Genesis 11:1-9

Genesis 11:1-9
Pentecost C28


Now the whole earthI hadII oneIII languageIV and the sameV words.VI 

Notes on verse 1

I “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
II “had” = hayah. This is to be or become, to happen.
III “one” = echad. Perhaps from achad (to unify, continue on a path; figuratively, to gather one’s thoughts). This is the number one, first, united. It can also be alone, altogether, a certain, a few.
IV “language” = saphah. This is lip, edge border, bank – used for a boundary. It can also be speech or language.
V “same” = echad. Same as “one” in v1. See note III above.
VI “words” = dabar. From dabar (to speak, declare, discuss). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.

AndVII as they migratedVIII from the east,IX they came uponX

Notes on verse 2a

VII {untranslated} = hayah. Same as “had” in v1. See note II above.
VIII “migrated” = nasa. This is properly pulling up as when one pulls up tent pegs or stakes. This would imply striking tents in order to start a journey. So this could be bring, pullout, set out, journey, or cause to go away.
IX “east” = qedem. Perhaps from qadam (to come in front or be in front; to meet, anticipate, confront, receive, or rise; sometimes to meet for help). This is front, formerly, before, east, eternal, everlasting, antiquity.
X “came upon” = matsa. This is to find, catch or acquire. It can also mean to come forth or appear. Figuratively, this can mean to meet or be together with.

a plainXI in the landXII of ShinarXIII and settledXIV there. 

Notes on verse 2b

XI “plain” = biqah. From baqa (to divide, split open, tear, breach, break open, dash to pieces). This is a valley or plain. Properly, it refers to a place where the mountains have split – a wide, flat valley between them.
XII “land” = erets. Same as “earth” in v1. See note I above.
XIII “Shinar” = Shinar. 8x in OT – 4x in Gen, 1x in Jos, 1x in Isa, 1x in Dan, and 1x in Zech. This is the word used for Babylon in the Tower of Babel story. May be a corruption of Hebrew for two rivers or two cities. May also be a form of the Akkadian Shumeru (Sumer – what the Akkadians called the non-Semitic speaking peoples of Mesopotamia who called themselves ug sag gig ga or sang-ngiga. Lit. the black-headed people. These people called their land kiengi – the place of the noble lords). See &
XIV “settled” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.

And they said to oneXV another,XVI “Come,XVII let us makeXVIII bricks,XIX

Notes on verse 3a

XV “one” = ish. Perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
XVI “another” = rea. From raah (to graze, tend a flock, keep company with; to pasture in a literal or figurative sense). This is an associate, companion, friend, neighbor, or other. It can also be used for close family or for a lover.
XVII “come” = yahab. This is give, put, bring, take. It is to give in a literal or figurative sense.
XVIII “make” = laban. 8x in OT. This is to be white or make a brick.
XIX “bricks” = lebenah. Related to “make” in v3. 11x in OT. From laban (see note XVIII above). This is a brick or pavement.

and burnXX them thoroughly.”XXI And they had brick for stone,XXII and bitumenXXIII for mortar.XXIV 

Notes on verse 3b

XX “burn” = saraph. This is to burn or kindle. This is the root that “seraphim” comes from.
XXI “thoroughly” = serephah. Related to “burn” in v3. 13x in OT. From saraph (see note XX above). This is blaze, burning, or cremation.
XXII “stone” = eben. This is a stone, weight, or mason. It is part of the word “Ebenezer.”
XXIII “bitumen” = chemar. 3x in OT – used of the tower of Babel and the basket that Moses was floated in. From chamar (to boil up, ferment, be red befoul, trouble, daub). This is bitumen or asphalt.
XXIV “mortar” = chomer. Related to “bitumen” in v3. From chamar (see note XXIII above). This is something that bubbles up like sea foam, mire, clay, a heap. It is also cement, mortar and a dry measure.

