A Daily Genesis

Genesis 11:1-5

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 11:1 . . Everyone on earth had the same language and the same words.[/B]

The Hebrew word for "language" is from [I]saphah[/I] (saw-faw') which means: the lip. The one for "words" is from[I] dabar[/I] (daw-baw') which means: a word (as spoken or written)

Spoken languages are a combination of words and lips; viz: vocabulary and pronunciation; viz: accent. It's one thing to know the words of a language, but it is quite another to speak them with the correct pronunciation. In that day, everyone used the same words and spoke them with the very same accent.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 11:2 . . And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.[/B]

The name "Shinar" was of course given later because these early migrations were to lands heretofore uninhabited. According to Gen 10:10, Shinar became Nimrod's turf.

The amount of time elapsed between Noah's bender and this migration isn't stated in the Bible-- plus; there's really no way to tell which part of the world was "the east" in the author's day.

Here in the USA, the Great Continental Divide is an east/west determinant. Funny thing is, if you're located in Phoenix Arizona, then Billings Montana is to your continental east even though geographically, it's almost directly north; so when you see directions like "east" and/or "west" in the Bible, it's probably best to NOT think compass directions.

For example in the case of the Magi of Matt 2:1. As best as we can tell, their city was somewhere east of the meridian that runs north/south through the Jordan River Valley but that kind of an east is continental rather than geographical so there's really no telling where they came from.

This particular migration was "from" the east; which means pioneers from among Noah's progeny, whose numbers at this point are totally unknown, went out west looking for greener pastures. Although the region of Shinar has not yet been precisely pinpointed, we can take a relatively educated guess at it.

"In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. The Lord delivered King Jehoiakim of Judah into his power, together with some of the vessels of the House of God, and he brought them to the land of Shinar to the house of his god; he deposited the vessels in the treasury of his god." (Dan 1:1-2)

The "Shinar" of Daniel's day is apparently the region where ancient Babylon was located. Babylon's location today is marked by a broad area of ruins just east of the Euphrates River, approximately 90 km (56 mi) south of Baghdad, Iraq. It's part of an area commonly known as the Fertile Crescent; a very large region arching across the northern part of the Syrian Desert and extending from the Nile Valley to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. In the early post-Flood years, this region was very lush. But today much of it is arid wasteland.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 11:3a . .They said to one another: Come, let us make bricks and burn them hard. (Brick served them as stone).[/B]

Brick are blocks of clay or other ceramic used for construction and decorative facing. Bricks may be dried in the sun but are more usually baked in a kiln. They cost relatively little, resist dampness and heat, and can actually last longer than some kinds of stone.

Brick was the chief building material of ancient Mesopotamia and Palestine. The inhabitants of Jericho in Palestine were building with brick about 9,000 years ago (7,000 bc). That's about 5,000 years before Abraham's day.

Sumerian and Babylonian builders constructed ziggurats, palaces, and city walls of sun-dried brick and covered them with more durable kiln-baked, often brilliantly glazed brick, arranged in decorative pictorial friezes. Later the Persians and the Chinese built in brick, for example, the Great Wall of China. The Romans built large structures such as baths, amphitheaters, and aqueducts in brick, which they often covered with marble facing.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 11:3b . . and bitumen served them as mortar.[/B]

According to Webster's, bitumen is any of various mixtures of hydrocarbons (as tar) often together with their nonmetallic derivatives that occur naturally or are obtained as residues after heat-refining natural substances (e.g. petroleum).

The stuff can be deadly if one isn't careful because once your feet become stuck, they are very difficult to extract; as the museum at the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles attests. But it's a handy building material too. Noah sealed the ark with a bituminous material, and Moses owes his life to it. (Ex 2:1-10)

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 11:4 . . And they said: Come, let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in the sky, to make a name for ourselves; else we shall be scattered all over the world.[/B]

Magnificent cities have a way of attracting tourism, commerce, and industry. People want to come and visit, and to live there. Politically, their scheme made good sense. More people equals more prosperity; resulting in more power and control over the region-- and of course the larger their tax base the more city services they could provide citizens; including an effective civil defense program.

There's nothing really intrinsically wrong in building a large beautiful city. But in their case, it wasn't the right time for it. God wanted the post-Flooders to move out and populate the entire globe, rather than accumulate in one local region.

Towers served a variety of purposes in the ancient world. Some were used as look-outs, others were used as tombs, and yet others were used as bloody altars for human sacrifices.

The purpose intended for the tower of Gen 11:4 isn't stated but guessing from the wording, I'd say it was intended to be a grand monument; sort of like the 630 foot stainless steel Gateway Arch in Ste. Louis Missouri, or a magnificent minaret like the 239-foot Qutab Minar in Delhi India. Something like that would certainly go a long ways towards getting the Shinarians the renown they sought.

But their wish that the tower's top be in the sky suggests their primary motive was to use its facade to display a variety of gods popular in that day. There's towers like that right now that in the city of Madurai in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located on the banks of River Vaigai.

The towers are literally festooned with hundreds of gods. So if your favorite god is up there somewhere, there's no need for you to leave town and go on a pilgrimage elsewhere to worship. People love their religion. So if you give them the liberty and the means to practice it; they'll love you forever. Tolerance is good politics. If only Islamic fundamentalists understood this.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 11:5 . .Yhvh came down to look at the city and tower that man had built,[/B]

That verse presents an interesting theological problem. Wouldn't it make better sense by saying Yhvh looked down, instead of saying the Yhvh "came" down? Why bother to come down? Doesn't the Bible's God see all and know all? Isn't God omniscient? Can't He see everything from right where He is?

Yes, the Bible's God can do that alright; but a certain celestial being in the Old Testament scriptures-- often labeled yhvh --is never God in person. It's a divine agent who goes by the name of God, stands in for God, speaks for God, speaks as God, reports to God, and takes care of God's business in this world of ours; for example:

"I am sending an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have made ready. Pay heed to him and obey him. Do not defy him, for he will not pardon your offenses, since My Name is in him; but if you obey him and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes." (Ex 23:20-22)

The name of that angel is his master's name, and actually, the words Moses heard spoken at Ex 23:20-22 were spoken by that heaven-sent messenger on behalf of his master. That mysterious being is not only an enigma; but also quite frightful as anyone who's studied its activities in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy can attest. In other words: wherever the name [I]yhvh[/I] appears in the texts of those books; it's that mysterious angel.

"Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: and they saw the God of Israel: and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink." (Ex 24:9-11)

Did they really see the actual God? No.

"He said: thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see Me, and live." (Ex 33:20)

"You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form." (John 5:37)

What Moses and his entourage saw was the mysterious messenger whose name is his master's.

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