Genesis 11:9
That is why it is called Babel, for there the LORD confused the language of the whole world, and from that place the LORD scattered them over the face of all the earth.
Confusion of LanguageJ. Parker, D. D.Genesis 11:9
Divine Order in ConfusionW. Adamson.Genesis 11:9
God Causing Confusion in Order to Restore PeaceF. E. Paget, M. A.Genesis 11:9
God's Infinite Resources for Punishing SinnersJ. Parker, D. D.Genesis 11:9
Good ArchitectureJ. Ruskin.Genesis 11:9
LessonsR. S. Candlish, D. D.Genesis 11:9
LessonsG. Hughes, B. D.Genesis 11:9
No ArchitectOld Testament AnecdotesGenesis 11:9
The Confusion of TonguesOld Testament AnecdotesGenesis 11:9
The Dispersion At BabelN. Emmons, D. D.Genesis 11:9
The Scattered BuildersW. S. Smith, B. D.Genesis 11:9
The Tower of BabelJ. C. Gray.Genesis 11:9
Order Brought ForthR.A. Redford Genesis 11:1-9

1. Confusion, division, dispersion.

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

Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth.
I. GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF CONFUSION, BUT OF PEACE. Yet once, in His wise compassion, He made confusion in order to prevent it; He destroyed peace, that in the end He might restore it.

II. God, who hath made of one blood all nations of men, did, by that exercise of His power, THE BEST THING THAT COULD BE DONE TO CHECK AND RETARD THE RAPID GROWTH OF EVIL AND TO PREPARE THE MEANS BY WHICH MAN MIGHT BE BROUGHT BACK TO OBEDIENCE. While there was but one tongue, men easily corrupted each other; when there were many, evil communications were greatly hindered. God marred the Babel builders' work, but it was in order to mar their wickedness; and meanwhile He had His own gracious designs for a remedy. Pentecost.

(F. E. Paget, M. A.)

1. The confusion of tongues was not at random. It was a systematic distribution of languages for the purpose of a systematic distribution of man in emigration. The dispersion was orderly, the difference of tongue corresponding to the differences of race. By these were the Gentiles divided in their lands, everyone after his tongue, after their families in their nations.

2. From the earliest period there has been manifested, in the history of scientific progress, an invincible faith among scientific men that the facts of nature are capable of being arranged in conformity with laws of geometry and algebra. In other words, all have a profound conviction of the existence of what Argyll calls "the reign of law," i.e., order in the midst of apparent confusion and aimlessness.

3. There is no illogical course in arguing that those who believe in God as the Creator of order in nature have a right to conclude that He preserves the same order in history. The cataclysms in nature have an order and object; why not then the catastrophes of history. There is Divine order in the midst of historical confusion, as palpable and manifest as in that of science. Looking back upon the pathway which history has trodden, we can perceive traces of design — powerful evidences of an infinite aim — order in the midst of confusion. Over the wheels of history, as over the wheels in Ezekiel's sublime vision, is the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

(W. Adamson.)


1. Worldly wisdom.

2. Desire for worldly power.

3. Worldly pride.


1. God looked.

2. God intervened.

3. God governed. So it is always.God restrains the power of evil, and makes it serve Him (Psalm 76:10). LEARN:

1. Not to be self-willed, proud, ambitious.

2. To submit to God's will, and trust always in His wisdom and love.

(W. S. Smith, B. D.)


1. Numerous. For one hundred years the posterity of Noah had continued to increase.

2. Of one speech. Hence present variety of language corroborative of the dispersion; otherwise there must have been many sources of the human race.

3. Disobedient. Had been expressly commanded to "replenish," i.e. refill, the earth. Instead of obeying God, they lived together. Thus, too, the population of the world was retarded. Men increase more rapidly in new countries.

4. United in rebellion.


1. Purpose. Not to escape another flood, for not only had they the promise, but very few could in such a case escape that way. Probably it was to serve some idolatrous purpose, and be a landmark around which they could unite as one people and nation.

2. Material.

3. Character. Lofty. Eastern buildings not generally marked by loftiness. This, a grand and solitary exception.


1. The person. "God," whom they thought least of, and practically defied.

2. The mode. "Confound their language."


1. The building abandoned. If some speaking one tongue had continued, the jealousy of the rest would have hindered. But so strange an event would confound them as well as their speech.

2. They separated. Into how many tribes or nations we know not. The most eminent philologists (as Bunsen, etc.) find three original stocks, which some even call the Semitic, Japhetic, and Hamitic.

