December 13, 2013

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Lesson I.F.4: The Confusion of Tongues. Gen. 11:1-9

 

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2 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.

3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.

4 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.

5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6 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.

7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9 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.

 

Commentary

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

The record given here of the incident surrounding the Tower of Babel causes one to wonder at how soon men forget the most tremendous judgments of God, and go back to their former wrongdoings! Though the desolations of the deluge were before their eyes, though they sprang from the stock of righteous Noah, yet even during his life-time, wickedness increases exceedingly. Nothing but the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit can remove the sinful lusts of the human will, and the depravity of the human heart. God's purpose was, that mankind should form many nations, and populate all lands. But little men wanted to be like God, so, with contempt for the Divine will, and against the counsel of Noah and the divine command to replenish the earth, the bulk of mankind united to build a city and a tower to prevent their separating into nations. Idolatry came into being, and Babel became one of its chief hubs.

Before the Flood and up until the time this event occurred, the whole world spoke one language; and then this very remarkable incident occurred. “The whole earth” is not an exaggeration for the sake of emphasis, but a simple statement of fact referring to that part of the earth which was known to men at that time; the region having human inhabitants. The Jerusalem Targum[i] paraphrases this verse: "and all the generations of the earth were of one language (articulating the same words in the same way), and of one speech, and of one counsel, for they spoke in the holy tongue in which the world was created at the beginning.” It is not known what language was spoken in the beginning, whether it is still in use today or whether it died out ages ago.

An argument can be made to support the theory that Hebrew was the language spoken in the beginning. Those who advocate this idea point out that the proper names, and their significances given in the Scripture, seem undisputable evidences that the Hebrew language was the original language of the earth—the language in which God spake to man, and in which He gave the revelation of His will to Moses and the prophets.

It seems reasonable to suppose that the language Adam spoke was used by Noah, since Adam lived until about one hundred years from the birth of Noah; and naturally, Noah's sons spoke the same language he did. Therefore, we would presume that the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, used the same language, although it does not seem likely that they could come together to build a city or tower, which the Targum seems to suggest. Our study of the sons of Noah,thus far, has revealed differences in their character and manners that would make it nearly impossible for them to agree on much of anything, let alone to build a city together. This would be true for several family generations, but with the passage of time these differences would disappear, and their common language and common ancestry would help to bring them together at Babel.

 

2 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 it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east.” The inhabitants of the whole earth (they), or rather, all those alive at the time; not Ham and his posterity only, or Nimrod and his company; but considering that all the sons of Noah and his posterity dwelt together for a while, or at least they lived very near each other, and eventually the place where they lived became too crowded, therefore, they set out in mass (approximately one hundred and thirty years after the Flood) from the place where they were, to seek for a place where they could comfortably live together.

The phrase “from the east” seems a little difficult to interpret, because if they came from Ararat in Armenia, where the ark rested, which was north of Shinar or Babylon, they would be said to come from the north instead of from the east: so some think the phrase should be rendered, "to the east,” or eastward. There is no way to know for sure, but this is probably the case; when Noah and his sons came out of the ark they stayed nearby for a little while and then they traveled to their former locale, the place where they had entered into the ark, to be precise, to the east of the garden of Eden, where the divine Presence, or Shekinah had appeared to them. It was from there, near the Garden of Eden that they began their journey and traveled "to the east,” probably following the Euphrates valley. Assyria, Mesopotamia, and the country on the borders and beyond the Euphrates, are called the east in the sacred writings. Balaam said that the king of Moab had brought him from the mountains of the east, Numbers 23:7[1].

“That they found a plain in the land of Shinar.” This was not a valley between two mountains, but a very large plain, fruitful, and pleasant, and therefore considered a fit place for a settlement, where they might have enoughroom, and which promised them a sufficient food supply. Shinar, which is watered by the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, was considered the most fertile country in the east. We have the authority of the sacred text to prove that Babel was built in the land of Shinar; and according to the testimony of Eusebius, Babylon was built in the same country.

“And they dwelt there,” and immediately began to build a city and a tower.

 

3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.

