And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east
That is, the inhabitants of the whole earth; not Ham and his posterity only, or Nimrod and his company; but as all the sons of Noah and his posterity for a while dwelt together, or at least very near each other, and finding the place where they were too scanty for them, as their several families increased, they set out in a body from the place where they were, to seek for a more convenient one: it seems a little difficult how to interpret this phrase, "from the east", since if they came from Ararat in Armenia, where the ark rested, as that lay north of Shinar or Babylon, they might rather be said to come from the north than from the east, and rather came to it than from it: so some think the phrase should be rendered, "to the east" F2, or eastward, as in ( Genesis 13:11 ) . Jarchi thinks this refers to ( Genesis 10:30 ) "and their dwelling was" at "the mountain of the east"; from whence he supposes they journeyed, to find out a place that would hold them all, but could find none but Shinar; but then this restrains it to Joktan's sons, and besides, their dwelling there was not until after the confusion and dispersion. But it is very probable the case was this, that when Noah and his sons came out of the ark, in a little time they betook themselves to their former habitation, from whence they had entered into the ark, namely, to the east of the garden of Eden, where was the appearance of the divine Presence, or Shechinah; and from hence it was that these now journeyed: and so it was as they were passing on,
that they found a plain in the land of Shinar;
which the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases the land of Babylon; and Hestiaeus F3, a Phoenician historian, calls it Sennaar of Babylon; there are plain traces of this name in the Singara of Ptolemy F4 and Pliny F5, the Hebrew letter (e) being sometimes pronounced as "G", as in Gaza and Gomorrah; the first of these place a city of this name in Mesopotamia, near the Tigris, and that of the other is reckoned a capital of the Rhetavi, a tribe of the Arabs, near Mesopotamia. This plain was very large, fruitful, and delightful, and therefore judged a fit place for a settlement, where they might have room enough, and which promised them a sufficient sustenance:
and they dwelt there;
and provided for their continuance, quickly beginning to build a city and tower, afterwards called Babylon: and that Babylon was built in a large plain is not only here asserted, but is confirmed by Herodotus F6, who says of it, that it lay (en pediw megalw) , in a vast plain, and so Strabo F7; which was no other than the plain of Shinar.
F2 (Mdqm) "ad Orientem, sive Orientem versus"; so some in Schmidt. Vid. Drusium in loc. & Fuller. Miscell. Sacr. l. 1. c. 4.
F3 Apud Joseph. Antiqu. l. 1. c. 4. sect. 3.
F4 Geograph. l. 5. c. 18.
F5 Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 24.
F6 Clio sive, l. 1. c. 178.
F7 Geograph. l. 16. p. 508.