Genesis 11:1-9 The Tower of Babel


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Uniform lesson study for week of September 29.

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Genesis 11:1-9 The Tower of Babel

  1. 1. Genesis 11:1-9 The Tower of Babel
  2. 2. Call to Worship (Psalm 91) Those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. They will say of the Lord, “God is my refuge and fortress, the one in whom we trust.” Those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the refuge of God’s wings. They will not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day. “Those who love me, I will deliver,” says the Lord. O Lord, we call to you now. Show us your salvation.
  3. 3. Invocation (Jeremiah 32, Psalm 91) God our Redeemer, you promise deliverance to those who love you. Draw unto us as we draw unto you in worship. Open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, our minds to comprehend, and our spirits to encounter the revelation you have for us this day. Transform us with the truth of your love and grace, in the name of the one who loved us and gave his life for us. Amen.
  4. 4. Context After Noah and his family came out of the ark, they sought to follow God’s directions (Genesis 8, 9). Chapter 10 is sometimes called “The Table of Nations,” listing where the families of Noah’s sons settled after the flood.
  5. 5. Context The lesson reviews how God Scatters the Nations when they rebelled against God. The study's aim is to understand how God dealt with people in the past. The study's application is to realize how He might deal with us today when we are disobedient.
  6. 6. Context Factors brought to bear on the race of man during the interval from Noah to Abraham were 1. the preaching of Noah, 2. the punishment of the unbelieving antediluvians, 3. the preservation of Noah and his family, 4. the distinction of clean and unclean animals, 5. the permission to partake of animal food, 6. the special prohibition of the shedding of man's blood, 7. the institution of civil government, and 8. the covenant with Noah and his seed that there should not be another deluge.
  7. 7. Context While the Word of God is very clear on the need to have unity, it may not be His purpose that the whole world be united under any one government or language for fear of what destruction man may bring upon himself. It is disconcerting to consider how flight, the internet and the global economy are reaping just such fruits on mankind despite their best intents.
  8. 8. Context In the verses immediately preceding our text, we discover that God purposed for the descendants of Noah to gather in natural communities, families, and nations. Sadly, the people did not respond to the blessing of God with thanksgiving and obedience. Instead, they struck out on their own with ideas that became destructive.
  9. 9. Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.
  10. 10. Genesis 11:1 Basil Atkinson points out that the Hebrew word translated language means literally lip and that speech means literally words. Various dialects and speech patterns had not kept the people from understanding one another up until this point.
  11. 11. Genesis 11:1 The new developments of sin during this period are chiefly: 1. drunkenness, 2. dishonoring of a parent and 3. the ambitious attempt to be independent of God's power and to thwart his purpose of peopling the land. These forms of human selfishness would find God’s address later in the 10 Commandments.
  12. 12. Genesis 11:1 Insubordination to the supreme authority of God is accompanied with disrespect to parental authority. Drunkenness itself is an abuse of the free grant of the fruit of the trees and plants originally made for man.
  13. 13. Genesis 11:2 And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
  14. 14. Genesis 11:2 Noah’s descendants were evidently nomadic people. They moved south and east to the land of Shinar. At some point, they determined to build a city in the region around the area later known as Babylon. Some students believe that Shinar is near where the Garden of Eden was located, since the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers both ran through that region.
  15. 15. Genesis 11:2 This plain was very large, fruitful, and delightful, and therefore judged a fit place for a settlement, where they might have room enough, and which promised them a sufficient sustenance, quickly beginning to build a city and tower.
  16. 16. Genesis 11:2 Lesson: Unity can be unhealthy if it is without a worthy goal (Gen. 11:1-2; Ps. 2:1-4; Rev. 17:12-13) Psalm 2:1-3 (NLT) 1 Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? 2 The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. 3 “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”
  17. 17. Genesis 11:2 Reflection: Our global economy has the power to elevate the condition of many poor peoples but only if the markets can control their greed and have concern for those affected. The internet has the potential to provide information and education to untold masses but over half of its capacity is spent on pornography.
  18. 18. Genesis 11:3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
  19. 19. Genesis 11:3 James E. Smith explains, “The motives of the tower builders are not entirely clear. . . . Maybe they hoped that the tower would provide protection from another Flood or from enemies who might attempt to scatter them..” C. F. Keil suggests, “The real motive therefore was the desire for renown, and the object was to establish a noted central point, which might serve to maintain their unity.”
  20. 20. Genesis 11:3 God warns against plans for building things that perish! (Ps 49:11-13) Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
  21. 21. Genesis 11:3 Lesson: It is bad enough to sin alone; it is even worse to encourage others to join you (Gen. 11:3-4) Reflection: Because God has made us social creatures, we seek the company if not the approval of those around us. When hidden sin goes unaddressed in our lives, it has the capacity to connect us to others who share that sin and even seek to corrupt those whose company we keep.
  22. 22. Genesis 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
  23. 23. Genesis 11:4 Here the people came together to strengthen themselves and in pride to make a reputation for themselves and be rulers over the face of the whole earth. This appears to be in direct opposition to God’s command to spread out and fill up the whole earth (9:1).
  24. 24. Genesis 11:4 The people determined to build a large tower, one that reaches to the heavens. The original purpose of the structure may have been for defensive security and political domination. The tower may have also had a religious and astrological significance. Some Bible teachers feel that this was a kind of temple tower, common later in the cities of Mesopotamia and known as a ziggurat. Such buildings were used for pagan worship.
  25. 25. Genesis 11:4 We must never forget that God sees our actions because the ways of man are before God's eyes (Prov. 5:21) For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths.
