This is the first of a 3-part post on preaching The Tower of Babel passage in Genesis 11:1-9
I. SETTING WITHIN GENESIS 1-11:
- Concludes Genesis 1-11 as the 4th key event following Creation, Fall, Flood.
- Prepares way for the introduction of Abraham via Shem’s genealogy (11:10-26; 12:1)
- Account cannot be confidently assigned to a specific historical period.
- Chronologically precedes Genesis 10 (Table of Nations)
- Verbal and thematic parallels:
“man” (1:26-28; 11:5)
“heavens” (1:8, 26; 11:4)
“one” (1:5, 9; 11:1, 6)
“all the earth” (1:26, 29; 11:1, 8-9)
“filling the earth” (1:26-28; 11:1-9)
“Let us…” (1:26; 11:7)
Transgress human limits (3:5-6; 11:1-9)
Use of divine plural (3:22; 11:7)
Divine concern over potential havoc (3:22; 11:6)
Same setting – “plain of Shinar” (2:14; 11:2)
Genesis 4 – Cain Narrative:
Migration motif and building of cities (4:12-18: 11:1-2)
Genesis 6-9 – Flood Narrative:
“all the earth; on the earth” (6:5, 12 passim; 11:1-9)
“fill the earth” (9:1; 11:1-9)
“name” (6:4; 11:4)
Genesis 10 – Table of Nations
1. Unique in ancient Near Eastern literature
2. Babylonian Background – “Shinar;” Mesopotamian origin of the ziggurat –
A step-ladder structure with a square/rectangular base made of mud bricks.
At foot and apex was a temple area for a god’s habitation.
3. Not dependent upon Babylonian literature – Enuma Elish (though there are similarities).
4. Table of Nations in Genesis 10 – about 70 families/national groups dispersed. Three main ancestral families: Japhetic, Hamitic, and Semitic (3 sons of Noah). Genesis 10:32: “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood” (Gen. 10:32). Descendents from the sons of Noah did not form 3 races, but 3 streams of nations. Both light skinned and dark skinned peoples are found among all three groups.
III. LINGUISTICS AND GENESIS 11:1-9 (Who taught Adam and Eve to talk?)
1. Real divisions among people not racial, physical or geographic, but linguistic.
2. Apart from revelation, accounting for the origin of language is an insoluble problem.
3. Animals don’t speak to each other. Animal cries are emotional, not conceptual.
4. Speech is not instinctive. It results only when there is social contact. Studies of so called “feral” or “wild” children indicate they were all without speech when found. Two feral children who were companions in isolation never spoke a single word between them.
5. No people group has ever been discovered that did not have a fully developed language.
6. Aymara Indians in Peru have 209 distinct words for potatoes. Eskimo of Canada and the Chukchee of Siberia have numerous names for snow and ice, but not a single word for “snow.”
7. To many primitive people groups, a name is almost sacred. The Chukchee of Siberia will sometimes change the name of a sick child, believing the child was given the wrong name. The Eskimo do not believe a child has a soul until it has a name. If the child is unnamed, infanticide is not murder in their culture.
Shift in Genesis 1 from “Let the sea bring forth; Let the earth bring forth…” when the creation of man is in view. We find a conversation in heaven. “Let us make man.” It was God who first spoke to Adam! Then Adam spoke (naming the animals). Genesis 2 goes out of its way to make it clear that Adam was the only man. (Genesis 2:5, 18, 20). [Refutation of Theistic Evolution]