Of one language.1. Language or speech God hath allowed to men as men.
2. One language did God vouchsafe to all for good. It was mainly to keep them to the Church.
3. Sin perverts the sweet blessing of one speech to conspiracy against God (ver. 9).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Go to, let us build us a city and a tower.I. Three motives may have led to the building of the tower of Babel.
1. A feeling that in union and communion lay the secret of man's renown and strength; that to disperse the family was to debilitate it.
2. A remembrance of the deluge, and a guilty dread of some similar judgment, leading them to draw close to each other for support.
3. Man was awaking to self-consciousness and a knowledge of his own resources. He was gaining a glimpse into the possible progress of civilization. The tower was to be a focus where the rays of his power would be concentrated.
II. To all philanthropists this narrative preaches this simple and sublime truth — that genuine unity is not to be effectually compassed in any other manner than by striking at the original root of discord. Every scheme for the promotion of brotherhood which deals only with the external symptoms of disunion, and aims at correcting only what appears on the surface of society, is ultimately sure of frustration.
III. In His own good time and manner God realized the presumptuous design of the Babel builders, and united in one central institution the scattered families of man. In the mediation of His Son He has reared up a Tower whose top reaches to heaven. It was in order to gather the nations into this world-embracing community that the apostles of Christ went forth charged with a message of peace and love. When the Spirit descended at Pentecost the physical impediment obstructing union — that difference of language which the sin of Babel had introduced — was removed. The apostles spake with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The Pulpit Analyst.The events connected with the building of the tower of Babel forcibly illustrate the power and the weakness of man. There is great power of scheming, great power of working, ending in an ignominious failure. So it is in all the ways of life; there is a way of spending force for naught, and there is a way of turning every effort to good account; there is a scheming that is nothing but inflation, and there is a purposing which gives shape and strength to one's daily life. The courses of Providence, as revealed in the history of the world, enable us now to judge programmes by anticipation; before we begin to build we can now tell how we shall finish, or whether we shall finish at all. Poor self-deceiving heart! How many bricks has it made, and burnt thoroughly, and yet how few towers it has ever finished! The people constitute themselves into a community of builders, and they propose to themselves a city and a tower. In this plan there are three things which men generally account laudable —
1. There is self-reliance. The loudest cry of today is, Help yourselves! It is thought that the man who trusts his own arm trusts a good servant. So far, therefore, there is nothing amiss in these builders.
2. There is a desire for self-preservation — "lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." Self-preservation is held to be the first law of nature. If a man will not take care of himself, who will take care of him? Still, therefore, the builders have not trespassed.
3. There is ambition — a city, and a tower, and a name! No man can make much headway in life who is not ambitious. The finalist grows weaker every day; the progressionist strengthens with every encounter. The whole work was within man's own sphere. They wanted more than a city and a tower; they wanted a name, "let us make us a name." That has been the ruin of many a man: anything for a name — any price for renown! This is not the ambition which is commended; this stands to a true ambition as presumption to faith. One thing is clear, viz., that God is observant of human plans. He knows our purpose, He overhears our secret communings. He allows men to build for awhile, and in the time of their rejoicing over the work of their hands He throws the city and tower to the dust. The error of these people was not in having a plan, but in having a plan without God.(1) Carefully examine the quality and meaning of every new plan of life. Many a man has been ruined by ideas which he deemed necessary to the success of his fortune;
(a) (b) (c) (a) God has all forces at command. (b) God has set a limit to every man's life. (c) God has pronounced Himself against those who dishonour His name. All these considerations have also a reflex bearing on those who plan in a right spirit.(5) Let us learn what is meant by all the unfinished towers that we see around us. "This man began to build," etc. Job said, "My purposes are broken off." Look at disappointed men, etc.; ruined men, etc.(6) Cooperation with God will alone secure the entire realization of our plans. Application: (a) (b) (c) (The Pulpit Analyst.)
(b) (c) (a) God has all forces at command. (b) God has set a limit to every man's life. (c) God has pronounced Himself against those who dishonour His name. All these considerations have also a reflex bearing on those who plan in a right spirit.(5) Let us learn what is meant by all the unfinished towers that we see around us. "This man began to build," etc. Job said, "My purposes are broken off." Look at disappointed men, etc.; ruined men, etc.(6) Cooperation with God will alone secure the entire realization of our plans. Application: (a) (b) (c) (The Pulpit Analyst.)
(c) (a) God has all forces at command. (b) God has set a limit to every man's life. (c) God has pronounced Himself against those who dishonour His name. All these considerations have also a reflex bearing on those who plan in a right spirit.(5) Let us learn what is meant by all the unfinished towers that we see around us. "This man began to build," etc. Job said, "My purposes are broken off." Look at disappointed men, etc.; ruined men, etc.(6) Cooperation with God will alone secure the entire realization of our plans. Application: (a) (b) (c) (The Pulpit Analyst.)
(a) God has all forces at command.
(b) God has set a limit to every man's life.
(c) (The Pulpit Analyst.)
(c) (The Pulpit Analyst.)
(The Pulpit Analyst.)
1. In the form of sensual indulgence. The type was drunkenness, of which Noah has given a sad example.
2. Disregard of parental authority. Ham.
3. In the form of ambition. Builders of Babel.
I. LOVE OF GLORY. They would indulge the passion for fame at all costs.
1. The boldest schemes of ambition are generally the work of a few.
2. Such ambition involves the slavery of the many.
II. FALSE IDEAS OF THE UNITY OF THE RACE.
1. They thought that it was external "City." "Tower."
2. They held that the individual must be sacrificed to the outward grandeur of the State. This is the genius of all Babel-building, to make the city supreme, and to sink the individual. All must be sacrificed to one idea: the nation — State — Constitution. It is not within the province of worldly ambition to recognize the sublime importance of the individual soul. Hence the conflict between the policies of statecraft and the interests of true religion. This exaltation of the State above the individual has —
(1) (2) III. PRESUMING TO PLACE THEMSELVES ABOVE PROVIDENCE. 1. God interferes in all matters which threaten His government. 2. God often interferes effectually by unexpected means. These foolish builders imagined that they were safe in the unity of their speech, yet it was here that they were vanquished. IV. A PREMATURE ATTEMPT TO REALIZE THAT BETTER TIME COMING FOR HUMANITY. (T. H. Leale.)