3. The earth was more widely peopled. Thus was the Divine will enforced. But had this been obeyed, without the need of resorting to this compulsory method, how much more easily had missionary efforts, and commercial enterprises, etc., now been carried out. Thus the world is this day suffering through the sin of these builders of old. LEARN:

I. The sin and folly of disobeying God.

II. The ease with which God can punish sin.

III. The far-reaching consequence of sin.

IV. No confusion of tongues in heaven. All sing the one new song.

(J. C. Gray.)

1. How vain and disastrous it is for men to contend against God; they cannot effectually resist Him; they can only destroy themselves. Especially if their contention is against any of the plans and arrangements connected with His eternal covenant — if the work which they are opposing, or the providential dispensation against which they are rebelling, has a direct bearing on His glorious design for the redemption of the world, and the salvation of souls, — if they are labouring to shut out Christ, or what is Christ's, from His own domains, from hearts and homes that should be His, — how idly and madly do they kick against the pricks!

2. How wise it is, and how blessed, to acquiesce in God's allotment of the good things of life, and in His manner of bringing His purposes of love to pass! The blessed Lord is the God of Shem; — but Shem suffers wrong, and has to exercise long patience before deliverance comes. Still it is enough that Jehovah is his God; let him not be careful or anxious. "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all other things shall be added unto you."

3. In regard to the duty and the destiny of nations, the purpose of God is here revealed.(1) On the one hand, schemes of conquest, and of concentrated dominion, are seen not to be of God; and however He may sometimes make them subservient to His own purposes, He will always, in the end, pour contempt on the proud ambition of man.(2) Orderly dispersion and colonization are of God. In particular, in the line of Japheth, to which we belong, and among the isles of the Gentiles, colonization seems to be especially the Divine rule.(3) But even if Japheth should prove unfaithful in the use of the privileges and opportunities of his high calling, as enlarged by God, and permitted to dwell in the tents of Shem, — and for his unfaithfulness should be cast away, — there is hope for the world still. "Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem," is still, after all, the rallying watchword by which faith is quickened, and expectation stirred. For "salvation is of the Jews"; and it is concerning the seed of Shem that the animating question is put, — "If their fall be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness?" (Romans 11:12). The Lord, whose name is blessed, is still the God of Shem: Israel is still "beloved for the fathers' sake."(4) Finally, the division of languages, though an obstacle to schemes of human ambition, will not be suffered to be an obstacle to the triumph of the cause of God. Of this, God Himself gave a proof and pledge, in the miracle wrought on the day of Pentecost, — the counterpart of the miracle at Babel. The separation of nations will not hinder the unity of the faith.

(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

I. LET US INQUIRE WHO WERE DISPERSED OVER THE FACE OF THE EARTH AT THE DESTRUCTION OF BABEL. Who were those that lived on the plains of Shinar, built the tower of Babel, and were scattered over all the earth? It is evident they could not be the whole of mankind; for they had before been sent to the various places of their Divine destination. Some had gone to one quarter of the world, and some to another. Who, then, could the builders of Babel be that, after the general dispersion of mankind, were scattered over the earth? The Scripture history will inform us upon this subject. They were the sons of Ham; for the sacred historian tells us, "The sons of Ham were Cush, and Misraim, and Phut, and Canaan. And the sons of Cush: Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtecha; and the sons of Raamab, Sheba and Dedan. And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: whereof it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel." But how came Nimrod the son of Ham, and his posterity, at Babylon, where Babel was built? This portion of the earth was allotted to Shem; and Nimrod with all the posterity of Ham was appointed to go to Africa. What right, then, had Nimrod, or any of the sons of Ham, to take possession of the plains of Babylon? Undoubtedly they had no right at all. But this is the Scripture account of the event. "And every region was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass in the journeying of the people from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar." The people, then, who journeyed from the east were not all the people of the earth, but only the posterity of Ham, and especially Nimrod and his posterity. This is a very rational account. But it is absurd to suppose that the posterity of Noah, who consisted of a hundred and twenty or a hundred and thirty thousand, should all move in a body from the rich and fertile country around Mount Ararat, where they first settled after the flood, without any Divine direction or natural necessity. Hence it is natural to conclude that the people who journeyed from the east to the plain of Shinar were Nimrod and his posterity. Especially when we reflect it is expressly said that "the beginning of Nimrod's kingdom was Babel." But how came Nimrod to pitch upon the plain of Shinar after the general dispersion of mankind, and after he was directed to go to Africa, a country far distant from Babylon? To this I would answer, There seems to be no account given of his conduct but the following. When the posterity of Shem and Japheth obeyed the Divine direction to separate and go to the places allotted them, the posterity of Ham, or at least Nimrod and his descendants, refused to obey the Divine command. In open defiance to God they moved from the east and came to the pleasant land of Babylon, and there by force of arms took the plain of Shinar out of the hands of the children of Shem. They determined not to disperse, as God had required, and as the other branches of Noah's family had done. This shows that they built Babel in rebellion against God, and that God had just cause to come down and defeat their impious design by confounding their language.


