GENESIS 10 AND 11
June 5th, 2005
Good morning! We closed our last study with the death of God’s prophet Noah. The final glimpse we had of his life was not a pleasant one as we saw him passed out drunk and naked in his tent. Phylliss and I talked about that later at home. She pointed out that it is amazing that people who have never heard of Christianity can open a Bible for the first time and read it an become believers, when the people who served God were all so weak. We talked about King David and his sin, Noah and his, Jonah and his, Peter and his and so on. Perhaps that is the very reason we are attracted to the heroes of the Bible, it is their imperfection that we can identify with. We have a God who uses imperfect tools, or as Paul said, "… sinners, of whom I am chief."
Let’s look at the end of chapter 9 to get our context.
Genesis 9:28-10:2. Read.
We now are beginning the generations of Noah from whom all the peoples of the earth descended. With Japheth we see the ancestors of most of us… the Gentiles, which does not carry a religious significance, by the way, but simply means "foreigners" or non-Israelites. Gomer began the family group of the Cimerians from whom the Celtic peoples are descended. The descendents of Magog were the ancient Scythians, or Tartars who founded the area now known as Russia. Some claim the name Moscow comes from Magog. You’ll remember from our study of Revelation that Magog figures in the final battle. From Madai came the Medes and Javan was the father of the Greeks and Syrians. Tubal’s children spread south of the Black Sea and eventually peopled the nation of Spain. Meshech’s descendants joined with those of Magog and Tubal to form most of the old Soviet Union. Lastly, Tiras was the father of the Thracians. I owe Scofield’s notes for much of this information, by the way.
We will not read every verse of the genealogies in chapters 10 and 11 less the rest of the assembly starts asking with Thomas, "All done?". But we’ll try to hit the high points.
Genesis 10:5. Read.
This verse shows us several things. First is that the time covered by these genealogies comes mostly after the events at the Tower of Babel in the next chapter. Also, the word translated "isles" here means coasts. It is only logical that as humanity spread out from the tower at Babel that they would follow the coasts.
Now we will look at another famous man of the times:
Genesis 10:8-11. Read.
So we come to Nimrod. To understand why he was famous, we have to look back to…
Genesis 9:2,3. Read.
If the commentators are correct and this directive to Noah was the first time man began to eat animal flesh, or at least the flesh of wild animals, the profession of hunting was unknown. So new ground was to be broken for men’s careers, they were no longer to be just farmers and husbandmen, but hunters and fishermen. And the greatest of these was Nimrod. As the animals left the ark and spread about the super-continent that was the earth of those days, they must have followed God’ directive and multiplied rapidly. There were not just pheasants and rabbits to hunt. Remember that two of EVERY kind of animal had gone on the ark. That meant that soon after the landing at Ararat there were not only the large animals we think of today, such as grizzly bears and elephants and rhinoceros’, but the really scary creatures now extinct, such as giant cave bears, saber toothed tigers, and of course, the dinosaurs mentioned in the book of Job. And without guns or modern technology, at least to the best of our current knowledge, Nimrod hunted them. A hunter who could successfully defeat a Tyrannosaurus Rex or a wooly mammoth would have been, as verse 8 states, "a mighty one in the earth."
Also notice that these verses say that Nimrod was a mighty hunter "before the Lord." He was in some way, giving God credit for his success and worshipping him. And he was rewarded. Verse 10 says that he had a kingdom, so he was the same as a king. He founded the city of Babel initially. It was, perhaps, where his throne was located. His sons spread out from there to found other famous cities, including Ninevah. But as so often happens, something founded before the Lord, soon deteriates into a monument to men’s sinfulness and Babel and Ninevah were no exception.
Verses 15 through 19 follow the generations of the evil grandson of Noah, Canaan. His descendents founded two of the most evil cities of all…
Genesis 10:19. Read.
So the most evil and perverted cities of all time, Sodom and Gomorrah were founded by the descendents of the one who committed the vulgar act recorded at the end of chapter 9 upon the drunken Noah. Should we be surprised? Are the sins of the father continued on through generations? We know so.
Further in chapter 10 we come across an interesting statement:
Genesis 10:25. Read.
We know little about this character Peleg, but we DO know that something strange happened during his life… the earth was divided. We might look at this at first and think we are just seeing another mention of the division into nations. But something else is happening in verse 25, the earth itself is being divided. We would of course be correct to think that the confusion at Babel is being referred to, but much more is implied; I, along with a number of commentators believe. We will soon be to that part of the story.
Genesis 10:31,32. Read.
