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Genesis 11: 1-9 Notes

Genesis 11:1-9 - EXEGESIS (Donovan)

Gen 9-12 CONTEXT:  The story of the Tower of Babel is a story of rebellion (the people of Babel) set within the context of two stories of faithful obedience (Noah and Abram). To see the wider context, we need to look back to the story of Noah and the flood (Genesis 7-9) - another story of rebellion (Noah's neighbors) set within the context of a story of faithful obedience (Noah). We also need to look forward to the story of Abram (chapter 12) - the great obedience story of the Old Testament.

In Noah's story, when the waters of the flood had "prevailed on the earth one hundred fifty days" (7:24), "God remembered Noah" (8:1). "God blessed Noah and his sons, and said them, 'Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth' " (9:1). God gave Noah and his sons certain assurances and limitations (9:2-6), and then restated the command of 9:1, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply. Increase abundantly in the earth, and multiply in it." (9:7). The people at Babel try to prevent themselves from being scattered abroad (11:4), disobeying God's command to "replenish the earth" (9:1) and to "Increase abundantly in the earth, and multiply in it (9:7)

The wider context also includes the story of Abram in chapter 12. God will say to Abram, "Now Yahweh said to Abram, "Get out of your country, and from your relatives, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you."

(12:1-3). And "Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother's son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan" (12:4-5a). There is a dramatic contrast, then, between the people of Babel, who try to stay in one place rather than filling the earth, as God has called them to do, and Abram, who willingly goes where God calls him to go.

So first we have God's command, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (9:1). Then we have the rebellion of the people of Babel, who determine not to " be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth." (11:4). Then Abram obeys God's command, "Get out of your country, and from your relatives, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you " (12:1).

NOTE:  Chrysostom wrote of this story: "Notice how the human race, instead of managing to keep to its own boundaries, always longs for more and reaches out for greater things. This is what the human race has lost in particular, not being prepared to recognize the limitations of its own condition but always lusting after more, entertaining ambitions beyond its capacity. In this regard, too, when people who chase after the things of the world acquire for themselves much wealth and status, they lose sight of their own nature, as it were, and aspire to such heights that they topple into the very depths. You could see this happening every day without others being any the wiser from the sight of it. Instead, they pause for a while but immediately lose all recollection of it and take the same road as the others and fall over the same precipice."


1The whole earth was of one language and of one speech. 2It happened, as they traveled east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they lived there.

"The whole earth was of one language and of one speech." (v. 1). This verse follows immediately after The Table of Nations (chapter 10) that portrays divisions and separations among Noah's descendants (see especially 10:5, 10-12, 18, 20, 25, 31-32). However, in spite of the mention of particular languages in chapter 10, verse 11:1 says that the people still enjoy a common language as they embark on their plan to build a city and a tower. There are two ways to reconcile the different languages of chapter 10 and the one language of chapter 11:
• The first possibility is that chapters 10 and 11 don't stand in chronological order - that literary considerations (the pairing of positive and negative stories) have taken precedence over chronology here (Fretheim).
• The second possibility is that the people had separate languages (as in chapter 10), but also had a common language (as in chapter 11). Verse 1 establishes themes that are repeated throughout this passage - "the whole earth" or "all the earth" (vv. 1, 4, 8, 9) and "language" or "speech" (vv. 1, 6, 7, 9). Verses 1 and 9 serve as bookends for the story and reflect the dramatic changes that God initiates in response to the people's rebellion:
• As the story begins, everyone has the same language and the same words, reflecting the people's unity (v. 1).
• At the end of the story, language is confused and people are scattered, reflecting their disunity (v. 9)

"And as they traveled east" (v. 2a). The word "east" reminds us of the creation story where God "drove out the man; and he placed Cherubs at the east of the garden of Eden, and the flame of a sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life " (3:24). It also reminds us that "Cain went out from Yahweh's presence, and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden" (3:24).

"They found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they lived there." (v. 2b). In the previous chapter, we learned that the land of Shinar includes Babel, Erech, and Accad (10:10).


3They said one to another, "Come, let's make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4They said, "Come, let's build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top reaches to the sky, and let's make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth."

"They said one to another, "Come, let's make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar."(v. 3). The phrase, "Come, let us" is repeated three times in this story - the first two as a part of the people's rebellion and the third as a part of God's response. The people say, "Come, let's make bricks " (v. 3) and " Come, let's build ourselves a city, and a tower " (v. 4). God says, "Come, let's go down, and there confuse their language" (v. 7).
• While Israelites build with stone, Babylonians build with brick. The Israelites would be familiar with Babylonian ziggurats (large pyramidal stepped towers) constructed of mud brick for the interior and baked brick for the exterior (Encyclopedia Britannica). Baked brick is much more durable than mud brick, and bitumen (asphalt or tar) is a durable mortar. The determination of these people to burn their bricks thoroughly and to use the very best mortar reflects their interest in an enduring architecture - in the kind of security that can be achieved by their own ingenuity and hard work rather than the kind of security that can be found through faith in God.

"Come, let's build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top reaches to the sky, and let's make ourselves a name" (v. 4a). The repeated "Come, let's..." reflects their willful autonomy. They determine to build a city where they can gather together in one place without having to obey God's command to "replenish the earth" (9:1). While some scholars have interpreted this verse to be a polemic against cities, it seems more likely that the problem here is rebellion - a problem hardly limited to cities.

"and a tower whose top reaches to the sky" (v. 4b). As noted above, Babylonian ziggurats were large pyramidal stepped towers. The ruins of the largest remaining ziggurat are 335 feet (102 meters) square and 80 feet (24 meters) high. This ziggurat is thought to have been more than twice that high originally - the height of a modern sixteen story building (Encyclopedia Britannica).

