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And the whole earth. I.e. the entire population of the globe, and not simply the inhabitants of the land of Shinar (Ingiis; cf. Genesis 9:29). Was. Prior to the dispersion spoken of in the preceding chapter, though obviously it may have been subsequent to that event, if, as the above-named author believes, the present paragraph refers to the Shemites alone. Of one language. Literally, of one lip, i.e. one articulation, or one way of pronouncing their vocables. And of one speech. Literally, one (kind of) words, i.e. the matter as well as the form of human speech was the same. The primitive language was believed by the Rabbins, the Fathers, and the older theologians to be Hebrew; but Keil declares this view to be utterly untenable. Bleek shows that the family of Abraham spoke in Aramaic (cf. Jegar-sahadutha, Genesis 31:47), and that the patriarch himself acquired Hebrew from the Canaanites, who may themselves have adopted it from the early Semites whom they displace& While regarding neither the Aramaic, Hebrew, nor Arabic as the original tongue of mankind, he thinks the Hebrew approaches nearest the primitive Semite language out of which all three were developed.
And it came to pass, as they journeyed. Literally, in their journeyings. The root (גָקַע, to pull up, as, e.g; the stakes of a tent when a camp moves, Isaiah 33:20) suggests the idea of the migration of nomadic hordes (cf. Genesis 12:9; Genesis 33:17). From the east. Ab oriente (Ancient Versions, Calvin, et alii), meaning either that they started from Armenia, which was in the east respectu terrae Canaan (Luther), or from that portion of the Assyrian empire which was east of the Tigris, and called Orientalis, as distinguished from the Occidentalis on the west (Bochart); or that they first traveled westwards, following the direction of the Euphrates in one of its upper branches (Bush); or that, having roamed to the east of Shinar, they ultimately returned occidentem versus (Junius). The phrase, however, is admitted to be more correctly rendered ad orientem (Drusius, Lange, Keil, Murphy), as in Genesis 13:11. Kalisch interprets generally in oriente, agreeing with Luther that the migrations are viewed by the writer as taking place in the east; while T. Lewis prefers to read from one front part (the original meaning of kedem) to another—onwards. That they found a plain בִּקְעָה; not a valley between mountain ranges, as in Deuteronomy 8:7; Deuteronomy 11:11; Psalms 104:8, but a widely-extended plain (πεδιìον, LXX.), like that in which Babylon was situated (Herod; lib. 1:178, κεìεται ἐν πεδιῳ μεγαìλῳ; cf. Strabo, lib. 2.109). In the land of Shinar. Babylonia (cf. Genesis 10:10). The derivation of the term is unknown (Gesenius), though it probably meant the land of the two rivers (Alford). Its absence from ancient monuments (Rawlinson) suggests that it was the Jewish name for Chaldaea. And they dwelt there.
And they said one to another. Literally, a man to his neighbor; ἀìνθρωπος τῷ πλησιìον αὐτοῦ (LXX.). Go to. A hortatory expletive—come on (Anglice). Let us make brick. Nilbenah lebenim; literally, let us brick bricks; πλινθευìσωμεν πλιìνθους (LXX.); laterifecimus lateres (Calvin); lebenah (from laban, to be white), being so called from the white and chalky day of which bricks were made. And burn them thoroughly. Literally, burn them to a burning; venisrephah lisrephah, a second alliteration, which, however, the LXX. fails to reproduce. Bricks were usually sun-dried; these, being designed to be more durable, were to be calcined through the agency of fire, a proof that the tower-builders were acquainted with the art of brick-making. And they had—literally, and there was to theme—brick for stone. Chiefly because of the necessities of the place, the alluvial plain of Babylon being void of stones and full of clay; a proof of the greatness of their crime, seeing they were induced to undertake the work non facilitate operis, nec aliis commodis, quae se ad manum offerrent (Calvin); scarcely because bricks would better endure fire than would stones, the second destruction of the world by fire rather than water being by this time a common expectation (Com a Lapide). Josephus, 'Ant; lib. 1. cp. 4; Heroin, lib. 1. cp. 179; Justin, lib. 1. cp. 2; Ovid, ' Metam.,' 4.4; and Aristoph. in Avibus (περιτευχιìζειν μεγαìλαις πλιìνθοις ὀπταῖς ὡìσπερ Βαβυλῶνα), all attest that the walls of Babylon were built of brick. The mention of the circumstance that brick was used instead of stone "indicates a writer belonging to a country and an age in which stone buildings were familiar, and therefore not to Babylonia" (Murphy). And slime. Chemer, from chamar, to boil up; ἀìσφαλτος (LXX.); the bitumen which boils up from subterranean fountains like oil or hot pitch in the vicinity of Babylon, and also near the Dead Sea (lacus asphaltites). Tacitus, ' Hist.,' 5.6; Strabo, 16. p. 743; Herod; lib. h c. 179; Josephus, 'Antiq.,' lib. 1. c. 41 Pliny, lib. 35. 100. 15; Vitruvius, lib. 8. c. 3, are unanimous in declaring that the brick walls of Babylon were cemented with bitumen. Layard testifies that so firmly have the bricks been united that it is almost impossible to detach one from the mass. Had they. Literally, was to them. For mortar. Chomer. The third instance of alliteration in the present verse; possibly designed by the writer to represent the enthusiasm of the builders.