1. That their dispersion was productive of war. They waged the first war after the flood in taking possession of Babylon. And after they were driven from thence they maintained their rebellious and warlike spirit. Their course was everywhere marked with violence and cruelty.

2. This knowing and powerful people carried the arts and sciences with them wherever they went. In these they excelled all other people. And notwithstanding their tyranny and cruelty, they did much to spread light and knowledge among the inhabitants of the earth. Of this they have left astonishing monuments in almost all parts of the world.

3. That this learned and ingenious people were gross idolaters, and spread idolatry through all nations whom they subdued and among whom they lived. They were the most corrupt and wicked part of Noah's family.IMPROVEMENT.

1. This subject gives us reason to think that true religion prevailed and flourished for many years after the flood. Everything was suited to produce this happy effect. Neither Noah nor his family could ever forget the solemn, instructive, and affecting scenes through which they had passed, nor erase from their minds the deep impressions those scenes had made upon them. They would naturally relate to their children what they had seen, and heard, and felt during the awful period of the flood, and they again would relate the same things from one generation to another.

2. We learn from the Scripture history of mankind which we have been considering, that infidelity has been the principal source of the wars and fightings that have deluged the world in blood.

3. It appears from what has been said that all false religion is only a corruption of the true.

4. It appears from what has been said how much easier it is to spread any false religion in the world than the true religion.

5. It is a strong evidence in favour of the religion contained in the Bible that it has been so long preserved in the world, notwithstanding all mankind could do to destroy it.

6. We learn from what has been said, the deplorable state in which mankind in general have been involved for ages and are still involved. It is indeed a dark mystery that God has suffered them so long to walk in their own way without using such effectual means to enlighten and save them as He always has had power to use. But we have good reason to believe that He will yet bring light out of their darkness, holiness out of their blindness, and happiness out of their misery.

7. This subject shows the great reason that Christians have to expect, desire, and pray for a better state of things in the world.

(N. Emmons, D. D.)

1. God's execution of vengeance falleth soon after His resolution.

2. Jehovah will be the executioner of His own sentence on the wicked.

3. It is God's work to set confederates against each other who conspire against Him.

4. The place of sin may sometimes prove the place of vengeance.

5. Sinners' consultations to strengthen themselves in one place may end in a universal dispersion.

6. The earth is overspread with sinners against God by His judgment taken on them.

7. The strongest councils of sin will be frustrated by God.

8. High resolutions of sinners fall short of all their ends (ver. 8).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

Good architecture is the work of good and believing men.

(J. Ruskin.)

