Uncommon Ground - Genesis Part 3 - Chapters 11 through 15
This hub is the third in an ongoing series of a comparative Bible reading and discussion between a Christian (Sed-Me, who has graciously agreed to participate) and an Atheist (myself). I maintain that reading and understanding the Bible is important for theists and non-theists alike, and beginning to break down some of the communication barriers between believers and non-believers becomes ever-more important as we strive to become better people in our quest to better the world.
While we will not always agree, nor should we, discussing these topics with respect and dignity that often seems missing from conversations between believers and non-believers is more important than ever. We share the world together, and share common goals in making that world and society overall a better place for all of us to live. I sincerely hope that this series begins to make baby steps towards understanding each other and developing further understanding and communication.
Link To Sed-Me's Homepage
Initial Observations: Christian
Men built a city with a tower to "make a name for themselves" so that all the tribes would stop wandering and stay in their civilized society. More people, more power. All the tribes under obedience to one rule. In Gen 9 God told Noah and his sons to replenish the earth so I wonder if God simply wanted them to inhabit the whole earth and they were trying to limit themselves to this one area. (According to one commentary archeologists found an area known as Obeid. Within this they found a ziggurat, which many conclude is the tower of Babel.)
God does exactly that and scatters them about the earth.
Chronology. Noting that most men were having babies in their early 30s. I wonder what they were doing in their 20s.
How interesting. The very thing the men of babel were trying to do; become a great nation, God had reserved for Abram. This speaks of God's sovereignty. He allows men their own actions, good and bad, as we saw with Cain and Able, but when He has a plan, man will not be allowed to thwart it.
In both verses 7 and 8, Abram builds an altar to the Lord. In a teaching I once heard of how important it is to "build altars" to God as a place of remembrance. I have seen God do so many amazing things and at times, they slip from memory. What a great shame and loss to dishonor Him and lose that moment of miracle when God has done something miraculous in my life. Like Abram, it is my duty to stop and make note of the things He has done, that He may receive glory.
Men can be such donkeys. This story is rich with great and terrible stuff. So, the fact that Sarai was such a knockout is... whatever, but that she was 75 is awesome! lol... I mean... wow. Had Marilyn Monroe lived that long, I dare say no one would be ruining their kingdom for her. So Abram lies, and she just goes along with it. He spoke fear into her and she got sucked in. It goes to show that men and women of God, with amazing God-touched lives, still have great moments of failure. Thank God for forgiveness.
Wow! So at this point Abram tells his nephew, Lot, 'pick a direction, left or right, I'll take the other.' It looks as if Lot is making the choice, but in fact, the choice has already been made. Abram's choice, the first choice... was faith. Lot looks with his eyes and sees the safer, smarter choice. He sees water, what's not to like? While Lot chose with his eyes, Abram chose with his heart. And where did it lead them? Abram was given the richest blessing, probably *ever recorded, by God. Lot... chose Sodom. This is a great example of what choosing with faculties over faith. We can't see the path ahead. God *always sees the path ahead. And in this case it was blessing verses utter destruction.
This is awesome. I love it. The stuff movies are made of. Immediately, the very next thing we hear about Lot is he is taken captive and loses everything that belongs to him. Word gets back to Abram and he grabs a few hundred men and Braveheart-style, he rides off, totally kicks butt and brings Lot, the women, and his belongings back. But keep in mind, Abram's 75 years old, or more by now. Awesome. I feel like Sarai was like, "My husband's so hot." lol
Enter Melchizedek. Most likely the embodiment of God... The name for Jesus in the old testament. As you can see, Abram offers him a tenth of all he had.
Abram once again, faithful to his God, he takes nothing from the King of Sodom.
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward."
This verse just touches me so much. Why did God choose Abram? Why did He love him so much? It is obvious the love God had for him, it just pours out of the chapters even today. The answer to this would be revealed in only two more verses.
"He took him outside..." as you can read, God was in the tent with Abram. This is once again, the embodiment of God.... Melchizedek.
And here it is... what made Abram such a righteous man?
"Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness."
It was his faith (a gift from God.) It is faith, by grace, that saves us.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." I love how NT or OT, the bible always comes back to itself to prove itself true.
Abram finds out his descendants will suffer for a time... most probably b/c of the wickedness of men...
But in 14 we read, that (as many times it has been recorded) even if God allows wicked men to persist for a time, He will have the final word and they will be brought to their knees... as we all will be one day. All will bow to God.
