The Tower of Babel
Genesis Chapter 11
The 11th chapter of Genesis tells of an event of almost equal importance to that
of the great Flood.
The Flood was worldwide in its effects, and so was the confusion of tongues of worldwide impact
– at least as far as man was concerned.
Although the curtain had now been drawn, as it were, on his activities, there can be little doubt
that Satan was still energetically working behind the scenes.
He pressed his advantage, gained when he capitalized so effectively on the fatal weakness
in Ham's character, and some gain the allegiance of the Hamites in general
and of Nimrod in particular.
Romans 1:18-32 graphically describes the resulting moral and spiritual deterioration
of Nimrod and his followers.
Willfully leaving the knowledge and worship of the true God and Creator, they began instead
to worship the creation.
This led to pantheism and polytheism and idolatry.
How much of this new system of religion came by direct communication with Satan himself
we do not know, but there is abundant evidence that all forms of paganism have come originally
from the ancient Babylonian religion.
The essential identity of the various gods and goddesses of Rome, Greece, India, Egypt,
and other nations with the original pantheon of the Babylonians is well established.
Nimrod was apparently later deified as the chief god ("Merodach," or "Marduk") of Babylon.
These pagan deities were also identified with the stars and planets – the "host of heaven"
– with sun-worshiping occupying a central place.
This system was formalized in the zodiac, with its numerous constellations
– a most remarkable construction which seems to have been the common possession
of all the nations of antiquity.
And behind this fašade of images (both on the star charts of the heavens,
and in their stone and metallic representations in the temples) of "man and birds
and four-footed beast and creeping things" lurked a real "host of the heavens,"
the angelic and demonic hosts of Lucifer, the "day-star."
Many of these rebel angels had already been "cast down to hell" (or Tartarus) and delivered
into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment (2 Peter 2:4), because of their participation
in the attempt to corrupt the human race in the days of Noah (Genesis 6:1-4);
but a great host remained at liberty to actively oppose the work of God
and the people of God (Ephesians 6:12).
The main thrust of the work of Satan and his hosts has always been that of deception.
He is the one "which deceiveth the whole world" (Revelation 12:9) into worshiping something
or someone other than the true God of creation (see also Revelation 13:14, 15).
Satan is notoriously a corrupter, rather than an innovator.
Therefore it is probable that the system of paganism, with its astrological emblem
and complex mythology and ministries, represents a primeval distortion of God's true revelation
concerning His creation and promised redemption of the universe.
So, the zodiac system of constellations may originally have been devised by the antediluvian
patriarchs as a means of indelibly impressing the divine promises on the consciousness
of mankind to marking them on the very heavens themselves.
If so, the subsequent system of astrology is a gross corruption of the original evangelical
significance of the heavenly bodies, created originally to serve in part
for "signs and seasons."
In any case, as they were interpreted by Nimrod and his followers, they soon led not only
to astrology but also to spiritism and all the other evils of paganism and idolatry.
Furthermore, the development of this system of idolatry and Satan-worship was accompanied
by an attempt to unify all mankind under one government.
That government was not to be a system of theocracy as implied by God to Noah
when He committed to man responsibility of human government,
but rather a dictatorship under Nimrod, the rebel.
As later developments indicated, Nimrod not only set up a military dictatorship
but also established a priestly oligarchy, in which he himself was chief priest
and later the chief object of worship.
There is some indication that the Queen Semiramis, a familiar name in the ancient traditions,
was Nimrod's wife, and that she was also an active leader of the conspiracy.
Not only has the original Babylonian religious system serve as the source of all the world's
non-Christian religions (Babylon, according to Revelation 17:5, was the "mother of harlots
and abominations of the earth"), but it has also infiltrated and corrupted Christendom
to an alarming degree.
This has taken place not only in terms of outward ritualism and idolatry but also in the more insidious
philosophy of evolutionary pantheistic humanism which permeates its educational
and political centers.
It had been God's command to the sons of Noah that they "be fruitful and multiply
and fill the earth" (Genesis 9:1).
In order that this might be accomplished in an orderly manner, God had ordained the principle
of human government (9:6).
This evidently wants to be implemented through subdividing the future population into workable
and controllable social units or nations.
Each organized national group would thus contribute in its own way to the corporate life
of mankind as a whole, even as each individual family unit would contribute to its own nation.
The diligence with which each man would make the contribution of which he was capable
would be reflected in the material rewards accruing to him and his family as a result.
Similarly, those nations which contributed significantly to the benefit of mankind as a whole
would be recognized and rewarded correspondingly on a national level.
Such recognition and reward is clearly the most effective incentive to diligence
and faithful as in service.
This principle seems to be deeply ingrained in human nature and is endorsed by God Himself
(1 Corinthians 3:14; Revelation 22:12).
If any individual (or group) should attempt to gain advantage over another by dishonest methods,
however, he would be penalized by the governmental authority established under God
for this very purpose.
Such a social structure all to have been most conducive to the development of a strong sense
of both individual and corporate responsibility to God.
It also ought to have encouraged the greatest appreciation of God's grace,
which was manifest in His providential maintenance of the physical conditions of life
(Genesis 8:21, 22) and His promise of ultimate redemption and salvation.
But, as it turned out, men in general refuse to submit willingly to this arrangement;
so God had to bring it about by special intervention.
As men began to multiply, they preferred to live together in one unit,
instead of separating into many units.
Genesis 11:1, 2: "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
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 the people migrated eastward (or southward) from the forbidding region of Ararat,
they finally came to Shinar and the fertile Mesopotamian plain, where they decided to settle
and build a city.
Perhaps the reason reminded them of their antediluvian home, and they felt they might even
be able to restore the conditions of Eden itself, for they name the rivers Tigris and Euphrates
after two of the streams that had once flowed from the Garden.
The immediate descendants of Noah, of course, all spoke the same language,
the same as had been spoken by men in the antediluvian period.
It is probable that this was a Semitic language (perhaps even Hebrew), since the proper names
of men and places in the pre-Babel.
All have meanings only in Hebrew and its cognate languages.
Also, it seems unlikely that Shem participated in the Babel rebellion; so it is probable that
his own language was not affected by the resulting confusion of tongues.
Consequently, his family would have continued speaking the same language
they had always spoken.
The faculty of human speech and language is truly one of the most amazing
attributes of mankind.
