Genesis Chapter Eleven, The Big Detour

In our study of Genesis chapter eleven, we will look at the big detour that man has taken from the will of God. We will look at its past, present and future consequences.

Genesis 11:1 & 2

Now the whole world had one langu
age and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

In chapter 10, we saw the origin of all the people of the earth as they descended from Noah through his sons. Here, we see the fact that they all spoke the same language but we do not know what language it was. A better translation of "eastward" is from the east and we see that men started to move from the east (the mountains of Ararat) where the ark had come to rest and they were moving towards the west. Throughout the Bible we see the pattern that the direction of east is associated with being separated from God while west is associated with being near God. Even at the beginning of the world, God had set aside what would be Jerusalem as His city and it appears that men were headed in that direction when they stopped in Shinar.

Genesis 11:3 & 4

They said to each other, 'Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly.' They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 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 and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.'

They decided to make a city there and a tall tower to glorify themselves. We notice that they used brick instead of stone and that is because there was not stone in the area. Brick was made through man's efforts while stone was made at the beginning of creation by God. This is an indication of their hearts as they turned away from God's instructions and provision to trust in their own efforts. This same type of thing is happening even more today as more and more people trust in their own works even for salvation.

Genesis 11:5-7

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 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. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.'

This passage brings to mind questions such as: Why did the Lord have to come down to see what was going on? The simple answer is that He didn't have to but evidently He brought angels to show them what men were doing. Was God worried that the men would succeed and be greater than Him? This answer is not as simple in that, we see that God said that they would be successful in building the tower and the city. This would also keep the people together instead of spreading over the earth as He designed. But, no tower could get man to a position where they are greater than the One that created them and so God was not worried about man becoming greater than Him. If we have "free will", then, why didn't God let them continue to build the tower? The tower was not a part of His plan but it did not catch Him by surprise. God allows us "free will" but that does not allow our disobedience to negate His plan.

Genesis 11:8 & 9

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel - because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Construction on the city of Babylon was halted because the people could not communicate with each other. This led to them separating and spreading over the earth like God had intended. God often uses difficult circumstances to get people to moving and accomplish His will. The same type of thing happened when God used the persecution in the early church to get the disciples to leave Jerusalem.

Genesis 11:10-17

This is the account of Shem. Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters. When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters. When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber. And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters. When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

Moses shares with us again the family tree of Shem but, this time, we are going to continue. We saw before that, at the time of Peleg, there was a division among the descendants of Shem as Peleg would not take part in the events at Babel. We followed his brother Joktan's line to Babel and now we will follow Peleg's line to God's calling.

Genesis 11:18-26

When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu. And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters. When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug. And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters. When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor. Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters. when Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah. And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters. After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.

In Hebrew, Reu means friend and we see that through this line of Peleg will come the friends of God. The name Serug means branch and it is this branch of the tree of Noah that will be called God's people. The name Nahor means snorting or snoring and gives us the picture of someone who is sleeping while the name Terah speaks of one who is spirited or inspired. We notice that all of the men mentioned were about 30 years old when they had children except for Terah who was 70. The name Abram means exalted father while Haran refers to a mountain climber.

Genesis 11:27-30

This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. While his father was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.

Ur of the Chaldeans would be in what we call southern Iraq today. While they were still there, Haran died and left a son. Haran, whose name means "mountain climber", reminds us that man always wants to work for their salvation but, in the end, that leads to death.

Genesis 11:31 & 32

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 Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.

We remember that the name Terah means spirited or inspired and we see that God had inspired him to leave the land of idolatry (Ur of the Chaldeans) and to go to Canaan. We see that when it got tough, he stopped and settled in Haran. We also notice that Nahor was comfortable in Ur and so he did not go with them. This speaks to those who are comfortable with the things of this world and do not think that they need the direction of God. We also see that Terah wasn't willing to continue when the road became difficult but instead died close to where he had left.