(2) III. PRESUMING TO PLACE THEMSELVES ABOVE PROVIDENCE. 1. God interferes in all matters which threaten His government. 2. God often interferes effectually by unexpected means. These foolish builders imagined that they were safe in the unity of their speech, yet it was here that they were vanquished. IV. A PREMATURE ATTEMPT TO REALIZE THAT BETTER TIME COMING FOR HUMANITY. (T. H. Leale.)
III. PRESUMING TO PLACE THEMSELVES ABOVE PROVIDENCE.
1. God interferes in all matters which threaten His government.
2. God often interferes effectually by unexpected means. These foolish builders imagined that they were safe in the unity of their speech, yet it was here that they were vanquished.
IV. A PREMATURE ATTEMPT TO REALIZE THAT BETTER TIME COMING FOR HUMANITY.
(T. H. Leale.)
I. AMBITION, or the perversion of the divinely-implanted principle, "Excelsior."
1. Cautions us to beware of our own hearts; and —
2. Counsels us to be careful of the Divine will.
II. ASSUMPTION, or the presupposition of man's independence of God. It —
1. Cautions us to remember our entire dependence; and —
2. Counsels us to regard the Divine preeminence as essential to our happiness.
III. ASSOCIATION, or the persuasion that human unity means human perpetuity. It —
1. Cautions us against forgetting that God must come into any scheme after unity; and —
2. Counsels us about fulfilling the Divine ideal of unity in Him.Lessons:
1. Moral towers of Babel (great or small) should be erected in God's name, and carried through in God's strength.
2. Moral towers of Babel (great or small), if not so attempted and accomplished, tend to dishonour God's name, and to disown God's strength.
3. Moral towers of Babel (great or small), thus dishonouring Him, are sure, sooner or later, to be overthrown by God, who has all forces at His command; and —
4. Moral towers of Babel (great or small) conceived in God's name, constructed by God's strength, and contributing to God's glory, are certain of the Divine permission and permanence.
Homilist.I. HUMAN LABOUR ALWAYS DEVELOPS THE NATURE OF MAN.
1. The constructive element.
2. The ambitious element.
3. The social element.
4. The cooperative element.
II. HUMAN LABOUR GENERALLY ILLUSTRATES THE PATIENCE OF HEAVEN.
1. Their enterprise from the beginning was rebellion against heaven.
2. They were allowed to go on almost to its final accomplishment.
III. HUMAN LABOUR MUST ULTIMATELY MEET WITH THE JUST TREATMENT OF GOD.
1. He discloses its purpose.
2. He arrests its progress.
3. He frustrates its design.
Homilist.I. THAT SELF-RENOWN IS AN OBJECT TOO LOW FOR MAN TO AIM AT.
1. Because he has duties to perform towards others.
2. Because man's highest and best powers cannot be properly developed by having this as the only object in view.
(1) (2) (3) 3. Because there is no true happiness in the pursuit, nor actual attainment of the object. II. THAT UNION PRODUCES STRENGTH. 1. It concentrates the powers of many towards one object. 2. It is recognized in heaven. (1) (2) 3. The more Divine the union, the greater will be its reality and strength. III. THAT HUMAN EFFORTS ARE FRUITLESS WHEN NOT IN HARMONY WITH THE DIVINE INTENTIONS. 1. A higher intelligence is opposed to them. 2. A greater power. 3. A purer love. They deserved to be destroyed, but were only scattered. 4. This failure was — (1) (2) (3) 1. In every undertaking, let us endeavour to know if it be according to God's will. 2. Let us have God's glory as the sole object of life. (Homilist.)
(2) (3) 3. Because there is no true happiness in the pursuit, nor actual attainment of the object. II. THAT UNION PRODUCES STRENGTH. 1. It concentrates the powers of many towards one object. 2. It is recognized in heaven. (1) (2) 3. The more Divine the union, the greater will be its reality and strength. III. THAT HUMAN EFFORTS ARE FRUITLESS WHEN NOT IN HARMONY WITH THE DIVINE INTENTIONS. 1. A higher intelligence is opposed to them. 2. A greater power. 3. A purer love. They deserved to be destroyed, but were only scattered. 4. This failure was — (1) (2) (3) 1. In every undertaking, let us endeavour to know if it be according to God's will. 2. Let us have God's glory as the sole object of life. (Homilist.)
(3) 3. Because there is no true happiness in the pursuit, nor actual attainment of the object. II. THAT UNION PRODUCES STRENGTH. 1. It concentrates the powers of many towards one object. 2. It is recognized in heaven. (1) (2) 3. The more Divine the union, the greater will be its reality and strength. III. THAT HUMAN EFFORTS ARE FRUITLESS WHEN NOT IN HARMONY WITH THE DIVINE INTENTIONS. 1. A higher intelligence is opposed to them. 2. A greater power. 3. A purer love. They deserved to be destroyed, but were only scattered. 4. This failure was — (1) (2) (3) 1. In every undertaking, let us endeavour to know if it be according to God's will. 2. Let us have God's glory as the sole object of life. (Homilist.)
3. Because there is no true happiness in the pursuit, nor actual attainment of the object.
II. THAT UNION PRODUCES STRENGTH.
1. It concentrates the powers of many towards one object.
2. It is recognized in heaven.
3. The more Divine the union, the greater will be its reality and strength. III. THAT HUMAN EFFORTS ARE FRUITLESS WHEN NOT IN HARMONY WITH THE DIVINE INTENTIONS. 1. A higher intelligence is opposed to them. 2. A greater power. 3. A purer love. They deserved to be destroyed, but were only scattered. 4. This failure was — 1. In every undertaking, let us endeavour to know if it be according to God's will. 2. Let us have God's glory as the sole object of life. (Homilist.)
