham’s son Canaan. And that wrapped up chapter 9.
So we now turn our attention to chapter 10. This chapter has been somewhat difficult for me, in regards to what exactly to cover. I say that because chapter 10 is essentially a geneological history and listing. It is what is commonly called the Table of Nations. Meaning, this is a section of Genesis that describes the various nations that arose from the descendents of Noah and his three sons.
The material is not difficult to understand or comprehend or anything. What is difficult is deciding what to comment on without simply reading through a number of geneologies. If you are driving while listening to this podcast, I don’t want you falling asleep!
So, what I am going to do here is something I very rarely do, and that is to simply make a few observations without reading every verse. This is a chapter where you can read for yourself, without it really requiring any sort of commentary. After a few comments here in chapter 10, I am going to jump right into chapter 11 and the Tower of Babel!
10 These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood.
As simple as that. Again, what follows is a list of the sons of Noah, and their descendents after them. It is referred to as the Table of Nations, since some believe this is where all the nations of the world can trace their beginning. And indeed, some of the names listed are definitely associated with particular people groups
This list of descendents contains 70 names, and I don’t believe that is accidental. Remember, the number 70 stands for totality and completion. In Exodus, there are 70 descendents of Jacob, 70 elders of Israel, in Luke, 70 disciples sent out.
Also, 70 is a multiple of both 7 and 10, each of which represent completeness. So perhaps 70 is meant to represent a large and complete number here
The point is that it is entirely possible, even probable, that the text is selective in listing descendents and purposively lists only 70 that are representative of the totality
Notice also that not all of the 70 names are names of people, like Japheth and Nimrod, but some are names of people groups, such as the Jesusites and Ammorites, or even place names, such as Egypt (Mizraim) or Sheba. Although, it is possible that the geographic areas and city names got their names from the actual people. After all, that is how many of even our modern cities got their name
One other thing to keep in mind. In this Table of Nations, as it is called, there is no mention of people outside the known world of the ancient near east at that time. So the Bible seems to only be interested in identifying a list of some of the known descendents of Noah and his sons, and the areas they migrated to and settled
So this does not intend to provide an exhaustive list of all people and people groups. The primary focus here will be theological in nature.
25 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided,
Now this verse has garnered some attention for various reasons. The curious portion of the verse is where it says that “the earth was divided”. In fact, that’s what the name Peleg means, “division”
Now some Young Earth advocates argue that this is a description of what happened to earth’s geography after the flood. At one time the earth did not have the 7 continents that we have today. Rather, it was one giant supercontinent continent called Pangea. Although we know that part is correct, and modern geology and science agrees, that is all they agree on.
Young Earth advocates argue that the catastrophic geological consequences of a worldwide flood caused the break-up of the continental land masses into what we see today, and that happened in the neighborhood of less that 10,000 years ago. Modern science and plate tectonics theory has that date closer to about 175 million years. But when the verse says that in the days of Peleg the earth was divided, this is what some will point to as an interpretation.
Another interpretation of the earth being divided at that time is this is a prophetic referece to the division of people after the Tower of Babel incident that we will read about momentarily.
And one other interpretation is that this division of people is referring to the division of Peleg’s descendents from those of his brother Joktan (yoke-tahn). This interpretation is argued for due to it’s importance in salvation history. Because, as it turns out, it is Peleg’s descendents, through Abraham, who will be the chosen people of God, and through whom the Messiah will come.
This is an interesting thought. And there are other examples of brothers who go in opposite directions in life, just like Cain & Able. One walks wth God, the other, not so much. Isaac & Ishmael. And here we see the division of two brothers, one of which is the father of the line which will usher in the promised seed of the woman back in Gen 3:15, the Mashiach Nagid, the Messiah the King, of course a reference to Jesus Christ
Last verse in Ch 10 – 32 These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.
