Genesis 11 Commentary
We have an interesting story of men trying to make a name for themselves. They moved eastwards and settled at Shinar which is Babylon. Earlier, we read that Babylon was established by Nimrod. Remember? It is very clear that the man at this stage is very independent of God. Life is all about themselves. There are clues here that men began to establish a man-centered religion. They begin to build a tower. Some have said this tower was actually a pyramid, hence the pyramids in the cults today.
The Lord is unhappy about man’s intentions hence the scattering and confusion of languages. SHINAR is in between the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates, in modern-day Iraq. Apparently, that is the same location as the Garden of Eden. It means people hadn’t moved very far from their original area of creation. Note that the Bible appears to point to a much bigger area for the Garden of Eden as it talks about 4 rivers. One of the rivers seems to fit the description of the Great Nile River.
We are interested in the scattering. I was reading a grade 8/9 history book. It’s indicated in that book that the Bantu peoples originated from Mesopotamia. Now Mesopotamia is an area in between the two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates. Secular history supports the biblical view of the scattering. You can see that our origins are not godly origins. Man must be born again because we are sinful right from our place of origin.
The project to make a name for themselves speaks of pride. The multiplicity of languages is therefore born out of man’s rebellion and not part of the original design. I still think God’s language is one and can be understood by all. In the book of Acts, the speaking of tongues where everyone was able to understand what was being said is one very direct reference to God’s work of restoration that came with the cross. They all spoke in tongues and everyone understood them. Imagine you speaking in your mother tongue (Tumbuka) but both the Chinese man and the Russian man are able to perfectly understand you. That was a Pentecost experience. The reference to Babylon’s sin and God’s restoration work is very clear. It was symbolic.
So verse 9 is important as we have people from this same place being scattered. Wherever we are (China, Europe, Africa) we carried the same spirit of rebellion and the same demonic practices. You probably want to check out details of different migrations and then read Genesis 11 again.
Chapter 11 has a number of keylines.
Rebellion: people wanting to make a name for themselves.; to be what God never wanted them to be. Reference to them wanting to build a tower reaching the heavens may draw a thought of them wanting to be like God – like the Adam sin. Chapter 3, again. Remember the following: “You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” Isaiah 14 verses 13 and 14
Rebellion is the same. What men said at Babel is very much the same as what the devil said to Adam….to be like God. To ascend above. It is a sin of both pride and independence.
Secondly, the confusion of languages. Again remember the blessing of chapter 1. God intended man to prosper. Confusing man’s language is to ensure that he doesn’t prosper….especially that his plans are ungodly. He shouldn’t succeed. God does something physical to ensure that His blessing to mankind is reversed, otherwise, man succeeds. The LORD Himself said it. They would succeed because of the initial blessing. You notice that we hardly agree on anything….it reflects the importance of agreement even in prayer. If two people agree…. The curse is for people never to agree, to ensure that they never succeed. They should never speak one language. The reality of this is deeply spiritual.
Thirdly the scattering is again physical. It explains the similarities of sinful ambitions and practices everywhere because the source is the same. This is why we have pyramids in every early human settlement because men originated from the same point – called the Fertile Crescent in secular history, otherwise called Mesopotamia. Pyramids were religious undertakings – a satanic worship system that sought to defy the worship of the LORD God. So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. Genesis 11:8 NIV.
The closing lines of chapter 11 focus on Abram’s line. He is also scattered from here.