3. The more Divine the union, the greater will be its reality and strength.
III. THAT HUMAN EFFORTS ARE FRUITLESS WHEN NOT IN HARMONY WITH THE DIVINE INTENTIONS.
1. A higher intelligence is opposed to them.
2. A greater power.
3. A purer love. They deserved to be destroyed, but were only scattered.
4. This failure was —
1. In every undertaking, let us endeavour to know if it be according to God's will.
2. Let us have God's glory as the sole object of life.
1. The harmony of Divine revelation with all that we know of fact. If all that man can be proved to have done towards the formation of any language be confined to changing, combining, improving, and reducing it to a grammatical form, there is the greatest probability, independent of the authority of revelation, that languages themselves were originally the work of God, as was that of the first man and woman.
2. The desirableness of the universal spread of Christ's kingdom. We may see in the reasons which render a universal government among men incompatible with the liberty and safety of the world abundant cause to pray for this, and for the union of all His subjects under Him. Here there is no danger of tyranny or oppression, nor any need of those low motives of rival. ship to induce him to seek the well-being of his subjects. A union with Christ and one another embraces the best interests of mankind.
1. Sinful apostates are active in drawing each other to sin.
2. Wickedness is studious for means to effect its ends.
3. No difficulties usually hinder sin from its undertakings.
4. It is but brick and slime wherewith wickedness builds (ver. 3).
5. Wicked ones are much encouraging one another to evil.
6. Cities and towers, ornament and strength, are sinners' trophies.
7. Sin's structure would be as high and stately as heaven.
8. Sinners are ambitious of a name on earth.
9. Dispersion is the evil which sinners fear.
10. Sinners resolve to provide their own security against God's judgments by the works of their own hands (ver. 4).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Birs-Nimrud. It was a sort of oblique pyramid, built in seven receding stages. "Upon a platform of crude brick, raised a few feet above the level of the alluvial plain, was built of burnt brick the first or basement stage — an exact square, two hundred and seventy-two feet each way, and twenty-six feet in perpendicular height. Upon this stage was erected a second, two hundred and thirty feet each way, and likewise twenty-six feet high; which, however, was not placed exactly in the middle of the first, but considerably nearer to the southwestern end, which constituted the back of the building. The other stages are arranged similarly — the third being one hundred and eighty-eight feet, and again twenty-six feet high; the fourth one hundred and forty-six feet square and fifteen feet high; the fifth one hundred and four feet square, and the same height as the fourth; the sixth sixty-two feet square, and again the same height; and the seventh twenty feet square, and once more the same height. On the seventh stage there was probably placed the ark or tabernacle, which seems to have been again fifteen feet high, and must have nearly, if not entirely, covered the top of the seventh story. The entire original height, allowing three feet for the platform, would thus have been one hundred and fifty-six feet, or without the platform, one hundred and fifty-three feet. The whole formed a sort of oblique pyramid, the gentler slope facing the N.E., and the steeper inclining to the S.W. On the N.E. side was the grand entrance, and here stood the vestibule, a separate building, the debris from which having joined those from the temple itself, fill up the intermediate space, and very remarkably prolong the round in this direction."
(Things Not Generally Known.)
(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
(David J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Let us make us a name. —
Homilist.1. A "name" is an important thing for a man.
2. All men make some kind of "name" for themselves.
3. Striving to "make a name" as the chief end of life is a grand mistake. This is what the men in "the land of Shinar" were now doing. Men have a natural desire for distinction; but what is the legitimate object? Is it to appear great, or to be great? Reputation is one thing, character another. The words of Christ, in Matthew 23:12, will enable us to discover the right and wrong direction of this ambition.
I. A GREATNESS THAT COMES TO HUMILIATION. "He that exalteth him. self shall be abased."
1. In the moral reflections of his own soul. Conscience can never be satisfied by achievements the most brilliant, or possessions the most splendid, where selfishness has been the spring of their attainment.
2. In the estimation of all Christly men. These men see no greatness where there is not goodness.
3. In the retributions of Providence. There is a moral government over us all, there is a Nemesis that tracks the steps of men.
II. A GREATNESS THAT COMES FROM HUMILIATION. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
1. In their own spirits. They master their passions, rise superior to mere personal considerations, rule their own souls, and are greater than they who take a city.
2. In the moral judgment of society. Just as a man makes himself of no reputation and works from disinterested love — unostentatiously and with no selfish motives — does he get enthroned in public sentiment.
3. In the friendship of God.
John 5:44). A rare man is he surely that hath not some Babel of his own, whereon he bestows pains and cost, only to be talked of. Hoc ego primus vidi, was Zabarelle's ἐπινίκιον. Epicurus would have us believe that he was the first that ever found out the truth of things. Palaemon gave out that all learning was born and would die with him. Aratus, the astrologer, that he had numbered the stars and written of them all. Archimedes, the mathematician, that if he had but where to set his foot, he could move the earth out of its place. Herostratus burnt Diana's temple for a name. And Plato writes of Protagoras, that he vaunted that, whereas he had lived sixty years, forty of them he had spent in corrupting of youth. Tully tells us that Gracchus did all for popular applause, and observes that those philosophers that have written of the contempt of glory, have yet set their names to their own writings, which shows an itch after that glory they persuaded others to despise. "These two things," saith Tully somewhere of himself, "I have to boast of, Optimarum atrium scientiam rerum gloriam, my learned works, and noble acts." Julius Caesar had his picture set upon the globe of the world, with a sword in his right hand, a book in his left, with this motto, En utroque Caesar. Vibius Rufus used the chair wherein Caesar was wont to sit, and was slain; he also married Tully's widow, and boasted of them both, as if either for that seat he had been Caesar, or for that wife an orator. When Maximus died in the last day of his consulship, Caninius Rebulus petitioned Caesar for that part of the day that he might be said to have been consul. So many of the popish clergy have with great care and cost procured a cardinal's hat, when they have lain a-dying, that they might be entitled cardinals in their epitaph, as Erasmus writeth...And Sextus Marius, being once offended with his neighbour, invited him to be his guest for two days together. The first of those two days he pulled down his neighbour's farmhouse, the next he set it up again far bigger and better than before. And all this for a name, that his neighbours might see, and say, what hurt or good he could do them at his pleasure.