"whose top reaches the sky" (v.4b). While it would be possible for this phrase to reflect only a tall structure, like our word "skyscraper," God's response (vv. 6-8) suggests that this reference to "the heavens" reflects the people's ambition to breach the gulf between the humanly realm (the earth) and the Godly realm (the heavens). It is a rebellious ambition, much like the ambition of the man and woman in the garden (3:6) and the people of Noah's day (6:1-4).

"and let's make ourselves a name" (v. 4c). In the next chapter, God will promise Abraham to make his name great (12:2), but these people take the matter into their own hands. Rather than depending on God to make their name great, they determine to make a name for themselves.

"lest we be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth" (v. 4d). As noted above, God has called them to "replenish the earth" (9:1), but they are resisting the call.


5Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. 6Yahweh said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do. 7Come, let's go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech."

"Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built"(v. 5). This is no disengaged Lord, but one who comes down from the heavenly to the earthly realm to inspect the city and tower. The irony is that the tower, which the people intended to reach to heaven, is so short that the Lord must come down to inspect it. What seems grand from the people's standpoint seems insignificant in scale to God. However, God does not think their motive to be insignificant. Their ambition is to reach the heavenly realm by their own strength, and God will not suffer their hubris (pride) lightly.
• The phrase, bene ha adam - "children of men" - links the people of Babel with ha adam (the man) of the garden of Eden. The prideful rebellion of the people of Babel is like the prideful rebellion in the garden. Both rebellions seek to rise above human limitations and to assume Godly prerogatives. The Psalmist says: Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth take a stand, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh, and against his Anointed, saying, "Let's break their bonds apart, and cast their cords from us." (Psalm 2:1-3)


"Yahweh said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do."(v. 6). This could be interpreted to mean that God finds the potential power of these people threatening, but that is hardly the case. The Psalmist continues:  He who sits in the heavens will laugh.  The Lord will have them in derision. Psalm 2:4)
• The problem is not that the people might storm the heavens and wrest power from God, but that the people, if allowed to succeed in their great sky-tower adventure, might be encouraged to engage in even more serious rebellions.

"Come, let's go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech" (v. 7). The word "let's" suggests that there are multiple divine beings. Who are these divine beings? They must include "the heavenly host" (1 Kings 22:19), "the heavenly beings" (Job 1:6), and the seraphs who attend to God (Isaiah 6:2). The Prologue to the Gospel of John also comes to mind here:  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made." (John 1:1-3a).


8So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there on the surface of all the earth. They stopped building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there Yahweh confused the language of all the earth. From there, Yahweh scattered them abroad on the surface of all the earth.

"So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there on the surface of all the earth. They stopped building the city."(v. 8). One of the people's primary objectives in building a city and a tower was to avoid being "scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (v. 4), but now they are scattered anyway - forced to comply with the command to "replenish the earth" (9:1). Being scattered, they are no longer able to pursue the building of the city.
• Sin leads to scatteredness and broken relationships. While sin sometimes brings impressive initial gains (the city and tower of Babel - the power of Nazi Germany in its early years), sin sows the seeds of its own destruction.


"Therefore its name was called Babel, because there Yahweh confused the language of all the earth. From there, Yahweh scattered them abroad on the surface of all the earth."(v. 9). The people wanted to make a name for themselves, but the name that they achieved is Babel, which came to mean confusion because of what happened there. Babel (Hebrew: bab-li) literally means "gate of God" (Von Rad, 150, Brown, Driver, and Briggs, 93).
• The word "Babel" is related to Babylon, the capital city of Babylonia, which was the dominant nation of the second millennium B.C. Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah in 586 B.C. and forced the Jews into a half-century exile in Babylonia (2 Kings 24-25). This exile would have familiarized the Jews with the Babylonian ziggurats, which surely influenced the telling of the Babel story - a slap by the Jewish storyteller at the Babylonian oppressors.


NOTE:  Acts 2 tells of a day in the life of the church when the barriers of language, erected at Babel, were breached by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.


Gen. 11:1-9 - Bible Ref


CONTEXT:  Genesis 11 contains three sections: God confuses and scatters the people of the world to stop the building of Babel and its tower. A genealogy is provided showing the direct links between Noah and Abram. The ''generations'' of Terah are introduced, providing a description of the family out of which God will call Abram to become the father of His chosen people.  Gen. 11:1-9 recounts one of the most dramatic acts of God recorded in Genesis. Before the tribes and nations described in Gen. 10 were formed, all the people of the earth shared one language and one culture. They also shared the goal of not wanting to be separated. To that end, they decided to make themselves great by building a great city with an enormous tower-and without apparently acknowledging God. To keep humanity from being too powerful, and lapsing into the widespread sin which inspired the flood, God confuses human languages and scattered mankind around the world. The city of Babel, similar to the Hebrew word for ''confused,'' would later become known as Babylon.


v. 1: Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. - Genesis 11 returns to a narrative where the world of man has not yet scattered across the earth into the nations, tribes, and languages described in chapter 10. Chapter 10's focus was broad, and looking far into the future, many generations from the end of the flood. The actual division of nations, as described in the Bible, will not happen until after humanity is divided by language and scattered across the globe. This event happens here, in ch. 11, at the Tower of Babel. 
•  The descendants of Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, remained together for a while, then migrated away from the region around Ararat, where the ark settled. It makes sense, given this context, that humanity continued to have one language and to share the same words, or common speech. Only one people group existed on the earth, and they all shared the same culture. Unfortunately, this led to almost the same problem which happened prior to the flood: a unified humanity can use that unity for sin, something God does not plan to allow (Genesis 11:6).


