Thursday, May 5, 2011

Genesis 11

I don't know who decided where the chapter breaks would go in these books, but it really is poorly designed. The poor tower of Babel story gets crunched in 9 verses before yet another genealogy list that drones on for 23 verses.

Anyway, the story of Babel is pretty straightforward. The "whole earth" (so far, the only impression given is the "whole fertile crescent," shockingly enough) spoke one language, and so they decided to get together and build a huge tower with "its top in the heavens." God, of course, wasn't too pleased with this. I don't know why—if we haven't got to heaven with spacecraft, it hardly seems like a tower had any chance of it—but god isn't particularly logical so far. So god gives them a bunch of different languages and scatters them all over. Interesting that the languages he made them were so conveniently and logically interconnected based on where he scattered them to. Also, one has to wonder again about god's so-called omniscience. He didn't see from the start that there should be different languages? He didn't know they were going to build Babel? Why is this "omniscient" god acting as if he's surprised by humanity's wacky antics, like some bad sitcom?

That's all there is to Babel. Short and sweet explanation about why we have different languages. Again, fulfilling a mythical function to a people who didn't understand the way languages were interconnected and evolved.

From here on, it's more "son of son of" stuff. We get a recap again on Shem's descendants, even thought we just heard that in the previous chapter! The line is traced all the way from Shem to Abram and Lot, who will soon feature more prominently. Interestingly enough, the men are having their sons earlier and living shorter every generation. It starts with Shem having Arpachshad at 100 and living to be 600 and ends with Nahor having Terah at 29 and living to be 148. There is no explanation given for this, which seems odd to me.

We finish off the exciting genealogy with a mess of a family—Terah is the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Abram is married to Sarai and Nahor to Milcah. It seems to me that Milcah is Haran's daughter, but to be honest I'm a little confused. I read verse 29b like five times and still have no idea what they're trying to say: "Nahor's wife was Milcah. She was the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah." I think they need more commas!

So Haran—who is dead at this point—has a son Lot. Terah, Abram, Sarai, and Lot set out to Canaan but end up settling in Haran (I can only guess they named the place after they got there, or that's a pretty big coincidence!) instead. This is where the chapter ends—perfect set up and hook for Genesis 12!


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  3. Interesting that the languages he made them were so conveniently and logically interconnected based on where he scattered them to.