Bible Readings for January 10th
Arguably, Genesis 11 describes the second lowest point for humanity in the whole Bible—the only exception being the three days when Jesus lay dead in the tomb. We saw Adam and Eve expelled from intimate, direct fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. Then, Cain murdered his brother Abel in Genesis 4. After that, we saw the godly line of Seth (the sons of God) mingling with the wicked line of Cain in Genesis 6, leading to God’s withdrawing of his Holy Spirit from humanity, a situation so evil that God was compelled to destroy the world with a flood in Genesis 7–8.
But if you can believe it, the situation in Genesis 11 gets even worse.
Ominously, we read that all the people gathered in the land of Shinar (Gen. 11:1). If we know the rest of the Bible, this should raise our attention, because Shinar is the land where the city of Babylon exists (Dan. 1:2). In fact, we learn here in Genesis 11 where Babylon gets its name: the judgement of God in the form of a confused language that sounded like “Babel” (Gen. 11:9).1
This is our first encounter with Babylon, the great enemy of God’s people throughout the Scriptures.2 We do not read about the final destruction and fall of Babylon until Revelation 18, which marks the decisive victory of God immediately before the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth.
But already here in Genesis 11, we see the beginning of that rebellion in people who seek to build for themselves a tower that will reach into heaven to make a name for themselves. Make no mistake, they are asserting their equality with God by building a structure to reach up into heaven itself. Accordingly, God judges their arrogance by fragmenting their language and scattering them across the earth. This judgment is not reversed until the Day of Pentecost, when the apostles preach the gospel in the languages of all the diverse people groups who were in Jerusalem for the festival (Acts 2:5–12).
What makes this situation so grave is the fact that this is the last point where God deals generally with all peoples. By scattering them across the earth, God makes a general, common salvation nearly impossible.
Hope comes at the very end of Genesis 11 where we read about the descendants of Terah, including a man named Abram. As we will see in the next chapter, God’s plan is to save the world not by dealing with the world generally but by raising up one man through whom God would bless all the families of the earth.
Through Abram, God promises to raise up the offspring who would eventually crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15)—the offspring of the woman, but also the offspring of Abraham: Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16).
1 The ESV Bible includes a footnote explaining that “Babel sounds like the Hebrew for confused.”
2 We do find a brief mention of the city, however, in Genesis 10:10.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.