Genesis 11


וַיְהִי כָל הָאָרֶץ, שָׂפָה אֶחָת, וּדְבָרִים, אֲחָדִים  11:1

Gene. 11:1      And the whole earth was of one language but of a few speeches.

This verse seems to indicate that, while the people of the earth, all descendants of Noah, spoke one language, they had developed different dialects.  The presumption is that they were able to understand one another.  This is a prelude to the Babel narrative.  But why were we told in Gene. 10:5, 10:20, and 10:31 that the families of Japheth, Shem, and Ham were listed “according to their tongues”?  Doesn’t this imply that they were not all of one language?   Could we have a different scribe here who wrote this chapter independently?  Or was the scribe relating again to a condition in his time?  Most likely in my belief, is that the references in Chapter 10 to “according to their tongues” were intended by the scribe to mean their future tongues in his time.

וַיְהִי, בְּנָסְעָם מִקֶּדֶם וַיִּמְצְאוּ בִקְעָה בְּאֶרֶץ שִׁנְעָר, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם  11:2

Gene. 11:2      And on their journeying from the east, it was that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelled there.

Shinar is the ancient name of Babylonia or Chaldea.

וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל רֵעֵהוּ, הָבָה נִלְבְּנָה לְבֵנִים, וְנִשְׂרְפָה, לִשְׂרֵפָה וַתְּהִי לָהֶם הַלְּבֵנָה, לְאָבֶן 11:3

וְהַחֵמָר, הָיָה לָהֶם לַחֹמֶר

Gene. 11:3      And they said each to his neighbor, “Come let us try to build bricks that we burn thoroughly,” so they had brick for stone, and they had mud for mortar.

וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָבָה נִבְנֶהלָּנוּ עִיר, וּמִגְדָּל וְרֹאשׁוֹ בַשָּׁמַיִם, וְנַעֲשֶׂה לָּנוּ, שֵׁם פֶּן נָפוּץ, עַלפְּנֵי כָל הָאָרֶץ  11:4

Gene. 11:4      And they said, “Come let us try to build us a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, so that we can make a name for ourselves, lest we would be scattered over the surface of the entire earth.”

וַיֵּרֶד יְהוָה, לִרְאֹת אֶת הָעִיר וְאֶת הַמִּגְדָּל, אֲשֶׁר בָּנוּ, בְּנֵי הָאָדָם  11:5

Gene. 11:5      And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of humanity had built.

Did the Lord have to come down to see the city?  In light of what I have said about what I believe, I see it as not likely.  But in v. 7 below, the Lord then apparently calls on His angels also to go down.

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, הֵן עַם אֶחָד וְשָׂפָה אַחַת לְכֻלָּם, וְזֶה, הַחִלָּם לַעֲשׂוֹת וְעַתָּה לֹאיִבָּצֵר מֵהֶם, כֹּל  11:6

אֲשֶׁר יָזְמוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת

Gene. 11:6      And the Lord said, “Behold, one people and one language for all of them, and this they begin to do, and now all that they will think to do will not be withheld from them.”

Once more the scribe sees the Lord being concerned over the hubris and unbridled ambition of humanity.  The first time was in the garden of Eden (Gene. 3:22).  What are the implications of this verse for us today?  Can we be considered to be building the equivalent of the tower of Babel?  Perhaps many towers?  Of course, today we have many languages, not only those of different nations, but also of different human pursuits.  The scientific world, all by itself, has an enormous number of specializations, each with its own language and dialect.  So maybe this doesn’t really apply to us.  Let’s hope so.  Otherwise, we’re in for trouble.

הָבָה, נֵרְדָה, וְנָבְלָה שָׁם, שְׂפָתָם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ, אִישׁ שְׂפַת רֵעֵהוּ  11:7

Gene. 11:7      “Come, let us go down that we confound their language there that they cannot understand each the speech of his neighbor.”

In this verse is another instance of God speaking in the plural as in Gene. 1:26.  Is He speaking to the angels again?   Maybe not, because in this case, the first word, “come,” is in the singular.  On the other hand, God could be speaking to one angel.  For if He were speaking to Himself, why would He use the word come at all?

וַיָּפֶץ יְהוָה אֹתָם מִשָּׁם, עַל פְּנֵי כָל הָאָרֶץ וַיַּחְדְּלוּ, לִבְנֹת הָעִיר  11:8

Gene. 11:8      And the Lord scattered them from there over the surface of all the earth, and they stopped building the city.

