Genesis Chapter 11

This is another one of those stories that attempts to explain why things are the way they are. This time, the authors are explaining where the various languages came from and why there are people all over the earth. However, the latter was supposed to be explained by Noah’s three sons after that whole flood thing. Remember that? There was a whole chapter of genealogy about it.

God didn’t like that the people on earth were wicked, so he drowned them in a global flood. Now he doesn’t like the people getting along and working together to build a city, so he scatters them all over the world and confuses their language. What does God want from his people? He obviously doesn’t want them to succeed in their endeavors since he says in verses 6-7:

6 And the LORD said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Gen 11:6-7, p. 45). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Again with the plural in verse 7. We also get more repetitive language in verses 8 and 9 saying that the Lord scattered them from there over the face of the earth. This must be a poetic device.

This story itself is meant as a parable like all of Genesis. It seeks to explain the world as it was seen back when these stories were handed down through oral tradition. By the time they were written, they were seen as sacred. Likely, the Marduk Ziggurat and the decline in the use of cuneiform writing was partially the inspiration for this story along with some desire to explain the variations in language around the world. Of course, “around the world” means only the known world at that time.

Then we get a pair of genealogies, one for Shem and one for Terah. These just lead up to Abram, who will be renamed Abraham and be the father and namesake of the Abrahamic faiths. That’s all I have to say about that.