v. 2: And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. - The previous chapter described all the nations, tribes, and languages that came from Noah's three sons. Genesis 11 backs up the story to the era before the people groups were divided. Until this point, the families of Shem, Ham, and Japheth remained together as a single people group with a single culture. Verse 1 told us they all shared the same language.
• Here, in verse 2, we're told that this growing extended family migrated away from the region where the ark settled to the land of Shinar. Shinar is the region where Babylon will be established. Thus, at this point in the history of the earth, all the peoples of the world were gathered together in one region.
• While it sounds wonderful for mankind to be united in culture and language, human sin makes this a dangerous condition. As shown prior to the flood, mankind's natural habit is towards depravity (Genesis 6:5). The need to restrict man's cooperation with man, at least to some extent, is a major reason for God's actions in this passage (Genesis 11:7-8).


v. 3: And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. - The previous verses revealed that the peoples of the earth had not yet divided and scattered into separate tribes and nations. The descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth remained a single people group with a single culture and language. Together, they had migrated to the region of Shinar where Babylon would be established.
• Here, we're told that together these people made plans to build a huge structure in their new homeland. This verse seems oddly specific in describing their building materials: bricks hardened by burning-or baking-and mortar made from tar. Scholars suggest there is wordplay going on in these verses, connecting the words for these building materials to the name of Babel. In addition, Israelite readers would have likely been interested to know that these ancient people used bricks while they themselves often used stone for building.


v. 4: Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." - At this point in the history of the world, all the peoples on earth existed as a single culture with one shared language. The descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth had not yet divided and dispersed into the separate nations, tribes, and languages described in chapter 10. And, for this moment, they wanted to keep it that way. They did not want to disperse and go in different directions (Genesis 9:1).
• Most likely, the people recognized that there was power and safety in their unity. If they could remain one people, they would be stronger and safer. If they divided, each group would be weaker and, likely, under threat of war and conflict with other groups. Their motive makes sense to us, but their plan to accomplish their objective was to make themselves great in a way that God found arrogant and dangerous.
• The scheme mankind concocts is to build a strong, defensible city with a massive tower that would reach to the heavens. They would "make a name" for themselves. If, as a people, their city was unable to be defeated and they were prosperous and strong, why would any among them want to leave and risk becoming their rivals?
• This culture of man believed that self-glorification and self-reliance would achieve their greatest goals. They did not, apparently, acknowledge God in any way or seek His help. The following verses will reveal that though they can accomplish much, God will not allow them to achieve their plan.


v. 5: And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. - The united peoples of earth make a plan to exalt themselves, by building a tower in their city that would reach to the heavens. Instead of asking God for help, they set out to make themselves powerful enough to get what they wanted. Many scholars see this as a deliberate attempt to guard against another flood, by making a structure specifically intended to protect mankind from God's judgment.
• This verse is probably intended to be taken in a dry, almost sarcastic tone. The text reveals that God chooses to "come down" to even see their tower. Of course, God did not need to travel any distance in any direction to see or know what was happening on the earth. Instead, the language is meant to emphasize what a silly idea it was that people could build a tower that would reach to the heavens, or prevent God from enacting His will.
• In a more direct sense, this verse shows God "playing along," much as He did when Adam hid from Him in the garden of Eden and God called out (Genesis 3:8-10).


v. 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. - After seeing the city and the tower that the united people of the earth had built, God does not dismiss their efforts as weak and futile. Instead, He acknowledges that by working together, humanity would can accomplish whatever they set out to do. This, of course, leads to an immediate question: why is that a problem? Why would God stand opposed to such unified productivity?
• The answer is in mankind's capacity to turn gifts into curses (Genesis 3:17-19), and abilities into abuses. The flood had not changed the nature of sinful human beings. God's observation in Genesis 6:5 still applies to the hearts of humans left to themselves: "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
• A powerfully united humanity, inclined to do evil, could accomplish great wickedness. No matter how perverse, outrageous, or ridiculous something might seem, mankind can and will attempt it, given the opportunity. The following verse reveals that God has no plans to give humanity that kind of opening.


v. 7: Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech."At this point in history, the peoples of the earth remained undivided, with one language and culture. They had also decided to remain unified and become great and powerful by their own strength and ability. They did not apparently worship God or call to Him for help.   • So, God "came down," and saw the great city and tower they had made. The verse uses the phrasing "let us" with respect to God. Similar language is used in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22. God may be speaking to Himself within the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Alternatively, He may be commanding the angels to come and participate.
• In either case, God acknowledges that by working together, nothing would be impossible for humanity. More specifically, God points out that mankind is capable of enormous evil, when their sinful natures become aligned. God is not attempting to stifle mankind's potential to accomplish "anything" good, but He is very concerned about their potential to accomplish "anything" evil.
• God decides to stop their progress by dividing the people according to language, for starters. People who speak different languages have an immediate barrier to communication, making it harder to cooperate. Further, this would naturally begin to separate people into groups, based on those languages, and in fulfillment of God's intent for man after the flood (Genesis 9:1).


v. 8: So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. - In the previous verse, God decides to confuse the languages of the united peoples of the earth. This was specifically intended to stop them from accomplishing whatever they set out to do. In context, God's concern is that a united humanity will slip back into the same cycle of sin and death-"violence"-as existed prior to the flood (Gen. 6:5).
• Now, we're told that God also dispersed humanity from the area of Shinar all over the earth. Taken at face value, these verses describe supernatural acts of God in creating and assigning languages to people and placing them where in the earth He wanted them to be. Other interpreters see God's actions in this chapter in a more gradual way, describing the effects without necessarily implying that they were immediate.
• Taken literally, Genesis' claim is that these languages did not develop naturally over time as people developed their own variations on an original language. God simply did it. Such an act would require enormous power, creativity, and authority. Certainly, the God who created the world and sent a global flood would be capable of such actions.
• God's initial command to Noah and his sons was to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). Since the people refused to separate and obey God in this way, God did it for them. He would not allow humanity to set its own agenda for the earth.
• Building on the city came to a stop. It would no longer be the focus of humanity's combined effort. The place took on the name Babel, which is very similar to the Hebrew word for "confusion." Later, this city would be known as Babylon.