We reach the end of God’s dealing with the sons of Noah as a whole. From this point on, after God’s last great act of creation, the focus will be only on one small part of the family of man. I will quote from Col. Scofield:
"Genesis 11 and 12 mark an important turning point in the divine dealing. Heretofore the history has been that of the whole Adamic race. There has been neither Jew nor Gentile; all have been one in ‘the first man Adam.’ Henceforth, in the Scripture record, humanity must be thought of as a vast stream from which God, in the call of Abram and the creation of the nation of Israel, has but drawn off a slender rill, through which He may at last purify the great river itself."
But first, we have to see what chapter 10, verse 25 may have meant.
Genesis 11:1-9. Read.
Verse 1 only makes sense. It was obvious that Noah and his sons had used a common language, surely the same one which was given to Adam. But God had intended for them to spread out across the earth and repopulate, or "replenish" it.
Genesis 11:2. Read.
It would make sense that as families formed they would stay together, for protection from the wild beasts, which at that time we’ve just discussed, included some particularly dangerous ones. And as they traveled, they gathered about the leadership of the mighty hunter, Nimrod. He apparently led them to a fertile plain and they decided to stay. What’s the first thing you do when you settle a new land? Put up homes…
Genesis 11:3. Read
There was some knowledge still available from the time before the flood and some among Nimrod’s followers knew how to make brick and build with it. That they had time to build tells us they were living on more than the meat they could hunt. Hunter, gatherers do not build kingdoms, it takes agriculture. It takes the technology of the plow and animals domesticated to pull it to achieve the leisure time available to build and craft new technologies. Brick fences were needed to keep out marauding beasts and the two legged marauders who were sure to want to exploit the hard work of those more ambitious than themselves. Nimrod should have a city for the capital of his kingdom. But something got in the way.
Genesis 11:4. Read.
I hope the mighty hunter, Nimrod was gone by the time this happened, but whether or not he was, humanity as a whole fell into sin.
Was it acceptable for Nimrod’s subjects to build a city? Of course it was. And a tower? Why not? As with any sin, the problem was not with the action itself, but the motive. Did they actually believe that the top of their tower would reach to the abiding place of God? I doubt it. They had something much more practical in mind. I believe they intended to build a tower God couldn’t make a flood deep enough to cover. They knew how many cubits above the tallest mountain the floodwaters had gone and they probably intended to go at least that much higher.
So we see their first sin: they did not believe God’s promise. In effect they called him a liar. They also were trying to provide for their own salvation. They thought if they could build their tower tall enough they wouldn’t NEED God. You can find no better example of the futility of salvation by works than the tower of Babel. Look at the next phrase in verse 4…
"and let us make us a name,"
Why on earth would they want to do that? Pride, the ORIGINAL original sin. We can hear the bold declaration of the Enemy here: "I WILL be as the Most High." God has a name, now they want one too.
"lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."
You see, they liked living in a city. They liked the strength of being gathered together and the new luxury of leisure time. They didn’t want to spread over the earth as God had intended and instructed. Their thought? "We don’t have to obey God, if we have this tower, what can he do to us?" As Martin Luther pointed out, God has to establish a limit upon wantonness, let’s watch him do it.
Genesis 11:5. Read.
Are we to assume that the Lord was not physically present until he "came down" to see the city and the tower, or that he couldn’t see it till he did? Of course not! What we are observing is the impending interference in human affairs of a holy God. He does not do this lightly. In fact I believe he seldom does it without our invitation, but as Nimrod’s subjects are to discover, there are two ways to invite God’s intervention. One is to ask for it in prayer and supplication and the other is to ask for it as judgement for our defiance. When a child is being defiant, a parent will often say, "Billy, or Sally, you’re really asking for it." This is what is meant.
Genesis 11:6. Read.
Again, this verse has to be taken in its separate phrases. First God describes their condition as one people of a like mind and language. Then he says…
"… this they BEGIN to do."
Their defiance is already being established. He gave them the covenant of earthly government and power for good and already they are misusing it for evil. If he allows this to continue…
"… now nothing will be restrained from them, which they imagined to do."
This does not imply that humanity will become stronger and more wonderful and actually capable of confounding God’s purpose, but that their "evil imaginings" will continue and they will slide deeper and deeper into degradation and sin. Rather than let them destroy themselves, a loving God will here divide his wayward children and lead them into the paths that will one day establish the seed that will crush the serpent’s head and provide salvation for the whole, should they choose to accept it. Because this earthly government has become corrupt, the Lord will overthrow it.
The principal established here is the one followed by our writers of the Declaration of Independence. When a government becomes evil and despotic, we have not just the right, but we are following the example of God the father in overthrowing it and establishing a righteous one.
Genesis 11:7. Read.
God uses the sinners’ own words, "go to" against them. They have asked for his intervention by their behavior and now they shall have it.
