Genesis 11
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
We are now to trace the rise of the kingdom of God among the nations. Already in the case of Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord, that is, by permission of Divine providence, the antagonism between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world has been symbolized. Now we find the concentration of the world's rebellion and ungodliness in the false city, type of the worldly power throughout the Scriptures. It is on the plain of Shinar to which the early migration from the East directed the course of mankind. We are not told at what time the settlement in Shinar took place. As the account of the confusion of tongues is introduced between the larger genealogy and the lesser, we may infer that its object is to account for the spread of nations. Whether we take this Babel to be Nimrod's Babel or an earlier one is of very little consequence. The whole narrative is full of Divine significance. Notice -

I. MAN'S BABEL IS A LYING PRETENSION. It rests on an attempt to substitute his own foundation of society for God's; it is -

1. False safety - the high tower to keep above the flood.

2. False ambition - reaching unto heaven, making a name with bricks and mortar.

3. False unity - "lest we be scattered abroad." These are the characteristics of all Babel despotisms. Material foundations to rest upon; lying structures built upon them.

II. GOD'S KINGDOM IS NOT REALLY HINDERED BY MAN'S REBELLION. He suffers the Babel structure to be reared, but by his judgments scatters both the men and their projects, making the rebellious conspiracy against himself prepare the way for his ultimate universal triumph. So it has been all through the history of the world, and especially immediately before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The confusion of tongues was a judgment and at the same time a mercy. Those that are filled with such ambitions and build upon such foundations are not fit to dwell together in one place. It is better they should be divided. The investigations into comparative grammar and the genesis of human language point to some primitive seat of the earliest form of speech in the neighborhood indicated. It was certainly the result of the false form of society with which men began, the Nimrod empire, that they could not remain gathered in one community; and as they spread they lost their knowledge of their original language, and were confounded because they understood not one another's speech. It is remarkable that in the beginning of the kingdom of Christ, the true city of God which shall overspread the world, the Spirit bestowed the gift of tongues, as if to signify that the Babel of man's lying ambitions was to cease, and in the truth of the gospel men would be united as one family, "understanding one another's speech." - R.

1. The original birthright of the human race.

2. The lost inheritance of sinful men.

3. The ultimate goal of the Christian dispensation.

4. The recovered heritage of redeemed humanity. - W.

Genesis 11:2
Genesis 11:2. Note -

1. The benefit of a wandering condition. It sometimes prevents the rise of sinful thoughts and wicked deeds. So long as the primitive nomads were travelling from station to station they did not think of either rebellion or ambition. So Israel followed God fully in the wilderness.

2. The danger of a settled state. Established in the fat plain of Shinar, they wanted a city and a tower. So Israel in Canaan waxed fat and kicked. So Moab, having been at ease from his youth, retained his scent unchanged. So comfortable surroundings often lead men from God. - W.

I. IN SHINAR. Examples of

(1) ingenuity,

(2) earnestness,

(3) perseverance,

(4) unity in sin.

II. IN EGYPT (Exodus 5:7). Illustrations of

(1) the bondage,

(2) the degradation,

(3) the misery,

(4) hopelessness, of sin. - W.


1. Sinful ambition.
2. Laborious ingenuity.
3. Demonstrated feebleness.
4. Stupendous folly.


1. Overruling providence.
2. Resistless power.
3. Retributive justice.
4. Beneficent purpose. - W.

And they said, Go to, lot 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. In the world after the Flood we trace the, outlines of the gospel dispensation. To Noah was revealed "good will toward men; the acceptance of sacrifice; faith as the condition and channel of blessing; and work, to spread the knowledge of, and trust in his name, i.e. what he is pleased to reveal concerning himself. But "the carnal mind" was there resisting the Spirit. Noah and his seed were to replenish the earth (Genesis 9:1; cf. Mark 16:15). They were promised safety from beasts, of whom, if separated, they might be afraid (Genesis 9:2; cf. Matthew 10:29, 31; Luke 10:19). Here was a trial of faith and obedience (cf. Exodus 34:24). But men had not faith, would not trust, would not go forth at his word. Their calling was to seek God's city (Hebrews 11:10-16), to live as citizens of it (Philippians 3:20). They chose a city for themselves; earthly security, comforts, luxuries. Called to glorify God's name, their thought was to make a name for themselves. Self was the moving power. The name of God is the trust of his people (Psalm 20:7; Proverbs 18:10); a center of unity to all his children in every place. They trusted in themselves; would be like God to themselves. The tower, the work of their own hands, was to be their center of unity; and the name of it came to be Babel, i.e. confusion (cf. Matthew 15:13). Love draws mankind together. Self-seeking tends to separation. God bade them spread that they might be united in faith and in work. They chose their own way of union, and it led to dispersion with no bond of unity.