And they said. Being impelled by their success in making bricks for their dwellings (Lange), though the resolution to be mentioned may have been the cause of their brick-making (Bush). Go to, let us build us a city. Cf. Genesis 4:17, which represents Cain as the first city builder. And a tower. Not as a distinct erection, but as forming a part, as it were the Acre-polls, of the city (Bochart). Whose top may reach unto heaven. Literally, and his head in the heavens, a hyperbolical expression for a tower of great height, as in Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:1 (cf. Homer, 'Odys,' 5:239, ἐλαìτη τ η}n ou)ranomh&khj). This tower is commonly identified with the temple of Belus, which Herodotus describes as being quadrangular (two stadia each way), and having gates of brass, with a solid tower in the middle, consisting of eight sections, each a stadium in height, placed one above another, ascended by a spiral staircase, and having in the top section a spacious temple with a golden table and a well-furnished bed. Partially destroyed by Xerxes, it was attempted unsuccessfully to be rebuilt by Alexander the Great; but the remaining portion of the edifice was known to be in existence five centuries later, and was sufficiently imposing to be recognized as the temple of Belus (Pliny, 6.30). The site of this ancient tower is supposed by George Smith to be covered by the ruin "Babil," a square mound about 200 yards each way, in the north of the city; and that of the tower of Babel to be occupied by the ruin Birs-Nimrod (situated six miles south-west of Hillah, which is about forty miles west of Bagdad), a tower consisting of seven stages, said by inscriptions on cylinders extracted from the ruin to have been "the Temple of the Seven Planets, which had been partially built by a former king of Babylon, and, having fallen into decay, was restored and completed by Nebuchadnezzar". It is, however, prima facie, unlikely that either Babil or Birs-Nimrod is the exact site of Babel. The original building was never finished, and may not have attained any great dimensions. Perhaps the most that can be said is that these existing mounds enable us to picture what sort of erection the tower of Babel was to be. And let us make a name, שֵׁם; neither an idol temple, שֵם being = God, which it never is without the article, הַשֵׁם—cf. Le Deuteronomy 24:11 (Jewish writers); nor a monument, as in 2 Samuel 8:13 (Clericus); nor a metropolis, reading אֵם instead of שֵׁם, as in 2 Samuel 20:19 (Clericus); nor a tower that might serve as a sign to guide the wandering nomads and guard them against getting lost when spread abroad with their flocks, as in 2 Samuel 8:13; Isaiah 55:13 (Perizonius, Dathe, Ilgen); but a name, a reputation, as in 2 Samuel 8:13; Isaiah 63:12, Isaiah 63:14; Jeremiah 32:20; Daniel 9:15 (Luther, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Lange, Murphy, Wordsworth, Kalisch). This was the first impelling motive to the erection of the city and tower. The offspring of ambition, it was designed to spread abroad their fame usque ad ultimos terrarum fines (Calvin). According to Philo, each man wrote his name upon a brick before he built it in. The second was to establish a rallying point that might serve to maintain their unity. Lest we be scattered abroad. Lest—antequam, προÌ, before that, as if anticipating that the continuous increase of population would necessitate their dispersion (LXX; Vulgute), or as if determined to distinguish themselves before surrendering to the Divine command to spread themselves abroad (Luther); but the more exact rendering of פֵן is μηì, ne, lest, introducing an apodosis expressive of something to be avoided by a preceding action, but the execution of the Divine purpose intimated in Genesis 9:1, and perhaps recalled to their remembrance by Noah (Usher), or by Sham (Wordsworth), or by Eber (Candlish); and what the builders aimed at was resistance to the Divine will. Upon the face of the whole earth. Over the entire surface of the globe, and not simply over the land of Shiner (Inglis), or over the immediate region in which they dwelt (Clericus,. Dathe, et alii, ut supra).
And the Lord came down. Not in visible form, as in Exodus 19:20; Exodus 34:5 (Onkelos), but "effectu ostendens se propin quiorem quem absentem esse judicabant" (Poole), an anthropomorphism (cf. Genesis 18:21; Psalms 144:5). "It is measure for measure (par pari). Let us build up, say they, and scale the heavens. Let us go down, says God, and defeat their impious thought" (Rabbi Schelomo, quoted by T. Lewis). To see (with a view to judicial action) the city and the tower which the children of men—sons of Adam; neither the posterity of Cain, i.e. the Hamites exclusively, as the Sethites were called sons of God, Genesis 6:2, nor wicked men in general (Junius, Piscator), imitators of Adam, i.e. rebellantes Deo (Mode, Lyre), since then the Shemites would not have been participators in the undertaking (Drusius), which some think, to have been their work exclusively (Inglis); but the members of the human race, or at least their leaders—builded.
And the Lord said—within himself, and to himself (vide Genesis 11:8); expressive of the formation of a Divine resolution (cf. Genesis 6:7)—Behold, the people—עַס, from root signifying to bind together, expresses the idea of association; גּוֹי, from a root signifying to swell (Lange), to flow together (Gesenius), to gather together (Furst), conveys the notion of a confluxus hominum. T. Lewis connects it with the sense of interiority, or exclusion, which is common in the Chaldee and Syriac—is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do. One race, one tongue, one purpose. The words indicate unity of effort, as well as concentration of design, on the part of the builders, and a certain measure of success in the achievement of their work. And now nothing will be restrained from them. Literally, there will not be cut off from them anything; οὐκ ἐκλειìψει ἀπ αὐτῶν παìντα (LXX.); non desistent a cogitationibus suis (Vulgate, Luther); i.e. nothing will prove too hard for their dating. It can hardly imply that their impious design was on the eve of completion. Which they have imagined to do.
Go to. An ironical contrast to the "Go to" of the builders (Lange). Let us (cf. Genesis 1:26) go down, and there confound their language (vide infra, Genesis 11:9), that they may not understand (literally, hear; so Genesis 42:23; Isaiah 36:11; 1 Corinthians 14:2) one another's speech. Not referring to individuals (singuli homines), since then society were impossible, but to families or nations (singulae cognationes), which each had its own tongue (Poole).
So (literally, and) the Lord scattered them abroad (as the result of the confusion of their speech) upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. I.e. as a united community, which does not preclude the idea of the Babylonians subsequently finishing the structure.
