Genesis 10–13: Tower of Babel, Abram’s Journey, and Promised LandEGP Blog post from January 4, 2013
In Genesis 10, we get Noah’s lineage. The point of this genealogy is to show the lineage of the nations being formed from Noah’s sons and where they settled. However, in Genesis 11:4 we read, “They said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’” But probably the most used phrase in the Bible so far has been God’s command, “be fruitful and multiply and fill/replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28, 8:17, 9:1, and 9:7). Genesis 11:1 tells us that “…the whole earth used the same language…” up to this point, and in verse 6, we see that this is a driving force for their unity. So God made them all speak different languages and “scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.” I think this is what is meant in Genesis 10:25, when it says, “…the name of the one was Peleg [which means ‘divided’], for in his days the earth was divided…”
As far as the languages go, some believe that the original language spoken was Hebrew since the names of people and places were Hebrew, and while God “confused” the languages here, the language for Abram’s lineage is the only one that stayed Hebrew. Also, I am of the belief that this is when God made the different characteristics of nationalities. Up to this point, everyone could have contained dominant and recessive genes, but then after this point, God could have allowed the next generation to start having a split of those genes (i.e., AaBb becomes AABB, aabb, Aabb, etc.).
After this, we get another genealogy. You may have caught this, but in the last chapter’s genealogy there weren’t any years and ages given. The point of this lineage is to show how we get from Noah to Abram (later named Abraham), the forefather of the nation Israel, and thus, Jesus (Luke 3).
In Genesis 12, God commanded Abram to leave the land of his forefathers and go to the land of Canaan (Canaan was Noah’s grandson who he cursed back in Genesis 9), where He will bless Abram and make a great nation from him (which later we find out is Israel). An interesting thing to note in Genesis 11:31, is that Terah (Abram’s father) took Abram (his son), Sarai (Abram’s wife), and Lot (Abram’s nephew), “and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there.” This makes me wonder if God had offered the same blessing to Terah, but he settled along the way and God passed that blessing along to Abram, so that now many people don’t even remember his name. How many blessings have we passed up by settling?
God told Abram in Genesis 12:3 that, “…I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse…” This passage is possibly part of the inspiration for the teaching of, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 5:43. But we must remember that God is our vengeance (Deuteronomy 32:35), so we are to, “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us” (Matthew 5:44).
Along the way, Abram built altars for God and went to Egypt to avoid a famine. When in Egypt, he pretended that Sarai was his sister so that they wouldn’t kill him and steal his wife. Pharaoh took Sarai into his harem, and gave Abram many things for her (animals and servants), but God sent a plague to protect her. When Pharaoh found out, he sent them away “with all that belonged to him.” The Hebrew says “all” or “everything” (kol [H3605], pronounced kole), and the Latin version says, “all that he had”, so I’m inclined to believe that Pharaoh let him keep the stuff that he’d given Abram for Sarai, just so he’d go away. But it is possible that it’s just saying that Pharaoh still let him keep his own stuff even though he sent him away in a hurry.
In Genesis 13, we find that Abram’s family and Lot’s family make it to Bethel, but they’ve been blessed so much that the land can’t support them all. Abram offers Lot the choice of picking a direction to go for land. Lot chose the Jordan Valley and settled near Sodom and Gomorrah…a very beautiful land filled with “exceedingly wicked” people. God told Abram that all the land as far as he could see in every direction would belong to him and his descendants forever. So Abram built another altar to God there.
Tomorrow’s reading for the Bible in a year: Genesis 14–17