(G. S. Bowes.)
The Lord came down to see.1. Men's apostasy and proud attempts are knit together with God's visitation.
2. God is below when men think He hath forsaken the earth, and is near to visit the wickedness of man.
3. God's descent is for vengeance sometimes upon sinners.
4. God doth visit the beauty and strength of wickedness.
5. The apostate sons of Adam may build their fabrics to prevent God's judgments.
6. Jehovah will mark for vengeance the sons of wickedness and weakness in all their buildings against Him (ver. 5).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. God speaks, as well as marks, the attempts of the ungodly to their reproach and confusion.
2. God points out the greatest advantages of violent workers of iniquity to scorn.
3. Unity of minds, resolutions, and communications, are the greatest props to wicked undertakers.
4. Violent workers of iniquity presume to finish as well as begin: that nothing shall be withheld from them.
5. Proud and presumptuous undertakings of men are a scorn and derision to God (ver. 6).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth.I. GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF CONFUSION, BUT OF PEACE. Yet once, in His wise compassion, He made confusion in order to prevent it; He destroyed peace, that in the end He might restore it.
II. God, who hath made of one blood all nations of men, did, by that exercise of His power, THE BEST THING THAT COULD BE DONE TO CHECK AND RETARD THE RAPID GROWTH OF EVIL AND TO PREPARE THE MEANS BY WHICH MAN MIGHT BE BROUGHT BACK TO OBEDIENCE. While there was but one tongue, men easily corrupted each other; when there were many, evil communications were greatly hindered. God marred the Babel builders' work, but it was in order to mar their wickedness; and meanwhile He had His own gracious designs for a remedy. Pentecost.
(F. E. Paget, M. A.)
1. The confusion of tongues was not at random. It was a systematic distribution of languages for the purpose of a systematic distribution of man in emigration. The dispersion was orderly, the difference of tongue corresponding to the differences of race. By these were the Gentiles divided in their lands, everyone after his tongue, after their families in their nations.
2. From the earliest period there has been manifested, in the history of scientific progress, an invincible faith among scientific men that the facts of nature are capable of being arranged in conformity with laws of geometry and algebra. In other words, all have a profound conviction of the existence of what Argyll calls "the reign of law," i.e., order in the midst of apparent confusion and aimlessness.
3. There is no illogical course in arguing that those who believe in God as the Creator of order in nature have a right to conclude that He preserves the same order in history. The cataclysms in nature have an order and object; why not then the catastrophes of history. There is Divine order in the midst of historical confusion, as palpable and manifest as in that of science. Looking back upon the pathway which history has trodden, we can perceive traces of design — powerful evidences of an infinite aim — order in the midst of confusion. Over the wheels of history, as over the wheels in Ezekiel's sublime vision, is the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
I. THE AMBITIOUS BUILDERS.
1. Worldly wisdom.
2. Desire for worldly power.
3. Worldly pride.
II. THE SUPREME RULER.
1. God looked.
2. God intervened.
3. God governed. So it is always.God restrains the power of evil, and makes it serve Him (Psalm 76:10). LEARN:
1. Not to be self-willed, proud, ambitious.
2. To submit to God's will, and trust always in His wisdom and love.
(W. S. Smith, B. D.)
I. THE BUILDERS.
1. Numerous. For one hundred years the posterity of Noah had continued to increase.
2. Of one speech. Hence present variety of language corroborative of the dispersion; otherwise there must have been many sources of the human race.
3. Disobedient. Had been expressly commanded to "replenish," i.e. refill, the earth. Instead of obeying God, they lived together. Thus, too, the population of the world was retarded. Men increase more rapidly in new countries.
4. United in rebellion.
II. THE BUILDING.
1. Purpose. Not to escape another flood, for not only had they the promise, but very few could in such a case escape that way. Probably it was to serve some idolatrous purpose, and be a landmark around which they could unite as one people and nation.
3. Character. Lofty. Eastern buildings not generally marked by loftiness. This, a grand and solitary exception.
III. THE INTERRUPTION.
1. The person. "God," whom they thought least of, and practically defied.
2. The mode. "Confound their language."
IV. THE CONSEQUENCES.
1. The building abandoned. If some speaking one tongue had continued, the jealousy of the rest would have hindered. But so strange an event would confound them as well as their speech.
2. They separated. Into how many tribes or nations we know not. The most eminent philologists (as Bunsen, etc.) find three original stocks, which some even call the Semitic, Japhetic, and Hamitic.
3. The earth was more widely peopled. Thus was the Divine will enforced. But had this been obeyed, without the need of resorting to this compulsory method, how much more easily had missionary efforts, and commercial enterprises, etc., now been carried out. Thus the world is this day suffering through the sin of these builders of old. LEARN:
I. The sin and folly of disobeying God.
II. The ease with which God can punish sin.
III. The far-reaching consequence of sin.
IV. No confusion of tongues in heaven. All sing the one new song.
(J. C. Gray.)
1. How vain and disastrous it is for men to contend against God; they cannot effectually resist Him; they can only destroy themselves. Especially if their contention is against any of the plans and arrangements connected with His eternal covenant — if the work which they are opposing, or the providential dispensation against which they are rebelling, has a direct bearing on His glorious design for the redemption of the world, and the salvation of souls, — if they are labouring to shut out Christ, or what is Christ's, from His own domains, from hearts and homes that should be His, — how idly and madly do they kick against the pricks!
2. How wise it is, and how blessed, to acquiesce in God's allotment of the good things of life, and in His manner of bringing His purposes of love to pass! The blessed Lord is the God of Shem; — but Shem suffers wrong, and has to exercise long patience before deliverance comes. Still it is enough that Jehovah is his God; let him not be careful or anxious. "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all other things shall be added unto you."