Genesis 11:8. Read.
Imagine this if you will. The foreman asks for bricks and none of the workers understand him, they turn to each other and suddenly don’t recognize what their friends are saying either. Chaos reigns. Almost as if God were saying, "you want anarchy? I’ll give you REAL anarchy." People rush to their homes. I feel certain God let immediate families keep the same tongues. The whole city grinds to a halt in confusion as people run to and fro each crying out in his own language, "does anyone understand me?" As people find others who speak their language, they band together with them and draw apart by themselves. We see the division into "us" and "them". Suddenly uncomfortable with those who used to be their friends, they draw apart.
Genesis 11:9. Read.
Babel means confusion. Confusion and babbling should be a familiar concept to us in the Christian church. Let’s look at something in the New Testament, thousands of years later.
I Corinthians 14:23 and 33. Read
I say this in the strongest possible terms: To cause confusion in the assembly by speaking in different tongues without an interpreter as God commands is to repeat the sin of Babel where the arrogant children of Noah insisted they knew better than God.
But back to our passage. I spoke of the last great act of creation. It was not the tower of Confusion. The Enemy has always hated the creator and envied him and tempts man to think he can duplicate the power of the creator as he did here. To this point far back in history we can trace the roots of the secret society of the masons. We’ve looked at the fact that our Savior was a builder when he walked this earth as a man and that the word translated carpenter can also mean stone cutter or even… mason. The prideful sin of the Masonic lodge goes to their true leader, who said, "I WILL be as the most high." You can imagine the shock to men who think they can be both Masons and Christians when they reach the initiation of the highest degrees of the Masonic order and find that the Great Secret they’ve waited so long to learn is that they have to submit themselves to the belief that God and Lucifer are the same!
So the men of those days spread out over the super-continent and now I believe, is when the last great act of creation occurred, as chapter 10, verse 25 said of the days of Peleg, "the earth was divided." If you’ve ever mused on the shape of the continents on a world map or globe, it must have occurred to you that the continents would all fit together into one piece like a giant jigsaw puzzle. And I’m certain it did. In his final great act of reforming his footstool before the Tribulation to come, God spread the land masses evenly across the face of the planet and the people and the animals that had gathered in those areas became isolated from the others. What I’m saying is neither new nor radical, the science of plate tectonics has long recognized it, though without giving credit to God and saying that it took much longer than the actual process did.
At this point I’d like to quote once more from Col. Scofield’s notes:
"The history of Babel or "confusion" strikingly parallels that of the professing Church. First Unity, which represents the Apostolic Church; Ambition, using worldly, not spiritual, means, ending in a manmade unit – the papacy; and finally the confusion of tongues – Protestantism with its innumerable sects."
I wonder what the old Confederate Calvary Officer would think now could he visit some of our modern charismatic and even some mainline churches. Perhaps that the seed of confusion planted has reached full fruition.
The genealogy in the rest of the chapter shows the "rill" God is flowing off from the mainstream of humanity… the ancestry of Abram though Shem. One of the things you’ll note as you look at it carefully is that people are not living as long and they are having their children younger as the full force of the Adamic curse falls on humanity. With the vapor canopy that protected us from cosmic rays and solar radiation condensed into water and fallen to the earth in the flood, each generation lives for a shorter span. It’s only in the last century that we have begun to gain ground.
We see now at the end of chapter 11, some names that are familiar to us…
Genesis 11:26-30. Read.
We begin to follow the line of the seed that will crush the serpent’s head as it passes through Abraham. But here, he is still Abram and Sarai is still barren. At this point scripture makes an implication, that Terah was to be the one who moved his family to Canaan.
Genesis 11:31A. Read.
So he was to go to the land of Canaan. And within this verse is the reason that so much of scripture is the story we’ll never know of what might have been.
Genesis 11:31B and 32. Read.
He didn’t go to Canaan. He stopped in Haran. What if he had not? Would we be talking to this day of Father Terah instead of Father Abraham? Would the poor man Lazarus of Jesus’ parable have gone to the Bosom of Terah when he died? Would the Pharisees have called themselves the Children of Terah? We’ll never know this side of eternity. Scofield’s heading for these two verses is: "Incomplete obedience: the wasted years at Haran."
There’s little the Enemy likes better in a Christian’s life than wasted years. Having lost our souls to the Father, he goes after our years. Maybe he tempts us to a besetting sin, or convinces us for the need for more and more education, or to laziness the little folding of the hands to sleep. But the years roll by and "Only one life, will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last." What are we doing with the years God has given us friends? When the great gathering occurs at the end of time and all our chaff is burned away, what will be left?