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Genesis 11

11
The Dispersion of the Nations at Babel
1 The whole earth#sn The whole earth. Here “earth” is a metonymy of subject, referring to the people who lived in the earth. Genesis 11 begins with everyone speaking a common language, but chap. 10 has the nations arranged by languages. It is part of the narrative art of Genesis to give the explanation of the event after the narration of the event. On this passage see A. P. Ross, “The Dispersion of the Nations in Genesis 11:1-9,” BSac 138 (1981): 119-38. had a common language and a common vocabulary.#tn Heb “one lip and one [set of] words.” The term “lip” is a metonymy of cause, putting the instrument for the intended effect. They had one language. The term “words” refers to the content of their speech. They had the same vocabulary. 2 When the people#tn Heb “they”; the referent (the people) has been specified in the translation for clarity. moved eastward,#tn Or perhaps “from the east” (NRSV) or “in the east.” they found a plain in Shinar#tn Heb “in the land of Shinar.”sn Shinar is the region of Babylonia. and settled there. 3 Then they said to one another,#tn Heb “a man to his neighbor.” The Hebrew idiom may be translated “to each other” or “one to another.” “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.”#tn The speech contains two cohortatives of exhortation followed by their respective cognate accusatives: “let us brick bricks” (נִלְבְּנָה לְבֵנִים, nilbbÿnah lÿvenim) and “burn for burning” (נִשְׂרְפָה לִשְׂרֵפָה, nisrÿfah lisrefah). This stresses the intensity of the undertaking; it also reflects the Akkadian text which uses similar constructions (see E. A. Speiser, Genesis [AB], 75-76). (They had brick instead of stone and tar#tn Or “bitumen” (cf. NEB, NRSV). instead of mortar.)#tn The disjunctive clause gives information parenthetical to the narrative. 4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens#tn A translation of “heavens” for שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) fits this context because the Babylonian ziggurats had temples at the top, suggesting they reached to the heavens, the dwelling place of the gods. so that#tn The form וְנַעֲשֶׂה (vÿna’aseh, from the verb עשׂה, “do, make”) could be either the imperfect or the cohortative with a vav (ו) conjunction (“and let us make…”). Coming after the previous cohortative, this form expresses purpose. we may make a name for ourselves. Otherwise#tn The Hebrew particle פֶּן (pen) expresses a negative purpose; it means “that we be not scattered.” we will be scattered#sn The Hebrew verb פָּוָץ (pavats, translated “scatter”) is a key term in this passage. The focal point of the account is the dispersion (“scattering”) of the nations rather than the Tower of Babel. But the passage also forms a polemic against Babylon, the pride of the east and a cosmopolitan center with a huge ziggurat. To the Hebrews it was a monument to the judgment of God on pride. across the face of the entire earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the people#tn Heb “the sons of man.” The phrase is intended in this polemic to portray the builders as mere mortals, not the lesser deities that the Babylonians claimed built the city. had started#tn The Hebrew text simply has בָּנוּ (banu), but since v. 8 says they left off building the city, an ingressive idea (“had started building”) should be understood here. building. 6 And the Lord said, “If as one people all sharing a common language#tn Heb “and one lip to all of them.” they have begun to do this, then#tn Heb “and now.” The foundational clause beginning with הֵן (hen) expresses the condition, and the second clause the result. It could be rendered “If this…then now.” nothing they plan to do will be beyond them.#tn Heb “all that they purpose to do will not be withheld from them.” 7 Come, let’s go down and confuse#tn The cohortatives mirror the cohortatives of the people. They build to ascend the heavens; God comes down to destroy their language. God speaks here to his angelic assembly. See the notes on the word “make” in 1:26 and “know” in 3:5, as well as Jub. 10:22-23, where an angel recounts this incident and says “And the Lord our God said to us…. And the Lord went down and we went down with him. And we saw the city and the tower which the sons of men built.” On the chiastic structure of the story, see G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:235. their language so they won’t be able to understand each other.”#tn Heb “they will not hear, a man the lip of his neighbor.”
8 So the Lord scattered them from there across the face of the entire earth, and they stopped building#tn The infinitive construct לִבְנֹת (livnot, “building”) here serves as the object of the verb “they ceased, stopped,” answering the question of what they stopped doing. the city. 9 That is why its name was called#tn The verb has no expressed subject and so can be rendered as a passive in the translation. Babel#sn Babel. Here is the climax of the account, a parody on the pride of Babylon. In the Babylonian literature the name bab-ili meant “the gate of God,” but in Hebrew it sounds like the word for “confusion,” and so retained that connotation. The name “Babel” (בָּבֶל, bavel) and the verb translated “confused” (בָּלַל, balal) form a paronomasia (sound play). For the many wordplays and other rhetorical devices in Genesis, see J. P. Fokkelman, Narrative Art in Genesis (SSN). – because there the Lord confused the language of the entire world, and from there the Lord scattered them across the face of the entire earth.
The Genealogy of Shem
10 This is the account of Shem.
Shem was 100 old when he became the father of Arphaxad, two years after the flood. 11 And after becoming the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other#tn The word “other” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied for stylistic reasons. sons and daughters.