עַל כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמָהּ, בָּבֶל, כִּישָׁם בָּלַל יְהוָה, שְׂפַת כָּל הָאָרֶץ וּמִשָּׁם הֱפִיצָם יְהוָה, עַלפְּנֵי כָּל הָאָרֶץ  11:9

Gene. 11:9      Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confounded the language of all the earth, and from there the Lord scattered them over the surface of all the earth.

The name בָּבֶל, Babel, can mean confused, mixed, or confusion.

אֵלֶּה, תּוֹלְדֹת שֵׁםשֵׁם בֶּןמְאַת שָׁנָה, וַיּוֹלֶד אֶת אַרְפַּכְשָׁד שְׁנָתַיִם, אַחַר הַמַּבּוּל  11:10

Gene. 11:10    These are the generations of Shem.  Shem was a hundred years of age when he begot Arpachshad two years after the flood.

This is another example of an abrupt tangent in the narrative.                          [Return to Gene. 25:12]

וַיְחִישֵׁם, אַחֲרֵי הוֹלִידוֹ אֶת אַרְפַּכְשָׁד, חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת, שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד בָּנִים, וּבָנוֹת  11:11

Gene. 11:11    And Shem lived four hundred and three years after his begetting Arpachshad, and he begot sons and daughters.

In Gene. 6:3 God limited the life span of humans to one hundred and twenty years.  But Noah and his sons and his grandsons all lived well beyond that time period.  Did God temporarily abandon His limitation so that the world could be more quickly repopulated after the flood?  Shouldn’t He have foreseen this need when He proclaimed the limitation and delayed it until after the flood?   What was God’s “intention” for limiting human life spans when He did?  We can never know what is in the “mind” of God.  We can only guess.  But there is no time given by God in Gene. 6:3 for the start of the limitation.  So my guess is that God had no intention of imposing that limitation until later.  At some point in the narrative we shall see when that happens.

וְאַרְפַּכְשַׁד חַי, חָמֵשׁ וּשְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד, אֶת שָׁלַח  11:12

Gene. 11:12    And Arpachshad lived thirty-five years when he begot Salach.

וַיְחִי אַרְפַּכְשַׁד, אַחֲרֵי הוֹלִידוֹ אֶת שֶׁלַח, שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים, וְאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד בָּנִים, וּבָנוֹת  11:13

11:13    And Arpachshad lived four hundred and three years after his begetting Salach and begot sons and daughters.

וְשֶׁלַח חַי, שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד, אֶת עֵבֶר  11:14

Gene. 11:14    And Salach lived thirty years when he begot Eber.                      [Return to Gene. 14:13]

וַיְחִישֶׁלַח, אַחֲרֵי הוֹלִידוֹ אֶת עֵבֶר, שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים, וְאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד בָּנִים, וּבָנוֹת  11:15

Gene. 11:15    And after his begetting Eber, Salach lived four hundred and three years and begot sons and daughters.

וַיְחִי עֵבֶר, אַרְבַּע וּשְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד, אֶת פָּלֶג  11:16

Gene. 11:16    And Eber lived thirty-four years when he begot Peleg.

וַיְחִי עֵבֶר, אַחֲרֵי הוֹלִידוֹ אֶת פֶּלֶג, שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה, וְאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד בָּנִים, וּבָנוֹת  11:17

Gene. 11:17    And after his begetting Peleg, Eber lived four hundred and thirty years and begot sons and daughters.

וַיְחִי פֶלֶג, שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד, אֶת רְעוּ  11:18

Gene. 11:18    And Peleg lived thirty years when he begot Reu.

וַיְחִי פֶלֶג, אַחֲרֵי הוֹלִידוֹ אֶת רְעוּ, תֵּשַׁע שָׁנִים, וּמָאתַיִם שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד בָּנִים, וּבָנוֹת  11:19

11:19    And after his begetting Reu, Peleg lived two hundred and nine years and begot sons and daughters.

וַיְחִי רְעוּ, שְׁתַּיִם וּשְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד, אֶת שְׂרוּג  11:20

Gene. 11:20    And Reu lived thirty-two years when he begot Serug.

וַיְחִי רְעוּ, אַחֲרֵי הוֹלִידוֹ אֶת שְׂרוּג, שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים, וּמָאתַיִם שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד בָּנִים, וּבָנוֹת  11:21

Gene. 11:21    And after his begetting Serug, Reu lived two hundred and seven years and begot sons and daughters.