The evolutionist is utterly unable to explain the unbridgeable gap between the chattering's
of animals and human language.
The unique and fundamental essence of speech in the very nature of man is underscored
in the revelation of God to man through His Word.
Christ Himself is the living Word!
"God has spoken to us by his Son" (Hebrews 1:2).
It is not too much to say that this was the very reason man was created able to speak
and to hear; that is, in order that there might first the communication between God and man
and, secondarily, between man and man.
But when men began to prostitute this divine gift in order to cooperate in rebellion
against their Maker, and in a most appropriate judgment God confused their tongues
and thereby forced them to separate from each other.
The whole population was said originally to have been "of one language and one speech"
(or, literally, "of one lip in one set of words," apparently a reference to the one phonology
and one vocabulary).
This was evidently the same as the common language spoken by the antediluvians.
In all likelihood, this vocabulary also included a written language, although the various tribes
had to develop new systems of writing later, after the confusion of tongues.
As the people migrated away from the Ararat region, they came "from the east"
to the plain of Shinar, according to the Authorized Version.
Since Shinar is southeast of Ararat, this may suggest they had first traveled to the far southeast,
perhaps into the region of modern Persia or Afghanistan, and then later headed westward
However, the phrase in the Hebrew is of uncertain meaning, and most expositors think
it should be translated "eastward."
In any case, the people apparently were not satisfied with any region where they stayed
until they finally reached the fertile Tigris-Euphrates plain, and that they settled down.
But population son grew to the point wHere not all their attention had to be given merely
to food production, and it became possible to develop an urban community.
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 a for mortar."
By this time, Nimrod had evidently attained to the leadership of the people
(see discussion under Genesis 10:8-10).
Undoubtedly he recognized that their new status, with time for specialization and activities
other than mere survival, would provide the opportunity for either
of two future courses of action:
1. Systematic colonization and development of all parts of the earth, each with its own
local government, in accordance with God's command (Genesis 1:28; 9:1); or
2. Establishment of a strongly centralized society which, with controls over resources
and occupations, would soon be able to produce a self-sufficient civilization
capable of similarly controlling the entire world.
The later alternative clearly would better serve the purpose of Nimrod and his fellow rebels
(and, of course, of the invisible Satanic conspiracy as well).
A self-sufficient society, integrated under a powerful and brilliant leader,
would be a society no longer dependent on God.
And this was Nimrod's purpose.
The implication in this verse is that, soon after establishing the settlement at Babel,
Nimrod called a council of the family leaders of the community.
After discussion of the various issues and alternatives, a formal decision was made.
"Go to [Hebrew yahab, usually translated 'give,' probably signifying the pronouncement
of the decision], we shall begin, first of all, to develop a brick-making industry."
Good building stones were not conveniently accessible on the river plains,
and timber was not durable enough for the permanent structures they had in mind.
The clay soil, however, was highly suitable for strong bricks,
after proper heat treatment in a kiln.
The more common manner of construction in antiquity was apparently to use stone,
with a clay mortar.
When bricks were used, as in Egypt and Assyria, they were only sun-dried.
The Babylonian construction was stronger and more enduring,
so the writer called special attention to it.
Furnace-treated bricks were used instead of stone, and bitumen instead of mortar.
This "slime" was probably tarry material from the abundant asphalt pits
in the Tigris-Euphrates valley.
Archaeology has revealed that this type of kiln-fired brick and I asphalt construction
was common in ancient Babylon.
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."
Having made this decision, which in itself indicated they intended to erect a permanent community
of strong buildings at Babel, and perhaps even after the brick industry had been established
and was soundly developing (as suggested by the introduction of a new sentence),
they again took counsel together and made an official declaration,
"Go to, the decision is that we will build a city, especially a great tower unto heaven."
This would be no naturally growing, haphazard accumulation of dwellings and business places.
This would be a carefully planned urban center, each component designed for maximum
permanence and utility, contributing to the optimum efficiency of the entire complex.
The great tower would dominate the city, both architecturally and culturally
It would serve as the focal point of the political and religious life of the population,
and would be a symbol of their unity and strength.
Perhaps there was a minority that felt uncomfortable about these grandiose plans,
recalling that God had not given any such instructions, and urging Nimrod that it was most
important to get about the business of colonizing the entire earth and developing its resources
in a manner that would glorify God, not man.
It would seem that Noah and Shem, at least, would not have endorsed these plans;
and it seems likely that their influence would still carry some weight
with these first Babylonians.
It may even have been that Nimrod's colonizing expeditions to Assyria (Genesis 10:11, 12)
were an attempt to satisfy this minority opinion, although, since Asshur was already there
with his own settlement, it may be more likely that this was an invasion
for the very purpose of thwarting independent expansion.
In any case, the collectivist and the centrist positions prevail, and the great construction
project got underway.
The builders were not concerned with God's plan; they intended to "make us a name."
In fact, they deliberately acknowledged their purpose to be contrary to God's command:
"Lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."
Not only the awareness of God's will, but the basic human drive for curiosity and independence
of spirit might impel many among them to want to explore and develop the unknown regions
in other parts of the world, if there were not a strong unifying and binding influence
tying them to one location.
Even their fear and admiration of their great leader Nimrod might not suffice
to keep them together.
Nimrod must have realized that they needed a strong religious motivation as well,
a motivation and powerful enough to overcome their knowledge that God had indeed commanded
them to fill the whole earth.
The tower was designed to satisfy that need as well.
The tower was not designed to reach to heaven (except possibly in a figurative sense
– that is, to reach the spiritual resources available in the heavens).
The words "to reach" are not in the original.
They would build a "tower unto heaven" – in other words, a tower dedicated to heaven
and its angelic host.
Quite likely, this project was originally presented to the people in the guise of true spirituality.
The tower in its lofty grandeur would symbolize the might and majesty
of the true God of heaven.
The great Temple at its apex would provide a center and an altar were men could offer
their sacrifices and worship God.
The sign of the zodiac would be emblazoned on the ornate ceiling and walls of the Temple,
signifying the great story of creation and redemption, as told by the antediluvian patriarchs.
The impressive beauty and sacred purpose of the tower would, in the reasonings of the people,
surely please God and more than compensate for the fact that the entire project
was contrary to God's commandment and would glorify human achievement rather than
recognize human frailty and divine salvation.
But "to obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22).
