Genesis chapter 11 continues the narrative of the descendants of Shem, one of Noah’s three sons. It includes the account of the Tower of Babel, a story that has captured the imagination of people across cultures and time. It also traces the lineage of Abram, who later becomes Abraham, the father of the Israelite nation.
Verse 1-2: “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.”
The chapter begins with a description of the world’s population having one language and moving to settle in the plain of Shinar.
Verse 3-4: “They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.'”
The people of Shinar decide to build a city and a tower that will reach to the heavens, in order to make a name for themselves and avoid being scattered across the earth.
Verse 5-7: “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.'”
God intervenes in the building of the tower by confusing the language of the people so that they cannot understand each other.
Verse 8-9: “So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”
As a result of the confusion of languages, the people are scattered across the earth and the building of the city and tower ceases. The city is named Babel, meaning confusion.
Verse 10-11: “This is the account of Shem’s family line. Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad.”
The narrative shifts to the family line of Shem, one of the sons of Noah. Arphaxad is born to Shem two years after the flood.
Verse 12-13: “And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters. When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah.”
Shem has other children and lives to be 500 years old. Arphaxad becomes the father of Shelah at the age of 35.
Verse 14-15: “And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters. When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber.”
Arphaxad lives to be 403 years old and has other children. Shelah becomes the father of Eber at the age of 30.
Verse 16-19: “And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters. When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. After he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.”
Shelah lives to be 403 years old and has other children. Eber becomes the father of Peleg at the age of 34, and lives to be 464 years old.
Verse 20: “Reu lived two hundred and seven years after he became the father of Serug, and he had other sons and daughters.”
Reu is the son of Peleg and the father of Serug. He lives to be 207 years old and has other children.
Verse 21: “When Serug had lived thirty years, he became the father of Nahor.”
Serug becomes the father of Nahor at the age of thirty.
Verse 22: “After Serug became the father of Nahor, he lived two hundred years and had other sons and daughters.”
Serug lives to be 230 years old and has other children.
Verse 23: “When Nahor had lived twenty-nine years, he became the father of Terah.”
Nahor becomes the father of Terah at the age of twenty-nine.
Verse 24: “After Nahor became the father of Terah, he lived a hundred and nineteen years and had other sons and daughters.”
Nahor lives to be 148 years old and has other children.
Verse 25: “Terah had a son named Abram, Nahor had another son named Haran, and Haran had a son named Lot.”
Terah is the son of Nahor and the father of Abram, Haran, and Nahor. Haran is the brother of Abram and the father of Lot.
Verse 26: “Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his birth, while his father Terah was still alive.”
Haran dies in his hometown of Ur while Terah, his father, is still alive.
Verse 27: “Abram and Nahor both got married. Abram’s wife was named Sarai, and Nahor’s wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah.”
Abram and Nahor both get married. Abram’s wife is named Sarai and Nahor’s wife is Milcah, who is the daughter of Haran and the sister of Iscah.
Verse 28: “Sarai was not able to have children.”
Sarai, Abram’s wife, is unable to conceive.
Verse 29-30: “Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.”
Terah takes his family and sets out to go to Canaan, but they stop in Harran and settle there.
Verse 31-32: “Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.”
Terah lives to be 205 years old and dies in Harran.
In Genesis chapter 11, we see the continuation of God’s plan for humanity. Despite the sin and rebellion that characterized humanity after the flood, God remained faithful to His promises and continued to work through His people to bring about His redemptive plan. We see how even the disobedience of the people at the Tower of Babel could not thwart God’s ultimate purpose, and we catch a glimpse of the faith and obedience of Abram, who would become the father of many nations.