Chapter 11 is divided into two seemingly unrelated stories. First, we have the Tower of Babel. Then, we skip to Shem’s descendants, which I’m thankful for because in the previous chapter I’d wondered what was so special about Peleg. Chapter 11 answers that question completely.
But why the mixture of Shem’s ancestry with the Tower of Babel? Let’s look at the tower first. Some of the people during this time (remember, some of Japheth’s people went off as seafarers and developed their own languages and cultures) migrated east. They all spoke the same language and decided to work together to build a tower “to keep from being scattered all over the world.” Why were they afraid of this? I can see how that would be scary, and not ironically, God does just that. They apparently were building the tower for the wrong purpose and knew God’s punishment for it. They instead, took the gamble and lost.
Then, bam, in walks Shem’s fam. Ok. We learn that Abram is Shem’s direct ancestor, so that’s one question from Chapter 9 answered. But what’s the point of adding the record of Shem’s ancestry to the Tower of Babel story? Notice in the last few paragraphs, we learn that “one day” Abram’s dad just up and left his hometown of Ur (present-day Jordan) and headed for Canaan (present-day Israel/Egypt). So, Abram’s dad was right there when the Tower of Babel was being built. He was right there when God scattered the people and gave them new languages. Maybe this is why he left? Something to chew on anyway. And why Canaan? Well, his relatives were there. Remember Ham’s descendants went to Canaan. Yeah, they were cursed, but apparently being cursed wasn’t as bad as being Babylonian. So, off Terah went with his wife and kids … and nephew and DIL. A family affair!
Writing prompt: diversity
This chapter (and a few before) paint a picture of how the first civilizations were born. Living in Thailand, I know my days would be a lot easier if everyone spoke the same language. However, I’m thankful we don’t because of the challenges it presents. Sometimes, it’s fun to speak Thai, but because I’m not very good at it, sometimes it’s very frustrating to not be able to communicate better. We do a lot of pointing and funny hand motions! Write about a communications obstacle you’ve overcome. What did you learn from the experience?
Alternate prompt: from which line do you think you come, Japheth, Ham or Shem?