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Genesis 11

11
Tower of Babel.#This story illustrates increasing human wickedness, shown here in the sinful pride that human beings take in their own achievements apart from God. Secondarily, the story explains the diversity of languages among the peoples of the earth. 1The whole world had the same language and the same words. 2When they were migrating from the east, they came to a valley in the land of Shinar#Shinar: see note on 10:10. and settled there. 3They said to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.” They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky,#Tower with its top in the sky: possibly a reference to the chief ziggurat of Babylon, E-sag-ila, lit., “the house that raises high its head.” and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”
5The Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built. 6Then the Lord said: If now, while they are one people and all have the same language, they have started to do this, nothing they presume to do will be out of their reach. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that no one will understand the speech of another. 8So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9That is why it was called Babel,#Babel: the Hebrew form of the name “Babylon”; the Babylonians interpreted their name for the city, Bab-ili, as “gate of god.” The Hebrew word balal, “he confused,” has a similar sound. because there the Lord confused the speech of all the world. From there the Lord scattered them over all the earth.
Descendants from Shem to Abraham.#The second Priestly genealogy goes from Shem to Terah and his three sons Abram, Nahor, and Haran, just as the genealogy in 5:3–32 went from Adam to Noah and his three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth. This genealogy marks the important transition in Genesis between the story of the nations in 1:1–11:26 and the story of Israel in the person of its ancestors (11:27–50:26). As chaps. 1–11 showed the increase and spread of the nations, so chaps. 12–50 will show the increase and spread of Israel. The contrast between Israel and the nations is a persistent biblical theme. The ages given here are from the Hebrew text; the Samaritan and Greek texts have divergent sets of numbers in most cases. In comparable accounts of the pre-flood period, enormous life spans are attributed to human beings. It may be an attempt to show that the pre-flood generations were extraordinary and more vital than post-flood human beings. 10#1 Chr 1:24–27; Lk 3:34–36. These are the descendants of Shem. When Shem was one hundred years old, he begot Arpachshad, two years after the flood. 11Shem lived five hundred years after he begot Arpachshad, and he had other sons and daughters. 12When Arpachshad was thirty-five years old, he begot Shelah.#The Greek text adds Kenan (cf. 5:9–10) between Arpachshad and Shelah. The Greek listing is followed in Lk 3:36. 13Arpachshad lived four hundred and three years after he begot Shelah, and he had other sons and daughters.
14When Shelah was thirty years old, he begot Eber. 15Shelah lived four hundred and three years after he begot Eber, and he had other sons and daughters.
16When Eber#Eber: the eponymous ancestor of the Hebrews, “descendants of Eber” (10:21, 24–30); see note on 14:13. was thirty-four years old, he begot Peleg. 17Eber lived four hundred and thirty years after he begot Peleg, and he had other sons and daughters.
18When Peleg was thirty years old, he begot Reu. 19Peleg lived two hundred and nine years after he begot Reu, and he had other sons and daughters.
20When Reu was thirty-two years old, he begot Serug. 21Reu lived two hundred and seven years after he begot Serug, and he had other sons and daughters.
22When Serug was thirty years old, he begot Nahor. 23Serug lived two hundred years after he begot Nahor, and he had other sons and daughters.
24When Nahor was twenty-nine years old, he begot Terah. 25Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years after he begot Terah, and he had other sons and daughters.
26When Terah was seventy years old, he begot Abram,#Abram is a dialectal variant of Abraham. God will change his name in view of his new task in 17:4. Nahor and Haran.#Jos 24:2; 1 Chr 1:26–27.