v. 9: Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. - Verse 9 sums up God's act of judgment with a play on words. The word for the name of the city Babel is very similar in Hebrew to the word for "confused." In fact, the whole section of verses 1 through 9 includes several allusions, in the Hebrew language, to the name of Babel. It is very likely that Babel became known as Babylon, the great and ancient city that became a seat of power in the world. This city, in fact, would later become symbolic of the man-centered, worldly system which sets itself against God. Later, the Babylonians were quite proud of their impressive city. God's people understood, however, that the city's history was evidence that human pride and arrogance cannot stand against God. He stops the plans of humanity anytime He chooses to do so (Job 42:2).
• One day, though, God will create a new kingdom with a single language and culture once again. Zephaniah 3:9-11 describes that moment, and the Holy Spirit's act of uniting the languages at Pentecost may hint at it as well (Acts 2:6-11).



BACKGROUND - The primeval events - Gen. 1:1-11:26.

1. Chapters 1-11 provide an introduction to the Book of Genesis, the Pentateuch, and the whole Bible. "What we find in chaps. 1-11 is the divine initiation of blessing, which is compromised by human sin followed by gracious preservation of the promise: blessing-sin-grace." "His [Moses'] theological perspective can be summarized in two points. First, the author intends to draw a line connecting the God of the Fathers and the God of the Sinai covenant with the God who created the world. Second, the author intends to show that the call of the patriarchs and the Sinai covenant have as their ultimate goal the reestablishment of God's original purpose in Creation." [Note: Sailhamer, p. 19. Cf. Mathews, p. 77.]
• Evidently an interest in the way in which the world and humankind came into existence and in the history of the earliest times was characteristic of the ancient civilized world. At any rate, various 'origin stories' or 'creation myths' about the activities of a variety of creator-gods are still extant in what remains of the literatures of ancient Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia. But the combination of such accounts with narratives about more recent times testifies to an additional motivation. The aim of such works was to give their readers-or to strengthen-a sense of national or ethnic identity, particularly at a time when there was for some reason a degree of uncertainty or hesitation about this. . . .
• The placing of Genesis 1-11 as a prologue to the main body of the work also afforded the opportunity to express certain distinctively Israelite articles of faith which it would have been more difficult to introduce into the later narratives, particularly with regard to the doctrine of God." [Note: Whybray, pp. 36-37. See Gordon H. Johnston, "Genesis 1 and Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths," Bibliotheca Sacra 165:658 "Genesis 1-11 as we read it is a commentary, often highly critical, on ideas current in the ancient world about the natural and supernatural world. Both individual stories as well as the final completed work seem to be a polemic against many of the commonly received notions about the gods and man. But the clear polemical thrust of Genesis 1-11 must not obscure the fact that at certain points biblical and extrabiblical thought are in clear agreement. Indeed Genesis and the ancient Near East probably have more in common with each other than either has with modern secular thought."

E. What became of Noah's sons 10:1-11:9

This section gives in some detail the distribution of Noah's descendants over the earth after the Flood (cf. Genesis 9:18-19). This fourth toledot section (Genesis 10:1 to Genesis 11:9) brings the inspired record of primeval events to a climax and provides a transition to the patriarchal narratives. All the nations of the world in their various lands with their different languages descended from Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Of special interest to the original Israelite readers were the Canaanites and the other ancient Near Eastern powers. "From this section we learn that the 'blessing' is for all peoples because all nations have their source in the one man, Noah, whom God favored. Moreover, the disunity among Noah's offspring that resulted from the tower event [Genesis 11:1-9] did not prevent the blessing God had envisioned for humanity."
• The Tower of Babel incident (Genesis 11:1-9), though following the table in the present literary arrangement, actually precedes chronologically the dispersal of the nations. This interspersal of narrative (Genesis 11:1-9) separates the two genealogies of Shem (Genesis 10:21-31; Genesis 11:10-26), paving the way for the particular linkage between the Terah (Abraham) clan and the Shemite lineage (Genesis 11:27). The story of the tower also looks ahead by anticipating the role that Abram (Genesis 12:1-3) will play in restoring the blessing to the dispersed nations." [Note: Ibid., p. 428.]

