GENESIS 10 – 11
Bible Study Notes Rev. Betsy Perkins
The Account of Nations and Languages
God’s commission for humanity to multiply and fill the earth is rekindled through Noah’s family and the fulfillment is demonstrated as the Genesis story traces the expanding tribes and people groups that result from the family saved out of the Flood. From Noah to Abram, the diversity of humankind also multiplies with God’s purposes and promise traced throughout.
The Table of Nations: the descendants of Noah (10:1-32):
70 = the total number of people/places named in the in the Table of Nations (excluding Nimrod); this represents a sizable and complete contingent.
Sons = descendants; Father = ancestor
o What was Nimrod known for? What connection might this have to him as the father of those who lived and ruled in Babylon and Assyria?
o God will give the land of Canaan to the Hebrew people as their Promised Land, and the Canaanite peoples will be either driven out of the land or forced to serve the Hebrews. What is the connection to the curse and blessing of 9:25-27?
o Ham’s descendants include the nations of North Africa. This was used in the 19th century to justify the enslavement of African peoples. Are there other instances in history when the Bible has been (mis)used to justify the (mis)treatment of people?
o Verse 10:25: Eber = Hebrew. What is the relationship between the Hebrews and the Israelites?
o Verse 10:25: Peleg = division, split. How are God’s creation purposes fulfilled (see 10:32)?
o How do the resulting nations and peoples illustrate Noah’s blessings and curses in 9:25-27? Did Noah make this happen or was he simply announcing that it will happen? Or was the author of Genesis (Moses?) offering an explanation for what did happen?
o Shem is the eldest son, but his lineage is traced last. What clue is the author giving us?
The Tower of Babel (11:1-9):
Land of Shinar: Land = Hebrew word for ‘earth’; Shinar = a place known in OT times for the worship of false gods.
o Compare 11:1 with 10:4, 20 and 31. How might we understand this seeming contradiction?
o A city tower was usually constructed to protect and defend the city. What was the purpose of the city tower in 11:4? What 2 sins are revealed in that explanation?
o Look for the phrase “Come, let us…” in the story. Who says it?
o What is God’s reason for intervening? How is this situation similar to what happened in the Garden of Eden?
o How many times is the word ‘language’ used in this passage? What was God’s original plan for language? What purpose did baffling language serve? Was it divine judgment or divine mercy or both?
o How often is the phrase the “whole earth” or “whole world” or “all the earth” used? Does this point to one of the deeper messages, or truths, in the story? What about the word “scattered”?
o What evidence of this story do we see in our world today? John Piper includes this story as he writes about “spectacular sins and the global purpose of the glory of Christ” – how might this story help to fulfill God’s purpose to the glory of Christ?
From Shem to Abram: Tracing the Promise (11:10-32):
10 = number of generations named from Shem to Abram (Adam to Noah had also been 10)
o What is happening to the length of the life spans reported as it approaches Abram? What could this be signaling?
o What difficulties do Terah and his family experience? Is there any explicit mention of God’s involvement with Terah and his family?
STORY Adam & Eve
(3:1-24) Cain & Abel
(4:1-16) The Flood
(6:1-8:22) Canaan Cursed
(9:20-27) Tower of Babel
A SIN 3:6 4:8b 6:5-6 9:22 11:4
B SPEECH 3:14-19 4:11-12 6:7 9:25; 26c; 27c 11:6-7
C CURSE 3:22-24 4:14, 16 7:6-24 9:26b; 27b 11:8-9
D MERCY 3:21 4:15 8:1a; 21-22 9:26a; 27a ?
Chart by Mark Throntveit, “Commentary or Genesis 6:9-22” www.workingpreacher.org
o What does Genesis 10-11 reveal about us as human beings?
o What does Genesis 10-11 reveal about God?
In light of this passage and our discussion, what one truth about God and about yourself stand out as something to “take to heart” this week?
Are there steps you will take, by God’s grace, to more fully apply it to your life?
Resources: Robert Alter, Genesis, 1996
John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, 2010
Max Lucado, Life Lessons with Max Lucado: Book of Genesis, 1997