This brings before us a hint of the unknown resources of God, in the matter of punishing those who disobey His will. Who could have thought of this method of scattering the builders of the city? God does not send a fire upon the builders; no terrible plague poisons the air; yet in an instant each workman is at a loss to understand the other, and each considers all the rest as but raving maniacs! Imagine the bewildering and painful scene! Men who have been working by each other's side days and weeks are instantly conscious of inability to understand one another's speech! New sounds, new accents, new words, but not a ray of intelligence in all! "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God." God has innumerable ways of showing His displeasure at human folly and human crime. A man may be pursuing a course of prosperity in which he is ignoring all that is moral and Divine, and men may be regarding him as the very model of success; yet, in an instant, Almighty God may blow upon his brain, and the man may sit down in a defeat which can never be reversed. God is not confined to one method of punishment. He touches a man's bones, and they melt; He breathes upon a man's brain, and henceforth he is not able to think. He comes in at night time and shakes the foundations of man's most trusted towers, and in the morning there is nought but a heap of ruins. He disorganizes men's memories, and in an instant they confuse all the recollections of their lifetime. He touches man's tongue, and the fluent speaker becomes a stammerer. He breaks the staff in twain, and he who was thus relying upon it is thrown down in utter helplessness. We know but little of what God means when He says "Heaven"; that word gives us but a dim hint of the infinite light and blessedness and triumph which are in reserve for the good. We have but a poor conception of what God means when He says "Hell"; that word is but a flickering spark compared with the infinite distress, and endless ruin and torment, which must befall every man who defies his Maker.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Speaking of this confusion of language, may I not be permitted to inquire whether even in our own English tongue there is not today very serious confusion? Do men really mean words to be accepted in their plain common sense? Does not the acute man often tell his untrained client what he intends to do in language which has double meanings? Do we not sometimes utter the words that have one meaning to the world and another meaning to our own hearts? Yea does not always mean yea, nor does nay always mean nay; men sign papers with mental reservations; men utter words in their common meaning, and to themselves they interpret these words with secret significations. The same words do not mean the same thing under all circumstances and as spoken by different speakers. When a poor man says "rich," he means one thing; when a millionaire says "rich," he means something very different. Let us consider that there is morality even in the use of language. Let no man consider himself at liberty to trifle with the meaning of words. Language is the medium of intercourse between man and man, and on the interpretation of words great results depend. It behoves us, therefore, who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, so to speak as to leave ourselves without the painful reflection of having taken refuge in ambiguous expressions for the sake of saving ourselves from unpleasant results. It will be a sign that God is really with us as a nation, when a pure language is restored unto us — when man can trust the word of man, and depend with entire confidence upon the honour of his neighbour.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Old Testament Anecdotes.
The late Bishop Selwyn devoted a great part of his time to visiting the Melanesian Isles, and he thus writes home about the difficulty of languages: "Nothing but a special interposition of the Divine power could have produced such a confusion of tongues as we find here. In islands not larger than the Isle of Wight we find dialects so distinct that the inhabitants of the various districts hold no communication one with another."

(Old Testament Anecdotes.)

Old Testament Anecdotes.
The late Mr. Alexander, the eminent architect, was under cross examination at Maidstone by Serjeant, afterwards Baron, Garrow, who wished to detract from the weight of his testimony, and, after asking him what was his name, he proceeded: "You are a builder?" "No, sir, I am an architect." "They are much the same." "I beg your pardon, sir; I cannot admit that. I consider them to be totally different." "Oh, indeed l Perhaps you will state wherein the difference consists?" "An architect, sir, conceives the design, prepares the plan, draws out the specifications — in short, supplies the mind; the builder is merely the bricklayer or the carpenter. The builder is the machine; the architect the power that puts it together and sets it going." "Oh, very well, Mr. Architect, that will do. And now, after your very ingenious distinction without a difference, perhaps you can inform the court who was the architect of the Tower of Babel?" The reply, for promptness and wit, is not to be rivalled in the history of rejoinder: — "There was no architect, sir, and hence the confusion."

(Old Testament Anecdotes.)

Abram, Arphaxad, Eber, Haran, Iscah, Lot, Milcah, Nahor, Peleg, Reu, Salah, Sarai, Serug, Shelah, Shem, Terah
Babel, Canaan, Haran, Mesha, Shinar, Ur
Abroad, Babel, Ba'bel, Confound, Confounded, Confused, Face, Language, Languages, Mingled, Named, Pronunciation, Scatter, Scattered, Sense, Surface, Thence
1. One language in the world.
2. The building of Babel.
5. It is interrupted by the confusion of tongues, and the builders dispersed.
10. The generations of Shem.
27. The generations of Terah, the father of Abram.
31. Terah, with Abram and Lot, move from Ur to Haran.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Genesis 11:1-9

     5004   human race, and sin

Genesis 11:3-9

     5849   exaltation

Genesis 11:4-9

     6125   condemnation, divine

Genesis 11:5-9

     4029   world, human beings in

Genesis 11:7-9

     5815   confusion

Genesis 11:8-9

     5044   names, giving of
     7212   exile

The Church.
FROM THE PREFACE TO THE "HOLY CITY." UPON a certain First-day, I being together with my brethren in our prison-chamber, they expected that, according to our custom, something should be spoken out of the word for our mutual edification; but at that time I felt myself--it being my turn to speak--so empty, spiritless, and barren, that I thought I should not have been able to speak among them so much as five words of truth, with life and evidence: but at last it so fell out that providentially I cast
John Bunyan—The Riches of Bunyan

Meditations to Stir us up to Morning Prayer.
1. If, when thou art about to pray, Satan shall suggest that thy prayers are too long, and that therefore it were better either to omit prayers, or else to cut them shorter, meditate that prayer is thy spiritual sacrifice, wherewith God is well pleased (Heb. xiii. 15, 16;) and therefore it is so displeasing to the devil, and so irksome to the flesh. Bend therefore thy affections (will they, nill they) to so holy an exercise; assuring thyself, that it doth by so much the more please God, by how much
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