1. The table of nations ch. 10: This table shows that Yahweh created all peoples (cf. Deuteronomy 32:8; Amos 9:7; Acts 17:26). Like the genealogy in chapter 5, this one traces 10 main individuals, and the last one named had three sons.
• This chapter contains one of the oldest, if not the oldest, ethnological table in the literature of the ancient world. It reveals a remarkable understanding of the ethnic and linguistic situation following the Flood. Almost all the names in this chapter have been found in archaeological discoveries in the last century and a half. Many of them appear in subsequent books of the Old Testament. The names in chapter 10 are presented in a dissimilar manner: the context may be that of an individual (e.g., Nimrod), a city (e.g., Asshur), a people (e.g., Jebusites) or a nation (e.g., Elam).
• A failure to appreciate this mixed arrangement of Genesis 10 has led, we believe, to numerous unwarranted conclusions. For example, it should not be assumed that all the descendants of any one of Noah's sons lived in the same locality, spoke the same language, or even belonged to a particular race." [Note: Barry J. Beitzel, The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, p. 76. See pages 76-79 for discussion of each name in chapter 10.]
• The table of nations is a 'horizontal' genealogy rather than a 'vertical' one (those in chaps. 5 and 11 are vertical). Its purpose is not primarily to trace ancestry; instead it shows political, geographical, and ethnic affiliations among tribes for various reasons, most notable being holy war. Tribes shown to be 'kin' would be in league together. Thus this table aligns the predominant tribes in and around the land promised to Israel. These names include founders of tribes, clans, cities, and territories." [Note: Ross, "Genesis," p. 42.]
• In contrast to the genealogy in chapter 5, this one lists no ages. It contains place and group names, which are spoken of as the ancestors of other places or groups, as well as the names of individuals. God built nations from families. Thus it is quite clearly a selective list, not comprehensive. The writer's choice of material shows that he had particular interest in presenting Israel's neighbors. Israel would deal with, displace, or subjugate many of these peoples, as well as the Canaanites (ch. 9). They all had a common origin. Evidently 70 nations descended from Shem, Ham, and Japheth: 26 from Shem, 30 from Ham, and 14 from Japheth (cf. Deuteronomy 32:8). Seventy became a traditional round number for a large group of descendants. [Note: Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 213.] Jacob's family also comprised 70 people (Genesis 46:27), which may indicate that Moses viewed Israel as a microcosm of humanity as he presented it here. God set the microcosm apart to bless the macrocosm.
• Japheth's descendants (Genesis 10:2-5) settled north, east, and west of Ararat. [Note: For helpful diagrams showing the generational relationships of the descendants of Japheth, Ham, and Shem respectively, see Mathews, pp. 440, 444, and 459.] Their distance from Israel probably explains the brief treatment that they received in this list compared with that of the Hamites and Shemites. The "coastlands" (Genesis 10:5) are the inland areas and the northern Mediterranean coastlands on the now European shore from Turkey to Spain. The dispersion of the nations "according to . . . language" (Genesis 10:5) took place after Babel (ch. 11) all along these coasts as well as elsewhere. [Note: For discussion of the identities of each name, see Wenham, Genesis 1-15, pp. 216-32; or the NET Bible notes on these verses.]
• Ham's family (Genesis 10:6-20) moved east, south, and southwest into Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Africa. Canaan's descendants (Genesis 10:15-21) did not migrate as far south but settled in Palestine. [Note: For explanation of the locations the individuals, cities, tribes, and nations cited in this table, see Allen P. Ross, "The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 -Its Content," Bibliotheca Sacra 138:549 (January-March 1981):23-31.] The length of these Hamite Canaanite lists indicates the importance of these people and places in Israel's later history. Note the absence of the common sevens in the structuring in Canaan's genealogy, suggesting chaos.
• It is possible that Sargon of Agade, whom many secular historians regard as the first ruler of Babylon, may be the Nimrod (meaning "We shall rebel") of Genesis 10:8-10. [Note: Oliver R. Blosser, "Was Nimrod-Sargon of Agade, the First King of Babylon?" It's About Time (June 1987), pp. 10-13.] Many people in ancient times had more than one name. Reference to him probably foreshadows Genesis 11:1-9.
• "The influx of the Amorites in Canaan is disputed. It does not necessarily follow that the original Amorites, attributed to Hamite descent in Genesis 10, were a Semitic people since the term 'Amorite' in ancient Near Eastern documents does not serve as a definitive source for designating ethnicity. Moreover, linguistic evidence does not always assure true ethnic derivation." Shem's posterity (Genesis 10:21-31) settled to the northeast and southeast of the Canaanites. This branch of the human family is also important in the Genesis record of Israel's history.
• When the two lines of Shem are compared (Genesis 10:21-31; Genesis 11:10-26), there is a striking divergence at the point of Eber's descendants, Peleg and Joktan [Genesis 10:25]. In chap. 10 Peleg is dropped altogether after his mention, while the nonelect line of Joktan is detailed. It is left to the second lineage in chap. 11 to trace out Peleg's role as ancestral father of Abraham . . ." [Note: Mathews, p. 459.]
• This Table of Nations, then, traces affiliation of tribes to show relationships, based on some original physical connections.
• "It is clear that the writer is emphasizing the development of these nations that were of primary importance to Israel (yalad sections) within the overall structure of the Table (b'ne arrangement)." [Note: Allen P. Ross, "The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 -Its Structure," Bibliotheca Sacra 137:548 (October-December 1980):350.    The three geographical arcs of the branches intersect at the center-that is, Canaan, Israel's future homeland."
• This section reveals that it was God's plan to bless the human race by dividing the family of man by languages, locations, and leaders. God formerly blessed the earth by dividing the light from the darkness, the earth from the heavens, and the land from the seas (ch. 1). Some creationists believe that the division of the earth in Peleg's day (Genesis 10:25) refers to continental drift, but many creationists do not hold this view. [Note: For a creationist discussion of the subject of continental drift, see Ham, et al., pp. 11-12, 41-63; or David M. Fouts, "Peleg in Genesis 10:25," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41:1 (March 1998):17-21.]
• By correlating the number of nations [in ch. 10, i.e., 70] with the number of the seed of Abraham [in Genesis 46:27], he [the writer] holds Abraham's 'seed' before the reader as a new humanity and Abraham himself as a kind of second Adam, the 'father of many nations' (Genesis 17:5)." ". . . his intention is not to give an exhaustive list but rather a representative list, one which, for him, is obtained in the number seven." [Note: Ibid., p. 132.]
• The table's figure of 'seventy' for the world's nations is alluded to by Jesus in the sending forth of the seventy disciples, as recounted by Luke (Genesis 10:1-16). Here the evangelist emphasizes the mission of the church in its worldwide evangelistic endeavors." [Note: Mathews, p. 437. See also Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. Part II. From Noah to Abraham, pp. 175-80.]