I. WE ARE CALLED TO BUILD THE CITY OF GOD (Hebrews 41:22). To prepare the way for Revelation 21:3. The gifts of Christ are made effectual by the work of men. That city, built of living stones (1 Peter if. 5), cemented not with slime, but by unity of faith (Ephesians 4:3). And a tower, a center of unity, the "good confession" (Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:11). And to obtain a name, to be confessed by the Lord before the angels, to be acknowledged as his "brethren," and stamped with the "new name." And promise given, as if pointing to Babel: "Your labor is not in vain in the Lord."

II. MANY HAVE NO MIND TO BUILD. They love ease and have no earnestness, triflers with time, or direct their earnestness to earthly prizes - a name among men.

III. EVEN BELIEVERS ARE OFTEN THUS HINDERED. There may be spiritual selfishness along with really spiritual aims. The multitude of cares may distract the soul. Temptations may wear the garb of zeal, or of charity, or of prudence. Watch and pray. God's faithfulness will not fail (1 Corinthians 10:13). - M.

(Genesis 11:5; Hebrews 11:16).

I. THEIR BUILDERS. Of the first, men - mostly wicked men; of the second, the Architect of the universe.

II. THEIR ORIGIN. Of the first (Enoch, Genesis 4:17; and Babel, Genesis 11:5), hostility to God; of the second, love to man.

III. THEIR DESIGN. Of the first, to be a bond of union among sinners; of the second, to be a residence for God's children.

IV. THEIR APPEARANCE. Of the first, that of slime, mud, bricks, or at best stones; of the second, that of gold and pearls.

V. THEIR DURATION. Of the first, it is written that with all the other works of man, they shall be burnt up; of the second that it shall be everlasting. - W.

1. Commonly spring from misused blessings. A united people, with a common language, and enjoying a measure of 'success in their buildings, the Babelites became vain in their imaginings. So do wicked men generally misinterpret the Divine beneficence and leniency which suffers them to proceed a certain length with their wickedness (cf. Romans 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:9). 2. Are never unobserved by him against whom they are directed (Deuteronomy 31:21; 1 Chronicles 28:9). 3. Are doomed to certain and complete frustration (Psalm 2:1; Luke 1:51; 2 Corinthians 10:5). - W.

1. Confusion, division, dispersion.

2. Gathering the dispersed, uniting the divided, restoring order to the confused. - W.

A genealogy of Shem and of Terah, in order to set forth clearly the position of Abraham and that of his nephew Lot, and their connection with Ur of the Chaldees and Canaan. The chosen family is about to be separated from their country, but we are not told that there was no light of God shining in Ur of the Chaldees. Probably there was the tradition of Shem's knowledge handed down through the generations. Arphaxad was born two years after the Flood; Salah, thirty-seven years; Eber, sixty-seven years; Peleg, one hundred and one years; Reu, one hundred and thirty-one years; Serug, one hundred and sixty-three years; Nahor, one hundred and ninety-three years; Terah, the father of Abraham, two hundred and twenty-two years - no great length of time for traditions to be preserved. The call of Abram was not merely his separation from idolatry, but his consecration to the special vocation of founding the religious institutions which were to be connected with his family. - R.

1. Determined by God, and not by man.

2. Arranged after the Spirit, and not according to the flesh.

3. Appointed for the world's good as well as for the Church's safety. - W.

I. THE TWO BRIDEGROOMS - Abram and Nahor.

1. Younger sons in Terah's family.

2. Eminent men in Ur of the Chaldees.

3. Favored saints in the Church of God. Marriage is honorable in all.

II. THE TWO BRIDES - Sarai and Milcah.

1. Near relations of their husbands. Though permissible at that early stage of the world's history, the intermarriage of relatives so close as half-sister and niece is not now sanctioned by the law of God.

2. Attractive ladies in themselves. As much as this may be inferred from their names. It is both allowable and desirable to seek as wives women distinguished for beauty and intelligence, provided also they are noted for goodness and piety.

3. Descendants of the holy line. Doubtless this was one cause which led to the choice of Abram and Nahor. So Christians should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

III. THE TWO HOMES. Formed it might be at the same time, and under similar benignant auspices, they were yet divided.

1. And from the first in their constitutions. This was of necessity.

2. And afterwards in their fortunes. Sarai had no child; Milcah was the mother of a family. "Lo, children are the heritage of the Lord."

3. And eventually in their locations. Nahor and Milcah remained in Ur, and ultimately moved to Haran; Abram and Sarai pitched their tent and established their home in Canaan. So God parts the families of earth. - W.

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