Cain's offering of the luscious fruit produced by his own hands was not acceptable to the Lord;
no more acceptable would be Nimrod's magnificent tower.
At least Nimrod was well aware of what he was doing, however deceived the people
themselves may have been.
When the tower was completed (verse 8 suggests they were still building the city
when the confusion of tongues took place, but evidently the tower was already in use),
Nimrod no doubt instituted religious services there.
However it was only a short time before the ostensible worship of the Creator was corrupted
into the worship of the "creature" (Romans 1:21-23, 25).
The grandeur of the tower and the ornateness of its designs and furnishings appealed
to the flesh, and some it was felt that additional "aids to worship" would be helpful.
Not only paintings on the walls, but three-dimensional representations of the "man and birds
and four-footed beast and creeping things" began to be constructed,
not only in the temple but along the streets and in the homes.
These figures, which had once been designed only as symbolic representations of the heavens
of the coming Redeemer and of God's great plan of salvation, now began to take on
the aspect of actual spiritual entities.
The Virgin, who sign among the stars once reminded men of the promised Seed of the woman,
began to assume the proportions of an actual Queen of Heaven; and Leo, the great sidereal lion
at this other end of the zodiac, became the great spiritual King of Heaven.
In acknowledging and worshiping these angelic spirits, the people no doubt felt very pious
and religious; for they were merely recognizing the eminence of the omnipresent God
of heaven throughout His creation.
There were specific angels (and stars) concerned with every aspect of human life
and terrestrial processes.
In paying due reference to these, they were, so they believe, not by worshiping God.
Furthermore God, to the same spirits (and their respective stars), would in response provide
protection and provision and guidance in their own lives.
But this system son became so complicated that it required a specially devoted class of men
and women to dedicate their lives to its study and interpretation, so that they might guide
the people in their devotion and sacrifices and in the ordering of their lives.
Furthermore, as the preoccupation of both priests and people with specific localized spirits
(or local representations of the great universal Spirit) increase, so did their awareness
of the great "Father of spirits" decrease. (Hebrews 12:9)
As the consciousness of God's personal nearness receded, so did their concern to obey Him.
But also, this absence of true spiritual communion left a spiritual vacuum in their souls
which can only be satisfied by some other kind of personal spiritual communion.
This vacuum was soon to be filled.
There were indeed a host of angels in the heavenly places, but vast numbers of these
were fallen angels, under the hierarchical control of Satan.
God's holy angels were, no doubt, appalled at these developments in Babel
and would have abhorred and repudiated any worship accorded to them by human beings
(whose service they had been created to be); but no such inhibition hindered
the rebellious angels – the evil spirits, or demons.
They reveled in it and encouraged it; for all this was in accord with the desire of Lucifer,
their master, to become God himself.
As they had done before the Flood, these evil spirits began to control the minds and bodies
of those human beings who were opened to such possession and guidance especially those
of the priests and priestesses who had become devoted to this system of worship.
To the innermost cycle of these initiates, demonic revelations were given.
To some, perhaps especially to Nimrod (and his wife Semiramis),
Satan revealed the entire conspiracy against God.
From some such beginnings of emerged the entire complex of human "religion"
– an evolutionary pantheism, promulgated, empowered by a cultic spiritism and demonism
Genesis 11:5, 6: "And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower,
which the children of men builded.
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."
Normally the Lord allows men and nations to pursue their own ladies without supernatural
interference on His part.
Man is free and responsible; and though he will eventually suffer the consequences
of his evil deeds, God is long-suffering.
Therefore ungodliness often seems to thrive without hindrance in the affairs of men.
But there have been a few occasions on which the accomplishment of God's great purposes
for the world became so endangered that divine intervention was required.
The antediluvian corruption was one such instance, and this rebellion that Babel another.
How long it was after the construction of the Tower of Babel before God "came down
to see the city and the tower, which the children of men" we are not told.
It would have been in accord with His nature to have waited as long as possible,
in hopes that the godly minority there (if there were such) would prevail
and the people would repent.
However they did not repent and God finally "came down."
This "anthropomorphic expression" does not suggest that God was not always fully aware
of what was going on, but only that He now was officially and judicially taking the situation
under direct observation and consideration, it having become so flagrant that there was danger
(as in the days of Noah) that the truth of God's revelation might be completely obliterated
if it were allowed to continue.
The problem, in the Lord's own judgment, lay in the unity of the people, a unity which was
made possible only by a common language.
The decision by practically the entire population to construct an autonomous,
man-centered civilization, in direct defiance of God's command,
could finally be ignored no longer.
Furthermore, with Nimrod's presumed knowledge of the Satanic mysteries and his access
to demonic powers, literally nothing which he might decide to do in the future
would be beyond his reach.
The conditions of the antediluvian world not be repeated and this God would not allow,
even though He had promised Noah He would never again send a world wide flood.
Incidentally, the na´ve opinion of some commentators that the building of the tower
was as a potential haven from some future flood is obviously erroneous.
Nimrod was no foolish simpleton in a fairy tale, imagining he could escape a global flood
that building at tower that reached to heaven.
His purpose was not to thwart another diluvial judgment but to dethrone
the very Judge Himself!
He had practically unified all men (most of them perhaps unwillingly) in his Satanic partnership,
and no doubt had other plans in mind once the human population was completely involved
in his conspiracy.
Satan had surely promised him the rulership of the world – perhaps even the whole galaxy
– once his heavily rebellion was successful and God had been dethroned.
Genesis 11:7: "Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language,
that they may not understand one another's speech."
But as Nimrod and his cohorts had held a council of conspiracy and aggression on earth,
so now God called a "council," as it were, in heaven, to institute formal action to prevent
the accomplishment of Nimrod's plans.
Such a council is indicated by the plural pronoun in verse seven, "let us."
At least the three persons of the Godhead were involved, as in the primeval councils
in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22, and perhaps also certain of the holy angels.
"Go to," said the Lord, in a sense mocking the foolish decisions of Nimrod's conclaves.
Shall "the king's of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together
against the Lord?" (Psalm 2:2)
Only if they desire to bring down God's wrath on their heads.
"The Lord shall have them in derision."
Men had proved unwilling to obey God simple instructions to fill the earth, dividing into many
separate, but parallel, governmental units.
They preferred to remain together under one great centralized and highly regimented government,
and this union had quickly led to a vast unified anti-God religious philosophy as well.