Then they said, “Come, let us buildXXV ourselves a city,XXVI and a towerXXVII with its topXXVIII in the heavens,XXIX

Notes on verse 4a

XXV “build” = banah. This is to build, make, set up, restore, repair, or obtain children. It is to build literally or figuratively
XXVI “city” = iyr. From uwr (to awaken or wake oneself up). This can mean excitement in the sense of wakefulness or city. Properly, this is a place that is guarded. Guards kept schedules according to watches. This sense of the word would include cities as well as encampments or posts that were guarded.
XXVII “tower” = migdal. From gadal (to grow, grow up, be great, magnify, exalt). This is a tower, podium, bed of flowers. This is perhaps the root of “Magdalene.”
XXVIII “top” = rosh. This may come a word that means to shake. It is the head, captain, or chief. It can also be excellent or the forefront. It can be first in position or in statue or in time (i.e. the beginning).
XXIX “heavens” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.

and let us makeXXX a nameXXXI for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroadXXXII upon the faceXXXIII of the whole earth.” 

Notes on verse 4b

XXX “make” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
XXXI “name” = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
XXXII “scattered abroad” = puts. This is to dash in pieces, scatter, disperse, drive.
XXXIII “face” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.

The LordXXXIV came downXXXV to seeXXXVI the city and the tower, which mortalsXXXVII had built. 

Notes on verse 5

XXXIV “Lord” = YHVH. Perhaps related to “had” in v1. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (see note II above). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
XXXV “came down” = yarad. This is to go down, descend; going down in a literal or figurative sense. It can be going to the shore or a boundary, bringing down an enemy.
XXXVI “see” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
XXXVII “mortals” = ben + adam. Literally “children of humanity.” Ben is related to “build” in v4. From banah (see note XXV above). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense. Adam is perhaps from adam (to be red, make ruddy); related to adamah (ground, dirt, earth). This is man, humankind, also Adam’s name. It refers to a human individual or humanity.

And the Lord said, “Look,XXXVIII they are one people,XXXIX and they have all one language; and this is only the beginningXL of what they will do;XLI nothing that they proposeXLII to do will now be impossibleXLIII for them. 

Notes on verse 6

XXXVIII “look” = hen. This is a remark of surprise or excitement: lo! Behold! It can also mean if or though.
XXXIX “people” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.
XL “is…the beginning” = chalal. This is to pierce, which implies to wound. It is used figuratively for making someone or something profane or breaking your word. It can also mean to begin as though one opened a wedge. Also, to eat something as a common thing.
XLI “do” = asah. Same as “make” in v4. See note XXX above.
XLII “propose” = zamam. 13x in OT. This is to devise, plot, imagine, intend, scheme, think evil. It is usually used in an evil sense.
XLIII “will…be impossible” = batsar. This is to enclose, wall up, or make something inaccessible, impenetrable, isolated. It can also mean to fortify, something mighty. It can also mean to gather grapes.

Come, let us go down, and confuseXLIV their language there, so that they will not understandXLV one another’sXLVI speech.” 

Notes on verse 7

XLIV “confuse” = balal. This is to anoint, mix, overflow. It can also be to fodder or temper.
XLV “understand” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
XLVI “one another’s” = enoshrea. Enosh is related to “one” in v3. See note XV above. Rea is the same as “another” in v3. See note XVI above.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left offXLVII building the city. Therefore it was calledXLVIII Babel,XLIX because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Notes on verses 8-9

XLVII “left off” = chadal. This is properly to be flabby – it implies, to stop, fall, end, rest, leave alone, forsake, or desist. Figuratively this can be lacking or idle.
XLVIII “called” = qara + shem. Literally “its name is called.” Qara is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth. Shem is the same as “name” in v4. See note XXXI above.
XLIX “Babel” = Babel. Perhaps related to “confuse” in v7. Perhaps from balal (see note XLIV above) OR from Akkadian Bbilim; perhaps from earlier Sumerian name Ca-dimirra (gate of god). This is Babylon or Babel. See

Image credit: “The Tower of Babel” by Endre Rozsda, 1958.

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