The distinction between the sons of God and the sons of men, now
appeared again, when men began to multiply. According to this
distinction, we have in this chapter,
The dispersion of the sons of men at Babel, ver. 1 - 9.
where we have
Their presumptuous design, to build a city and a tower, ver. 1 - 4.
The righteous judgment of God upon them in disappointing the
design, by confounding their language, and so scattering them,
ver. 5 - 9.
The pedigree of the sons of God down to Abraham, ver. 10 - 26.
with a general account of his family, and remove out of his native
country, ver. 27 - 32.
1: And the whole earth was of one language - Now while they all
understood one another, they would be the more capable of helping one
another, and the less inclinable to separate.
2: And they found a plain in the land of Shinar - A spacious plain,
able to contain them all.
3: Go to, let us make brick, let us build us a city - The country
being a plain, yielded neither stone nor morter, yet that did not discourage
them, but they made brick to serve instead of stone, and slime,
or pitch, instead of morter.
Some think they intended hereby to secure themselves against the waters of
another flood, but if they had, they would have chosen to build upon a
mountain rather than upon a plain. But two things it seems they aimed at in
To make them a name: they would do something to be talked of by
posterity. But they could not gain this point; for we do not find in any
history the name of so much as one of these Babel - builders.
Philo Judeus saith they engraved every one his name upon a brick; yet
neither did that serve their purpose.
They did it to prevent their dispersion; lest we be scattered
abroad upon the face of the earth - It was done (saith Josephus) in
disobedience to that command, (Ge 9:1),
replenish the earth. God orders them to scatter. No, say they, we will
live and die together. In order hereunto they engage themselves and one
another in this vast undertaking. That they might unite in one glorious
empire, they resolve to build this city and tower, to be the metropolis of
their kingdom, and the center of their unity.
5: And the Lord came down to see the city - 'Tis an expression after
the manner of men, he knew it as clearly as men know that which they come
upon the place to view. And the tower which the children of men builded
- Which speaks,
Their weakness and frailty, it was a foolish thing for the children
of men, worms of the earth, to defy heaven.
Their sinfulness, they were the sons of Adam, so it is in the
Hebrew; nay, of that Adam, that sinful disobedient Adam, whose
children are by nature children of disobedience.
Their distinction from the children of God, from whom those daring
builders had separated themselves, and built this tower to support and
perpetuate the separation.
6: And the Lord said, Behold the people is one, and they have all
one language - And if they continue one, much of the earth will be left
uninhabited, and these children of men, if thus incorporated, will
swallow up the little remnant of God's children, therefore it is decreed
they must not be one. And now nothing will be restrained from them
- And this is a reason why they must be crossed, in their design.
7: Go to, let us go down and there confound their language - This was
not spoken to the angels, as if God needed either their advice or their
assistance, but God speaks it to himself, or the Father to the Son and Holy
Ghost. That they may not understand one another's speech - Nor could they
well join hands when their tongues were divided: so that this was a proper
means, both to take them off from their building, for if they could not
understand one another, they could not help one another; and to dispose them
to scatter, for when they could not understand one another, they could not
enjoy one another. Accordingly three things were done,
Their language was confounded. God, who when he made man taught him to
speak, now made those builders to forget their former language; and to speak
a new one, which yet was the same to those of the same tribe or family, but
not to others: those of one colony could converse together, but not with
those of another. We all suffer hereby to this day: in all the
inconveniences we sustain by the diversity of languages, and all the trouble
we are at to learn the languages we have occasion for, we smart for the
rebellion of our ancestors at Babel; nay, and those unhappy
controversies, which are strifes of words, and arise from our
misunderstanding of one another's languages, for ought I know, are owing to
this confusion of tongues. The project of some to frame an universal
character in order to an universal language, how desirable soever it may
seem, yet I think is but a vain thing for it is to strive against a divine
sentence, by which the languages of the nations will be divided while the
world stands. We may here lament the loss of the universal use of the
Hebrew tongue, which from henceforth was the vulgar language of the
Hebrews only, and continued so till the captivity in Babylon, where,
even among them, it was exchanged for the Syriac. As the confounding of
tongues divided the children of men, and scattered them abroad, so the gift
of tongues bestowed upon the Apostles, (Ac 2:4-11), contributed
greatly to the gathering together of the children of God, which were
scattered abroad, and the uniting of them in Christ, that with one
mind and mouth they might glorify God, (Ro 15:6).