The key was their ability to cooperate and organize together, and this depended
on their ability to formulate and implement complex plans.
Basic to everything was their ability to communicate with each other.
They were all "of one lip and one vocabulary," speaking with the same sounds
and formulating thoughts in the same way.
The decision of the heavenly council was to "confound their language [or ability to make
the same sounds with their lips], that they may not understand one of the speech
[even though their thoughts are still the same]."
Genesis 11:8, 9: "So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face
of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
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 scattered them abroad upon the face
of all the earth."
It was by this expedient of confusing their languages that God forced the "children of men
[or, literally, 'Adam']" to cease in their further building of the city and to scatter abroad
"upon the face of all the earth."
It is not hard to imagine the surprised confusion that quickly spread through Babel.
Presumably individual members of each family group could still understand each other,
but everyone else was talking nonsense.
Various ones thought others were mocking them.
Foreman became irritated when their crews would not obey the orders, and workmen imagined
their bosses were making sport of them and trying to make them look bad.
In the palace itself, mighty Nimrod found it impossible to get servants to carry out his commands,
and then became furious when those he instructed to punish them wouldn't do it.
Without, incoherent arguments erupted throughout the city, and full-fledged chaos
Finally there was nothing to do but separate, with only individual family units remaining intact.
No further urban cooperation between families was possible; so each family group had to learn
how to meet its own needs directly.
Eventually, if not immediately, if family became a tribe and moved away from Babel
to work out its own manner of life, as God had intended them to do in the first place.
As the population grew (this was a rapid process as longevity was still high and it was
advantageous for each family to have many children), geographic expansion
likewise was rapid.
The stronger and more industrious and intelligent tribes took and held the more favorable regions.
With resulting greater resources, they soon became great nations.
The weaker and less ambitious families were pushed further and further away
from the great centers of civilization, being forced to colonize new regions altogether,
before they could set about to establish their own particular culture.
The process of migration and cultural development did not require long ages,
as evolutionists imagine.
Rather, the entire world was inhabited within a few generations at most.
Increasingly in recent years archaeology has been confirming that civilization appeared
more or less contemporaneously in all parts of the world, only a few millennia ago.
A similar pattern of cultural development seems to have occurred over and over again.
As a tribe migrated to an unexplored region, it would find a suitable location
(most commonly on a high elevation for protection, but near a spring or river,
with fertile alluvial plains, for water and food supply) and then try to establish a village.
Although members of the tribe certainly knew many useful arts, such as agriculture,
animal husbandry, ceramics, metallurgy, and so on, they could not use them right away.
Veins of metal had to be discovered, mined, and smeltered; suitable clay muds had be found
for making bricks and pottery; animals had to be bred; and crops had to be planted.
All this might take several years.
In the meantime, the tribe had to survive by hunting, fishing, and gathering fruits and nuts.
Temporary homes had to be built of stone, if available, or timber, or even in caves.
Remains of these original occupation sites naturally suggest to evolutionists
a "stone age culture," but actually they reflect only a very temporary situation.
As soon as materials for ceramics and metals could be found, the "stone age" at the site
was succeeded by a "bronze age" or "iron age."
The "village economy" was quickly succeeded by "urbanization" as the population increased
and suitable building materials were developed.
Not infrequently, particularly if the site was especially desirable, a subsequent invasion
by a stronger tribe would drive out or destroy the occupants, and a distinctly different culture
would succeed the original on that site.
Some of the tribes grew rapidly and developed strong nations.
Others grew slowly, then stagnated, deteriorated, and finally died out.
As each family and tribal unit migrated away from Babel, not only did they each develop
a distinctive culture, but also they each developed distinctive physical
and biological characteristics.
Since they could communicate only with members of their own family unit,
there was no further possibility of marrying outside the family.
So it was necessary to establish new families composed of very close relatives,
for several generations at least.
It is well-established genetically that variations take place very quickly in a small inbreeding
population, but only very slowly in a large interbreeding population.
In the latter, only the dominant genes will find common expression in the outward physical
characteristics of the population, reflecting more or less average characteristics,
even though the genetic factors for specifically distinctive characteristics are latent
in the gene pool of the population.
In a small population the particular suite of genes that may be present in its members,
though recessive in the larger population, will have opportunity to become openly expressed
and even dominant under the circumstances.
So, in a very few generations of such inbreeding, distinctive characteristics of skin color,
height, hair texture, facial features, temperament, environmental adjustment, and others,
could come to be associated with particular tribes and nations.
Since earth's population was still relatively young and since, before the Flood,
there had been a minimum of environmental radiations to produce genetic mutations,
there was as yet no genetic danger from inbreeding.
After many further centuries had elapsed, however, the accumulation of mutations
and the associated danger of congenital defects had become sufficiently serious to cause God
to declare an incestuous marriages illegal (Leviticus 18:6-14).
It is true that the above sequence of post-Babel events is not actually recorded in Scripture,
but it does seem to fit all the real data in science as well as in the Bible.
It is a striking commentary on the importance of human language to note that worldwide
migrations and the development of distinct tribes and nations – even their distinctive
physical characteristics – were a direct result of the divine imposition of different languages.
As time went on people found that they could, by diligent effort, learn each other's languages.
The confounding of languages applied only to the phonologies, not to the underlying thought
processes which are part of man's uniqueness.
Mankind was still one kind, even though he now was divided into "tongues, in their lands,
after their nations" (Genesis 10:31).
Eventually this would permit a degree of intermarriage and mixing of nations,
but the institution of distinct nations became permanent.
The nature of the miracle by which God confused the tongue is unknown,
by virtue of the very fact that it was a miracle.
The entity of language is, indeed, in itself a miracle; there is absolutely no way in which
the grunts and barks of animals could ever have evolved by natural processes
into the articulate, symbolic, abstract language of humans.
A mighty miracle of creation was required to endow man with this capacity.
Likewise, another miracle of creation was required to create many new sets phonologies
all at once (presumably leaving the old intact, in the brain-nerve-tongue complex
of those who did not participate in the Babel rebellion).
This multiplicity of tongues, however, was not God's original purpose for man,
even though He did want mankind divided into different national units throughout the world.
Accordingly, God has promised that eventually, in a future date when all nations will follow
His will in obedience to His Word, "then will I turn to the people [literally, 'the peoples'
– that is, all the nations] a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord,
to serve him with one consent" (Zephaniah 3:9), even though there will still be distinct nations
(note Zachariah 14:9, 16-19; Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:2; Psalm 72:17; Revelation 21:24-26; etc.).
