How soon do people forget the most tremendous judgments of the Lord, and go back to their former crimes! The desolations of the Great Deluge were before the eyes of righteous Noah’s descendants; yet even during his lifetime, wickedness increased 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 intended that mankind should form many nations and inhabit all lands. But in contempt of the Divine will, and against the counsel of Noah, the majority of the post-Flood population united together and encouraged each other to build a city and a tower, instead of separating from one another and settling across the face of the earth. Idolatry had already begun within 100 years after the Flood, and Babel became one of its chief centers. Let us, as Christians, endeavor to encourage one another to love and to good works! Let us not be outdone by sinners who stir up and provoke one another to wickedness.
The Lord came down to see the city which these rebellious people were building. Observe His wisdom in the method that He took for defeating this undertaking; and also notice His mercy in not making the penalty equal to the offence, for He does not deal with us according to our sins. He confused their lan-guage so that they could no longer understand one another nor help one another, and this effectually brought their building project to a screeching halt. God has various effectual means to baffle and defeat the projects of proud people who set themselves against Him; in particular, He often divides them among themselves. Notwithstanding their union and obstinacy, God is above them; for who has ever hardened his heart against Him and prospered? He is able to blast and bring to nothing all the devices and designs of Babel-builders. The builders departed according to their families, and each one took their family’s language to the countries and places around the globe where they ultimately settled. The human race will never again come together all at once, until the great Day when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of His glory to judge all nations.
Interestingly, many illustrations of the Tower of Babel show a half-finished tower; but verse 8 merely says that the people “left off to build the city,” and the original Hebrew in verse 5 indicates that the tower itself was already completed!
Beginning in verse 10, this chapter contains a genealogy of the direct line of descent from Noah’s son Shem, all the way down to Abram, who was called “the friend of God.” Nothing is left on record except the names and ages of these men, but we do notice that after the Flood, the lifespan of humans began to drastically decrease. This portion of the chapter (verses 10-26) completes another section of the ancestry that eventually culminated in Christ, the Promised Seed, Who was the son of Abraham.
The history of the life of Abram, whose name is famous in both Testaments, begins in this chapter. In Joshua 24:2, we learn that even the offspring of Eber had degenerated and become worshipers of false gods within the 350 years between the Flood and the time of Terah and Abram. Abram’s brothers were Nahor (out of whose family, both Isaac and Jacob later took their wives) and Haran (the father of Lot). Terah’s family lived in Ur of the Chaldees, a Sumerian city that possessed very high degrees of what many would call “advanced civilization” – although we should not be surprised at such high levels of sophistication among ancient cultures; for they were made up of very brilliant people, not stupid ape-like brutes who could hardly figure out how to build a fire and keep warm.
Sadly, Haran died in Ur, before the happy removal of the family out of that idolatrous country. But we read of Abram’s departure out of Ur with his father Terah, his nephew Lot, and the rest of his family, in obedience to the call of God. The end of this chapter leaves them in a place that was about mid-way between Ur and the land of Canaan, where they stayed until Terah’s death.
Lord, as we close this chapter about the confusion of languages, we cannot help thinking of the sovereignty of Your Almighty grace and mercy in giving the gift of tongues to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost; for thereby the ruins of Babel were counteracted, and the way was paved for the Gospel to be declared to every tribe and nation! Thanks be to Your name! Amen.
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