  26. 26. Genesis 11:5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built.
  27. 27. Genesis 11:5 Written Babylonian accounts of the building of the city of Babylon refer to its construction in heaven by the gods as a celestial city, as an expression of pride. These accounts say it was made by the same process of brick-making described in verse 3, with every brick inscribed with the name of the Babylonian god Marduk.
  28. 28. Genesis 11:5 E. F. Kevan points out the significance of Babel (Babylon) in Scripture. “Right through to the book of Revelation, Babylon represents the idea of materialistic and humanistic federation in opposition to God.” He adds, “The proud builders of the city had called it Babel (the gate or court of God), but God, took up their word and derisively gave it another meaning from a similar sounding root, also called it Babel (confusion).”
  29. 29. Genesis 11:5 Never lose sight that God is sovereign because He is still God of Heaven and earth (Deut. 4:39) Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.
  30. 30. Genesis 11:6 And the LORD said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.
  31. 31. Genesis 11:6 The people were not deceiving God by their plans. The Lord had carefully observed all that they were doing. He knew their hearts as well and concerning their potential for sin and said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then no thing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” The power of sin would continue to grow.
  32. 32. Genesis 11:6 Sin will rule a corrupt heart. Wrong desires lead to wrong action (James 1:15). No wonder Proverbs 4:23 teaches, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life” (NIV 1984). In the case of the tower of Babel, “God moved to deprive them of the ability to comprehend one another, and thus effected their dispersion” (Keil).
  33. 33. Genesis 11:6 Lesson: God knows the true intent of every man's heart, including yours (Gen. 11:6; I Kings 8:39) Reflection: We like to think that our motives are pure in this life but we need to ask if they are pure enough for the next life. All we do breaks down into serving this world or the next. Not all things here serve the next world but the next world serves all things here best.
  34. 34. Genesis 11:7 Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech.”
  35. 35. Genesis 11:7 God said, “Let us go down...” The “us” is most likely a reference to the Trinity. By confusing their language, the Lord caused the people to leave their construction project and scatter across the face of the earth. This brought the building of the tower to an abrupt halt. The place is now called Babel, “confusion,” to commemorate this judicial act of God.
  36. 36. Genesis 11:7 The truth is inescapable. Those who are with God gather, while those against Him scatter (Matt 12:30) "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.
  37. 37. Genesis 11:8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
  38. 38. Genesis 11:8 The sin of the Shinarites (people in the plain of Shinar) appears to be immense pride. They said, Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves. This was open rebellion against God, an independence of God.
  39. 39. Genesis 11:8 Ironically, instead of attaining significance and immortality they achieved alienation and dispersal. Expulsion was the earlier fate of Adam and Eve (3:23) and of Cain (4:12). This judgment was also an act of grace; in isolation the peoples were more likely to turn to God (12:3; Acts 17:26, 27).
  40. 40. Genesis 11:8 Lesson: The consequences of our sin can affect generations to come (Gen. 11:7-8) Reflection: The cycles of addiction, abuse and poverty are testimony to the legacy of our behaviors. Unaddressed, each generation multiplies the pain. Those who deal with these behaviors know how difficult it is to break these cycles and how quickly they spread. Sin still brings death in many forms.
  41. 41. Genesis 11:9 Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
  42. 42. Genesis 11:9 The children of men were now finally scattered, and never did, nor ever will, come all together again, till the great day, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and all nations shall be gathered before him. Matt. 25:31, 32.
  43. 43. Genesis 11:9 Lesson: In His mercy and grace, God often limits the extent of man's evil actions (vs. 9) Reflection: Every so often, we get a glimpse at what man can do to himself (The Holocaust, The Inquisition) even in the name of God. Our ability to sleep in peace at night depends on knowing that God limits the extent of man’s evil every day.
  44. 44. Conclusion What the people considered their greatest strength— unity—He swiftly destroyed by confusing their language (v. 7; v. 9). What they considered their greatest fear—scattering (v. 4)—came naturally on them (the Lord scattered them... over all the earth, v. 8; v. 9). What they desired most—to make a name for themselves (v. 4)—ironically came to pass, for they became known as “Babel.” Then they stopped building the city and were scattered abroad.
  45. 45. Conclusion Their desire to enhance their unity and strength had potential for the greatest evil, according to the Lord’s evaluation: If... they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. So what they would not do in obedience (scatter over the earth, v. 4) He did to them in judgment (v. 8).
  46. 46. Conclusion As the first revelation of God may have been due to Adam, the second may be ascribed in point of matter to Noah. The two joined together belong not to a special people but to the universal race. Perhaps if those revelations had ever appeared in a written form before Moses, they might have descended to the Gentiles as well as to the Israelites. But the lack of interest in and rejection of holy things evident in this text would account for their disappearance among the former.
  47. 47. Conclusion Significantly when the church began in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost many years later, people were there from every nation (Acts 2:5), and all of them could hear the message of salvation in their own language. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, the confusion of Babel was replaced by a single divinely-directed message preached by the apostles (Acts 2:1-11).
  48. 48. Benediction (1 Timothy 6) People of God, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight. Take hold of eternal life. To God, who dwells in unapproachable light, and to Jesus Christ, the blessed Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and to the Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.
  49. 49. Blessing (1 Timothy 6) People of God, do not set your hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on the richness of God, who provides us everything for our enjoyment. Be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share for in the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.