Genesis Chapter 11  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Genesis 11
Gen 11:1(top)
Gen 11:2(top)
Gen 11:3(top)
Gen 11:4(top)
Gen 11:5(top)
Gen 11:6(top)
Gen 11:7

“Come, let’s go down.” Genesis 11:1-9 is the record of the tower of Babel. The people building the tower of Babel were full of pride and evil desires. In response to their acting against His purposes, God said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (Gen. 11:6 ESV). God is speaking to His intimate divine council who supported Him. God would not have been speaking to all the spirit beings, which would have included the Devil and his demons, because those evil spirits supported the people’s rebellion against God.

In this verse, as in Genesis 1:26, the verb “go down,” which is associated with “us,” is plural, so this cannot be a plural of majesty. Since God often works with angels to accomplish His purposes, as He did at Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:13), we can see that the “us” is His divine council.

[For more information on God’s divine council and the plural of majesty, see commentary on Genesis 1:26.]

Gen 11:8(top)
Gen 11:9(top)
Gen 11:10

“Shem was 100 years old and fathered​ Arpachshad two years after the flood.” If Shem was 100 years old two years after the Flood, then he was born when Noah was 502 (see commentary on Gen. 10:21). Shem was the middle child of Noah, and the birth order of Noah’s children was Japheth, Shem, and Ham (see commentary on Gen. 5:32). It is sometimes taught that Noah was building the ark for 120 years, but that is not possible (see commentary on Gen. 6:14).

Gen 11:11(top)
Gen 11:12(top)
Gen 11:13(top)
Gen 11:14(top)
Gen 11:15(top)
Gen 11:16(top)
Gen 11:17(top)
Gen 11:18(top)
Gen 11:19(top)
Gen 11:20(top)
Gen 11:21(top)
Gen 11:22(top)
Gen 11:23(top)
Gen 11:24(top)
Gen 11:25(top)
Gen 11:26

“and fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” This does not mean Terah had triplets or that all three children were born when Terah was 70. We have to work the chronology in the Bible to find out when the children were born. Genesis 11:26 is similar to Genesis 5:32, which says, “Noah was 500 years old, and Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (see commentary on Gen. 5:32). Only the eldest son was born when Terah was 70 years old. We have to discover which son was the eldest and at what time the other sons were born by studying the related scriptures. The son born to Terah when he was 70 years old is not stated in the Bible. It could have been either Nahor or Haran. Terah was 130 years old when Abram was born, so there were 60 years between the birth of Terah’s oldest son and Abram. Abram’s birth year can be calculated from Scripture. When Terah died, Abram left Haran to go to the Promised Land (Genesis 11:31; Acts 7:1-4), so the year Terah died was the year Abram left Haran for the Promised Land. Genesis 11:32 says that Terah died at 205 years old, and Genesis 12:4 states Abram was 75 when he left Haran. Thus 205 (Terah’s age) minus 75 (Abram’s age) equals 130, the age of Terah at Abram’s birth.

Gen 11:27

“Now this is the history of the descendants of Terah.” Little is known about the time from Adam to after Noah’s Flood. It is over 1,600 years, yet it only takes 11 chapters in the Bible. In contrast, the last 1,000 years of the Old Testament takes from 2 Samuel until the Gospels and the time of Christ. From Seth until the Exodus the Bible follows the development of one family that goes from Seth through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to Jacob’s 12 sons and their children, and ends with the Exodus. After the Exodus, God dealt with Israel as a nation (cp. Exod. 19:6).

Gen 11:28

“Haran died before his father Terah.” This seemingly insignificant piece of historical information is actually quite significant. This is the first time in the Bible that a son is said to die before his father. The confusion and pain caused by sin are thus starting to be seen working through society. To many people, absolutely nothing in life is more painful than the death of one’s child.

Gen 11:29(top)
Gen 11:30(top)
Gen 11:31

“They came to Haran and lived there.” According to Acts 7:2-4, God first called Abram when he lived in the city of Ur in Mesopotamia. Stephen, drawing upon the Old Testament and history that had been faithfully passed down through the generations, said: “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your land, and away from your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And when his father was dead, God removed him from there into this land in which you now live.”

That Abram was first called by God while he lived in Ur seems to be also clearly supported by Genesis 15:7 and Nehemiah 9:7. Yet Genesis 11:31 makes it seem like Terah, Abram’s father, was the one who took his clan from Ur to Haran. The apparent contradiction, and Abraham’s seeming disobedience to God in taking his family with him, can be explained by the strength of the cultural norms of the time. God told Abraham to leave his family (Acts 7:3), but he did not (although by “family” it is possible that God may have meant Abram’s more distant family members). Since Abram’s father Terah was going along, culture dictated that Terah, the father of the clan, was the de facto leader of the group. This explains the verbiage in Genesis 11:31, that even though it was Abram whom God called, the text says, “Terah took Abram his son…and Sarai his daughter-in-law…They went from Ur of the Chaldees.”

The Bible has nothing at all to say about the family’s stay in Haran. That should not surprise us, because God called Abram to go to the Promised Land, not go to Haran in Syria. In fact, the Bible does not even say why the family stopped in Haran, although we can set forth an educated guess—it was due to Terah’s age and declining health. From the call of Abram to the Exodus was 430 years (Exod. 12:40; Gal. 3:17), and Abram was called from Ur of the Chaldees. Also, Abram was 75 when he left Haran to go to the Promised Land (Gen. 12:4) and was 100 when Isaac, the “seed,” was born. Furthermore, we know that the length of time between Abram’s “seed” (Isaac) and the Exodus was 400 years (Gen. 15:13; Acts 7:6). But if there were 400 years from Isaac’s birth to the Exodus, and 430 years from Abram’s call to the Exodus, then the call had to predate the birth of Isaac by 30 years, five years before Abraham left Haran. That would mean that Abram was called to go to the Promised Land at age 70, when Terah was 200. The family traveled to Haran, at which point we can surmise that Terah was too weak to travel, so the family stayed in Haran for five years. When Terah died at 205, God called Abram again and he went into the Promised Land. Thus, the five years that Abram stayed in Haran was not something that God wanted but something that He accommodated, so He said nothing about it other than that it happened.

[For a more detailed account of the time periods between Abraham and the Exodus, see the commentary on Exod. 12:40.]

Gen 11:32(top)

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