וַיְחִי שְׂרוּג, שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד, אֶת נָחוֹר  11:22

Gene. 11:22    And Serug lived thirty years when he begot Nahor.

וַיְחִי שְׂרוּג, אַחֲרֵי הוֹלִידוֹ אֶת נָחוֹר מָאתַיִם שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד בָּנִים, וּבָנוֹת  11:23

Gene. 11:23    And after his begetting Nahor, Serug lived two hundred years and begot sons and daughters.

וַיְחִי נָחוֹר, תֵּשַׁע וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד, אֶת תָּרַח  11:24

Gene. 11:24    And Nahor lived twenty-nine years when he begot Terach.

וַיְחִי נָחוֹר, אַחֲרֵי הוֹלִידוֹ אֶת תֶּרַח, תְּשַׁע עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה, וּמְאַת שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד בָּנִים, וּבָנוֹת  11:25

Gene. 11:25    And after his begetting Terach, Nahor lived a hundred and nineteen years and begot sons and daughters.

וַיְחִי תֶרַח, שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד, אֶת אַבְרָם, אֶת נָחוֹר, וְאֶת הָרָן  11:26

Gene. 11:26    And Terach lived seventy years when he begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

Now we can see the purpose of the preceding genealogy.  It is to record the period of time from Noah to Abram, the father of Judaism, and to identify his brothers and nephew, Lot.  Abram was born 302 years after the flood.  The number of years that his ancestors lived seems to have been decreasing.  The early ancestors lived over 400 years, but the later ones lived about 200 years.  The age at which the first son was born appears to have been decreasing also, but not monotonically.  While some of his ancestors had their first son at about 30 years of age, Terach was seventy when his first son was born.                 [Return to Gene. 12:4]            [Return to Numb. 29:34]

וְאֵלֶּה, תּוֹלְדֹת תֶּרַח תֶּרַח הוֹלִיד אֶת אַבְרָם, אֶת נָחוֹר וְאֶת הָרָן וְהָרָן, הוֹלִיד אֶת לוֹט  11:27

Gene. 11:27   And these are the generations of Terach.  Terach begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and Haran begot Lot.

Although it may cause some undue concern or detract too much from the narrative, I believe it is necessary for me to remark at this point that I suspect that Abram, Isaac, and Jacob -- all likely real people --  are prototypical of Judaism.  Abram may represent early Judaism from the slavery in Egypt until the destruction of the temples.  As we proceed, I will explain why I believe this.

וַיָּמָת הָרָן, עַל פְּנֵי תֶּרַח אָבִיו, בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹלַדְתּוֹ, בְּאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים  11:28

Gene. 11:28    And Haran died before the face of Terach, his father, in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldees.

וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָם וְנָחוֹר לָהֶם, נָשִׁים שֵׁם אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם, שָׂרָי, וְשֵׁם אֵשֶׁת נָחוֹר מִלְכָּה, בַּת הָרָן  11:29

אֲבִי מִלְכָּה וַאֲבִי יִסְכָּה

Gene. 11:29    And Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves.  The name of the wife of Abram was Sarai and the name of the wife of Nahor was Milcah, daughter of Haran, father of Milcah and father of Iscah.

So Nahor married his niece, and we learn here that Haran had (at least) three children before he died.  Interestingly, we are not informed of Sarai’s origins at this time.  Later, in Gene. 20:12, we are told that Abram and Sarai were half-siblings.  Abram’s name means exalted father and Sarai’s name means princess

וַתְּהִי שָׂרַי, עֲקָרָה אֵין לָהּ, וָלָד  11:30

Gene. 11:30    And Sarai was barren.  There was no child for her.

וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ, וְאֶת לוֹט בֶּן הָרָן בֶּן בְּנוֹ, וְאֵת שָׂרַי כַּלָּתוֹ, אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם  11:31

מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים, לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן, וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד חָרָן, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם

Gene. 11:31    And Terach took Abram, his son, and Lot, Haran’s son, the son of his son, and Sarai, his daughter-in-law, the wife of Abram, his son, and they left with him from Ur of the Chaldees to go to the country of Canaan, and they came into Charan and dwelled there.

Charan was not in Canaan.  They didn’t go that far, apparently.

וַיִּהְיוּ יְמֵיתֶרַח, חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וּמָאתַיִם שָׁנָה וַיָּמָת תֶּרַח, בְּחָרָן  11:32

Gene. 11:32    And the time of Terach was two hundred and five years, and Terach died in Charan.

                                                                                                            [Return to Gene. 12:4]


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