“And they said one to another (Literally, a man to his neighbor), go to.” They encouraged each other (Ps. 64.5[2]) to build a city where they could live, and its walls would protect them from wild animals. And there they would construct a Tower that would reach all the way to heaven.

“Let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.” They knew how to make bricks, and that knowledge was probably put to use before the Flood. Bricks were made by mixing straw or stubble with brick clay, then placing them in the sun to dry. Their bricks, however, were calcined[ii]; made more durable through the use of fire, a process that the tower-builders were acquainted with. Stones were not present on the plain of Shinar in sufficient quantity to use as a building material, but they could dig enough clay to make bricks, which they planned to burn thoroughly, so that they might be fit for their purpose.

“And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.” They could not get enough stone, which they would have preferred, since they were more durable, therefore, they used the best bricks (Ex. 1.14[3]) they could make. For mortar they used slime[iii], or what the Septuagint version calls "asphaltos", a bitumen[iv] which was like tar, pitch, or asphalt, and was plentiful in the area. Noah used the same material in waterproofing the ark (Genesis 6:14[4]). Later Moses’ mother used the same material in waterproofing Moses’ basket (Exodus 2:3[5]). “Archaeology has revealed that this type of kiln-fired brick and asphalt construction was common in ancient Babylon.” (Morris)

According to an eastern tradition they devoted three years to making and burning those bricks, each of which was thirteen cubits long (19 ft.-6 in.), ten broad (15 ft.), and five thick (7 ft.-6 in.), and for forty years they worked at building their tower.

 

4 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 they said, go to, let us build us a city and a tower.” Some Jewish writers say, these are the words Nimrod spoke to his people; but it is uncertain whether he was born at this time, or if he was, whether he was old enough to be at the head of such a body of people. But it seems more likely that this was the instruction from the principal men or leaders given to the common people, to inform and encourage them to undertake the building of the Tower of Babel. It is generally thought that the reason behind the building of a tower was to provide a place of safety from another flood; but this does not seem probable, since they had the covenant and oath of God, that the earth would never again be destroyed by water; and besides, if they feared a flood, they would not have chosen to build on a plain, a plain that lay between two of the greatest rivers, Tigris, and Euphrates. They would, instead, have chosen to build on one of the highest mountains or hills they could have found. Furthermore, a tower made of bricks could not withstand the force of water that a flood sent by God would produce; and besides, very few could be preserved at the top of the tower.

Some think "a city and tower" refers to a city with towers; and, according to Ctesias, there were two hundred and fifty towers in Babylon: but no doubt the city and tower were two distinct things. There was probably one particular tower proposed to be built beside the city, though it might stand inside the city walls, or near it, similar to an acropolis, fort, or citadel. It was not uncommon for the ancient people to erect such structures to serve as a place of refuge in times of danger.

“Whose top may reach unto heaven” is simply an embellished expression for a tower of great height, as in Deuteronomy 1:28[6]; Deuteronomy 9:1[7]; or it is actually expressing man’s desire to build a tower whose top may be in the skiesfor escape from the possibility of a periodical deluge, or, more accurately, a memorial to their greatness upon the earth. This is the language of proud men, who believe they possess ultimate wisdom, and that they can rise beyond the reach of an over-ruling God.

“And let us make us a name,” is a statement which shows a person’s desire to distinguish himself, to have a great name or to elevate the group to which he belongs. Here, it may have been the cry of the multitude or of only a few, with Nimrod at their head, to come together for the purpose of erecting a monument to themselves that would remain to be viewed by their posterity. People who associate with despots are prone to imagine the glory even of the despot to be reflected on themselves. Within Nimrod’s character was a lurking desire for empire and self-importance—a new form of the same selfish spirit which animated the primitive men of renown—There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, MEN OF RENOWN” (Genesis 6:4). But despotism always involves slavery with all of its unnumbered ills for those who must live under its oppression.

Lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. The instincts of people are varied, but they share a common nature which is expressed in this clause. The social bond, the tie of kinship, the wish for personal safety, the desire to be independent, perhaps even from God, the thirst for absolute power, all plead for union; but it is union for selfish ends.To prevent their dispersion, they would build a tower; lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth — It was done (according to Josephus) in disobedience to that command of God to “. . . Replenish the earth’ (Ge. 9.1)—So that they might be united in one glorious empire, they resolve to build this city and tower, which would be the metropolis of their kingdom, and the symbol of their unity.

5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, should not be taken to mean that He could not see what was going on there from His place in heaven, because He is omniscient and omnipresent. Rather, it is said in the same way a mortal man might describe the scene—God being visible and immense observing men build a city and tower, while He manifests displays of His power. Of course, it didn’t happen like this, but this is the language of men, and they understood the meaning of it. This shows the patience and longsuffering of God, as well as His wisdom; He could have moved to immediately punish them, but in His wisdom and with a spirit of justice he did not immediately proceed to punish them; instead, He examined the truth and reality of things before he passed judgment and took measures to hinder them in the execution of their plans. God is incontestably just and fair in all his proceedings against sin and sinners, and condemns no one that is not truly guilty.

Which the children of men builded, or were building, because they had not as of yet finished building, at least not the city, which appears from Genesis 11:8 to be the situation. These builders (or construction workers) were either the whole body of the people, under the general designation of "the children of men": or else a part of them, distinguished by this title (or name) from the "sons of God", who were truly religious. Within this we would find Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Salah, and others, who were NOT taking part in this affair. They might have come to Shinar with the rest, yet when they understood their plans, they refused to have a part in it. Therefore, it was only the carnal and irreligious among them, who probably were by far the majority, and therefore there was no possibility of overruling them, and stopping the building of the city and tower. Those who were actually doing the building might have been the descendents of Ham in general, with some descendents of Shem and Japheth mixed in with them. Josephus places Nimrod at the head of them, but this is a point of debate, as we mentioned before.

The fact that no individuals are mentioned in this account and the work of building the tower was done by "the children of men,” shows that God considered this event a rebellion of all mankind against Him. Mankind’s willingness to receive the arrogance, pride and conceit of those people as their chosen way of life, and God’s perception that the cancer that began there would spread throughout the whole world fully justified His heavenly interference with their project. God would soon call Abraham, who was commissioned to be the head of a "chosen race," and who would preserve the knowledge of the true God until the revelation of the Messiah.

God could not let this challenge to His almighty government of the world go unanswered. He made arrangements to interfere. For though it was a mighty city which the children of men were building, a city whose dimensions astonish the explorer even today, the foundations of whose tower and of the many other architectural adornments are a source of constant surprise, it was but as a grain of dust in the hands of the almighty God.

 

6 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.

 

And the Lord said,not to the angels, but rather to the Son and Spirit, or He may have said it within himself.

Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language,may have been spoken ironically (sarcastically), as some think, although I see no reason why it may not be regarded as a serious statement of fact, that the people who were involved in this venture were united, not only in their religious philosophies, but in their purpose for building a tower and city. They went about their business with great unity, harmony, and enthusiasm, and since they all spoke the same language, they understood one another, and could carry on their work with greater speed and efficiency. The people is one one in attitude and intention, and one in language also: this seems to confirm the opinion advanced in Genesis 11:1.

 

And this they begin to do refers to building the city and the tower, and they had made considerable progress in it.

And now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. They had prepared bricks, and slime or bitumen, in quantities sufficient to keep the project moving forward, and they could easily come up with more if they needed it. And there was nothing the sons of God could say or do that would cause them to call a halt from their work. They were obstinate and self-willed, and it was useless to argue with them because they refused to stop building. There was at this time no power on earth superior to them, so they could not be forced to stop; they could only be restrained from their venture by divine power, which was judged necessary in the mind of God. The potential of fallen man is terrible and powerful. When we think of the horrific accomplishments of evil men in the 20th century, the great ability of men and nations is a painful consideration.

The LORD will punish these rebellious people; not out of vengeance, but to teach us that he is not negligent in the monitoring of human affairs, and that just as he watches for the salvation of the faithful, so he is intent on observing the wickedness of the ungodly; as it is said in Psalms 34:16The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.”