3. In regard to the duty and the destiny of nations, the purpose of God is here revealed.(1) On the one hand, schemes of conquest, and of concentrated dominion, are seen not to be of God; and however He may sometimes make them subservient to His own purposes, He will always, in the end, pour contempt on the proud ambition of man.(2) Orderly dispersion and colonization are of God. In particular, in the line of Japheth, to which we belong, and among the isles of the Gentiles, colonization seems to be especially the Divine rule.(3) But even if Japheth should prove unfaithful in the use of the privileges and opportunities of his high calling, as enlarged by God, and permitted to dwell in the tents of Shem, — and for his unfaithfulness should be cast away, — there is hope for the world still. "Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem," is still, after all, the rallying watchword by which faith is quickened, and expectation stirred. For "salvation is of the Jews"; and it is concerning the seed of Shem that the animating question is put, — "If their fall be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness?" (Romans 11:12). The Lord, whose name is blessed, is still the God of Shem: Israel is still "beloved for the fathers' sake."(4) Finally, the division of languages, though an obstacle to schemes of human ambition, will not be suffered to be an obstacle to the triumph of the cause of God. Of this, God Himself gave a proof and pledge, in the miracle wrought on the day of Pentecost, — the counterpart of the miracle at Babel. The separation of nations will not hinder the unity of the faith.
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
I. LET US INQUIRE WHO WERE DISPERSED OVER THE FACE OF THE EARTH AT THE DESTRUCTION OF BABEL. Who were those that lived on the plains of Shinar, built the tower of Babel, and were scattered over all the earth? It is evident they could not be the whole of mankind; for they had before been sent to the various places of their Divine destination. Some had gone to one quarter of the world, and some to another. Who, then, could the builders of Babel be that, after the general dispersion of mankind, were scattered over the earth? The Scripture history will inform us upon this subject. They were the sons of Ham; for the sacred historian tells us, "The sons of Ham were Cush, and Misraim, and Phut, and Canaan. And the sons of Cush: Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtecha; and the sons of Raamab, Sheba and Dedan. And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: whereof it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel." But how came Nimrod the son of Ham, and his posterity, at Babylon, where Babel was built? This portion of the earth was allotted to Shem; and Nimrod with all the posterity of Ham was appointed to go to Africa. What right, then, had Nimrod, or any of the sons of Ham, to take possession of the plains of Babylon? Undoubtedly they had no right at all. But this is the Scripture account of the event. "And every region was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass in the journeying of the people from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar." The people, then, who journeyed from the east were not all the people of the earth, but only the posterity of Ham, and especially Nimrod and his posterity. This is a very rational account. But it is absurd to suppose that the posterity of Noah, who consisted of a hundred and twenty or a hundred and thirty thousand, should all move in a body from the rich and fertile country around Mount Ararat, where they first settled after the flood, without any Divine direction or natural necessity. Hence it is natural to conclude that the people who journeyed from the east to the plain of Shinar were Nimrod and his posterity. Especially when we reflect it is expressly said that "the beginning of Nimrod's kingdom was Babel." But how came Nimrod to pitch upon the plain of Shinar after the general dispersion of mankind, and after he was directed to go to Africa, a country far distant from Babylon? To this I would answer, There seems to be no account given of his conduct but the following. When the posterity of Shem and Japheth obeyed the Divine direction to separate and go to the places allotted them, the posterity of Ham, or at least Nimrod and his descendants, refused to obey the Divine command. In open defiance to God they moved from the east and came to the pleasant land of Babylon, and there by force of arms took the plain of Shinar out of the hands of the children of Shem. They determined not to disperse, as God had required, and as the other branches of Noah's family had done. This shows that they built Babel in rebellion against God, and that God had just cause to come down and defeat their impious design by confounding their language.
II. I now proceed TO INQUIRE WHAT WERE THE MOST REMARKABLE CONSEQUENCES OF THE DISPERSION OF THE CHILDREN OF HAM AT THE DESTRUCTION OF BABEL AND THE CONFUSION OF LANGUAGE.
1. That their dispersion was productive of war. They waged the first war after the flood in taking possession of Babylon. And after they were driven from thence they maintained their rebellious and warlike spirit. Their course was everywhere marked with violence and cruelty.
2. This knowing and powerful people carried the arts and sciences with them wherever they went. In these they excelled all other people. And notwithstanding their tyranny and cruelty, they did much to spread light and knowledge among the inhabitants of the earth. Of this they have left astonishing monuments in almost all parts of the world.
3. That this learned and ingenious people were gross idolaters, and spread idolatry through all nations whom they subdued and among whom they lived. They were the most corrupt and wicked part of Noah's family.IMPROVEMENT.
1. This subject gives us reason to think that true religion prevailed and flourished for many years after the flood. Everything was suited to produce this happy effect. Neither Noah nor his family could ever forget the solemn, instructive, and affecting scenes through which they had passed, nor erase from their minds the deep impressions those scenes had made upon them. They would naturally relate to their children what they had seen, and heard, and felt during the awful period of the flood, and they again would relate the same things from one generation to another.
2. We learn from the Scripture history of mankind which we have been considering, that infidelity has been the principal source of the wars and fightings that have deluged the world in blood.
3. It appears from what has been said that all false religion is only a corruption of the true.
4. It appears from what has been said how much easier it is to spread any false religion in the world than the true religion.
5. It is a strong evidence in favour of the religion contained in the Bible that it has been so long preserved in the world, notwithstanding all mankind could do to destroy it.
6. We learn from what has been said, the deplorable state in which mankind in general have been involved for ages and are still involved. It is indeed a dark mystery that God has suffered them so long to walk in their own way without using such effectual means to enlighten and save them as He always has had power to use. But we have good reason to believe that He will yet bring light out of their darkness, holiness out of their blindness, and happiness out of their misery.
7. This subject shows the great reason that Christians have to expect, desire, and pray for a better state of things in the world.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
1. God's execution of vengeance falleth soon after His resolution.
2. Jehovah will be the executioner of His own sentence on the wicked.
3. It is God's work to set confederates against each other who conspire against Him.
4. The place of sin may sometimes prove the place of vengeance.
5. Sinners' consultations to strengthen themselves in one place may end in a universal dispersion.
6. The earth is overspread with sinners against God by His judgment taken on them.
7. The strongest councils of sin will be frustrated by God.
8. High resolutions of sinners fall short of all their ends (ver. 8).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Old Testament Anecdotes.The late Bishop Selwyn devoted a great part of his time to visiting the Melanesian Isles, and he thus writes home about the difficulty of languages: "Nothing but a special interposition of the Divine power could have produced such a confusion of tongues as we find here. In islands not larger than the Isle of Wight we find dialects so distinct that the inhabitants of the various districts hold no communication one with another."
