Genesis 11 (NRSV)
The Tower of Babel
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
The ancient Greek historian Herodotus said the tower of Babel still stood in his day and he had seen it.
5The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. 6And 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. 7Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
Interesting large artistic renderings of the Tower of Babel:
“The Tower of Babel,” a 1928 woodcut by M. C. Escher. Click HERE.
“The Tower of Babel” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1563 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). Click HERE.
“The Construction of the Tower of Babel,” by Hendrik van Cleve, c. 1500? (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna). Click HERE.
“Tower of Babel,” The Bedford Master, Book of Hours, 1423. Click HERE.
a modern “Tower of Babel,” — urban overload! — by Joel Stoehr. Click HERE.
Using our speech to praise God — here are a couple versions of “O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” This is one of the more famous of Charles Wesley’s 6000 hymns. The hymn was placed first in John Wesley’s A Collection of Hymns for the People Called Methodists published in 1780, and is often found on the first page of Methodist hymnals even today.
1) Mike Rayson, a tribute to Charles and John Wesley.
2) the MetroSingers, from the culturally diverse Metropolitan Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Hyattsville, MD.
Speaking of different languages — HERE is a fascinating overview of the worldwide status of Bible translation, from Wycliffe Bible Translators. I must add that if you ever make a trip to Orlando, Florida, to see the Mouse, do yourself a spiritual favor and visit the Wycliffe headquarters. Their museum is fascinating, interactive for children and adults, and I promise you will learn a lot!
the tower of Babel language fiasco — in reverse!
Acts 2:1-11 (New Living Translation)
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed.
“These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!”
Descendants of Shem
10These are the descendants of Shem. When Shem was one hundred years old, he became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; 11and Shem lived after the birth of Arpachshad five hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 12When Arpachshad had lived thirty-five years, he became the father of Shelah; 13and Arpachshad lived after the birth of Shelah four hundred three years, and had other sons and daughters. 14When Shelah had lived thirty years, he became the father of Eber; 15and Shelah lived after the birth of Eber four hundred three years, and had other sons and daughters. 16When Eber had lived thirty-four years, he became the father of Peleg; 17and Eber lived after the birth of Peleg four hundred thirty years, and had other sons and daughters. 18When Peleg had lived thirty years, he became the father of Reu; 19and Peleg lived after the birth of Reu two hundred nine years, and had other sons and daughters. 20When Reu had lived thirty-two years, he became the father of Serug; 21and Reu lived after the birth of Serug two hundred seven years, and had other sons and daughters. 22When Serug had lived thirty years, he became the father of Nahor; 23and Serug lived after the birth of Nahor two hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 24When Nahor had lived twenty-nine years, he became the father of Terah; 25and Nahor lived after the birth of Terah one hundred nineteen years, and had other sons and daughters. 26When Terah had lived seventy years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Here is the Bible’s first mention of Abram, later re-named Abraham. About one-third of the book of Genesis is about this man, who is remembered for his faith.
James 2:23 (New International Version)
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
Descendants of Terah
This passage leads into what are called the Patriarchal Narratives (Genesis 12-36) of the Old Testament. Abraham and his family probably lived sometime around 1800-1750 B.C., and with them the biblical narrative moves from primeval times into the time of recorded history.
Though no documents outside the Bible have been found that tell about the patriarchs specifically, much has been discovered about the world in which Abraham’s family moved. Personal names and place names like some listed in these verses have been found in the documents of other people in Mesopotamia and Palestine at this time. The historical and social settings of the patriarchal stories are in agreement with what is known from archaeological discoveries about the lands and peoples among whom the patriarchs lived. Thus, the biblical narrative takes a turn here from the dimly-seen reaches of the past into the increasing light of historical affirmation.
–Linda B. Hinton
27Now these are the descendants of Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. 28Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. She was the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30Now Sarai was barren; she had no child. 31Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32The days of Terah were two hundred five years; and Terah died in Haran.
As we are set to go into the next portion of Scripture, let’s review just where we are now. Abram and Sarai have obeyed God and set out for an unknown land. They have traveled from Ur, near the coast of the Persian Gulf, northward along the Euphrates River to the busy cosmopolitan center of Haran (now in southern Turkey). There Abram’s father, Terah, died. Now Abram is the man in charge. He will decide where his entourage goes, how they live, what/who they worship.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.