From Shem to Abram 

            In the midst of the 11th Chapter of Genesis a radical change in emphasis takes place.  Up till the middle of the 11th chapter the scriptures had presented God's dealings with the whole of humanity.  Now the focus changes from a broad overview of God's dealings with all of humanity to a very narrow look at God's dealings with a single man and his family.  We are carried from the forest to an individual tree.  The majority of the rest of the Old Testament scriptures present God's dealings with Abram and a portion of his descendents. 

            There are a number of interesting things we find in this portion of the 11th chapter:

                        1.  Shem was a son of Adam and lived for 502 years after the flood.  He was approximately 100 years old when he went on the ark with his parents and brothers and their wives. 

                        2.  Generally, the length of life of each successive generation was shorter than the length of life of their father.

                        3.  Shem actually died after Abraham died.

                        4.  Eber was the great grandson of Shem.  He apparently became the titular head of the family at one time as his name became representative of the descendants.  The word, Eber, was later called "Hebrew."  Abram and his descendants were known as Hebrews.

                        5.  We also note that the geneology included Abram, and Sarai, and Lot, and Milcah, all of whom would become prominent in the testimony of the scriptures later on. 

                        6.  We are also told that Sarai was barren.  This too is significant and foreshadowed the great power and mercy of God that would be manifest toward Abram and Sarai at a later date. 


Babel 

            Gen. 11:1 "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. 3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. 4 And they said, Go to, let 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.

            5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."

            "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech."  Truly, by the grace of God, it was a blessing to the people of that time that all the peoples could communicate freely with one another about the goodness and mercy of God and could work together for good.  However, with such providential blessings also comes responsibility.  This blessing was later taken away from the people because of their rebellion against the commandments of God.

            "And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there."  The fact, that the whole mass of humanity had come to dwell in the plain in the land of Shinar was against the commandment of God which he gave to man when Noah and his family came off the ark: Gen. 9:1 "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth."  Instead of going forth by the commandment of God, the people had rebelled so as to associate together in one small location on the globe.  In chapter 10, we see that this rebellion was being led by two men, Nimrod and Asshur.  Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the Lord and he and Asshur were kingdom builders.  They desired to be in control of the population of the world and be recognized as some great ones.  Such kingdom builders believe themselves to be superior to others and even to be superior in knowledge and wisdom than God. 

            "And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar."  Notice that the people were in agreement with the building project as "they said one to another."  Now it could be argued that the people were in ignorance of the commandment of God.  However, this would not have been the case as Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth were still alive at this time.  They had heard the commandment of God and no doubt taught it to their children and grandchildren.  Yet, it is so easy for fallen men to fall prey to the seducing of schemers such as Nimrod and Asshur.  Even before the fall, Eve had fallen victim to the serpent who told her lies contrary to what God had said. 

            "And they said, Go to, let 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."  Here, the scheme is revealed.  The desire was that men would devise their own government and be under the dominion and government of men rather than under the dominion and government of God.  Notice, that they did not want to be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.  This is in direct rebellion against the commandment of God that they go forth and replenish the earth.  Moreover, they wanting a city of government by which they could devise their own rules and laws and do as they pleased and not be under the rules and laws of God.  Further, they wanted a tower by which they could appoint people to watch over the activities of men and control their actions according to their designs and man-made laws.   

            "And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do."  One of the erroneous views that man has of God is that he is aloof to the activities of man.  They think that God is far off and not involved in the affairs of man.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God knows our thoughts afar off and the hairs of our head are all numbered.  He sees the wicked and the good on earth and he intervenes as it pleases him in the affairs of man.  God saw the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.  He knows all things and he knows what is in the heart and designs of man.  Further, God will have his way, even though man frequently rebels against him. 

            It is of God's mercies that he looks over the affairs of man and sometimes intervenes providentially in those affairs.  If these rebellions had been left unchecked, then man would have continued with their rebellion and increased more and more without restraint.  One of the charges against the people before the flood is that "every imagination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually."  Man can imagine much wickedness in their pursuit of their lust for power and dominion. 

            "Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech."  There are a vast number of languages in the world today.  They can be traced back to the days of the building of the tower of Babel.  While all the languages have common threads, yet they are distinctly different.  The power of God manifest in confounding the languages of the people is amazing indeed.  This action has been a great deterrent to the designs of scheming men who would build their kingdoms into a world-wide empire.  The confusion of languages is the greatest single deterrent to a world-wide government.  It doesn't stop men from trying, but it sure makes it manifold more difficult to accomplish.  This, too, is by the mercy and grace of God.  We are much better off being governed by God than being controlled by the designs of scheming men. 

            "So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city."  The net effect of confounding the languages of the people is that God accomplished what he had commanded the people to do.  They were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth.  Thus, they were now fulfilling the commandment of God to go forth and replenish the earth.  Further, the designs of scheming men such as Nimrod and Asshur were thwarted for the time being.  Their descendents would continue in their efforts at kingdom building which is readily apparent in the pages of the scriptures.  "Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."