If we have properly understood the motives and purpose underlying this evil venture, what God foresaw was that if their wickedness had been left unhindered the true knowledge of God might easily have been totally removed from the earth. The establishment of the people of Israel as a witness of God on the earth also aided effectually in frustrating the devices of Satan which were, at the moment, proving successful. In fact, at that future time when "Satan shall be loosed for a little while," there will then occur exactly what was in the process of occurring here.

The silly notion expressed by some to the effect that God feared mankind as a rival is absolutely unworthy of giving it any consideration in this interpretation. Whatever fears God had in this situation, they were those fears for the future of the race of men which God accurately foresaw.

 

 

7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

 

Go to, according to Clark, is a “form of speech which, whatever it might have signified formerly, now means nothing.The Hebrewהעה(habah) signifies come, make preparation, as it were for a journey, the execution of a purpose, etc. Almost all the versions understand the word in this way; the Septuagint haveδευτε, the Vulgatevenite, both signifying come, or come ye. This makes very good sense, COME, LET ITS GO DOWN, etc.”

Go to, let us go down,andthere confound their language is spoken by the Father to the Son and Spirit. In verse 8, it is the LORD that actually scatters the unsuspecting builders; angels could not be involved in this work of confounding the language of men, since it is beyond the power of creatures to have such of an effect upon the mind and the faculty of speech, so that men forget their former language, and have another one put into their mind; all which could only be done by Him who is almighty—Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit; the plural form here suggests the Trinitarian Godhead. The first of these speaks to the other two, with whom he consulted about doing it, and with whom he actually did it. This does not mean that every man had a new and distinct language given to him, since that would make it extremely difficult for men to come together to form a society. It was probably the case that a language was given to each family; or rather to as many families as would constitute a nation or colony. We cannot say how many there were with any certainty; but that doesn’t keep men from speculating. Here are some of the theories that have been proposed:

  1. Euphorus, and many other historians say there were seventy five, corresponding to the number of Jacob's posterity that went down into Egypt.
  2. Some others say there were seventy two nations formed.
  3. The Jewish writers generally agree with the Targum of Jonathan which puts them at seventy, which would match the number of the descendants of Noah's sons, recorded in the preceding chapter, but several of them spoke the same language:
    1. Ashur, Arphaxad, and Aram, spoke the Chaldee or Syriac language.
    2. The sons of Canaan spoke the same language.
    3. The thirteen sons of Joktan spoke the Arabic language.
    4. Javari and Elisha spoke the Greek language.

Bochartnotes that “scarce thirty of the seventy will remain distinct”; and Dr. Lightfoothas stated that "the fifteen named inActs 2:5-11were enough to confound the work (at Babel), and they may very well be supposed to have been the whole number. Again, this is only speculation.

That they may not understand one another's speech may simply mean that the words were so changed, and pronounced so differently from what they were used to hearing that though they heard the sound, they could not tell the meaning of it. Hence, as Jarchi observes, “When one asked for a brick, another brought him clay or slime, on which he rose up against him, and dashed his brains out.”

The thought here is simply that God had a remedy for human arrogance and conceit. He would do two things:

(1) First, He would thwart the spread of the wicked virus by confounding the languages.

(2) Second, He would call out and separate a people to Himself who would keep themselves from idolatry and who would live as a continuing witness of the true God and His holy Name throughout the long dark ages of pre-Christian Gentile darkness then beginning its awesome descent upon the family of Adam.

As for HOW God confounded the languages, we simply have no information whatever. The will of God alone was sufficient to produce the conditions that He desired to bring this about. Poole offered this explanation: “God confounded 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.”

Furthermore, we should NOT think that God's displeasure with human development was in any manner diminished in succeeding ages. This judgment of the confounded tongues would not be the last visitation upon the conceited, lustful, self-worshippers who came after the Babylonians. Just ask Tyre, Sidon, Babylon, Nineveh, Sodom, Gomorrah, and Jerusalem! Neither can our own generation claim any exemption from the universal law regarding the worship of the creature rather than the Creator, "You must put to death, then, the earthly desires at work in you, such as sexual immorality, indecency, lust, evil passions, and greed (for greed is a form of idolatry). Because of such things God's anger will come upon those who do not obey him. At one time you yourselves used to live according to such desires, when your life was dominated by them.” (Colossians 3:5-7).

