Genesis 11 Series, Part 1, Verses 1-4

  • | Chris McCann
  • Audio: Length: 23:35
  • Passages covered: Genesis 11:1-4, Genesis 10:25, Genesis 10:21, Genesis 8:9,
    Genesis 10:10, .

| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 |

Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the Book of Genesis. This is study #1 of Genesis, chapter 11 and I will read Genesis 11:1-4:

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let 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.

I will stop reading there. The information in the previous chapter in chapter 10 led us to a discussion of the division of the continents that took place in the days of Peleg. To remind us, let me read Genesis 10:25:

And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.

We saw some important things that the Lord expressed in Genesis 10, verses 21 through 32. One thing was that God highlighted Eber in in Genesis 10:21:

Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber…

Eber was also mentioned in in Genesis 10:25, where it is noted that Peleg was one of the two sons of Eber, so Eber takes a place of prominence in these verses and we wonder why. What significant thing did he do? The Bible does not tell us outright, but it implies that the significance of Eber was that he was a calendar reference patriarch, just like Noah was the calendar reference patriarch at the time of the flood when God kept track of time through the lifetime of Noah. So, too, Eber was a calendar reference patriarch. We find that later in the days of Abram, which was quite a while after the days of Eber, he was called “Abram the Hebrew,” and we know that the word “Hebrew” is derived from Eber’s name. We wonder why Abram became known as a Hebrew. We know that a Hebrew language developed in both spoken and written form and the word “Hebrew” can be traced back to Eber.

We also know that God divided the language of mankind. This is what we will be looking at in chapter 11 as we look at the confusion of tongues and the division God brought to pass in the spoken language of all the people of the earth. At one time, the peoples of the earth spoke one language, according to Genesis 11:1:

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

This word “whole” is the same word we find in Genesis 8:9:

But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth…

We know it was a worldwide flood and the waters covered the mountains fifteen cubits upward. There was not a patch of land anywhere that escaped the flood waters. The whole earth was covered. The word “whole” can also be translated as “all,” so we could read it this way: “And all the land (or earth) was of one language, and of one speech.”

The Hebrew word translated as “speech” is the word “debar.” It is the word that is often translated as “word,” so there was one language and one word.

But then God confused the spoken language that would have gone all the way back to Adam. Adam would have spoken this language when he was created and Eve would have spoken this language and their children would have spoken it. Noah was the tenth Biblical calendar reference patriarch from Adam, 6023 years from creation when the flood came. The whole pre-flood world spoke one language, the same language as Noah and the post-flood world was populated by Noah and his family and they spoke the same language as spoken by Adam and Eve. Very consistently, the same language was spoken from the time of creation in 11,013BC until the days of Eber. Eber was born in 3617BC and he was the calendar patriarch that lived until 3153BC, so somewhere in that time over that period of 464 years was the tower of Babel. It was likely that it was closer to 3153BC because that was the year that Peleg was born. Peleg lived for over a couple hundred years.

We have discussed this, but the division of the continents very likely took place in 3114BC when Peleg’s age was 39 actual years or 40 calendar years. And we know how the numbers “39” and “40” fit very significantly elsewhere in the Bible. But very likely it was 3114BC because that was the foundation date of the Mayan calendar and there would have been no other reason for the calendar beginning in that date, except for the catastrophic dividing of the continents as they broke up with an earthquake(s) and drifted along the sea bottom. We cannot imagine what a terrible time that would have been for people. We experience fear and we are traumatized when there is a 15-second earthquake, but this would have been a prolonged chain of earthquakes and earth movement for some period of time – it could have been several days or weeks. We do not know, but there would have been an enormous change in the lives of the people that happened to be on the area of land that later became Central or South America or Australia, and so forth. So, we can understand that this happened in the days of Eber and it would have been somewhat close in time after the birth of Peleg. The people had moved to the land of Shinar and they spoke one language and one speech. Then it says in Genesis 11:2:

And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

This also reminds us of something else we read about Nimrod in Genesis 10:10:

And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

So, Nimrod and the early families moved from the east to Shinar. That is a significant statement God makes when He says they “journeyed from the east,” because the East identifies with the kingdom of God. They moved away from the East to Shinar, which identifies with Babylon and the kingdom of this world. After the flood, mankind is, once again, going away from God and they want to establish their own kingdom apart from God and they settled in the land of Shinar or Babylon. They are unified – there is one people. There were different family lines. There was the families of Shem, Ham and Japheth and within these peoples there would have been a handful of true believers and the majority would have been worldly, unsaved people, just like we have today. They came together and entered in to agreement to build a tower that would “reach to heaven.” Again, they are speaking one language and everyone can understand everyone else.

Can you imagine if the world was like that today? We are not far away from that due to translation technology. You can “copy and paste” something in almost any language and you can go to a translation site and enter your text and it will translate the text into whatever language you want. But back then, there was just one language and one speech and, therefore, the continents could not have been divided first. Necessarily, there had to be the confusion of tongues first, as we mentioned in our last study. If the continents had divided first, we would find that the peoples in remote places and lands would all speak the same language, but they do not. They speak hundreds or even thousands of different languages. That is evidence of the tower of Babel when there was the confusion of language and we see places like Papua New Guinea where there are hundreds of different languages in a relatively small geographical area.

So, after the tower of Babel there would have been a frustrating time as the peoples tried to communicate with one another. There were no translators and no one could understand the other languages because it would take time to learn another language. It would have been even more difficult because there was no written language.

I do not want to get off track, but I want to mention that it is fascinating that scientists tells us the universe is billions of years old and mankind goes back millions of years, but we have to wonder how far along we are in the evolutionary process if we have been here millions of years and for much of that time we were (supposedly) “cavemen” and we just had no intellectual ability to understand and write language. How far back do we go before we would have advanced in our mental ability where man was evolved to the point that he could communicate and reason? Was it 100,000 years ago? In other words, how “new” is our present ability? How far back do we have to go before we find the “modern man”? It is interesting that there is no written record before 5,000 years ago. There are no books, no short stories or historical writings that go back 100,000 years ago.

However, there are not even records that go back 75,000 years ago or 50,000 years ago. How “newly” developed are we? There are no written records even 20,000 or 10,000 years back. You cannot find anything like Shakespeare and you cannot find anything written by a child, like the A, B, C’s. Sometimes, they find drawings in caves and they date them, but we are not talking about drawings. We are talking about written language of some sort. There is nothing that we have been able to find in the earth, except writings that go back 5,000 to 5,500 years. That is amazing. That is really astounding, given what we are told about mankind’s long history. We would think there would have been some attempts at writing 50,000 years ago – at least some small development along those lines. But, we do not find anything until about 5,000 years ago and it just happens to match the timeline of Peleg and Eber. In the days of Peleg, the earth was divided and, very likely, in the days of Eber the unified language of the world was divided.

There is tremendous difficulty in learning a language just by “listening,” and usually it is only children that can do this well because God has given them the ability to learn language very quickly at an early age, but it is very hard for adults to pick up a new language unless it is written. If you write words, grammatical rules and pronunciation, and so forth, it is easier. It helps you to see the word and then use it properly and pronounce it properly. So, if I want to learn English, a translator can write it down to help me learn it. There could be Greek or Hebrew or Spanish translation books to help you speak and understand another language. There would have been a tremendous need for writing and that opportunity is exactly what we find in history, as written language goes back about 5,000 years and matches the timeline of the things we are reading about in the Bible regarding the division of language and the division of the continents in the days of Eber and Peleg.