He Does Battle for the Faith; He Restores Peace among those who were at Variance; He Takes in Hand to Build a Stone Church.
57. (32). There was a certain clerk in Lismore whose life, as it is said, was good, but his faith not so. He was a man of some knowledge in his own eyes, and dared to say that in the Eucharist there is only a sacrament and not the fact[718] of the sacrament, that is, mere sanctification and not the truth of the Body. On this subject he was often addressed by Malachy in secret, but in vain; and finally he was called before a public assembly, the laity however being excluded, in order that if it were
H. J. Lawlor—St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of Armagh

The First Chaldaean Empire and the Hyksos in Egypt
Syria: the part played by it in the ancient world--Babylon and the first Chaldaean empire--The dominion of the Hyksos: Ahmosis. Some countries seem destined from their origin to become the battle-fields of the contending nations which environ them. Into such regions, and to their cost, neighbouring peoples come from century to century to settle their quarrels and bring to an issue the questions of supremacy which disturb their little corner of the world. The nations around are eager for the possession
G. Maspero—History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 4

The Promise to the Patriarchs.
A great epoch is, in Genesis, ushered in with the history of the time of the Patriarchs. Luther says: "This is the third period in which Holy Scripture begins the history of the Church with a new family." In a befitting manner, the representation is opened in Gen. xii. 1-3 by an account of the first revelation of God, given to Abraham at Haran, in which the way is opened up for all that follows, and in which the dispensations of God are brought before us in a rapid survey. Abraham is to forsake
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament

The Book of the First Generations of Man, and the Glory of the Cainites.
I. THE BOOK OF THE FIRST GENERATIONS OF MAN, AND THE GLORY OF THE CAINITES. A. THE BOOK OF THE FIRST GENERATIONS OF MAN. 1. The reasons why Moses records the generations of Adam 1. 2. Why he so particularly gives the years, and in the case of each patriarch adds "and he died" 1-2. 3. Why Enoch is placed in the records of the dead 3-4. * Was Enoch a sinner, and do sinners have hope of eternal life 4. * Of death. a. How we are to comfort ourselves against death 5. b. How reason views death, and how
Martin Luther—Commentary on Genesis, Vol. II

Appendix xii. The Baptism of Proselytes
ONLY those who have made study of it can have any idea how large, and sometimes bewildering, is the literature on the subject of Jewish Proselytes and their Baptism. Our present remarks will be confined to the Baptism of Proselytes. 1. Generally, as regards proselytes (Gerim) we have to distinguish between the Ger ha-Shaar (proselyte of the gate) and Ger Toshabh (sojourner,' settled among Israel), and again the Ger hatstsedeq (proselyte of righteousness) and Ger habberith (proselyte of the covenant).
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

Cain Murders his Brother; Called to Account.
IV. CAIN MURDERS HIS BROTHER; CALLED TO ACCOUNT. A. HOW CAIN MURDERED HIS BROTHER. 1. What moved Cain to commit murder 107. 2. Cain's hypocritical actions in concealing his anger that he might the more easily commit the murder 108-109. * Cain the picture of all hypocrites 110-129. * The attitude of hypocrites to their neighbors. Also, how we are to view the efforts of the pope and bishops in behalf of peace and unity 111-112. * Against what people we should most guard 112. 3. How Cain listened to
Martin Luther—Commentary on Genesis, Vol. II

An Exposition on the First Ten Chapters of Genesis, and Part of the Eleventh
An unfinished commentary on the Bible, found among the author's papers after his death, in his own handwriting; and published in 1691, by Charles Doe, in a folio volume of the works of John Bunyan. ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR Being in company with an enlightened society of Protestant dissenters of the Baptist denomination, I observed to a doctor of divinity, who was advancing towards his seventieth year, that my time had been delightfully engaged with John Bunyan's commentary on Genesis. "What,"
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

The Old Testament opens very impressively. In measured and dignified language it introduces the story of Israel's origin and settlement upon the land of Canaan (Gen.--Josh.) by the story of creation, i.-ii. 4a, and thus suggests, at the very beginning, the far-reaching purpose and the world-wide significance of the people and religion of Israel. The narrative has not travelled far till it becomes apparent that its dominant interests are to be religious and moral; for, after a pictorial sketch of
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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