The means by which God halted this great undertaking was simple for Him to do. But it would be a great shock to them to suddenly discover their languages confused, some being suddenly unable to understand others, and probably thinking that others had suddenly lost their reason. The world speculates and argues about the origin of languages, but God has settled the matter very simply. All languages are the result of His great wisdom. Those of the same language would of course be drawn together, and separated from those who spoke different languages. Their city was left unfinished and all were scattered in every direction (v.8).

 

8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence, upon the face of all the earth means that that which they feared the most actually happened, and what they worked so hard to guard against happened to them. Because they were unable to understand one another, they had to forgo their plans to build a city and a tower. Instead, all those who spoke the same language joined together, and left the area in groups. Some went one way, and some another, and settled in different places, until at length, and by degrees, the whole world was populated by them, which was the will of God all along, and He brought it about in this way.

The Heathen writers themselves attribute this dispersion to a divine Being, as well as speaking different tongues. Eupolemussays that the first city built in Babylon was built by those that were saved from the flood, and that they were giants; and then they built a tower which is spoken of in history, and when the tower fell by the power of God, the giants were "scattered throughout the whole earth.” It appears from the language this writer uses that he must have read this account by Moses. Some of them say the fall of the tower was caused by storms and tempests raised by the gods. Josephus, when writing about Sybil says, “The gods sending winds overthrew the tower, and gave to everyone his own speech, and hence the city came to be called Babylon.” Another writer, an Assyrian by the name of Abydenus, seems to agree withJosephus when he relates, that "the winds being raised by the gods overthrew the mechanism (the tower) upon them (the builders of it), and out of the ruins of it was the city called Babylon, when those who were of the same language, from the gods spoke a different one, and of various sounds.” And then there is Hestiaeus, a Phoenician writer, who, when speaking of those who came to Sennaar or Shinar of Babylon, says they were scattered because of the diversity of language, and they formed colonies everywhere, and everyone seized on that land which was offered to him. These writers seem to be mistaken about the destruction of the tower being caused by violent winds, but they agree with Moses in regard to the confusion of languages, and the scattering of the people at the tower of Babel. This was the very thing they feared, and sought to prevent by building this tower. But they were unable to defeat the counsel, power, and program of the Lord. "The fear of the wicked shall come upon him" (Proverbs 10:24). It is impossible to pin down the date when this happened, other than to say that it was in the days of Peleg, who was born in the year one hundred and one after the flood; and if it was at the time of his birth, which is the opinion of many, both Jewsand Christians. The eastern writerssay that it was in the fortieth year of the life of Peleg, which would make it a year after the flood; year one hundred and forty one. But others, including the Jewish chronologers, say it was near the end of Peleg's life; and since he lived two hundred and thirty nine years, this must have happened in the year three hundred and forty after the flood, and if that is true, it was ten years before the death of Noah, and when Abraham was forty eight years of age.

And they left off to build the citymay indicatethat they had finished the tower, but not the city, and therefore are only said to leave off building the tower; though the Samaritan and Septuagint versions add, "and the tower." They could not understand one another, hence they were not able to go on with their work.

Unlike historical traditions concerning the Flood, legends concerning the Tower of Babel and confusion of speech are not common. That said, noteworthy support for the biblical account comes from Babylonia itself, where a damaged inscription reads: “Babylon corruptly proceeded to sin, and both small and great mingled on the mound....All day they founded their stronghold, but in the night he put a complete stop to it. In his anger he also poured out his secret counsel to scatter them abroad, he set his face, he gave a command to make foreign their speech.” God's interference with evil was successful. Of course, having endowed humanity with “free will, God would never compel people to obey Him, but as an inducement for them to make the right decisions, He would always see to it that, "The way of the transgressor is hard" (Proverbs 13:15).