12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. 13 And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other#tn The word “other” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied for stylistic reasons. sons and daughters.#tc The reading of the MT is followed in vv. 11-12; the LXX reads, “And [= when] Arphaxad had lived thirty-five years, [and] he fathered [= became the father of] Cainan. And after he fathered [= became the father of] Cainan, Arphaxad lived four hundred and thirty years and fathered [= had] [other] sons and daughters, and [then] he died. And [= when] Cainan had lived one hundred and thirty years, [and] he fathered [= became the father of] Sala [= Shelah]. And after he fathered [= became the father of] Sala [= Shelah], Cainan lived three hundred and thirty years and fathered [= had] [other] sons and daughters, and [then] he died.” See also the note on “Shelah” in Gen 10:24; the LXX reading also appears to lie behind Luke 3:35-36.
14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber. 15 And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other#tn Here and in vv. 16, 19, 21, 23, 25 the word “other” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied for stylistic reasons. sons and daughters.
16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. 17 And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu. 19 And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug. 21 And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor. 23 And after he became the father of Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah. 25 And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
26 When Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
The Record of Terah
27 This is the account of Terah.
Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28 Haran died in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans,#sn The phrase of the Chaldeans is a later editorial clarification for the readers, designating the location of Ur. From all evidence there would have been no Chaldeans in existence at this early date; they are known in the time of the neo-Babylonian empire in the first millennium b.c. while his father Terah was still alive.#tn Heb “upon the face of Terah his father.” 29 And Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai,#sn The name Sarai (a variant spelling of “Sarah”) means “princess” (or “lady”). Sharratu was the name of the wife of the moon god Sin. The original name may reflect the culture out of which the patriarch was called, for the family did worship other gods in Mesopotamia. and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah;#sn The name Milcah means “Queen.” But more to the point here is the fact that Malkatu was a title for Ishtar, the daughter of the moon god. If the women were named after such titles (and there is no evidence that this was the motivation for naming the girls “Princess” or “Queen”), that would not necessarily imply anything about the faith of the two women themselves. she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. 30 But Sarai was barren; she had no children.
31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot (the son of Haran), and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and with them he set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. When they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The lifetime#tn Heb “And the days of Terah were.” of Terah was 205 years, and he#tn Heb “Terah”; the pronoun has been substituted for the proper name in the translation for stylistic reasons. died in Haran.
11
The Tower of Babel
1Now#Or “And” the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated#Or “set out” from the east they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to each other,#Literally “each to his companion” “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.”#Literally “burn to burning” And they had brick for stone and they had tar for mortar. 4And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower whose top reaches to the heavens. And let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5Then#Or “And” Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower that humankind#Literally “sons of Adam” or “sons of humankind” was building. 6And Yahweh said, “Behold, they are one people with one language,#Literally “one people and one language to all of them” and this is only the beginning of what they will do.#Literally “and this they begin to do” So#Or “And” now nothing that they intend to do will be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand each other’s language.”#Literally “each the language of his companion” 8So Yahweh scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth, and they stopped building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, for there Yahweh confused the language of the whole earth, and there Yahweh scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
The Descendants of Shem
10These are the generations#Or “family records” of Shem. When Shem was one hundred years old,#Literally “the son of one hundred years” he fathered Arphaxad, two years after the flood. 11And Shem lived five hundred years after he fathered Arphaxad, and he fathered other sons and daughters. 12When Arphaxad had lived thirty-five years, he fathered Shelah. 13And Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years after he fathered Shelah, and he fathered other sons and daughters. 14When Shelah had lived thirty years, he fathered Eber. 15And Shelah lived four hundred and three years after he fathered Eber, and he fathered other sons and daughters. 16When Eber had lived thirty-four years, he fathered Peleg. 17And Eber lived four hundred and thirty years after he fathered Peleg, and he fathered other sons and daughters. 18When Peleg had lived thirty years, he fathered Reu. 19And Peleg lived two hundred and nine years after he fathered Reu, and he fathered other sons and daughters. 20When Reu had lived thirty-two years, he fathered Serug. 21And Reu lived two hundred and seven years after he fathered Serug, and he fathered other sons and daughters. 22When Serug had lived thirty years, he fathered Nahor. 23And Serug lived two hundred years after he fathered Nahor, and he fathered other sons and daughters. 24When Nahor had lived twenty-nine years, he fathered Terah. 25And Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years after he fathered Terah, and he fathered other sons and daughters. 26When Terah had lived seventy years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
The Descendants of Terah
27Now#Or “And” these are the generations#Or “family records” of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and Haran fathered Lot. 28And Haran died in the presence of Terah his father in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29And Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of the wife of Abram was Sarai, and the name of the wife of Nahor was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30And Sarai was barren; she had no child. 31And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot, the son of Haran, his grandson,#Literally “the son of his son” and Sarai his daughter-in-law, the wife of Abram his son, and went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. And they went to Haran, and they settled there. 32And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.