LESSON TEXT:  The dispersion at Babel 11:1-9

vv. 1-2: Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. 2 It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. Some of the Hamites migrated "east" (specifically southeast) to the plain of Shinar (Gen 10:10). This was in the Mesopotamian basin (modern Iraq).
• In light of such intentional uses of the notion of 'eastward' within the Genesis narratives, we can see that here too the author intentionally draws the story of the founding of Babylon into the larger scheme at work throughout the book. It is a scheme that contrasts God's way of blessing (e.g., Eden and the Promised Land) with man's own attempt to find the 'good.' In the Genesis narratives, when man goes 'east,' he leaves the land of blessing (Eden and the Promised Land) and goes to a land where the greatest of his hopes will turn to ruin (Babylon and Sodom). [Note: Idem, "Genesis," p. 104.]
• Following the Ararat departure, the people migrated southeast to the lower Euphrates valley. Genesis 1-11 then has come full circle from 'Eden' to 'Babel,' both remembered for the expulsion of their residents." [Note: Mathews, p. 467.]
• This view is a flashback that explains the division of the earth in Peleg's time (Genesis 10:25). The main emphasis in this section is not the building of the tower of Babel but the dispersion of the peoples. We can see this in the literary structure of the passage.
• When people attempted to preserve their unity and make a name for themselves by building a tower, Yahweh frustrated the plan and scattered everyone by confusing the language that bound them together. "The tower of Babel story is the last great judgment that befell mankind in primeval times. Its place and function in Genesis 1-11 may be compared to the fall in Genesis 3 and the sons of God episode in Genesis 6:1-4, both of which triggered divine judgments of great and enduring consequence."
• This story explains to God's people how God scattered the nations and why. In judgment for trying to establish a world state in opposition to divine rule (human government run amuck), God struck the thing that bound people together, namely, a common language. Chronologically the Babel incident preceded the dispersal that Moses described with genealogies in chapter 10. One writer argued for the identification of the tower of Babel incident with the demise and dispersion of the last great Sumerian dynasty centered at Ur.
• By placing the Tower of Babel incident just prior to the patriarchal stories, the biblical writer is suggesting, in the first place, that post-Flood humanity is as iniquitous as pre-Flood humanity. Rather than sending something as devastating as a flood to annihilate mankind, however, God now places his hope in a covenant with Abraham as a powerful solution to humanity's sinfulness. Thus problem (ch. 11) and solution (ch. 12) are brought into immediate juxtaposition, and the forcefulness of this structural move would have been lost had ch. 10 intervened between the two."
• As it is presently situated in the text, the account of the founding of Babylon falls at the end of the list of fourteen names from the line of Joktan (Genesis 10:26-29). At the end of the list of the ten names of Peleg's line, however, is the account of the call of Abraham (Genesis 11:27 to Genesis 12:10). So two great lines of the descendants of Shem divide in the two sons of Eber (Genesis 10:25). One ends in Babylon, the other in the Promised Land." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 134.]

vv. 3-4:  They said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." -The motivation for building a city was to make the builders a name (cf. Psalms 14:1). Later God would "make a name" for Abram (Genesis 12:2-3). The object of this endeavor was to establish a center by which they might maintain their unity.
• A defensive wall is the hallmark of a city (see Genesis 4:17). Cities in the ancient Near East were not designed to be lived in but were intended for religious and public purposes." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 179.] God desired unity for humankind, but one that He created, not one founded on a social state. [Note: Mathews, p. 473.] They wanted to "empower" themselves. Both motive and object were ungodly. God had instructed man to fill the earth (Genesis 1:28), to spread over the whole planet.
• The builders of the "tower" seem to have intended that it serve as a memorial or landmark, among other things. It was probably a ziggurat used for religious purposes.
• Mesopotamian religion claimed that their cities were of divine parentage. A symbol of this obsession with divinity among the Mesopotamians was the ziggurat (Akk. ziqqurratu) that was erected as early as the third millennium B.C. The ziggurat was a step-ladder edifice, made up of mud bricks, whose bottom was square or rectangular. The precise meaning of the structure is unknown, though it is widely agreed that it formed a stairway between the gods and earth (cf. Genesis 28:12). At the foot of the ziggurat as well as the pinnacle was a temple area serving as a habitation for the god. Ziggurats may have been considered an earthly imitation of the heavenly residence of the gods." [Note: Ibid., pp. 470-71. Cf. Waltke, Genesis, p. 179.]

vv. 5-6: The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. - The builders undoubtedly expected to ascend to heaven to meet God. Instead God descended to earth to meet them. If God had allowed this project to continue the results would have been even worse and more serious than they were at this time. The sin of the builders was their refusal to obey God-given directives.
• Depraved humanity are united in their spiritual endeavor to find, through technology, existential meaning apart from God and the means to transgress its boundaries. Unless God intervenes and divides them by confounding their speech, nothing can stop human beings in their overweening pride and their desire for autonomy." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 182.]
• The construction of cities by itself was not sinful. God chose Jerusalem for His people, and He will create the New Jerusalem for believers to inhabit. It is the pride and security that people place in their cities that God disapproves.

v. 7:  Come, let Us go down and there confuse their]language, so that they will not understand one another's speech." - God's soliloquy in this verse mimics the language of the tower builders in Genesis 11:3-4 (cf. Genesis 1:26). The tower was so puny that He had to come down to see it (cf. Isaiah 40:22). The confusion of language probably involved more than just the introduction of new words.
• If language is the audible expression of emotions, conceptions, and thoughts of the mind, the cause of the confusion or division of the one human language into different national dialects might be sought in an effect produced upon the human mind, by which the original unity of emotion, conception, thought, and will was broken up. This inward unity had no doubt been already disturbed by sin, but the disturbance had not yet amounted to a perfect breach." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 1:174-75.]
• Some scholars believe that this judgment also involved the implantation of ethnic and racial distinctions in humankind. The Table of Nations in chapter 10 may imply this. [Note: See Merrill, "The Peoples . . .," p. 22.]

v. 8:  So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. - The resultant confusion led to a scattering of the people over the "whole earth" (cf. Genesis 11:9). God did not allow human rebellion to reach the level that it did before the Flood. God forced people to do what they refused to do voluntarily, namely, scatter over the face of the earth.
• Some interpreters take the confusion of languages to have been a local phenomenon only. One writer believed lightning struck the tower of Babel and the confusion of speech that followed resulted from a scrambling of the electrical circuits in the brains of those struck. [Note: James E. Strickling, "The Tower of Babel and the Confusion of Tongues," Kronos (Fall 1982), pp. 53-62.] This is an interesting idea but impossible to prove. Most interpreters, however, regard this event as the source of the major language groups in the world today.