Their building was stopped: They left off to build the city. This was the effect of the confusion of their tongues; it not only prevented them from helping one another, but it also, probably, dampened their spirits to the point they could not proceed, since they saw, in this, the hand of the Lord acting against them. Note, (1.) It is wisdom to quit that which we see God fighting against. (2.) God is able to blast and bring to nothing all the devices and designs of Babel-builders. He sits in heaven, and laughs at the counsels of the kings of the earth who are against Him and His Anointed and will force them to confess that there is no wisdom or counsel that can succeed against the Lord:

  • Human wisdom, brilliance, insight - they are of no help if the Lord is against you. (Proverbs 21:30)
  • Gather together in fear, you nations! Listen, you distant parts of the earth. Get ready to fight, but be afraid! Yes, get ready, but be afraid! Make your plans! But they will never succeed. Talk all you want to! But it is all useless, because God is with us. (Isaiah 8:9, 10)

 

9 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.

 

Therefore is the name of it called Babel; the name given to both the city and the tower mentioned. Babel signifies "confusion", which is how it is rendered in the Septuagint version. Josephus says that the Hebrews call confusion "Babel." Perhaps this name was given to the tower and city by the sons of Eber, or it might be a common name preserved in all languages, as some are; and though the initial builders stopped working on it, it seems that later on Nimrod revived the project and eventually completed it, and he made it the capital city of his kingdom. It appears from Genesis 10:8, 10 that Nimrod and his family, after the confusion and dispersion, continued to live near Babylon: “Cush had a son named Nimrod, who became the world's first great conqueror . . . At first his kingdom included Babylon, Erech, and Accad, all three of them in Babylonia.

 

Because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth, therefore, what is said by some, that the above city got its name from Babylon, the son of Belus, is false.

 

And from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth is repeated to confirm and corroborate what was said in verse 8, and so that the readers take notice of it and recognize it as a very wonderful and important event. These Babel builders were a symbol of the self-righteous, who are now, as they were back then, the greater part of the world’s population, and, though they are under different forms of religion, they all stand upon the same footing, that is, a covenant of works. They all speak the same language, which is naturally true for all those who seek to be justified by their own works. They are described today as they were in the days of Nimrod and Peleg—They journey from the east, and depart from Christ; they turn their backs on Him and His righteousness; build on a plain, not on a rock or mountain, but on the sandy bottom of their own works, in a land of Shinar, or shaking, on a tottering foundation; their ambition is to get themselves a name, to be seen of men, and be applauded for the sake of their work, and that they might reach heaven, and get there in this way. But they can’t do it because there’s confusion and scattering abroad; their own righteousness is like filthy rags, therefore they can never enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

Think what it was like for a family to leave the area of Babel and go out on their own. They must look for a suitable place to live, and once they found it, they must exist by hunting and gathering, living in crude dwellings or caves until they could support themselves by agriculture and taking advantage of the natural resources. Families would multiply rapidly, develop their own culture, and their own distinctive biological and physical characteristics influenced by their environment. In the small population, genetic characteristics change very quickly, and as the population of the group grew bigger, the changes stabilized and became more or less permanent.

 

The whole account of what happened at Babel with its anti-God dictator, its organized rebellion against God, and its direct distrust of God’s promise shows man hasn’t gotten any better since the flood. Time, progress, government, and organization have made man better off, but not better.

 

Now God will begin to make man better, and He will start as He always starts: with a man who will do His will, even if he does not do His will perfectly.

 

 

[1] And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.

[2] They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them?

[3] And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.

[4] Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

[5] And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink.

[6] Whither shall we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, the people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.

[7] Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven.

[i] Targum—an Aramaic translation, usually in the form of an expanded paraphrase, of various books or sections of the Old Testament

[ii] To heat a substance to a high temperature but below the melting or fusing point, causing loss of moisture, reduction, or oxidation and the decomposition of carbonates and other compounds.

[iii] slime—bitumen, a mineral pitch, which, when hardened, forms a strong cement, commonly used in Assyria to this day, and forming the mortar found on the burnt brick remains of antiquity.

[iv] bitumen which boils up from subterranean fountains like oil or hot pitch is found in the vicinity of Babylon, and also near the Dead Sea.

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