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Genesis 11

11
The Tower of Babel
1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in #ch. 10:10; 14:1, 9; Isa. 11:11; Dan. 1:2; Zech. 5:11the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, #ch. 14:10; Ex. 2:3and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower #Deut. 1:28with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5And #ch. 18:21the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And 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. 7Come, #ch. 1:26; [Ps. 2:4]let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8So #ch. 10:25, 32; Luke 1:51the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called #ch. 10:10Babel, because there the Lord confused#11:9 Babel sounds like the Hebrew for confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
Shem’s Descendants
10 # [ch. 10:22]; For ver. 10-26, see 1 Chr. 1:17-27 These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. 11And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
12When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah. 13And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
14When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber. 15And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
16When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg. 17And Eber lived after he fathered Peleg 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
18When Peleg had lived 30 years, he fathered Reu. 19And Peleg lived after he fathered Reu 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
20When Reu had lived 32 years, he fathered Serug. 21And Reu lived after he fathered Serug 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
22When Serug had lived 30 years, he fathered Nahor. 23And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
24When #Josh. 24:2Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah. 25And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
26When #[See ver. 24 above]Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Terah’s Descendants
27Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was #ch. 17:15 Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, #ch. 22:20Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31Terah #ch. 12:1 took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together #ch. 15:7; Josh. 24:2; Neh. 9:7; Acts 7:2, 4from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.
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).