II. THE STORY OF THE ANCESTORS OF ISRAEL
Terah. 27These are the descendants of Terah.#Descendants of Terah: elsewhere in Genesis the story of the son is introduced by the name of the father (25:12, 19; 36:1; 37:2). The Abraham-Sarah stories begin (11:27–32) and end with genealogical notices (25:1–18), which concern, respectively, the families of Terah and of Abraham. Most of the traditions in the cycle are from the Yahwist source. The so-called Elohist source (E) is somewhat shadowy, denied by some scholars but recognized by others in passages that duplicate other narratives (20:1–18 and 21:22–34). The Priestly source consists mostly of brief editorial notices, except for chaps. 17 and 23. Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and Haran begot Lot. 28Haran died before Terah his father, in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.#Ur of the Chaldeans: Ur was an extremely ancient city of the Sumerians (later, of the Babylonians) in southern Mesopotamia. The Greek text has “the land of the Chaldeans.” After a millennium of relative unimportance, Ur underwent a revival during the Neo-Babylonian/Chaldean empire (625–539 B.C.). The sixth-century author here identified the place by its contemporary name. As chap. 24 shows, Haran in northern Mesopotamia is in fact the native place of Abraham. In the Genesis perspective, the human race originated in the East (3:24; 4:16) and migrated from there to their homelands (11:2). Terah’s family moved from the East (Ur) and Abraham will complete the journey to the family’s true homeland in the following chapters. 29Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai,#Sarai: like Abram, a dialectal variant of the more usual form of the name Sarah. In 17:15, God will change it to Sarah in view of her new task. and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah, daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah.#Gn 17:15. 30Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot, son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and brought them out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to go to the land of Canaan. But when they reached Haran, they settled there.#Jos 24:3; Neh 9:7; Jdt 5:6–9; Acts 7:4. 32The lifetime of Terah was two hundred and five years; then Terah died in Haran.#Since Terah was seventy years old when his son Abraham was born (v. 26), and Abraham was seventy-five when he left Haran (12:4), Terah lived in Haran for sixty years after Abraham’s departure. According to the tradition in the Samaritan text, Terah died when he was one hundred and forty-five years old, therefore, in the same year in which Abraham left Haran. This is the tradition followed in Stephen’s speech: Abraham left Haran “after his father died” (Acts 7:4).
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Chapter 11
The tower in Babel
1At this time, everyone who lived on the earth spoke one language. They used the same words. 2People moved to the East. They reached a large flat piece of land called Shinar. They stayed there to live. 3They said to each other, ‘We should make bricks and cook them until they are hard.’ These people used bricks instead of stones to build houses. They used tar to hold the bricks together, instead of cement. #11:3 Tar is black and sticky. It becomes soft when it is hot and hard when it is cold.
4They said, ‘Let us build a city to live in. We should also build a very tall tower. The tower will go up into the heavens. Then we will always be famous. If we do that, we will not have to separate and go to live in different places on the earth.’
5But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower. He saw that the people had started to build them. 6The Lord said, ‘Because they all speak the same language, they are able to do this. If they can do this together, they may decide to do whatever they want. 7Now we must go down to them. We must make their language become confused. Then they will not be able to understand each other.’
8So the Lord separated the people from one another. They went to live in different lands all over the earth. They stopped building the city for themselves. 9That is why people called the city Babel. #11:9 The name ‘Babel’ shows that God confused the people there. It was because the Lord confused all the people of the world and he gave them different languages to speak. From that time, the Lord separated the people from each other so that they lived in different places all over the earth.
Shem's family
10This is the report about Shem and his family.
Two years after the deep water went away from the earth, Shem was 100 years old. He became the father of Arphaxad. 11After Arphaxad was born, Shem lived for 500 years. He had other sons and daughters.
12When Arphaxad was 35 years old, he became the father of Shelah. 13After Shelah was born, Arphaxad lived for 403 years. He had other sons and daughters.
14When Shelah was 30 years old, he became the father of Eber. 15After Eber was born, Shelah lived for 403 years. He had other sons and daughters.
16When Eber was 34 years old, he became the father of Peleg. 17After Peleg was born, Eber lived for 430 years. He had other sons and daughters.
18When Peleg was 30 years old, he became the father of Reu. 19After Reu was born, Peleg lived for 209 years. He had other sons and daughters.
20When Reu was 32 years old, he became the father of Serug. 21After Serug was born, Reu lived for 207 years. He had other sons and daughters.
22When Serug was 30 years old, he became the father of Nahor. 23After Nahor was born, Serug lived for 200 years. He had other sons and daughters.
24When Nahor was 29 years old, he became the father of Terah. 25After Terah was born, Nahor lived for 119 years. He had other sons and daughters.
26After Terah was 70 years old, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.
Terah's family
27This is the report about Terah and his family.
Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. Haran became the father of Lot. 28While Terah was still alive, his son, Haran, died. Haran died in Ur, the land of the Chaldeans. That was where Haran had been born.
29Abram married Sarai. Nahor married Milcah. Milcah was Haran's daughter. Haran was the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30Sarai could not give birth to children. She did not have any children.
31Terah took his son Abram, and his grandson Lot. (Lot was Haran's son.) Terah also took Abram's wife Sarai. They all left Ur, the land of the Chaldeans. They began to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they stayed there. 32Terah lived for 205 years. Then he died in Haran.