v. 9:  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. - "Babel" sounds like the Hebrew word for "confuse" (balal), and it means "the gate of gods" in Akkadian.  ". . . Genesis 11:1-9, the tower of Babel story, is a satire on the claims of Babylon to be the center of civilization and its temple tower the gate of heaven (E[numa]E[lish] 6:50-80): Babel does not mean gate of God, but 'confusion' and 'folly.' Far from its temple's top reaching up to heaven, it is so low that God has to descend from heaven just to see it! (Genesis 11:4-9)."
• This was the original Babylon that forever after was the city most characterized by rebellion against God's authority. It stands as a symbol of organized rebellion against God elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Revelation 17, 18). [Note: See Everett H. Peterson, "Prehistory and the Tower of Babel," Creation Research Society Quarterly 19:2 (September 1982):87-90.]
• Man certainly did not expect his project to take such a turn. He did not anticipate that the name he wanted to make for himself would refer to a place of non-communication."
• The story of Babel is important for several reasons:
1. It explains the beginning of and reason for the various languages of mankind.
2. It probably explains the origin of the "races" within humankind.
• The separate language groups no longer could inter-marry freely with the rest of mankind. As in-breeding and lack of access to the larger pool of genes occurred, ethnic characteristics developed. Furthermore, each local environment tended to favor selection of certain traits, and eliminate the others. Ethnic characteristics, such as skin color, arose from loss of genetic variability, not from origin of new genes through mutation as suggested by evolution.
• The concept of race is an evolutionary idea . . . (Acts 17:26). All humans possess the same color, just different amounts of it. We all descended from Noah and Adam." [Note: A plaque explaining an exhibit at the Institute for Creation Research Museum, Santee, Calif., which I observed on May 21, 1997.]
• The Bible doesn't tell us what skin color our first parents had, but, from a design point of view, the 'middle [color]' makes a great beginning. Starting with medium-skinned parents (AaBb), it would take only one generation to produce all the variation we see in human skin color today. In fact, this is the normal situation in India today. Some Indians are as dark as the darkest Africans, and some-perhaps a brother or sister in the same family-as light as the lightest Europeans. I once knew a family from India that included members with every major skin color you could see anywhere in the world.
• Where people with different skin colors get together again (as they do in the West Indies, for example), you find the full range of variation again-nothing less, but nothing more either, than what we started with. Clearly, all this is variation within kind. . . .
• What happened as the descendants of medium-skinned parents produced a variety of descendants? Evolution? Not at all. Except for albinism (the mutational loss of skin color), the human gene pool is no bigger and no different now than the gene pool present at creation. As people multiplied, the genetic variability built right into the first created human beings came to visible expression. The darkest Nigerian and the lightest Norwegian, the tallest Watusi and the shortest Pygmy, the highest soprano and the lowest bass could have been present right from the beginning in two quite average-looking people. Great variation in size, color, form, function, etc., would also be present in the two created ancestors of all the other kinds (plants and animals) as well.
• Evolutionists assume that all life started from one or a few chemically evolved life forms with an extremely small gene pool. For evolutionists, enlargement of the gene pool by selection of random mutations is a slow, tedious process that burdens each type with a 'genetic load' of harmful mutations and evolutionary leftovers. Creationists assume each created kind began with a large gene pool, designed to multiply and fill the earth with all its tremendous ecologic and geographic variety. (See Genesis, chapter 1.)"
     3. The Babel story demonstrates the inclination of fallen man to rebel against God and to try to provide for his needs in his own way rather than by trusting and obeying God.
     4. It illustrates that rebellion against God results in (a) broken fellowship with God and man, and (b) failure to realize God's intention for man in his creation, namely, that he rule the earth effectively.
     5. It provides the historical background for what follows in Genesis. Abraham came from this area.
• Irony is seen in the beginning and the ending of this passage. The group at Babel began as the whole earth (Genesis 11:1), but now they were spread over the whole earth (Genesis 11:9). By this time the lesson is clarified: God's purpose will be accomplished in spite of the arrogance and defiance of man's own purposes. He brings down the proud, but exalts the faithful.
• The significance of this little story is great. It explains to God's people how the nations were scattered abroad. Yet the import goes much deeper. The fact that it was Babylon, the beginning of kingdoms under Nimrod from Cush, adds a rather ominous warning: Great nations cannot defy God and long survive. The new nation of Israel need only survey the many nations around her to perceive that God disperses and curses the rebellious, bringing utter confusion and antagonism among them. If Israel would obey and submit to God's will, then she would be the source of blessing to the world.

Gen. 11:1-9 - Extra Commentary

Genesis 11:1 "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech."

"One language, and of one speech": God, who made man as the one creature with whom He could speak (1:28), was to take the gift of language and use it to divide the race, for the apostate worship at Babel indicated that man had turned against God in pride (11:8-9).

"One language": is literally "one lip," meaning language or dialect. There is a single family in one place speaking one language.

We know that when Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth were on the ark, all the people of the earth, eight, truly did speak the same language. As we have said before, the Bible was not written in chronological order.

At what point in history (Chapter 11:1) occurred, is hard to say. This was, probably, an explanation of some of the things we have read in the previous chapter. Details very often overlap in the Bible.

Genesis 11:2 "And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there."

"As they journeyed from the east": God had restated His commission for man to "be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth" (9:7). It was in the course of spreading out that the events of this account occurred.

"From the east": An idiom for "off east," indicating direction.

"Shinar" was in the region of Babylon.