But let me finish out chapter 10 here with one interesting observation. In the list of 70 descendents, the Table of Nations there is no mention of Israel. In fact, think back all the way to Genesis chapter 1 verse 1. There has not been a single mention of Israelites, Hebrews, or Jews yet. There was a world of people before Abraham was called. This chapter once again affirms that God is the God of all people! It represents all nations as of one blood, and that they multiply under God’s blessing
Sure, God will call Abraham, and Israelites will be God’s chosen people to bring truth to the world and share his word.
But Deut 32:8 tells us” When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God”
Also, Acts 17:26 tells us“ And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place
Have you ever wondered why you were born in this era? I mean, why were you born now rather than during the Middle Ages, or the 1700s, or during the Civil War?
Well, we just read Acts 17:26 that tells us God determined where and when you would be born. But just as importantly, the very next two verses continue, teaching us that “that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for“‘In him we live and move and have our being
God has a reason for you being here now, and not during some other era. Perhaps God knew this would be the era in which you would be most receptive and responsive to His calling of you. Maybe He placed you in the best possible situation for you to respond to His Holy Spirit prompting you to seek God and to get to know Him.
When you feel God reaching out to you., do not extinguish that prompting. Don’t ignore it. Don’t put it off. Don’t rationalize or make up an excuse. The more often you do that the more callous your heart will become. The more numb you will become, and the less sensitive you will be to God’s call. Don’t wait until tomorrow, or next week. You may not have a tomorrow or a next week!
11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
Remember our discussion regarding the whole earth being flooded, and that the Hebew word for “earth” often has different meanings, depending upon the context. Now, this may have meant the whole known world at the time, or the people confined to this land. We just need to be mindful that this is a possibility
The image here is that the people are united, they spoke the same language. They are united by a common language and vocabulary
It is interesting that they are moving Eastward. When Adam and Eve are sent out of the Garden , a guard was set East of Eden. Cain was banished, figuratively speaking, from God’s presence to the East. And still here, what direction are people traveling?
And they settle in a place called Shinar. Shinar is essentially Mesopotamia, and it is associated with Babylon.
It is also interesting that they settled there. What was God’s command back in 9:1? To fill the earth…
3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
So the people begin building. If you ever wondered why the Bible mentions that they would say “let us make bricks and burn (or bake) them thoroughly”, here is an interesting tidbit.
The building materials in Mesopotamia was different from that in Israel or Egypt. In those lands, stone was readily available, and so there was no need to make bricks. People just used stones for the foundations, and then used mud bricks for the main structure. So burnt-brick technology was never developed there because it was not necessary. But in southern Mesopotamia stones were not really available. To use them they had to be transported over great distances, which was very expensive. But the combination of kiln-fired brick, along with the bitumen, made for waterproof buildings that were just as sturdy as stone
4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
And here we get to the crux of the problem. “Let us build a city, make a name for ourselves, lest what? Lest we be scattered over all the earth. What was God’s direction again back in 9:1? To fill the earth. So here, again, is a people in defiance of God’s direction. But we will see that is not their most serious offense
But first, let’s talk about what they were building. First of all, many people don’t realize they are not just building a tower, they are building a city too! However, it is the Tower, the infamous Tower of Babel, that was their primary offense.
Now, regarding the Tower itself, what exactly was it? Some people just read this verse and come to the conclusion that these people must have been at least somewhat ignorant to think they could build a Tower that would reach into Heaven. But don’t think for a minute these people were ignorant like that. Far from it.
Most interpreters, and for good and varied reasons, have identified the Tower of Babel as a ziggurat. Now you may be asking yourself, “What in the world is a ziggurat?” Well, don’t be thinking these people were ignorant. Thye were building ziggurats and thousands of years later, you still don’t even know what one is?:)
So think of a ziggurat as resembling a pyramid in shape, except that it had a stairway or a ramp that led to the top. The best thing to do is simply Google “ziggurat”, and look at some examples. If you have ever been to Cancun and then traveled to the Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza, you can see an amazing ziggurat.