A foregleam of this miraculous future elimination of the language barrier occurred
with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, with His miraculous gift of tongues
to the first disciples, enabling them to declare the wonderful works of God
in many languages (acts 2:6-11).
As the family units gradually packed their goods and departed from Babel, the last memory
of the place was one of a loud "babble" of angry and incoherent noises pouring forth from the lips
of those who had once been their friends and fellow citizens.
"Therefore is the name of the call Babel, because the Lord did there confound the language
of all the earth."
The word "confound" is the Hebrew balal, which means "mingle" or "mix"
(usually translated "mingled"), and thus, by extension, "confusion."
The meaning in this particular context is clarified by its purpose as stated in verse 7:
"that they may not understand one another's speech."
Apparently, in the mind of Shem or Moses, whoever originally wrote verse 9,
the name "Babel" was connected with this word "balal."
The name meant "confusion."
It is not unlikely that the various sounds emanating from the confused throngs at Babel
(like the unintelligible babblings of babies) became the name of the city in the minds
of those who left it.
The English word "babble" is not so much a word as it is an example of onomatopoeia
– that is, a word formed to imitate an actual sound, and thus basically
understandable in all languages.
So, in the ages following, the very name Babylon would come to mean to all peoples
"the city of babbling, or confusion."
It was later that those who remained in Babel tried to upgrade its meaning by claiming
it meant "Bab-el," the "gate of God."
However, it's true nature is revealed by both the original record in Genesis 11
and the very sound of its name!
Ever since Babylon been a source of center of confusion in matters of religion
as well as linguistic.
The complex religious system established there was apparently carried into all the nations
by those who were scattered from it.
Evidently in most families there was at least one member who had been thoroughly indoctrinated
(possibly Nimrod had required each family to dedicate one of its members to become a priest
or priestess in the temple worship system), and these naturally tended to become
the spiritual leaders of the various tribes.
So it is that astrology and polytheistic pantheism – basically evolutionism – became the
established religion of all the nations of the ancient world.
The Babylonian pantheon, with its array of heavenly god's and goddesses, was equivalent
to the corresponding pantheon in Assyria, Egypt, Greece, India, and others.
All followed the astrological emblem of the zodiac and all were idolaters.
Furthermore, every one of these religious systems in one way or another commune
with the evil spirits who were associated with the idols.
However, to some degree all nations retained an awareness of the true God of heaven
as they scattered around the world, even though He receded more and more
from their consciousness as time went on.
They retained their corrupted traditions in the Deluge and, to a lesser extent,
of the Dispersion.
Their vague recollections of God's promise Redeemer were distorted into various systems
of animal and even human sacrifices, to gain favor with the spiritual beings who seemed
to govern their daily lives.
Eventually the spirits were more and more identified simply with the forces of nature
in a close-system universe.
The Generations of Terah
For almost two centuries after the Dispersion at Babel (or longer, depending on whether
there are gaps in the genealogies), almost nothing is revealed about
the further history of mankind.
The tribes were migrating and cultures developing, as described in the last section,
with knowledge of the true God receding further and further from man's consciousness.
In the far north, a great ice sheet was advancing over the continent; in the south, regions
that are now deserts (Sahara, Arabia, etc.) were enjoying a pluvial period with abundant
water resources able to support developing civilizations throughout the world.
Though these events were of great importance in world history, they are passed over in silence
and Scripture, since nothing of consequence was happening in revelational history.
God was no longer working directly with and through mankind as a whole,
since they all had rebelled against Him; yet the time was not yet propitious for Him
to begin to prepare a special nation to receive and transmit His Word to the other nations.
The latter must first be established in the world, and then a suitable man chosen
and trained to found that special nation.
Nevertheless, the line of the promise Seed was being preserved, the records of the patriarchs
were being protected, and God's plan was on schedule.
In this section of the pre-Abrahamic records of Scripture, the patriarchal genealogies
and chronology from the Flood down to the call of Abraham are preserved.
So, in spite of its apparent lesser interest, it is really a very important passage of Scripture.
Genesis 11:10, 11: "These are the generations of Shem: Shem was a hundred years old,
and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters."
At this point, the "generations of Shem" are concluded.
Shem had apparently kept the record from Genesis 10:1 through 11:9, covering
the descendants of Ham and Japheth to the third generation after the Flood and some
of his own descendants through the sixth.
His record included the account of the confusion of tongues and the Dispersion,
which apparently occurred in the fourth generation after the Flood,
shortly before the birth of Peleg.
The account was then taken up by Terah, who was in the ninth generation after the Flood,
assuming no gaps in those geological records.
However, again assuming, the figures in this chapter indicate that Shem lived until
after Terah's death, so that Terah had ample opportunity to talk with Shem
and get the records from him.
Even Noah lived until Terah was 128 years old.
Even if there are gaps in the genealogists (for example, at the time of Peleg, as seems possible,
it is still likely that the days of Terah overlap those of Shem to some extent.
If there are no gaps, Shem lived until 278 years after Terah's birth, so that a gap
of over two centuries would have been possible without preventing
their being contemporaries.
As we have already said, it seems possible that, sometimes after the Dispersion,
Shem may have moved southward into Arabia to live among the sons of Joktan
(as suggested by the history of their names in Genesis 10:26-30),
and so lost direct contact with the descendants of Joktan's brother Peleg.
Perhaps Shem thought at the time that it was through Joktan the promised Seed would come.
If so, he was wrong, because as it turned out, it was Peleg's descendent Terah
who was destined to keep the next set of "generations" and who would be
in the promised line.
One can realistically suppose that, many years later, Shem somehow came in contact
with young Terah and realized this was the man to whom we should entrust the sacred records
from Adam to Noah, as well as those of his brothers and himself.
Terah seems to of been the one who kept the brief, but important, record
from Genesis 11:10 through 11:29a.
Apparently, the only thing which he (or better, the Holy Spirit) judged worthy of recording
during this period was the family genealogical record.
He began by tying his own record back to that of Shem, using Shem's name as their progenitor
of his own line.
"Shem was a hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood."
Evidently Shem was 97 when the Flood began and 98 a year later when it ended.