This "they" that was spoken of above means the descendants of Ham that we read about in the last lesson. We learned in our last lesson that the descendants of Nimrod settled in Babel, Erech, Accad and Calneh, which was in the area of the tower of Babel. This area was in the land of Shinar.

Japheth's children scattered and even went to the islands, we learned in a previous lesson. It seemed the group that did not want to scatter was Ham's descendants. That was the group that built the tower of Babel.

 Verses 3-4: "Let us make brick ... let us build us a city and a tower": While dispersing, a portion of the post-Flood group, under the leading of the powerful Nimrod (10:8-10), they decided to stop and establish a city as a monument to their pride and for their reputation. The tower, even though it was a part of the plan, was not the singular act of rebellion.

Human pride was which led these people to defy God. They were refusing to move on, i.e., scattering to fill the earth as they had been instructed. In fact, this was Nimrod's and the people's effort to disobey the command of God (in 9:1), and thus defeat the counsel of heaven. They had to make bricks, since there were few stones on the plain.

Genesis 11:3 "And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar."

"Brick": The irony of the passage is that they did not have the stone or mortar for building and had to use makeshift materials.

Verse 3 was, probably, the first mention in the Bible about people making brick for building. It must have been very similar to the brick we use today. They even baked them, as we do.

Genesis 11:4 "And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top [may reach] unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."

"Let us build us a city and a tower": Their ambition is expressed. They wish to bind their strength with the city and tower. The tower may mean a fortress (Deut. 1:28; 9:1 speaks of cities fortified up to heaven).

"Whose top may reach unto heaven": Not that the tower would actually reach to the abode of God and not that the top would represent the heavens. They wanted it to be a high tower as a monument to their abilities, one that would enhance their fame. In this endeavor, they disobeyed God and attempted to steal His glory.

"Us a name" (goes back to 4:17; 22:24; 6:4; 10:9); all of which are focal points of rebellion against God. Here they do not want to fulfill God's command to Noah and his family after the Flood (9:1).

These people were not interested in following what God told them to do (scatter). They were defiant, doing exactly the opposite. They were seeking worldly fame. Probably, the heaven that they were speaking of was the immediate heaven that they could see with their natural eyes.

Many teachers and historians believe they built a ziggurat (a rectangular stepped tower), like similar structures which were built in adjoining towns. The Bible was not clear on this. It just spoke of a very tall tower.

Jesus is the way to heaven, anyone who tries to get to heaven any other way, but through Jesus, is a thief and a robber.

Genesis 11:5 "And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded."

"And the Lord came down": The "coming down" is significant (18:2, 21; 19:1). God was already aware of the program, but being the righteous judge, He wished to examine it closely. No matter how high their tower, He still comes down.

You notice in the Scripture above, that God called them children of men. They were followers of the flesh, and not the spirit. Whatever felt good, they did, following their fleshly lust.

Genesis 11:6 "And the LORD said, Behold, the people [is] one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do."

"Nothing will be restrained": They were so united that they would do all they desired to do.

"They begin to do": This would be only the start!

"Imagined to do": means "they purposed."

These people remind me of little children. One child will not get into much trouble, but when you add the second child, they get into ten times as much.

These people had evil hearts with every evil imagination. The fact that they spoke the same language, made it much easier for them to work together. Working together, people can accomplish more than working as individuals.

Even today, if those of other countries and American common people could sit down and talk together in the same language, we would find that we have many things in common. They love their families, just as we do; they want a peaceful world, just as we do. You see, the heads of government are the ones who have many problems, seeking power.

These people working together were not good, because Nimrod's descendants followed false gods. Whatever they did would be bad, because their hearts were evil.

Genesis 11:7 "Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech."

"Let us go down": Again, the plural does not refer to angels, but is a plural of majesty (1:26; 3:22).

God the Father was speaking to Jesus, probably. Jesus is the doer of the God Head. They were going to make it impossible for the people to understand each other.

Genesis 11:8 "So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city."

"So the Lord scattered them": God addressed their prideful rebellion at the first act. They had chosen to settle; He forced them to scatter. This account tells how it was that the families of the earth "were separated ... every one according to his language" (10:5), and "were separated on the earth after the flood" (10:32).

What men will not do willingly, God forces them to do as a result of judgment, and today there are more than three thousand languages and dialects. The result of this confusion (verse 9), was the scattering of mankind. The name Babel is linked with the Hebrew verb "balal" (to confuse).

But the ancient Babylonians called the city Bab-ilu, meaning "Gate of God." At any rate, there is a pun in the construction of Babel-balal. In the Bible, this city increasingly came to symbolize the godless society, with its pretensions (chapter 11), persecutions (Daniel 3), pleasures, sins and superstitions (Isaiah 47:8-13), as well as its riches and eventual doom (Revelation chapters 17 and 18).

Certain lessons appear:

(1) Boastful pride in material power is sinful in God's sight. This is the theme behind all sin: pride;

(2) Yahweh's purpose endures forever. Every plan He formulates is inevitably implemented in spite of all efforts and devices of man. The peoples will settle in all the earth;

(3) Unity and peace are not ultimate goals in a sinful world: better division than collective apostasy.

God scattered this wicked group to many countries and changed their language, so they would not be able to cooperate in their evil adventures. What a contrast to the day of Pentecost, when every man heard in his own language the message of God.

Genesis 11:9 "Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."

"The name of it called Babel": This is linked to a Hebrew word meaning "to confuse". From this account, Israel first understood not only how so many nations, peoples and languages came about, but also the rebellious origins of their consummate enemy, Babylon (10:5, 20, 31).

"Scattered them": Because they would not fill the earth as God had commanded them, God confused their language so that they had to separate and collect in regions where their own language was spoken.

The word Babel is used today to mean something spoken unintelligibly, something difficult to understand. If they would not scatter on their own, then God would do it for them.

There is a definite break here. We will take up the ancestry of Shem which was another group entirely.