(The imagination of a late writer, that God did not confound their
tongues, but their religious worship, is grounded on criticisms
concerning the meaning of the Hebrew word, which are absolutely false.
Beside, would God confound their religious worship? Surely, He is a God
of order, and not of confusion.
Their building was stopped, they left off to build the city - This was
the effect of the confusion of their tongue's; for it not only disabled
them from helping one another, but probably struck a damp upon their
spirits, since they saw the hand of the Lord gone out against them.
The builders were scattered abroad from thence upon the face of the
whole earth - They departed in companies after their families and after
their tongues, (Ge 10:5,20,31), to the several countries and places
allotted to them in the division that had been made, which they knew
before, but would not go to take possession of, 'till now they were forced
to it. Observe
The very thing which they feared came upon them; that dispersion which
they thought to evade.
That it was God's work; the Lord scattered them; God's hand is to be
acknowledged in all scattering providences; if the family be scattered,
relations scattered, churches scattered, it is the Lord's doing.
That they left behind them a perpetual memorandum of their reproach in
the name given to the place; it was called Babel, confusion.
The children of men were now finally scattered, and never 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, (Mt 25:31,32).
That nothing is left upon record concerning those of this line, but their
names and ages; the Holy Ghost seeming to hasten thro' them to the story of
Abraham. How little do we know of those that are gone before us in this
world, even those that lived in the same places where we live! Or indeed of
those who are our contemporaries, but in distant places.
That there was an observable gradual decrease in the years of their
lives. Shem reached to 600 years, which yet fell short of the age of
the patriarchs before the flood; the three next came short of 500, the three
next did not reach to 300, and after them we read not of any that attained
to 200 but Terah; and not many ages after this, Moses reckoned 70 or
80 to be the utmost men ordinarily arrive at. When the earth began to be
replenished, mens lives began to shorten so that the decrease is to be
imputed to the wise disposal of providence, rather than to any decay of
That Eber, from whom the Hebrews were denominated, was the
longest lived of any that were born after the flood; which perhaps was
the reward of his strict adherence to the ways of God.
His country: Ur of the Chaldee's - An idolatrous country, where even
the children of Eber themselves degenerated.
His relations, mentioned for his sake, and because of their interest in
he following story.
His father was Terah, of whom it is said, (Jos 24:2), that he
served other gods on the other side the flood; so early did idolatry
gain footing in the world. Enough it is said, (Ge 11:26), that
when Terah was seventy years old he begat Abram, Nabor and Haran,
which seems to tell us that Abram was the eldest son of Terah,
and born in the 70th year; yet by comparing (Ge 11:32), which makes
Terah to die in his 205th year, with (Ac 7:4), where it is
said that Abram removed from Haran when his father was dead, and(Ge 12:4), where it is said that he was but 75 years old when he
removed from Haran, it appears that he was born in the 130th year of
Terah, and probably was his youngest son.
Some account of his brethren
Nahor, out of whole family both Isaac and Jacob had their
Haran, the father of Lot, of whom it is here said,(Ge 11:28),
that he died before his father Terah. 'Tis likewise said that
he died in Ur of the Chaldees, before that happy remove of the
family out of that idolatrous country.
His wife was Sarai, who, tho' some think was the same with Iscah
the daughter of Haran. Abram himself saith, she was the
daughter of his father, but not the daughter of his mother,(Ge 20:12).
She was ten years younger than Abram.
His departure out of Ur of the Chaldees, with his father Terah,
and his nephew Lot, and the rest of his family, in obedience to the call
of God. This chapter leaves them in Haran or Charran, a place
about the mid - way between Ur and Canaan, where they dwelt 'till
Terah's head was laid; probably because the old man was unable,
through the infirmities of age, to proceed in his journey.