Perhaps two of Arphaxad's brothers, Elam and Asshur, were born in the two years immediately
after the Flood (their names are listed before Arphaxad's in Genesis 10:22).
However, the purpose here is not to give all the names in the various families
but only the direct line from Shem to Terah.
Shem lived another 500 years after Arphaxad's birth, begetting other sons
(listed in Genesis 10:22) and daughters (not listed).
Each of the patriarchs presumably had as many daughters as sons, even though
their names are not given.
Genesis 11:12-17: "And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years,
and begat sons and daughters.And Salah lived 30 years, and begat Eber:
and Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years,
and begat sons and daughters.
And Eber lived four hundred and thirty years and begat Peleg: and Eber lived
after he begat Peleg:
And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years
and begat sons and daughters."
These verses give the genealogy from Arphaxad to Peleg, "in whose days the earth
was divided" (Genesis 10:25), whereas verses 18 to 23 give it from Peleg to Terah.
This entire section is much like the passage in Genesis 5:6-27, except that, there,
the typical formula includes a statement concerning the total age of the patriarch
and the fact that he finally died.
In Genesis 11, the same information can be gleaned by adding the years the patriarchs
lived both before and after the birth of his son as listed
It is obvious, in comparing Genesis 5 and 11, that patriarchal longevity began to decline
immediately after the Flood.
Noah lived 950 years (about the same as his antediluvian forebears),
but Shem lived only a 600 years, Arphaxad 438 years, Salah 433 years, and Eber 464 years.
A still sharper decline took place after Peleg as we will see below.
It seems evident that this decline must have been triggered by the Flood.
The radiation-filtering vapor canopy had been dissipated, and both genetic and somatic mutations
must have increased significantly, though it would no doubt take a number of generations
before they impact of mutations in the genetic system would have caused a significant
impact on hereditary longevity.
The increase in somatic (body cell) mutations, however, would've caused immediate
acceleration of the aging process.
Other factors might have included the more rugged environment, inadequate nourishment
in the food, inbreeding, or greater stress of living.
It is worth noting that Luke (3:36) inserts the name of Cainan between Arphaxad
and Salah in this genealogy.
dThe name is found in some manuscripts of the Septuagint, and Luke may have use them
in the compilation of his own record.
If this Cainan should really be included here, then another generation should be inserted
in each appropriate place in the foregoing discussion.
However the name is not included in the geological record and 1 Chronicles 1:18,
nor is Cainan given as a son of Arphaxad in Genesis 10:24.
The Masoretic scribes, who compiled the present Hebrew text, were no doubt familiar
with the Septuagint text; but they nevertheless did not include this name.
The unsettled question is whether the Septuagint text had some have added the name Cainan
where it shouldn't be, or whether the other texts (and sorted out by the Masoretes) had inadvertently omitted it, in both Genesis and 1 Chronicles.
In view of the known attention to details with which the Hebrew copyists maintain the accuracy of their copies, it is difficult to understand how they would make such an obvious error as this.
Furthermore, the name Cainan is not found in any of the other ancient versions
of the Old Testament, such as the Samaritan, the Vulgate, or others.
On the other hand, why would the Septuagint translators arbitrarily add Cainan to the record?
One possibility stems from the fact that the same name is found in Genesis 5:9
as the son of Enos.
There are no other names in Genesis 5 which are also found in Genesis 11, and it would not be
too difficult for a careless scribe to copy "Cainan" inadvertently from Luke 3:37
as he was copying Luke 3:36, thus getting two Cainans into the list.
It is known that the New Testament copyists were often much less careful in this work
that had been the Old Testament scribes.
The oldest Septuagint manuscripts do not include Cainan in their listings in Genesis 11;
so it is altogether possible that later copiers of the Septuagint (who also were not as meticulous
as those who copied the Hebrew text) inserted Cainan into their manuscripts
on the basis of certain copies of Luke's gospel to which they then had access.
This is the conclusion of those scholars who have devoted the most intense amount of study
to this particular problem.
Although the question is not settled, the weight of evidence does seem to be in favor
of the Hebrew text as it stands.
Cainan's name should not be included, and its insertion and Luke 3:36 is most likely
an error of a copyist.
Adding up the numbers in these verses, therefore, the record indicates that Peleg was born
101 years after the Flood.
This probably was the year of the Babel Dispersion.
Some may doubt that a single century would be a long enough period of time
for the population to grow from the eight survivors of the Flood to the substantial number
of people that were involved in building Babel and its tower.
However, there is no doubt that the population would have increased rapidly
in that first century.
It was to the advantage of all concerned (as well as in accordance with God's command)
for each family to attempt to have as many children as possible.
Shem, Ham, Japheth had a total of 16 listed sons (there may well have been others not listed,
and even Noah may have had other unnamed children after the Flood)
and presumably at least as many daughters.
So the first generation after the Flood had at least 32 people, an increase of 533 percent
over their original six parents.
Assuming this proportion remained the same (and this is a conservative assumption),
and the second generation had 171 people and the third 912, making a total of at least
1,120 mature adults at the time of the Dispersion at Babel.
Many of the young men of the fourth generation also would be old enough to help in the work.
Furthermore, it is quite possible that each family had many more children than
the numbers calculated above.
A growth rate of only 8% annually would produce a population of 9,000 in only 100 years.
As we have noted, there is indication that the names in the Table of Nations do not constitute
a complete listing, but only a specially selected listing of those families that originated
from the three sons of Noah.
So it is easily possible for the earth to have had a population of many thousands
at the time of the Dispersion, only one century after the Flood; but even if there were only
several hundred, these could have constructed the great power over a period of several years.
Many large structures of antiquity (the pyramids, Stonehenge the Mesopotamian ziggurats
which apparently copied the original Tower of Babel, among others) indicate that ancient men
possessed remarkable engineering and construction capabilities.
Therefore, there seems no good reason why we should not take the records from
Shem to Peleg as we actually have it, as a literal and complete genealogy and chronology
for the period from the Flood to the Dispersion.
Genesis 11:18-25: "And Peleg lived thirty years and begat Reu:
And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Reu Zea two and thirty years, and begat Serug:
And Reu field after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor:
And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:
And Nahor lived after he begat Terah a hundred and nineteen years,
and begat sons and daughters.”
If there is no great problem with respect to the development of a sufficient population to build
the Tower of Babel, there is still less difficulty in understanding how there could have been
an adequate population at the time of Abraham.
