Genesis 11

The Tower of Babel

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.
2 As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.
4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.
6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.
7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
9 That is why it was called Babel[c] —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

From Shem to Abram

10 This is the account of Shem’s family line. Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father[d] of Arphaxad.
11 And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other 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 sons and daughters.[e]
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 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 After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.

Abram’s Family

27 This is the account of Terah’s family line. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot.
28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth.
29 Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah.
30 Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.
31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.
32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.

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 45

  • 1. ver 6
  • 2. S Genesis 10:10
  • 3. Exodus 1:14; Exodus 5:7; Jeremiah 43:9
  • 4. Isaiah 9:10; Amos 5:11
  • 5. Genesis 14:10
  • 6. Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 6:10; Deuteronomy 9:1; Job 20:6; Jeremiah 51:53
  • 7. Genesis 6:4
  • 8. Deuteronomy 30:3; 1 Kings 22:17; Esther 3:8; Psalms 44:11; Jeremiah 31:10; Jeremiah 40:15; Ezekiel 6:8; Joel 3:2
  • 9. S Genesis 9:19; Deuteronomy 4:27
  • 10. ver 7; Genesis 18:21; Exodus 3:8; Exodus 19:11,18,20; Psalms 18:9; Psalms 144:5
  • 11. S ver 1
  • 12. S Genesis 1:26
  • 13. S ver 5
  • 14. Genesis 42:23; Deuteronomy 28:49; Isaiah 28:11; Isaiah 33:19; Jeremiah 5:15; 1 Corinthians 14:2,11
  • 15. S Genesis 9:19; Deuteronomy 32:8; S Luke 1:51
  • 16. S Genesis 10:10
  • 17. Psalms 55:9
  • 18. Acts 2:5-11
  • 19. Isaiah 2:10,21; Isaiah 13:14; Isaiah 24:1
  • 20. S Genesis 2:4
  • 21. Luke 3:36
  • 22. Luke 3:35
  • 23. Luke 3:35
  • 24. Luke 3:35
  • 25. Luke 3:35
  • 26. Luke 3:35
  • 27. Luke 3:34
  • 28. Luke 3:34
  • 29. Luke 3:34
  • 30. Joshua 24:2
  • 31. 2 Kings 19:12; Isaiah 37:12; Ezekiel 27:23
  • 32. S Genesis 2:4
  • 33. ver 29; Genesis 31:53
  • 34. ver 31; Genesis 12:4; Genesis 13:1,5,8,12; Genesis 14:12; Genesis 19:1; Luke 17:28; 2 Peter 2:7
  • 35. ver 31; Genesis 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7; Job 1:17; Job 16:11; Ezekiel 23:23; Acts 7:4
  • 36. S ver 27,31; Genesis 22:20,23; Genesis 24:10,15,24; Genesis 29:5
  • 37. Genesis 12:5,11; Genesis 16:1; Genesis 17:15
  • 38. Genesis 22:20
  • 39. Genesis 16:1; Genesis 18:11; Genesis 25:21; Genesis 29:31; Genesis 30:1,22; Judges 13:2; 1 Samuel 1:5; Psalms 113:9; Luke 1:7,36
  • 40. S ver 27
  • 41. Genesis 38:11; Leviticus 18:15; Leviticus 20:12; Ruth 1:6,22; Ruth 2:20; Ruth 4:15; 1 Samuel 4:19; 1 Chronicles 2:4; Ezekiel 22:11; Micah 7:6
  • 42. S ver 28; Genesis 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7; Acts 7:4
  • 43. S Genesis 10:19
  • 44. S ver 29; Genesis 12:4; Genesis 27:43; Genesis 28:5,10; Genesis 29:4; 2 Kings 19:12; Ezekiel 27:23
  • 45. Joshua 24:2

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. Or "from the east" ; or "in the east"
  • [b]. That is, Babylonia
  • [c]. That is, Babylon; "Babel" sounds like the Hebrew for "confused" .
  • [d]. "Father" may mean "ancestor" ; also in verses 11-25.
  • [e]. Hebrew; Septuagint (see also Luke 3:35, 36 and note at Gen. 10:24) "35 years, he became the father of Cainan. " 13"And after he became the father of Cainan, Arphaxad lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters, and then he died. When Cainan had lived 130 years, he became the father of Shelah. And after he became the father of Shelah, Cainan lived 330 years and had other sons and daughters"

Chapter Summary


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

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