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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

Genesis 11

 

 

Verse 1

GENESIS CHAPTER 11.

One language in the earth, Genesis 11:1. They journey from the east, settle in a plain in the land of Shinar, Genesis 11:2; make bricks, which they burn and use with slime, Genesis 11:3; build a city and tower that they might not be scattered, Genesis 11:4. God sees it, Genesis 11:5. Disapproves their design, Genesis 11:6; defeats it, and scatters them by confounding their language, Genesis 11:7,8; for which reason the place called Babel, Genesis 11:9. The posterity of Shem to Abram, Genesis 11:10-26. Abram takes Sarai to wife, Genesis 11:29. She is barren, Genesis 11:30. He removes from Ur to Haran, Genesis 11:31, where his father dies, Genesis 11:32.

Earth is oft put for its inhabitants, as Genesis 6:21 1 Chronicles 16:23 Psalms 33:8.

Of one speech, which even heathen writers acknowledge; and that probably was the Hebrew tongue.


Verse 2

As they journeyed from the east, i.e. Nimrod and the rest of his confederates of Ham’s posterity; not from Armenia, where the ark rested, which was north from Babel, and is called north in Scripture, as Jeremiah 25:9,26, &c.; but from Assyria, into which they had before come from the mountains of Ararat for more convenient habitation. It may be rendered to the east; but that manner of translation is neither usual nor necessary here.

The land of Shinar, where Babel was, Genesis 10:10.


Verse 3

Let us make brick, for in that low and fat soil they had no quarries of stones. The heathen writers agree that Babylon’s walls were made of brick.

The slime was a kind of clay called bitumen, which, as Pliny testifieth, is liquid and glutinous, and fit to be used in brick buildings, as Strabo, Dion, and others note. And that Babylon was built with this, as is here said, we have the joint and express testimony of Berosus, Ctesias, Dion, Curtius, and many others.


Verse 4

Whose top may reach unto heaven, i.e. a very high tower; a usual hyperbole, both in Scripture, as Deuteronomy 1:28 9:1, and in other authors. This tower and its vast height is noted by Herodotus, Diodorus, and others.

Let us make us a name, i.e. a great name, as the phrase is elsewhere used. Compare also 2 Samuel 7:9, with 1 Chronicles 17:8. See also Isaiah 63:12,14 Da 9:15. They take no care for God’s name, and the defence and propagation of the true religion, as duty bound them, but merely out of pride and vain-glory labour to erect an everlasting monument of their wit, and wealth, and magnificence to all posterity.

Their design was not to secure themselves against a flood, which they well knew brick buildings were no fence against; nor would they then have built this tower in a plain, but upon some high mountain; but rather to prevent a total and irrecoverable dispersion. They sought therefore to bind themselves together in one glorious empire, and to make this glorious city the capital seat of it, and the place of refuge and resort upon any considerable occasion.


Verse 5

Not by local descent, for he is every where; but by the manifestation of his presence and the effects of his power in that place.

To see the city and the tower, i.e. to know the truth of the fact, thereby setting a pattern for judges to examine causes before they pass sentence; otherwise God saw this in heaven; but in these expressions he condescends to the capacity of men.

The children of men, so called emphatically,

1. For distinction of them from the sons of God, or the race of Shem, who were not guilty of the sin, and therefore did not partake in the curse, the confusion of their language, but retained their ancient tongue uncorrupted for a good while.

2. To note their rashness and folly, who being but weak and silly men, durst oppose themselves to the infinitely wise and powerful God, who did (as they might easily gather both from his words and works) intend to disperse and separate them, that so by degrees they might possess the whole earth, which God had made for that purpose.


Verse 6

The Lord said this in way of holy scorn and derision. Compare Genesis 3:22.


Verse 7

Let us, i.e. the blessed Trinity. See Genesis 1:26.

Confound their language, by making them forget their former language, and by putting into their minds several languages; not a distinct language into each person, but into each family, or rather into each nation; that thereby they may be disenabled from that mutual commerce which was altogether necessary for the carrying on of that work.


Verse 8

Thus they brought upon themselves the very thing they feared, and that more speedily and more mischievously to themselves; for now they were not only divided in place, but in language too, and so were unfitted for those confederacies and correspondences which they mainly designed, and for the mutual comfort and help of one another, which otherwise they might in good measure have enjoyed.


Verse 10

Not all the generations of Shem, as appears both from Genesis 11:11, and from the former chapter; but of those who were the seminary of the church, and the progenitors of Christ.


Verse 11

2346

So that he lived almost all the time of Abraham; which was a singular blessing, both to himself, who hereby saw his children of the tenth generation; and to the church of God, which by this means enjoyed the counsel and conduct of so great a patriarch.


Verse 17

So that he was the longest lived of all the patriarchs which were born after the flood.


Verse 24

Nahor was the first patriarch who fell to idolatry.

2126


Verse 26

2056 i.e. Began to beget, as Genesis 5:32.

Abram, who is first named in order of dignity, (for which cause Shem is put before Ham and Japheth, and Moses before Aaron), not in order of time, which seems to be this: Haran probably was the eldest, because Nahor married his daughter; Nahor the second; and Abram certainly was the youngest, because Terah, Abram’s father, lived two hundred and five years, Genesis 11:32, and Abram after his father’s death, Acts 7:4, went out of Haran, when he was seventy-five years old, Genesis 12:4,5; therefore he was not begotten in Terah’s seventieth year, when Terah began to beget his sons, as here is said, but in his one hundred and thirtieth year, and so there remains seventy-five years precisely to Abram’s departure. And Sarai, Haran’s daughter, was but ten years younger than Abram, Genesis 17:17; and therefore Haran was Abram’s elder brother.


Verse 28

i.e. In the presence and during the life of his father.


Verse 29

Such marriages of uncles and nieces being permitted then, Exodus 6:20, (as in the beginning of the world the marriages of brethren and sisters were), though afterwards, the church being very much enlarged, they were severely forbidden, Leviticus 18:12,14.

Iscah is either Sarai, as the Jews and many others think, or rather another person. For,

1. Why should Moses express Sarai thus darkly and doubtfully? Had he meant her, he would have added after Iscah, this is Sarai, according to his manner in like cases, Genesis 14:2,7 35:6.

2. He elsewhere calleth her, the daughter, not of his brother, as he should have done, had she been Iscah, but of his father, by another mother.


Verse 30

See Genesis 16:1,2 18:11,12.


Verse 31

See Joshua 24:2 Nehemiah 9:7 1 Chronicles 1:26. Being informed by his son of the command of God,

Terah did not despise it, because it came to him by the hands of his inferior, but cheerfully obeyeth it; and therefore he is so honourably mentioned as the head and governor of the action. Terah and Abram went with Lot and Sarai, as their heads and guides.

Haran is called Charran, Acts 7:4, and by the Romans Carrae, a place in in Mesopotamia strictly so called, in the way to Canaan, and near to it, well known by Crassus’ defeat there: see Genesis 24:10 28:10 29:4.

Dwelt there; or, rested or abode, being detained there for a season; peradventure by Terah’s disease, which begun there, for Genesis 11:32 tells us of his death.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Genesis 11:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/genesis-11.html. 1685.

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