Therefore is the name of it called Babel. For Balbel, confusion (συìγχυσις, LXX; Josephus), from Balal, to confound; the derivation given by the sacred writer in the following clause (cf. for the elision of the letter l, totaphah for tophtaphah, Exodus 13:16, and cochav for covcav, Genesis 37:9). Other derivations suggested are Bab-Bel, the gate or court of Bolus (Eichhorn, Lange), an explanation of the term which Furst thinks not impossible, and Kalisch declares "can scarcely be overlooked;" and Babil, the gate of God (Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Colenso); but the first is based upon a purely mythical personage, Bel, the imaginary founder of the city; and the second, if even it were supported by evidence, which it is not, is not so likely as that given by Moses. Because the Lord did there confound—how is not explained, but has been conjectured to be by an entirely inward process, viz; changing the ideas associated with words (Koppen); by a process wholly outward, viz.. an alteration of the mode of pronouncing words (Hoffman), though more probably by both (Keil), or possibly by the first insensibly leading to the second—the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them. As the result not simply of their growing discord, dissensio animorum, per quam factum sit, ut qui turrem struehant distracti sint in contraria studia et consilia (Vitringa); but chiefly of their diverging tongues—a statement which is supposed to conflict with the findings of modem philology, that the existing differences of language among mankind are the result of slow and gradual changes brought about by the operation of natural causes, such as the influence of locality in changing and of time in corrupting human speech. But
(1) modern philology has as yet only succeeded in explaining the growth of what might be called the sub-modifications of human speech, and is confessedly unable to account for what appears to be its main division into a Shemitic, an Aryan, and a Turanian tongue, which may have been produced in the sudden and miraculous way described; and
(2) nothing prevents us from regarding the two events, the confusion of tongues and the dispersion of the nations, as occurring simultaneously, and even acting and reacting on each other. As the tribes parted, their speech would diverge, and, on the other hand, as the tongues differed, those who spoke the same or cognate dialects would draw together and draw apart from the rest. We may even suppose that, prior to the building of Babel, if any of the human family had begun to spread themselves abroad upon the surface of the globe, a slight diversity in human speech had begun to show itself; and the truthfulness of the narrative will in no wise be endangered by admitting that the Divine interposition at Babel may have consisted in quickening a natural process which had already commenced to operate; nay, we are rather warranted to conclude that the whole work of subdividing human speech was not compressed into a moment of time, but, after receiving this special impulse, was left to develop and complete itself as the nations wandered farther and ever farther from the plains of Shinar, and 'Quarry on Genesis,' pp. 195-206).
Chaldaean Legend of the Tower of Babel
Berosus, indeed, does not refer to it, and early writers are obliged to have recourse to somewhat doubtful authorities to confirm it. Eusebius, e.g; quotes Abydenus as saying that "not long after the Flood, the ancient race of men were so puffed up with their strength and tallness of stature that they began to despise and contemn the gods, and labored to erect that very lofty tower which is now called Babylon, intending thereby to scale the heavens. But when the building approached the sky, behold, the gods called in the aid of the winds, and by their help overturned the tower, and cast it to the ground! The name of the ruin is still called Babel, because until this time all men had used the same speech; but now there was sent upon them a confusion of many and diverse tongues" ('Praep. Ev.,' 9.14). But the diligence of the late George Smith has been rewarded by discovering the fragment of an Assyrian tablet containing an account of the building of the tower, in which the gods are represented as being angry at the work and confounding the speech of the builders. In Colossians 1:0; lines 5 and 6 (according to W. St. C. Boscawen's translation) run—
"Babylon corruptly to sin went, and
Small and great mingled on the mound;"
while in Colossians 2:0; lines 12, 13, 14, 15, are—
"In his anger also the secret counsel he poured out
To scatter abroad his face he set
He gave a command to make strange their speech
… their progress he impeded."
The tower-builders of Babel.
I. THE IMPIETY OF THEIR DESIGN.
1. Ambition. They were desirous of achieving fame, or "a name" for themselves. Whether in this there was a covert sneer at the exaltation promised to the Shemites, or simply a display of that lust of glory which natively resides within the fallen heart, it was essentially a guilty purpose by which they were impelled. In only one direction is ambition perfectly legitimate, viz; in the direction of moral and spiritual goodness, as distinguished from temporal and material greatness (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:31). Only then may the passion for glory be exuberantly gratified, when its object is the living God instead of puny and unworthy self (cf. Jeremiah 9:23, Jeremiah 9:24; 1 Corinthians 1:29, 1 Corinthians 1:31).
2. Rebellion. Setting its head among the clouds, "exalting its throne above the stars," it was designed to be an act of insolent defiance to the will of Heaven. The city and the tower of Babel had their origin in deliberate, determined, enthusiastic, exulting hostility to the Divine purpose that they should spread themselves abroad over the face of the whole earth. And herein lies the essence Of all impiety: whatever thought, counsel, word, or work derives its inspiration, be it only in an infinitesimal degree, from antagonism to the mind of God is sin. Holiness is but another name for obedience.
II. THE MAGNITUDE OF THEIR ENTERPRISE. The undertaking of the tower-builders was—
1. Sublimely conceived. The city was to ward off invasion from without, and to counteract disruption from within. Gathering men of a common tongue into a common residence, engaging them in common pursuits, and providing them with common interests was the sure way to make them strong. If this was the creative idea out of which cities sprung, the Cainites, if not pious, must at least have been possessed of genius. Then the tower was to touch the skies. Unscientific perhaps, but scarcely irrational; "an undertaking not of savages, but of men possessed with the idea of somehow getting above nature." And though certainly to aspire after such supremacy over nature in the spirit of a godless science which recognizes no power or authority superior to itself was the very sin of these Babelites, yet nothing more convincingly attests the essential greatness of man than the ever-widening control which science is enabling him to assert over the forces of matter.