Shinar, Pakistan - possible location of the Tower of Babel
Initial Observations: Atheist
If the earth used the same language, why does chapter 10 state "the nations were separated into their lands, ever one according to his language" (vs. 5)? What exactly was God afraid of happening had these people succeeded in their plan to build the Tower of Babel?
Again, with the lifespans after the flood, continuing past 500 years, when Genesis 6:3 stated "My spirit will not strive with man forever, because he is also flesh; nevertheless his days shall number one hundred and twenty years."?
Chapter 12: Interesting, in verse 6 "Now the Canaanite was then in the land" This seems to be a trend, not plural - as if referring to a specific person, not a group or population of people that continues for several chapters. Abram & Sarai's deception of the Pharaoh and the Egyption court, yet God punished the Pharaoh and the Egyptians with a great plague, not Abram or Sarai who were responsible for the lie in the first place. Abram and his wife and possessions were escorted from Egypt because of the lie.
Seems that there is a trend, prior to the temple or tabernacle age that there are specific places to call on the name of the Lord. Again, there is reference to "the Canaanite" and "the Perizzite". Vs. 10 - this was like the Garden of the Lord with it's abundance? Abram gave lot first choice, which shaped their ultimate future. Abram receives one of the first of God's promises to him and his inheritance.
Speaks of rebellion and a battle amongst kings and territory within the region. Abram went out to rescue Lot from captivity and defeated his captors. Melchizedek was a priest of the God Most High, prior to the Israelite people and God's ultimate covenant with them?
"then he believed in the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness" (vs. 6). Terror and a great darkness fell upon Abram in the midst of his sacrifice to God. Abram asks God to prove his promise to him, and God complied with his request without anger. What is the inequity of the Amorite? (vs. 16). The creation of God's official covenant with Abram.
So why did God take offense to the building of the tower?
Nimrod was king at the time. The first King after the flood. He had taken Noah's place as the patriarchal leader of their time. The offense was that Nimrod was in disobedience to God. This is almost ALWAYS God's beef... disobedience. He told the men of earth to scatter, fill the earth and multiply. Nimrod told them to gather into this fortified city, build a tower, bridging earth and Heaven for the purpose of pagan worship. They worshiped the Heavenly bodies. The building was apparently about 30 stories high, which isn't going to break the stratosphere, but it was enough to say, "We are serious about ignoring the one true God and diving into idol worship once again. You can imagine, after all God and Noah had just been through, how painful this must have been to see. "There they go again. Give them an inch and they foolishly trade all that is good and real for anything that is new and artificial. Much like mankind today.
The question about languages. I read several commentaries, and there were several opinions, but this one resonated the best with me. "Often in ancient texts there can be a bit of back and forth in the chronology. The beginning of chapter 10 says, "Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah,". Indicating that it is the beginning of a genealogy. So chapter ten is listing the generations of the sons of Noah and we assume that the confusion of tongues happened at some point during that genealogy but the telling of it was left out until chapter 11 to save interruption.
As for the verses about the sons 'after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations' some scholars conjecture that perhaps the Lord only split them into 3 languages (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) and that is how we get similarities in Asian, European, and African languages"
It seems though Noah's son's lived quite a bit longer than 120 years, that eventually that did become an approximate age for death. As a matter of fact, I had just heard on the radio that no one has lived to be older than 115. I don't know how far back that stat goes, but it stuck in my head as my grandmother is 100 and seems like she could live another 10 years.