So what was the purpose of the ziggurat? Well, they were typically dedicated to particular dieties. At the very top of the ziggurat was a room, where some sort of shrine would be set up for the deity
As John Walton explains, “The ziggurat was a structure designed to support a stairway, and this stairway was a visual representation of what was believed to be used by the Gods to travel from one realm to another. At the top of the ziggurat was the gate of the Gods, the entrance into the heavenly abode.In summary, the Tower of Babel was a temple complex, featuring a ziggurat, which was designed to make it convenient for the God to come down to his temple, receive worship from the people, and bless them”
Are you starting to see the problem now?
Most people believe the primary offense of these people is their rebellion in settling down and not filling the earth as God commanded. And that they wanted to make a name for themselves. So they were full of pride and disobedience. And those things may be true. But I don’t think that was the main issue.
In looking at what the function of the ziggurat was, that is where we find the primary issue going on. The function of the ziggurat assumes a particular concept of God. People began to envision God in human terms. The problem with this is that when you do this, you stop trying to be like God, and instead try to bring God down to your level. To the level of fallen humanity.
This is called the anthropomorphization of God, which is simply a long word that means to try and make something non-human, more human-like. Whether we do that with our pets, a Disney character, or God.
But when we do that with Disney characters or our pets, it’s cute. When we do that with God, we degrade God. It is degrading to the nature of God because it portrays Him as having needs.
Again, before we disparage these people for doing that, What exactly is our understanding of God? How exactly do we represent God? One of the 10 commandments is that you “shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”. Now many of you may be thinking, well I dont curse, I never say GD! I never take the name of the Lord in vain.
But this is much more than about cursing. It is about ambassadorship. IOW, if you are going to follow God, if you are going to be a Christian, you need to understand that you are an ambassador of God to other people. You better understand that if you are going to carry the banner of God, you have a responsibility to represent Him accurately to the world. You better not do that in vain, and misrepresent God to the rest of the world. You better not take His name in vain. I didn’t read all of Exodus 20:7, there is more after the comma!. The entire verse reads 7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” I think we should focus less and emphasis less the whole cursing thing, not that that’s a smart idea either, but focus more on how we represent God to a world which so desperately needs Him.
5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth
How ironic, that as the people were building the Tower, this ziggurat, for the gods to descend, that the one true God actually does descend! The problem though is that He certainly hasn’t descended in order to bless them!
Also, ironically, the people said “Let us’ build ourselves a city, “Let us” build a Tower, and here we see God saying “Let us” go down.
Some have speculated who “us” here refers to when God is speaking. Is God speaking to some angels, or is this yet another reference to the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
I have always been fascinated by verse 6, especially when people say “they will never be able to do that”, or that’s impossible! For example, some of the things Transhumanists believe, some people chalk up as fairy tales. Also, some of the advances in technology, medicine, genetic engineering, etc. Many of these things are, or were, thought to be impossible. But what does God say here in verse 6? “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them”
It literally means that “all they plan to do will not be withheld from them”. The problem with that is that we know how that usually ends, which is in nothing good, which is why God confused their language. And not being able to understand one another, the building project is terminated, and the people are dispersed over all the earth.
You know, it is interesting, here we see God confusing the languages. But in the book of Acts, chapter 2, we see the exact opposite. There, at Pentacost, we see the Holy Spirit allow people who spoke different languages to understand each other!
At the end of any Bible study, you should ask yourself, “What does this teach me about God? How does this help me understand who God is?
In the end, despite humanity’s rebellion, ignorance, and pride, God’s sovereign plan will be brought about. I am reminded of Isa 55:11, where God says “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
In the end here, we are left with humanity having lost any sense of who God actually is. And because they have such a distorted concept of God, God will step in and reveal Himself anew. This new revelation will begin with God’s call of Abraham, which we will discuss in the next episode