2. Hopefully begun. The builders were united in their language and purpose. The place was convenient for the proposed erection. The most complete preparations were made for the structure. The work was commenced with determination and amid universal enthusiasm. It had all the conditions of success, humanly speaking—one mind, one heart, one hand.
3. Suddenly abandoned. "They left off to build the city." So the most prosperous undertakings often terminate in miserable failure. The mighty enterprise was mysteriously frustrated. So have all such wicked combinations in times past been overthrown. Witness the great world empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome. So in the end will the great mystery of iniquity, of which that early Babel was the first type.
III. THE INSPECTION OF THEIR WORK.
1. No work of man can hope to escape the eye of God. Even now he is minutely acquainted with the thoughts, and words, and works, and ways of every individual on the earth (Proverbs 15:3; Hebrews 4:13), while there is a day coming when "there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed" (Matthew 10:26).
2. Every work of man shall be judged at the bar of God (Ecclesiastes 12:14; 1 Corinthians 3:13). The Divine verdict upon human undertakings will often strangely conflict with the judgments of men.
IV. THE CONCLUSION OF THEIR TONGUES.
1. As a fact in the experience of the builders, it was—
(1) Unchallengeable. They could not understand one another, so that they could not doubt that a change of some kind had passed upon their speech; and observation convinces us that as men have now a variety of tongues, something must have broken up the original unity of speech.
(2) mysterious. It is not likely that these primitive builders understood how their language had been transmuted. Modem philology has no certain word to utter upon the subject yet.
(3) Supernatural. It was effected by the immediate agency of God. If even natural causes had begun to operate, they were quickened by the Divine action. Believers in a God who made the tongue of man should have no difficulty in believing in a God who changed the tongue of man.
2. As a judgment on the persons of the builders, it was—
(1) Unexpected in its coming, as are all God's judgments, like the Flood and like the coming of the Son of man.
(2) Deserved by its subjects. Caught, as it were, in the very act of insubordination, guilty of nothing short of treason against the King of heaven, they were visited with summary and condign chastisement. So are all God's punishments richly merited by those on whom they fall.
(3) Appropriate in its character. It was fitting that they who had abused their oneness of speech, which was designed for their good, to keep them in the Church, should be punished with variety of tongues.
(4) Effectual in its design. Sent to scatter them abroad, it succeeded in its aim. Man's designs often fail; God's never.
V. THE DISPERSION OF THEIR RANKS.
1. Judicial in its character. In its incidence on the builders it wore a punitive aspect. Providences that are full of blessings for the good are always laden with curses to the wicked.
2. Beneficial in its purpose. The scattering of the earth's population over the surface of the globe was originally intended for what it has eventually turned out to be, a blessing for the race.
3. Unlimited in its extent. Though the original dispersion could not have carried the tribes to any remote distances from Shinar, the process then begun was intended not to rest until the earth was fully occupied by the children of men.
VI. THE MEMORIAL OF THEIR FOLLY. This was—
1. Exceedingly expressive. The unfinished tower was designated Babel, or Confusion. It is well that things should be called by their right names. The name of Babel was an epitome of the foolish aim and end of the builders. The world is full of such monuments of folly.
2. Self-affixed. So God often compels "men of corrupt minds" and "reprobate concerning the faith" not only to manifest, but also to publish, their own folly.
3. Long-enduring. It continued to be known as Babel in the days of Moses and long after—an emblem of that shame which shall eventually be the portion of all the wicked.
1. The sinfulness of ambition.
2. The folly of attempting to resist God.
3. The power of God in carrying out his purposes.
4. The mercy of God in dividing the nations.
5. The ability of God to re-gather the divided nations of the earth.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
Order brought forth.
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.
HOMILIES BY W. ROBERTS
Unity of language.
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.
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.
Ancient brick makers.
I. IN SHINAR. Examples of
(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.
The tower of Babel.
I. A MONUMENT OF MAN'S—
1. Sinful ambition.
2. Laborious ingenuity.
3. Demonstrated feebleness.
4. Stupendous folly.
II. A MEMORIAL OF GOD'S—
1. Overruling providence.
2. Resistless power.
3. Retributive justice.
4. Beneficent purpose.—W.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
God's city or man's city.
"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. They were promised safety from beasts, of whom, if separated, they might be afraid (Genesis 9:2; cf. Matthew 10:29,Matthew 10:31; 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 11:10-58.11.16), 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 (Psalms 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.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
The cities of men and the city of God
(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 (Psalms 2:1; Luke 1:51; 2 Corinthians 10:5).—W.
Babel and Zion.
1. Confusion, division, dispersion.
2. Gathering the dispersed, uniting the divided, restoring order to the confused.—W.
§6. THE GENERATIONS OF SHEM (Genesis 11:10-1.11.26).
These are the generations of Shem. The new section, opening with the usual formula (cf. Genesis 2:4; Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1), reverts to the main purpose of the inspired narrative, which is to trace the onward development of the line of promise; and this it does by carrying forward the genealogical history of the holy seed through ten generations till it reaches Abram. Taken along with Genesis 5:1-1.5.32; with which it corresponds, the present table completes the chronological outline from Adam to the Hebrew patriarch. Shem was an hundred years old (literally, the son of an hundred years, i.e. in his hundredth year), and begat Arphaxad. The English term is borrowed from the LXX; the Hebrew being Arpaehshadh, a compound of which the principal part is כשד, giving rise to the Chashdim or Chaldeans; whence Professor Lewis regards it as originally the name of a people transferred to their ancestor (cf. Genesis 10:22). Two years after the flood. So that in Noah's 603rd year Shem was 100, and must accordingly have been born in Noah's 503rd year, i.e. two years after Japheth (cf. Genesis 5:32; Genesis 10:21). The mention of the Flood indicates the point of time from which the present section is designed to be reckoned.
