Genesis 11

Listen to Genesis 11

The Tower of Babel

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.
2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in 1the land of Shinar and settled there.
3 And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, 2and bitumen for mortar.
4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower 3with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth."
5 And 4the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.
6 And 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.
7 Come, 5let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech."
8 So 6the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
9 Therefore its name was called 7Babel, because there the LORD confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Shem's Descendants

10 8These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood.
11 And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
12 When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah.
13 And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber.
15 And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg.
17 And Eber lived after he fathered Peleg 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he fathered Reu.
19 And Peleg lived after he fathered Reu 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he fathered Serug.
21 And Reu lived after he fathered Serug 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he fathered Nahor.
23 And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
24 When 9Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah.
25 And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
26 When 10Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

Terah's Descendants

27 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot.
28 Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans.
29 And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram's wife was 11Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife, 12Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah.
30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31 Terah 13took 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 14from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there.
32 The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.

Genesis 11 Commentary

Chapter 11

One language in the world, The building of Babel. (1-4) The confusion of tongues, The builders of Babel dispersed. (5-9) The descendants of Shem. (10-26) Terah, father of Abram, grandfather of Lot, they remove to Haran. (27-32)

Verses 1-4 How soon men forget the most tremendous judgments, and go back to their former crimes! 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 people all lands. In contempt of the Divine will, and against the counsel of Noah, the bulk of mankind united to build a city and a tower to prevent their separating. Idolatry was begun, and Babel became one of its chief seats. They made one another more daring and resolute. Let us learn to provoke one another to love and to good works, as sinners stir up and encourage one another to wicked works.

Verses 5-9 Here is an expression after the manner of men; The Lord came down to see the city. God is just and fair in all he does against sin and sinners, and condemns none unheard. Pious Eber is not found among this ungodly crew; for he and his are called the children of God; their souls joined not themselves to the assembly of these children of men. God suffered them to go on some way, that the works of their hands, from which they promised themselves lasting honour, might turn to their lasting reproach. God has wise and holy ends, in allowing the enemies of his glory to carry on their wicked projects a great way, and to prosper long. Observe the wisdom and mercy of God, in the methods taken for defeating this undertaking. And the mercy of God in not making the penalty equal to the offence; for he deals not with us according to our sins. The wisdom of God, in fixing upon a sure way to stop these proceedings. If they could not understand one another, they could not help one another; this would take them off from their building. God has various means, and effectual ones, to baffle and defeat the projects of proud men that set themselves against him, and particularly he divides them among themselves. Notwithstanding their union and obstinacy God was above them; for who ever hardened his heart against him, and prospered? Their language was confounded. We all suffer by it to this day: in all the pains and trouble used to learn the languages we have occasion for, we suffer for the rebellion of our ancestors at Babel. Nay, and those unhappy disputes, which are strifes of words, and arise from misunderstanding one another's words, for aught we know, are owing to this confusion of tongues. They left off to build the city. The confusion of their tongues not only unfitted them for helping one another, but they saw the hand of the Lord gone out against them. It is wisdom to leave off that which we see God fights against. God is able to blast and bring to nought all the devices and designs of Babel-builders: there is no wisdom nor counsel against the Lord. The builders departed according to their families, and the tongue they spake, to the countries and places allotted to them. The children of men never did, nor ever will, come all together again, till the great day, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and all nations shall be gathered before him.

Verses 10-26 Here is a genealogy, or list of names, ending in Abram, the friend of God, and thus leading towards Christ, the promised Seed, who was the son of Abram. Nothing is left upon record but their names and ages; the Holy Ghost seeming to hasten through them to the history of Abram. How little do we know of those that are gone before us in this world, even of those that lived in the same places where we live, as we likewise know little of those who now live in distant places! We have enough to do to mind our own work. When the earth began to be peopled, men's lives began to shorten; this was the wise disposal of Providence.

Verses 27-32 Here begins the story of Abram, whose name is famous in both Testaments. Even the children of Eber had become worshippers of false gods. Those who are through grace, heirs of the land of promise, ought to remember what was the land of their birth; what was their corrupt and sinful state by nature. Abram's brethren were, Nahor, out of whose family both Isaac and Jacob had their wives; and Haran, the father of Lot, who died before his father. Children cannot be sure that they shall outlive their parents. Haran died in Ur, before the happy removal of the family out of that idolatrous country. It concerns us to hasten out of our natural state, lest death surprise us in it. We here read of Abram's departure out of Ur of the Chaldees, with his father Terah, his nephew Lot, and the rest of his family, in obedience to the call of God. This chapter leaves them about mid-way between Ur and Canaan, where they dwelt till Terah's death. Many reach to Charran, and yet fall short of Canaan; they are not far from the kingdom of God, and yet never come thither.

Cross References 14

  • 1. Genesis 10:10; Genesis 14:1, 9; Isaiah 11:11; Daniel 1:2; Zechariah 5:11
  • 2. Genesis 14:10; Exodus 2:3
  • 3. Deuteronomy 1:28
  • 4. Genesis 18:21
  • 5. Genesis 1:26; [Psalms 2:4]
  • 6. Genesis 10:25, 32; Luke 1:51
  • 7. Genesis 10:10
  • 8. [Genesis 10:22]; For ver. 10-26, see 1 Chronicles 1:17-27
  • 9. Joshua 24:2
  • 10. [See ver. 24 above]
  • 11. Genesis 17:15
  • 12. Genesis 22:20
  • 13. Genesis 12:1
  • 14. Genesis 15:7; Joshua 24:2; Nehemiah 9:7; Acts 7:2, 4

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Babel sounds like the Hebrew for confused

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 11

This chapter gives an account of the inhabitants of the earth before the confusion of tongues at Babel, of their speech and language, which was one and the same, and of the place where they dwelt, Ge 11:1,2 and of their design to build a city and tower, to make them a name and keep them together, which they put in execution, Ge 11:3,4 of the notice the Lord took of this affair, and of the method he took to put a stop to their designs, by confounding their speech, and dispersing them abroad upon the face of the earth, Ge 11:5-9 then follows a genealogy of Shem's posterity down to Abraham, Ge 11:10-26 and a particular relation is given of Terah, the father of Abraham, and his family, and of his going forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, in order to go into the land of Canaan, and of his death at Haran by the way, Ge 11:27-32.

Genesis 11 Commentaries