According to the record, when Abram was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4), it had been 367 years
since the Flood, and thus about 267 years since the Dispersion.
Assuming the record of Noah's grandsons was complete, we have noted that there was probably
an increase of 533 percent in the first generation after the Flood.
If a generation was 33 years (there had been three grown generations a century after the Flood),
there would have been 11 such generations by the time Abram went to Canaan.
In the genealogical listing from Shem, Abram is ninth from Shem.
However, his 75th year would have allowed two more normal generations, even though
he himself had no children at the time.
Evidently, it is reasonable to assume 11 generations since the Flood
at this stage in world history.
If such generations were to experience a 500 percent increase, slightly less than did the first
generation (and this certainly was not impossible or unreasonable in those early days),
and the world population at this time could have been at least 300 million people.
Of course, it is more likely that this rate of increase fell off as time went on, but at least
it is clear that the world population in Abraham's time could have easily been large enough
to account for all the evidences of civilization at that time throughout the world.
Therefore it is not necessary to assume gaps in these genealogical lists in order to account
for the widespread evidence of population and civilizations at the time of Abraham.
On the other hand, we must recognize at least the possibility that some slight gaps may exist.
The term "begat" refers sometimes to a descendent rather than to an immediate son,
though this of course is the exception.
A more cogent argument for genealogical gap in this chapter is in connection with Peleg.
The longevity of the post-Peleg patriarchs was only half that of the pre-Peleg patriarchs
(438, 433, and 464 years for the three before Peleg, and suddenly down to 239 years for Peleg,
and 239 and 230 years for the two after Peleg).
The apparent suddenness of this drop suggests that a gap of unknown duration
may have intervened, during which life spans were gradually declining.
There are difficulties with this suggestion, however.
There seems to be no reason why the writer should be so careful to give precise chronological
data for each of the links in the chain unless the chain itself is intact and complete.
There is no indication in the record that the writer was conscious of any gaps in his record.
Furthermore, the writers in 1 Chronicles 1:25 and Luke 3:35 give no hint of a gap at this point
(or at any other point in the genealogy, for that matter).
Except for the sudden drop in longevity, there is no evidence of any geological gap here.
As far as the drop in longevity is concerned, it was apparently just before Peleg's birth
that the Dispersion took place, as we have seen.
This was an extremely traumatic experience for the entire human race, and it is not surprising
that it would have severe physical effects on mankind in general.
In addition to the difficulty of mere survival under the new conditions of living in small
tribal communities, the effects of the genetic mutations that had been accumulated
for several generations since the Flood were much aggravated by the necessity
of close inbreeding.
In general, it does not seem at all necessary to assume a gap in the genealogy in order to
account for the drop in longevity at this time.
The only real reason for wanting to stretch the chronology here, therefore, is to deal
with the opinion of archaeologists that early civilization must be dated earlier than
the Ussher chronology (which is based on the assumption of complete genealogical list
and Genesis 5 and 11) will allow.
However, this opinion is based mainly on the uniformitarian methods of dating,
especially the radiocarbon method; and one should not base his Biblical exegesis
on some later-day scientific theory.
There are no actual, indisputable written historical records in Egypt, Sumeria,
or any other ancient nations, which forced the insertion of any gaps in these genealogies.
The uniformitarian premises in radiocarbon and other dating methods have been seriously
questioned in recent years, and there is no firm evidence that the Flood needs to be dated
significantly earlier than about 2350 B.C., which is the traditional Ussher date.
The question may be unsettled, so that the possibility of one or more gaps in Genesis 11
does exist; but they could not be legitimately stretched in any case to fit the evolutionary
chronology of human origins.
The latter places the origin of two men at no less than a million years ago.
The 222 years listed from the Flood to the birth of Terah can hardly be stretched this much.
There only eight possible locations for gaps from Shem to Terah, and this would mean
an average gap of hundred and twenty-five thousand between each adjacent pair of names.
Of course, this is absurd, and should be dismissed completely.
The actual names of the patriarchs from Peleg to Terah were not given in Genesis 10,
so are found here for the first time.
The names, in order, are Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor and Terah.
Each presumably had other sons and daughters not listed.
Genesis 11:26-28: "And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran;
and Haran begat Lot.
And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees."
It is interesting that the genealogical lists in both Genesis 5 and 11 with a patriarch
whose three sons are all listed by name.
Shem, Ham, and Japheth were sons of Noah; and Abram, Nahor, and Haran were sons of Terah.
In both cases the father's age is given presumably to correspond to the birth of the first
of his three sons: 500 in Noah's case and 70 in Terah's case.
It almost seems as though Terah deliberately patterned his own formula directly
after that of his ancestor Noah.
Perhaps he knew (by revelation) that a new dispensation would begin with his sons,
just had been the case with Noah's sons.
In any case, Tara knew that he had been chosen to keep the patriarchal records
received from Shem, and he had completed his assignment with verse 27.
"These are the generations of Terah."
The next writer, presumably Isaac (Genesis 25:19), picked up the narrative at verse 27b,
by tying his record back to that of Terah, giving the names of his three sons again.
Terah apparently lived until Isaac was 35 years old (Genesis 11:26, 32; 21:5),
assuming Abram was Terah's oldest son, born when he was 70 years of age.
It is conceivable that Terah could somehow have transmitted his records directly to Isaac.
It is more likely that Abram took them all with him when he left his father in Haran (Genesis 12:4),
especially in view of the fact that Terah seems to have became an idolater
in his later years (Joshua 24:2, 3).
In addition to Abram, Terah was father of Nahor and Haran, both of whose names are associated
with cities in Mesopotamia (Genesis 24:10; 28:10).
Nahor was named after his grandfather (11:24).
His brother Haran died when he was less than 130 years of age (11:26, 28, 32),
while his father was still living, apparently while visiting his father back home in Ur.
He left one son, Lot, who soon became attached to his uncle Abram.
Genesis 11:29, 30: "And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai;
and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah,
and the father of Iscah.
But Sarai was barren; she had no child."
The name of Lot's mother is not given, but the wives of both Abram and Nahor are introduced
at this point, because of their importance in connection with later events and possibly also
because Haran died prior to the time his two brothers married.
Nahor married his niece, Milcah, daughter of Haran.
Abram seems to have become Lot's guardian when Haran died, it may have been
that Nahor similarly took care of Milcah.