And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters (concerning whom Scripture is silent, as not being included in the holy line).
Genesis 11:12, Genesis 11:13
And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah. Shalach, literally, emission, or the sending forth, of water, a memorial of the Flood (Bochart); or of an arrow or dart (vide Genesis 10:24). And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
Genesis 11:14, Genesis 11:15
And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber. Literally, the region on the otherside (πεìραν); from עָבַר, to pass over (cf. ὑπεìρ, Greek; uber, German; over, Saxon). The ancestor of the Hebrews (Genesis 10:21), so called from his descendants having crossed the Euphrates and commenced a southward emigration, or from the circumstance that he or another portion of his posterity remained on the other side. Prof. Lewis thinks that this branch of the Shemites, having lingered so long in the upper country, had not much to do with the tower building on the plain of Shinar. And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
Genesis 11:16, Genesis 11:17
And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg. Division; from palag, to divide. For the reason of this cognomen vide Genesis 10:25. And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters.
Genesis 11:18, Genesis 11:19
And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu. Friend (cf. of God, or of men), or friendship; from a root signifying to pasture, to tend, to care for. Bochart traces his descendants in the great Nisaean plain Ragan (Judith 1:6), situated on the confines of Armenia and Media, and having, according to Strabo, a city named Ragae or Ragiae. And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters.
Genesis 11:20, Genesis 11:21
And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug. Vine-shoot, from sarag, to wind (Gesenius, Lange, Lewis, Murphy); strength, firmness, from the sense of twisting which the root bears (Furst). And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters.
Genesis 11:22, Genesis 11:23
And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor. Panting. (Gesenius); from nachar, to breathe hard, to snort. Piercer, slayer (Furst); from an unused root signifying to Bore through. And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
Genesis 11:24, Genesis 11:25
And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah. Terach, or turning, tarrying; from tarach, an unused Chaldaean root meaning to delay (Gesenius); singularly appropriate to his future character and history, from which probably the name reverted to him. Ewald renders Terach by "migration, considering Tarach = arach, to stretch out. And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters.
And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram. First named on account of his spiritual pre-eminence. If Abram was Terah's eldest son, then, as Abram was seventy-five years of age when Terah died (Genesis 12:4), Terah's whole life could only have been 145 years. But Terah lived to the age of 205 years (Genesis 11:32); therefore Abram was born in Terah's 130th year. This, however, makes it surprising that Abraham should have reckoned it impossible for him to have a son at 100 years (Genesis 17:17); only, after having lived so long in childless wedlock, it was not strange that he should feel somewhat doubtful of any issue by Sarai. Kalisch believes that Stephen (Acts 7:4) made a mistake in saying Terah died before his son's migration from Charran, and that he really survived that event by sixty years; while the Samaritan text escapes the difficulty by shortening the life of Terah to 145 years. And Nahor, who must have been younger than Haran, since he married Haran's daughter. And Haran, who, as the eldest, must have been born in Terah's seventieth year. Thus the second family register, like the flint, concludes after ten generations with the birth of three sons, who, like Noah's, are mentioned not in the order of their ages, but of their spiritual pre-eminence.
NAMES OF PATRIARCHS
AGE AT SON'S BIRTH
REST OF LIFE
TOTAL NO. OF YEARS
AGE AT SON'S BIRTH
REST OF LIFE
TOTAL NO. OF YEARS
AGE AT SON'S BIRTH
REST OF LIFE
TOTAL NO. OF YEARS
From this table it appears that 292 years, according to the Hebrew text, passed away between the Flood and the birth, or 292 +75 == 367 between the Flood and the call of Abraham. Reckoning, however, the age of Torah at Abram's birth as 130 (vide Exposition), the full period between the Deluge and the patriarch's departure from Haran will be 367 + 60 == 427 years, which, allowing five pairs to each family, Murphy computes, would in the course of ten generations yield a population of 15,625,000 souls; or, supposing a rate of increase equal to that of Abraham's posterity in Egypt during the 400 years that elapsed from the call to the exodus, the inhabitants of the world in the time of Abraham would be between seven and eight millions. It must, however, be remembered that an element of uncertainty enters into all computations based upon even the Hebrew text. The age of Terah at the birth (apparently) of Abram is put down at seventy. But it admits of demonstration that Abram was born in the 130th year of Terah. What guarantee then do we possess that in every instance the registered son was the firstborn? In the case of Arphaxad this is almost implied in the statement that he was born two years after the Flood. But if the case of Eber were parallel with that of Terah, and Joktan were the son that he begat in his thirty-fourth year, then obviously the birth of Peleg, like that of Abram, may have happened sixty years later; in which case it is apparent that any reckoning which proceeded on the minute verbal accuracy of the registered numbers would be entirely at fault. This consideration might have gone far to explain the wide divergence between the numbers of the Samaritan and Septuagint as compared with the Hebrew text, had it not been that they both agree with it in setting down seventy as the age of Terah at the date of Abram's birth. The palpable artificiality also of these later tables renders them even less worthy of credit than the Hebrew. The introduction by the LXX. of Cainan as the son of Arphaxad, though seemingly confirmed by Luke (Luke 3:35, Luke 3:36), is clearly an interpolation. It does not occur in the LXX. version of 1 Chronicles 1:24, and is not found in either the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Targums or the ancient versions, in Josephus or Philo, or in the Codex Beza of the Gospel of Luke. Its appearance in Luke (and probably also in the LXX.) can only be explained as an interpolation. Wordsworth is inclined to regard it as authentic in Luke, and to suppose that Cainaan was excluded from the Mosaic table either to render it symmetrical, as Luke's table is rendered symmetrical by its insertion, or because of some moral offence, which, though necessitating his expulsion from a Hebrew register, would not prevent his reappearance in his proper place under the gospel.