I know what you mean. This is so interesting! It reminds me of AIDS. You have a human carrier. They have no symptoms of the disease, but they can give it to whomever they have specific contact with. How does that seem fair? I contract AIDS, I have no symptoms, I give it to you, you die, I'm fine. Huh! Abram fears. He doesn't trust God. He tells his wife to lie. The Pharaoh's kingdom takes the direct hit. The Pharaoh didn't intentionally do anything wrong, but he took the wife of God's anointed, knowingly or not, and God wasn't having it. A part of me understands this, a part of me just sits back, like with the example of AIDS and goes, "Huh!" Either way, in my opinion, we don't know if Abram and Sarai were punished or not. If they were, the Bible doesn't tell us, but I would imagine, at the very least, Abram had some "'splainin'" to do. You have to understand, I have the built in and absolute belief that God is good and just, so I simply trust, that there are factors to the story, I am not privy to. This is the mind of God... of a real and mighty god. I don't worry that He made a mistake, instead, I wait with anticipation to be enlightened to all the stories of old, as well as modern stories and the things in my own life I haven't known the answers to. This is one of my anticipations of Heaven.... being made fully aware. Gaining all knowledge and understanding. It's gonna be awesome. :)
The Amorites were descendants of Canaan... they were the Canaanites. In this time period, they were basically the bad guys. They worshiped idols, lived in sexual immorality (Sodom and Gomorrah) exploited the poor... and strayed from God... which is why (with the flood) God had just wiped out the great majority of mankind for. Left to their own devices, these men were driven by a thirst for evil... they would actually desire to gang rape angels... holy beings, sent from God. These were a dark hearted people and God would not only allow King Solomon to conquer them and take them as slaves, He would eventually wipe their names from the earth. God is good, He is pure, He is light, He is love. Though He is patient, He will not allow evil to prevail forever. He will go to great lengths to see its demise because left unfettered, it will destroy mankind.
Is Seeing Two Different Perspectives Helpful?
About living age, living to 100 is typically considered a blessing currently, depending on the quality of life, even with modern medicine. I cannot imagine realistically people living to be 6-900 years old prior to modern medicine. It simply seems completely unrealistic, especially since they were having children well after normal childbearing age. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldest_people. Typically, living to 100 is an accomplishment, and I’m not sure that I would want to live that long, depending on the quality of life that I was able to enjoy at that point. But prior to the flood, God specifically stated that the number of years afforded to man on earth would be 120 years – but biblical characters continued to live well beyond that number after the flood. To me, this seems like a contradiction, or a later expansion of the original text as these stories were passed on verbally for hundreds of years before they were ever thought to be written down.
If the chronology was a bit out of place, that would make more sense. I just find it a little funny that the population was split according to their own language, and then in the very next chapter it’s talking about how all the people of the world spoke the same language until Babel took place.
The study of the evolution of language is actually a fascinating topic that I’ve looked into in depth. For example, Spanish (spoke in Spain) is naturally related to the Spanish spoken in South America, due to the colonies of Europe in South America. But Spain in large part got their language from Latin during the Roman conquest, and a separate and distinct dialect formed from it. Many European languages are derivative from Latin. Those that are not from Latin directly are considered Germanic from the Celts and the Gauls. English is somewhat of a combination of the two, but is more Germanic than Latin. Our numbers come from Arabic, introduced to Europe throughout the conquest of the Moors in Spain. This really has nothing to do with the reading, but seemed to fit as it is a fascinating process to both observe and study throughout history.
Final Thoughts: Christian
I have to agree with you about not having the desire to live to be 900 years old. Oddly enough, a friend and I were talking at work the other day and he barely wanted to make it to his 80's, but then he's in his 20's, so what does he know? lol
I have no issues believing that man was able to live that long, but of course, I believe the Bible fully so I s'pose it just follows. A silly thought, but still... there are a lot of amazing classic cars still around today, yet I haven't seen a Yugo on the road for 20 years. We're Yugos. Our lifestyles, compared to theirs back then, cannot even be compared. We exercise so that we can eat cheesecake and wear certain clothes to our high school reunions. They walked the desert with babies on their hips from one land to the other (for years) in order to find water. They didn't smoke in bars or watch TV or breathe pollution. All that just to reiterate. I believe it.
I had learned a lot of what you'd shared about where our language came from etc., but I didn't know about the numeric part. Yes, that is interesting.
Final Thoughts: Atheist
There are certain things about the Bible as a whole that I will never understand or probably accept. I don’t buy them now, and I didn’t really buy them when I was a believer either. The age of some of these Genesis characters is one of those things. The human body is not meant to live for hundreds and hundreds of years. It breaks down. It decays. It falls apart. I’m just barely reaching 36, and when I try to exercise, parts of me just stop working. In addition, the reproductive system stops working at a moderately early age, comparatively, so having children after the age of 50-60 simply is no longer possible. Could it have been miraculous? Sure, when you accept that an all-powerful God is, well, all-powerful. That being said, however, it reads much more like origin legends of tribal people, committed to writing much, much later. Oral traditions like that get embellished. They get changed. They get exaggerated. It’s part of the human condition. That does not make the stories any less interesting. If anything, it makes this mythology even more so, at least for a history buff like me.
© 2014 Julie McFarland