As she grew into womanhood, then, he took her to be his wife.
Haran also had another daughter, Iscah, of whom nothing further is said.
Jewish tradition identified her with Sarai, Abram's wife, but this is unlikely.
Sarai was later acknowledged the Abram's sister (Genesis 20:12), not his niece.
Evidently, Sarai was also a daughter of Terah but Terah had more than one wife,
so she was only a half-sister of Abram.
Such close marriages were later forbidden in the Mosaic law; but, as we have seen,
at this early date they were not particularly dangerous from a genetic point of view,
and so were not uncommon.
In fact, to observe the spiritual purity of the patriarchal families at this time,
it seemed necessary to have sacrificed to some extent the genetic purity,
thereby guarding insofar as possible against the introduction of idolatry into godly homes.
Note is made of Sarai's baroness at this time, so that Abram, unlike Haran and Nahor
(Genesis 22:20-24), and no children in either Ur or Mesopotamia.
The child of promise must be born in the land of promise.
Genesis 11:31, 32: "And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son,
and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them
from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran
and dwelt there.
In the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran."
It was apparently soon after Haran's death, and the marriage of Abram, that Terah decided
to leave Ur of the Chaldees.
The archaeologist's spade has shown Ur to have been a great city, with a high civilization
(including a great library) even before Abram's time; but it was also a very idolatrous
and wicked city.
This passage suggests that Terah himself may have received some kind of command
from the Lord to go into the land of Canaan.
If so, he only obeyed in part.
He left Ur all right; but instead of striking directly westward across the desert to Canaan,
he moved northwest up the Mesopotamia Valley, finally reaching Haran.
Haran was apparently the settlement that had been established by Terah's son Haran,
or to which at least his name had become attached.
Ur was in the lower reaches of the Euphrates, on the Persian Gulf.
Originally, before the millennia of delta deposits that have since formed downstream,
it was actually a great seaport.
Haran was perhaps 600 miles northwest, whereas Canaan was about the same
distance due west.
It may be that Terah needed to go to the city of Haran to settle his sons affairs,
following Haran's premature death while visiting his father in Ur, and thus was justified
in traveling to Canaan by way of Haran.
In traveling up the Euphrates Valley, the party would have to pass through, or near,
the great city of Babylon and many of the other great cities of Chaldea.
They would have surely been reminded of that terrible judgment on mankind
that had taken place at Babylon two centuries previously.
On the other hand, an even stronger impression may have been made on them by the evident
prosperity of the whole country.
Haran was located on an important trade route coming up from Canaan and Syria,
and had quickly become an important city (still in existence today).
All of these considerations, in addition to his increasing age (Terah was probably well past
a hundred years old by this time, since he was 70 when his first son was born,
and all three sons were now mature men.
In fact, Haran with three children of his own, led Terah to keep putting off going to Canaan.
Finally he settled permanently in Haran, where he died at the age of 205 years.
When they left Ur, Terah took Abram and Sari with him, as well as his grandson Lot.
Nahor stayed behind in Ur, apparently with Lot's sister Milcah (who later became Nahor's wife)
and possibly his other sister, Iscah, as well.
Later on Nahor must have brought his own family on up to Haran to the nearby city of Nahor
(Genesis 22:20-24; 24:10, 15; 27:43; 28:2; 29:4), so that the family probably
was united for a while.
There is a problem in reconciling verse 32, which speaks of Terah's death in Haran
at the age of 205, and Genesis 12:4, which says Abram left Haran when he was 75 years old,
with Acts 7:4, were Stephen says that Abram waited until his father was dead
before he left Haran.
Genesis 11:26 says Terah "lived seventy years and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran."
If Abram was Terah's firstborn son, as this verse may imply, then Terah was only 145 years
of age when Abram left Haran, living there another 60 years before he died.
There is a possibility that Abram was not the first son, with his name being first listed
only because of his later importance.
In this case, if Abram were born only after Terah was 130 years old, and if their migration
from Ur took place, say, 30 years or so later, then Terah could have died in Haran
before Abram reached his 75th birthday.
The problem with this proposed solution is why, if Abram himself was born when his father
was 130 years old, it should have taken a special miracle for Abram to become a father
when he was only 100 years old.
Another possibility is that Stephen simply made a mistake of interpretation in his speech.
The doctrine of inspiration would apply in this case not to Stephen’s speech but to Luke's
accurate recording of Stephen speech.
It does seem unlikely that a good Bible student like Stephen, familiar as he was with
the Mosaic writings, would make such an obvious error as this.
The most likely solution of the problem is that Stephen was referring to Terah's becoming "dead"
as far as God's will for his life was concerned.
Stephen also noted that Abram received God's call originally while he was still in Mesopotamia
(Acts 7:2, and 13), as might indeed be inferred from the fact that Abram decided to take
his own family along and go with Terah in his journey toward Canaan.
Perhaps God appeared to both Terah and Abram in Ur, and they both set out to Canaan together,
father and son.
Terah, however, delayed long in Haran and it eventually became apparent in Abram
that his father no longer intended to go on to Canaan.
The prosperity and comfort at Haran were too great a temptation for him.
Eventually Terah even began to get involved in the Chaldean idolatries, which were part
and parcel of both the trade and the culture of the region (Joshua 24:2, 14, 15).
It was at this point that Terah was, for all practical purposes, "dead" to God's will
and plan for his life.
Therefore God renewed His call, but this time to Abram alone.
It was this sort of situation that the Lord Jesus Christ encountered one day when
He called one to follow Him.
However, that disciples said, "Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father."
Jesus answered, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead" (Matthew 8:21, 22).
Terah was "dead," though he would not actually be ready for burial for perhaps
another threescore years.
This record is a sad commentary on the end of a venerable and once godly patriarch,
one who had been used to record a part of Scripture.
In like manner, it is also a sober warning to any in later times who would allow ease
or comfort to hinder them from following Christ.
Terah became a "castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27), presumably still saved but no longer useful
to the Lord, trying to hold on to the world and its idolatries while still believing in God
and hoping to retain His blessing.
But God had turned to Abram, "Get thee out… From thy father's house" (Genesis 12:1).
His father must delay the inauguration of God's plan for a new nation no longer.
What Terah might have been, his son became – a blessing to all the families of the earth.
This concludes the study of Genesis chapter 1 through chapter 11.