From Shem to Abram.
I. THE SEPARATION OF THE GODLY SEED. The souls that constitute the Church of God upon the earth are always, as these Hebrew patriarchs—
1. Known to God; and that not merely in the mass, but as individuals, or units; nor simply superficially and slightly, but minutely and thoroughly. He knows the fathers they descend from, the families they belong to, the names by which they are designated, the number of years they live, and the children they leave behind them on the earth (cf. Psalms 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:19).
2. Separated by God. This was one of the great ends contemplated by the division of the people which happened in the days of Peleg, which was designed to eliminate the Shemites from the rest of mankind. Then the migration of the sons of Eber contributed further to the isolation of the children of the promise. And, lastly, the selection of the son, not always the firstborn, through whom the hope of the gospel was to be carried on tended in the same direction. So God afterwards separated Israel from the nations. So he still by his providence and his word calls out and separates his people from the world (cf. 1 Kings 8:53; 2 Corinthians 6:17).
3. Honored before God; by being selected as the vessels of his grace, the channels of his promise, the ministers of his gospel, and the messengers of his covenant, while others are passed by; and by being written in God's book of remembrance, while others are forgotten (cf. 1 Samuel 2:30; Psalms 91:15; Malachi 3:16; Matthew 10:32; 2 Timothy 2:20; Revelation 3:5).
II. THE SHORTENING OF HUMAN LIFE. A second characteristic of the postdiluvian era.
1. A patent fact. Even Shem, the longest liver of the men of this period, did not continue on the earth so long as Lamech, the shortest liver of the previous age, by 177 years; while the life of Arphaxad was shorter than that of his father by 162 years, and the days of Terah at the close dwindled down to 205 years.
2. A potent sermon. Whether the comparative brevity of life immediately after the Flood was due to any change in the physical constitution of man, or to the altered conditions of existence under the Noachic covenant, or to the gradual deterioration of the race through the lapse of time, or to the direct appointment of Heaven, it was admirably fitted to remind them of—
(1) The reality of sin. With its penalty descending so palpably and frequently it would seem impossible to challenge the fact of their being a guilty and condemned race.
(2) The necessity of repentance. Every death that happened would sound like a trumpet-call to sinful men to turn to God.
(3) The vanity of life. The long terms of existence that were meted out to men before the Flood might tempt them to forget the better country, even an heavenly, and to seek a permanent inheritance on earth; it would almost seem apparent to these short livers that no such inheritance could be obtained below. Alas that the shortness of man's career beneath the sun is now so familiar that it has well nigh ceased to impress the mind with anything!
(4) The certainty of death. When men's lives were counted by centuries it might be easy to evade the thought of death. When decades came to be enough to reckon up the longest term of existence, it could scarcely fail to remind them that "it was appointed unto all men once to die"
III. THE NEARING OF THE GOSPEL PROMISE. Ten generations further down the stream of time do we see the promise carried in this second genealogical table. It was—
1. A vindication of the Divine faithfulness in adhering to his promise. Already twenty generations had come and gone, and neither was the promise forgotten nor had the holy line been allowed to become extinct. Ever since Adam's day in Eden the covenant-keeping Jehovah had found a seed to serve him, even in the darkest times, and had been careful to raise up saints who would transmit the hope of the gospel to future times. It was a proof to the passing generations that God was still remembering his promise, and was intending to make it good in the fullness of the times.
2. A demonstration of God's ability to keep his promise. Not once through all the bygone centuries had-a link been found wanting in the chain of saintly men through whom the promise was to be transmitted. It was a clear pledge that God would still be able to supply the necessary links that might be required to carry it forward to its ultimate fulfillment.
HOMILIES BY W. ROBERTS
The order of grace is
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.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
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.
PART III THE PATRIARCHAL AGE OF THE WORLD. CH. 11:27-50:26.
7. THE GENERATIONS OF TERAH (CH. 11:27-25:11).
Now (literally, and, intimating the close connection of the present with the preceding section) these are the generations—the commencement of a new subdivision of the history (Keil), and neither the winding-up of the foregoing genealogy ('Speaker's Commentary') nor the heading only of the brief paragraph in Genesis 11:27-1.11.32 (Lange; vide Genesis 2:4)—of Terah. Not of Abram; partly because mainly occupied with the career not of Abram's son, in which case "the generations of Abram" would have been appropriate, but of Abram himself, Terah's son; and partly owing to the subsidiary design to indicate Nahor's connection, through Rebekah, with the promised seed. Terah begat Abram, "Father of Elevation," who is mentioned first not because he happened to be Terah's eldest son (Keil), which he was not (vide Genesis 11:26), or because Moses was indifferent to the order in which the sons of Terah were introduced (Calvin), but because of his spiritual preeminence as the head of the theocratic line (Wordsworth). Nahor, "Panting," not to be confounded with his grandfather of the same name (Genesis 11:25). Haran, "Tarrying," the eldest son of Terah (Genesis 11:26), and, along with Abram and Nahor, reintroduced into the narrative on account of his relationship to Lot and Milcah. That Terah had other sons (Calvin) does not appear probable, And Haran begat Lot. לוֹט; of uncertain etymology, but may be = לוּט, a concealed, i.e. obscure, low one, or perhaps a dark-colored one (Furst).
