That is why it is called Babel, for there the LORD confused the language of the whole world, and from that place the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
I. THE AMBITIOUS BUILDERS.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.)
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