(Old Testament Anecdotes.)
Old Testament Anecdotes.The late Mr. Alexander, the eminent architect, was under cross examination at Maidstone by Serjeant, afterwards Baron, Garrow, who wished to detract from the weight of his testimony, and, after asking him what was his name, he proceeded: "You are a builder?" "No, sir, I am an architect." "They are much the same." "I beg your pardon, sir; I cannot admit that. I consider them to be totally different." "Oh, indeed l Perhaps you will state wherein the difference consists?" "An architect, sir, conceives the design, prepares the plan, draws out the specifications — in short, supplies the mind; the builder is merely the bricklayer or the carpenter. The builder is the machine; the architect the power that puts it together and sets it going." "Oh, very well, Mr. Architect, that will do. And now, after your very ingenious distinction without a difference, perhaps you can inform the court who was the architect of the Tower of Babel?" The reply, for promptness and wit, is not to be rivalled in the history of rejoinder: — "There was no architect, sir, and hence the confusion."
(Old Testament Anecdotes.)
These are the generations of Shem.I. THE LINE IN WHICH THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUE GOD WAS PRESERVED.
II. THE DIRECTION OF THE STREAM OF HISTORY TOWARDS THE MESSIAH. "God calmly and resolutely proceeds with His purpose of mercy. In the accomplishment of this eternal purpose He moves with all the solemn grandeur of long suffering patience. One day is with Him as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Out of Adam's three sons He selects one to be the progenitor of the seed of the woman. Out of Noah's three sons He again selects one. And now out of Terah's three is one to be selected. Among the children of this one He will choose a second one, and among his a third one before He reaches the holy family. Doubtless this gradual mode of proceeding is in keeping with the hereditary training of the holy nation, and the due adjustment of the Divine measures for at length bringing the fulness of the Gentiles in the covenant of everlasting peace."
III. THE GRADUAL, NARROWING OF HUMAN LIFE. "In the manifold weakenings of the highest life endurance, in the genealogy of them, there are, nevertheless, distinctly observable a number of abrupt breaks —
1. From Shem to Arphaxad, or from 600 years to 438;
2. From Eber to Peleg, or from 464 years to 239.
3. From Serug to Nahor, or from 230 years to 148; beyond which last, again, there extend the lives of Terah, with his 205, and of Abraham, with his 175 years. Farther on we have Isaac with 180 years, Jacob 147, and Joseph 110. So gradually does the human term of life approach the limit set by the Psalmist (Psalm 90:10). Moses reached the age of 120 years. The deadly efficacy goes on still in the bodily sphere, although the counter working of salvation has commenced in the spiritual."
(T. H. Leale.)
1. To point where the Church of God was after the flood.
2. To show God's providence in singling out some generations in the world for His Church, these and not others.
3. To make known to us the state of the Church either for truth or for corruption at this time.
4. To continue to us the right chronology of the world, not for speculation only, but for pious practice to us, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
5. To make us better understand some passages of the prophets mentioning these persons or their conditions.
6. To show us the true line of Christ, and to confirm the New Testament given by Him. Every generation in the Church from the flood is but to bring Christ nearer.
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. God's providence hath pointed out His Church and recorded its line, after as before the flood; herein helping the faith of following ages.
2. God chooseth what generations and families He pleaseth to pitch His Church in them.
3. A family God may choose out of the world to set His name upon them, when the world is passed by; a few or little remnant God reserveth.
4. Every generation in the Church from the flood is but to bring Christ nearer.
5. Times are appointed for the birth of everyone in the Church for His work (ver. 10).
6. Length of days, etc., God giveth to His chief witnesses, as Shem was to Isaac's days; much work he had to do in that compass of time.
7. The eminentest in the Church, may have many children degenerate from it. More care should be used to keep them closer to God (ver. 11).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
I. POSSESSED OF GREAT MORAL COURAGE. Terah, the father of Abram, was an idolator (Joshua 24:2). Both himself and his children were ignorant of the true object of worship, or if they had any knowledge of this, they did not retain that knowledge, but suffered themselves to be led away by the impiety around them. Such is the hole of the pit from whence this sublime character was digged.
II. UNDER THE SHADOW OF FUTURE TRIAL (ver. 30).
(T. H. Leale.)
Homilist.I. THAT HUMAN HAPPINESS IS NOT TO BE FOUND IN THE DEAREST OBJECTS OF NATURAL AFFECTION.
II. THAT THE NATURAL OBJECTS OF HUMAN CONFIDENCE ARE NOT SUFFICIENT TO SUSTAIN US.
III. THAT CHILDREN SHOULD BE EDUCATED FOR THE SAKE OF THEIR NATURES RATHER THAN WITH A VIEW TO THEIR CALLING IN LIFE.
IV. THAT PREPARATION FOR ETERNITY IS AS URGENT FOR THE YOUNG AS FOR THE OLD.
The Homiletic Review.I. DIVINE PROVIDENCE SO ORDERS DEATH THAT HUMAN CALCULATION CANNOT BE A FACTOR IN LIFE.
1. Youth is no security.
2. Health is no protection.
3. The order of nature is set at defiance.
4. No reliance can be placed on the distinctions of society — on the law of heredity, on favourable conditions.
II. GOD'S DESIGN IN ALL THIS IS TO TEACH MANKIND, from the cradle to the grave, THE UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE. Death is ever in our path.
(The Homiletic Review.)
The Homiletic Review.I. FACTS.
1. Death is no respecter of persons.
2. No respecter of age.
3. No respecter of condition.
4. No respecter of character.
1. To fully understand and accept these facts, and shape life by them.
2. To make our salvation the first and main duty of life.
3. In whatever state, condition, or period of life we are, to risk nothing on the contingent of living.
(The Homiletic Review.)
I. God trained him by separation; by a series of separations. This is the key thought of Abraham's life. We are accustomed to consider faith as the key to Abraham's life. Certainly it is; but did not his faith manifest itself in just this, that he was willing to separate himself from all for the Lord's sake?
1. You find, him first called of God to leave his country and his father's house.
2. The second separation is from his father Terah.
3. The next separation is from Canaan itself as a home.
4. Fourthly, separation from Egypt.
5. The next thing we read of is his separation from Lot.
6. After separation from Lot, comes separation from Ishmael.
7. Passing over what may be called Abraham's separation from himself, in the twentieth chapter, we come to his separation from Isaac.
8. The next thing we learn of Abraham is his separation from Sarah. "And it came to pass after all these things that Sarah died."
9. Then, finally, we find Abraham separated from all.In Genesis 25:5, we are told that "Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac." Abraham had been a rich man, but his heart had not been set on his riches, as was evident whenever questions of property came up.
II. This leads us to the second great subject: the gospel unto which Abraham was separated — the blessing of Abraham — the "Abrahamie covenant" of theology. It is, as already remarked, the same old covenant of grace, plus the idea of separation and consequent restriction. And here, as we are entering upon this period of restriction, this narrowing of the channel of blessing to the line of a single family first, and a single nation afterward, it is important for us to remember three things: In the first place this policy of restriction was not adopted until the offer of mercy had been thrice made to all mankind, and thrice rejected. In the second place, this restriction of the blessings of grace to a single family and a single nation was for the sake of all. It was the only way by which the blessing could be secured finally to all. Abraham was called, not for his own sake, nor for his descendants' sake only, but for the world's sake — "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:3); and again (Genesis 22:18): "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." There is no real narrowing. It is still, "God so loved the world." In the third place, even though in the meantime the channel must be narrowed to a single family and nation, "whosoever will" may come. The door is open all the while. "The sons of the stranger" have simply to leave their country and their family, and come and join themselves to the family of Abraham, and to the nation of the Jew, and they are made welcome.
(J. M. Gibson, D. D.)
I. We ask, HOW FAR MEN MAY GO IN THE WAY TO CANAAN, AND YET, LIKE TERAH, DIE IN HARAN? in other words, How far they may proceed in the ways of religion, yet fall short of the kingdom of grace and glory?
1. We may be visited with many convictions, and even with great terrors, and yet fall short of a state of grace. Does conscience admonish you that you have been neglecting your duty to your God and your Saviour — your highest duties, your first interests, even the interests of your immortal souls? Does the fear of futurity sometimes visit you, urging you to say, "What must I do?" It may be well — it shall be well, if those alarms impel you to the Saviour. But rest not in convictions; for if these be the whole extent of your experience, you are still in Haran, separated by a wide boundary from the land of promise, the spiritual Canaan: and if you die in your present state, you are excluded from the Canaan that is above.
2. We may be conscious of tender religious emotions — sorrow, desire, joy — and yet fall short of real grace. Not only may the conscience be convinced, but the heart may be in some measure softened, and yet remain unconverted; for it is "deceitful above all things."
3. We may form many good resolutions, and yet be dwelling in Haran. Who is there that has not often formed these? In a season of conviction, in an hour of compunction, in a day of trial and adversity, we resolve to apply to the things that belong to our peace, to attend to the warnings of the word and providence of God, and to seek after that portion that is satisfying and abiding. But alas! the conviction wears off, the trial passes by, the danger is averted; and we forget all our purposes and resolutions. Or perhaps we set about fulfilling them, and adhere to them for a time; but, trusting in our own strength, we are overcome and brought again under the power of the enemy. What avail an army of good resolutions, unaccompanied by prayer, and unsupported by grace, against the subtlety and power of the enemy of souls? "The way to hell," it has been emphatically said, "is paved with good resolutions."
4. We may actually enter on the work of reformation, and proceed a certain length in it, and yet fall short. Herod not only feared John, but "did many things." Thus are men often induced to abstain from particular transgressions, to exercise some degree of self-denial, to address themselves to various duties — things in themselves, no doubt, promising and right, but being done only from temporary impulse, or from selfish and slavish motives, consistent still with an unregenerate state, are usually as transient in their duration as defective in their principle. These facts are affecting, and even alarming. You are ready to say, If all the attainments you have mentioned are ineffective, what is there that will avail? My brethren, nothing will avail without a change of heart — "a new heart" must be given us, "a new spirit" put within us.
II. We proceed to ask, WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES THAT INTERRUPT THE PROGRESS OF THOSE WHO SEEM TO SET OUT IN THE WAY TO CANAAN?
1. Here the analogy of a journey leads us to mention, first, sloth, spiritual sloth. Like a paralysis extending over our whole frame, it completely unfits us for prosecuting our journey.
2. We mention, as a second obstacle, the love of the world; a principle that entangles and enchains — that perverts the heart, and turns the feet out of the right path.
3. In fine, the grand obstacle is, an inward aversion to the ways of God, a dislike of serious religion.
III. We inquire, WHAT IS THE STATE AND PROSPECT OF THOSE WHO STOP SHORT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD? Surely it may well awaken both sorrow and fear. Do you not lament the fate of a promising youth who, in the near prospect of succeeding to a large estate, is cut off by the hand of death? Do you not mourn when any object, exceedingly desirable, seems just ready to be attained, and is then unexpectedly snatched from us and lost forever? How deplorable! to have gone so far in the way to Canaan and yet to come short, to have approached so near the promised land, yet never to enter; to come to the gate of heaven, and to be cast down into hell!
1. Consider; those who stop short of the kingdom lose the benefit of all they have felt and done in the things of religion.
2. Nay, further, all that they have felt and done in religion will really serve to aggravate their guilt and imbitter their disappointment.
3. Once more; the conduct of such persons brings peculiar reproach upon religion. For they convey to others an injurious conception of it; they represent it as a system of restraints, of difficulties, and of dangers, without adequate reward. And now, in concluding, I address, first, those who have not yet set out on the way to Canaan — I intend careless sinners, who continue to this day, without fear or concern, in the broad way that leads to destruction. Has God no claims upon you? Has Christ no right to your regard? Has eternity no demands on your attention? Even in you there is a conscience that will speak if you will give it a hearing, and if not here, yet assuredly hereafter. Be persuaded to avert its overwhelming reproaches, yea, the more overwhelming frown of Him who is greater than conscience, by now making peace with Him through Jesus Christ. Secondly, I address those who have professedly set out on the way to Canaan — I mean those who profess that they have given themselves to Christ, to be saved and to be governed by Him. Remember, my beloved friends, you must "endure to the end," if you would be saved. If a man enter the army, and follow his regiment a few marches, and then desert to the enemy, is he not accounted a traitor and a rebel? Such will your character be, if, having professed to give yourselves to Christ, you forsake Him and return to the world.
(H. Gray, D. D.)
I. Let us consider THE WORK WHICH GOD REQUIRES SINFUL MAN TO UNDERTAKE. The call of Abraham from his country and home is frequently employed to illustrate the great duty which is required of every sinful man. Like him, everyone is commanded in the gospel to attain and exercise a simple controlling faith in the Divine promises; to follow in this spirit of faith the peculiar commands of God the Saviour; to go out, in its reliance upon Him, from a state of selfishness and idolatry, man's natural condition, to seek the better and heavenly country which is revealed in the gospel, and offered in Christ Jesus, to every believing soul. Such an exercise of faith developing itself in full and permanent obedience to the Divine commands, is the work which God requires of all who hear the gospel. But when is this great work to be undertaken? When shall man begin to subdue his rebellious heart into reconciliation to the will of God? May he select his own time for the work? Surely not. The Scriptures never intimate a moment beyond the time in which the command is actually given, as the time for man's obedience. The morrow is not given to man. "Now," "today," are the Divine designations of the proper time for man's submission. Whenever God speaks, it is that His will may be done at once. He who rejects and disobeys the commands of God in his youth, is exceedingly unlikely to find the opportunity or the disposition to obey in his subsequent years.
II. Let us consider THE COURSE WHICH MEN GENERALLY PURSUE IN REFERENCE TO THIS IMPORTANT MATTER. Do they, or do they not, generally obey at once? Do they, with Abraham, arise and go? or do they more commonly with Terah, procrastinate the enterprise until it is too late to accomplish it at all? Some few accept with gratitude the blessed invitations of the Saviour, and unite themselves unto Him, in a perpetual covenant, never to be forgotten. But what is the course pursued by the great majority of mankind? Do they not altogether drive away the convictions of this early period? They refuse to yield their hearts and characters, to be thus subjected by the Holy Spirit to the service of God. They bargain with their consciences, in order to silence their awakened demands, that at some future period they will attend to the duty required of them. Thus most frequently, they live and die in their chosen idolatry and guilt; always hearing the command, "arise and go," and always determining that they will obey it; but never putting their resolution into effect. Like Torah, they die in Haran; they perish amidst unfulfilled vows and attempts of obedience to God, and under the guilt and burden of actual rebellion against Him.
III. Let us trace THE USUAL RESULT OF THIS COURSE OF PROCRASTINATION. It will be but tracing the history and experience of the great proportion of mankind. Twenty years of the sinner's life go by. They are the most important, and in most cases the deciding period of his existence, in reference to his eternal welfare. But their close finds him still unrenewed in his character, and hardening his mind and conscience against the power of truth. In the wonderful forbearance of God, twenty years more are added to these, all of them crowned with privileges, and with invitations to a better land. But the lingering sinner still refuses to arise and go. By this time, he has seen and felt much of the folly of things temporal, and of the emptiness of the heart which depends upon them. But he is hardened through the deceitfulness of sin; and he is unwilling to make the decided and violent rupture which seems necessary if he would now effect his escape from an impending ruin. With more light in his conscience, he has more dulness and obduracy in his affections; and the work of true piety grows more and more difficult. If twenty years more bring him to the verge of feebleness and death, he is still found more deeply anxious to obtain the hope which he does not possess, and which he finds it more and more impossible to get. By this time, he is mourning over nearly all his joys as departed forever. Almost every monument of his life seems to be a tomb. "Here lie the remains," is the inscription which he reads upon pleasures, and possessions, and hopes which are gone. And now, old age is looked for to effect that which youth and maturity have failed to accomplish. But here another disappointment comes. Old age also is very different in its character from its anticipated appearance. Man then awakes to the sorrowful conviction that he has been deluded through the whole of his course in life. He sees nothing of that spontaneous preparation for eternity, which he hoped to find in the later years of life. It is now harder, vastly harder, than it has ever been before, to lay hold of any adequate and abiding hope for a world to come. Lingering Terah sits down to measure up, in the sad calculation of his own experience, the folly by which he has been so long deceived. The love of the world and the pride of self have grown upon his heart.
IV. What now becomes THE RESULT OF THIS PROCRASTINATION? Generally one of two things. Either total, hardened, self-defending negligence; or a partial, constrained, and unsatisfying attention to the duties of religion. That is, Terah either positively refuses to obey the Divine command, and remains to die as he has lived, in Chaldea; or else, he unwillingly sets cut under the lashes of an awakened conscience, and goes as far as Haran, and dies there, in a new condition indeed, but with the same character.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
1. God may make known His mind by the child unto the father; and call it before him (Acts 7:2).
2. By revelation to a son, God may make parents willing to obey His call.
3. The Spirit giveth honour to parents, as leaders, when they follow the call of grace.
4. God points out by name such as He separates for His Church.
5. Faith puts all believers upon motion, when God calls them even from their native country.
6. Faith in God makes haste to depart from polluted places.
7. Faith intends to go as far as God calleth the soul.
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
Sarai was barren; she had no child. —
1. The subject spoken of, Sarai; she that was to be the mother of the Church, of whom, purposely, the Spirit writeth this which followeth to show forth the power of God.
2. The condition spoken of her — under two expressions.
(1) (2) (G. Hughes, B. D.).
(2) (G. Hughes, B. D.).
(G. Hughes, B. D.).