And Haran died before his father. Literally, upon the face of his father; ἐνώπιον τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ (LXX); while his father was alive (Munster, Luther, Calvin, Rosenmüller); perhaps also in his father's presence (Keil, Lange), though the Jewish fable may be discarded that Terah, at this time an 'idolater, accused his sons to Nimrod, who cast them into a furnace for refusing to worship the fire-god, and that ,Haran perished in the flames in his father's sight. The decease of Haran is the first recorded instance of the natural death of a son before his father. In the land of his nativity. Ἐν τῇ γῇ ῇ ἐγεννήθη (LXX.). In Ur of the Chaldees. Ur Kasdim (Genesis 11:31; Genesis 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7). The Kasdim—formerly believed to have been Shemites on account of
(1) Abram's settlement among them,
(2) the preservation of the name Kesed among his kindred (Genesis 22:22),
(3) the close affinity to a Shemite tongue of the language known to modern philologists as Chaldee, an Arameean dialect differing but slightly from the Syriac (Heeren), and
(4) the supposed identity or intimate connection of the Babylonians with the Assyrians (Niebuhr)—are now, with greater probability, and certainly with closer adherence to Biblical history (Genesis 10:8-1.10.12), regarded as having been a Hamite race (Rawlinson, Smith); an opinion which receives confirmation from
(1) the statement of Homer ('Odyss. ,' 1.23, 24), that the Ethiopians were divided and dwelt at the ends of the earth, towards the setting and the rising sun, i.e; according to Strabo, on both sides of the Arabian Gulf;
(2) the primitive traditions
(a) of the Greeks, who regarded Memnon, King of Ethiopia, as the founder of Susa (Herod; 5:54), and the son of a Cissian woman (Strabo, 15.3, § 2;
(b) of the Nilotic Ethiopians, who claimed him as one of their monarchs; and
(c) of the Egyptians, who identified him with their King Amunoph III; whose statue became known as the vocal Memnon;
(3) the testimony of Moses of Chorene ('History of Armenia,' Genesis 1:6), who connects in the closest way Babylonia, Egypt, and Ethiopia Proper, identifying Belus, King of Babylon, with Nimrod, and making him the son of Mizraim, or the grandson of Cush; and
(4) the monumental history of Babylonia, which shows the language of the earliest inscriptions, according to Rawlinson "differing greatly from the later Babylonian," to have been that of a Turanian people. The term Ur has been explained to be identical with It, a city (Rawlinson); the Zend Vare, a fortress (Gesenius); Ur, the light country, i.e. the land of the sun-rising (Furst); and even Ur, fire, with special reference to the legendary furnace already referred to (Talmudists). Whether a district (LXX; Lange, Kalisch) or a city (Josephus, Eusebius, Onkelos, Drnsius, Keil, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary'), its exact site is uncertain. Rival claimants for the honor of representing it have appeared in
(1) a Persian fortress (Persicum Castellum) of the name of Ur, mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus as lying between Nisibis and the Tigris (Bochart, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch);
(2) the modern Orfah, the Edsssa of the Greeks, situated "on one of the bare, rugged spurs which descend from the mountains of Armenia into the Assyrian plains" (Stanley's 'Jewish Church,' 1.7); and
(3) Hur, the most important of the early capitals of Chaldaea, now the ruins of Mugheir, at no great distance from the mouth, and six miles to the west, of the Euphrates. Yet none of them is quite exempt from difficulty. A military fort, to take the first-named location, does not appear a suitable or likely place for a nomade horde to settle in; while the second has been reckoned too near Charran, the first place of encampment of the emigrants; and the third, besides being exceedingly remote from Charran, scarcely harmonises with Stephen's speech before the Sanhedrim (Acts 7:2). Unless, therefore, Stephen meant Chaldsea when he said Mesopotamia (Dykes), and Abraham could speak of Northern Mesopotamia as his country (Genesis 24:4), when in reality he belonged to Southern Babylonia, the identification of Ur of the Chaldees with the Mugheir ruin though regarded with most favor by archaeologists, will continue to be doubtful; while, if the clan march commenced at Edessa, it will always require an effort to account for their coming to a halt so soon after starting and so near home; and the Nisibis station, though apparently more suitable than either in respect of distance, will remain encumbered with its own peculiar difficulties. It would seem, therefore, as if the exact situation of the patriarchal town or country must be left undetermined until further light can be obtained.
And Abram and Nahor took them wives (cf. Genesis 6:2): the name of Abram's wife was Sarai. "My princess," from sarah, to rule (Gesenius, Lange); "Strife" (Kalisch, Murphy): "Jah is ruler" (Furst). The LXX. write Σάρα, changing afterwards to Σαῤῥα to correspond with Sarah. That Sarai was Iscah has been inferred from Genesis 20:12; but, though receiving apparent sanction from verse 31, this opinion "is not supported by any solid argument" (Rosenmüller). And the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah (Queen, or Counsel), the daughter of Haran, i.e. Nahor's niece. Marriage with a half-sister or a niece was afterwards forbidden by the Mosaic code (Le Genesis 18:9, Genesis 18:14). The father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah, whose name "Seer" may have been introduced into the narrative like that of Naamah (Genesis 4:22), as that of an eminent lady connected with the family (Murphy). Ewald's hypothesis, that Iscah was Lot's wife, is pure conjecture.
But Sarai was barren; she had no child. Perhaps in contrast to Milcah, who by this time had begun to have a family (Murphy).
And Terah took—an act of pure human volition on the part of Terah (Kalisch); under the guidance of God's ordinary providence (Keil); but more probably, as Abram was called in Ur (vide infra), prompted by a knowledge of his son's call, and a desire to participate in his son's inheritance (Lange)—Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife. The Samaritan reads, "and Milcah his daughter-in-law, the wives of Abram and Nahor his sons," with an obvious intention to account for the appearance of Nahor as a settler in Charran (Genesis 24:10); but it is better to understand the migration of Nahor and his family as having taken place subsequent to Terah's departure. And they went forth with them. I.e. Lot and Sarai with Terah and Abram (Keil); or, better, Terah and Abram with Lot and Sarai (Jarchi, Rosenmüller, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary); though best is the interpretation, "and they went forth with each other" (Lange, Kalisch). For the reflexive use of the personal pronoun vide Genesis 3:7; Genesis 22:3, and cf. Gesenius, 'Gram.,'§ 124. Other readings are, "and he led them forth" (Samaritan, LXX; Vulgate, Dathius), and "and they (the unnamed members of the family) went forth with those named" (Delitzsch). From Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan. Expressive of the Divine destination, rather than of the conscious intention of the travelers (Hebrews 11:8), though Canaan was not at this time unknown to the inhabitants of the Tigris and Euphrates valley (vide Genesis 14:1-1.14.12). And they came into Haran. Charran, Καῤῥαι, Carrae, in northwest Mesopotamia, about twenty-five miles from Edessa, one of the supposed sites of Ur, and celebrated as the scene of the overthrow of Crassus by the Parthians (B.C. 53). And dwelt there. Probably in consequence of the growing infirmity of Terah, the period of their sojourn being differently computed according as Abram is regarded as having been born in Terah's 70th or 130th year.
And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years. So that if Abram was born in Terah's 70th year, Terah must have been 145 when Abram left Haran, and must have survived that departure sixty years (Kalisch, Dykes); whereas if Abram was born in his father's 130th year, then Terah must have died before his son's departure from Haran, which agrees with Acts 7:4. And Terah died in Haran.
The migration of the Terachites.
I. THE DEPARTURE OF THE EMIGRANTS. The attendant circumstances of this migration—the gathering of the clan, the mustering of the flocks, the farewells and benedictions exchanged with relatives and friends, the hopes and fears of the adventurous pilgrims—imagination may depict; the reasons which prompted it may be conjectured to have been—
1. The spirit of emigration, which since the dispersion at Babel had been abroad among the primitive populations of mankind. The arms of a Trans-Euphratean state had already penetrated as far west as the circle of the Jordan, and it has been surmised that this Terachite removal from Chaldaea may have been connected with some larger movement in the same direction.
2. The oppression of the Hamites, who, besides being the most powerful and enterprising of the early tribes, and having seized upon the fattest settlements, such as Egypt, Canaan, and Chaldaea, had wandered farthest from the pure Noachic faith, and abandoned themselves to a degraded polytheism, based for the most part upon a study of the heavenly bodies. That the Cushite conquerors of Southern Babylonia were not only idolaters, but, like Nimrod, their leader, destroyers of the liberties of the subject populations, has at least the sanction of tradition.
3. The awakening of religious life in the breasts of the pilgrims. That Abram had by this time been called we are warranted on the authority of Stephen to hold, and though Terah is expressly said to have been an idolater in Ur, it is by no means improbable that he became a sharer in the pure faith of his distinguished son. At least it lends a special interest to this primitive migration to connect it with the call of Abram.
II. THE JOURNEY OF THE EMIGRANTS. Though upon the incidents and experiences of the way, as upon the circumstances and reasons of the departure, the inspired record is completely silent, yet the pilgrimage of the Chaldaean wanderers was—
1. From an idolatrous land, which could not fail to secure, even had it not already received, the Divine approbation. Not that flight from heathen countries is always the clear path of duty, else how shall the world be converted? But where, as was probably the case with the Terachites, the likelihood of doing good to is less than that of receiving hurt from the inhabitants, it is plainly incumbent to withdraw from polluted and polluting lands.
2. By an unknown way. Almost certainly the road to Canaan was but little understood by the exiles, if even Canaan itself was not entirely a terra incognita. Yet in setting forth upon a path so uncertain they were only doing what mankind in general, and God's people in particular, have always to do in life's journey, viz; travel by a way that they know not; while for comfort they had the sweet assurance that their path was steadily conducting them from idols and oppression, and the certain knowledge that they were journeying beneath the watchful and loving superintendence of the invisible Supreme. Happy they whose path in life, though compassed by clouds and darkness, ever tends away from sin and slavery, and never lacks the guidance of Abram's God!
3. To a better country. In comparison with the rich alluvial soil of Southern Babylonia, the land of Canaan might be only a bleak succession of barren hills; but, in respect of liberty to worship God, anywhere, in the eyes of men whose hearts were throbbing with new-found faith, would seem superior to idolatrous Chaldaea. Without endorsing Luther's fancy, that Shem and his followers had already withdrawn to Palestine, and that Terah and his family were setting forth to place themselves beneath the patriarch's rule, we may reasonably suppose that, like the Pilgrim Fathers of a later -age, they were seeking a new land where they might worship God in peace.
III. THE HALTING OF THE EMIGRANTS. In the absence of definite information as to the motives which induced it, this sudden stoppage of their journey at Haran is usually ascribed to either—
1. The irresolution of Terah, who, having become wearied by the fatigues and perils of the way, and having found a comfortable location for himself and flocks, preferred to bring his wanderings to a close, as many a noble enterprise is wrecked through weak-kneed vacillation, and many a Christian pilgrimage broken short by faint-hearted indecision; or—
2. The unbelief of Terah, who, in the first flush of excitement produced by Abram's call, had started on the outward journey with strong faith and great zeal, but, as enthusiasm subsided and faith declined, was easily persuaded to halt at Haran—an emblem of other pilgrims who begin their heavenward journey well, but pause in mid career through the cooling of their ardor and declining of their piety; or—
3. The infirmity of Terah, who was now an old man, and unable further to prosecute his journey to the promised land, thus making the delay at Haran a beautiful act of filial piety on the part of Abram, and on that of Terah an imperious necessity.
See in this migration of, the Terachites—
1. An emblem of the changefulness of life.
2. An illustration of God's method of distributing mankind.
3. An example of the way in which an overruling Providence disseminates the truth.
4. A picture of many broken journeys on the face of earth.
HOMILIES BY W. ROBERTS
Genesis 11:29, Genesis 11:30
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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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 11". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent