Genesis 10-11 – Babel: The First Kingdom

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My name is Lincoln Huseby and I’m the youth pastor here, and it is my privilege and honor today that I get to continue our series in Genesis in chapter ten and 11, as Nathaniel left us in Genesis chapter nine last week. But before we get into the text, I want to just share a little bit about myself and maybe this is something that you don’t know. Some of you may know that I am a completely fascinated and I love history. Fascinated. I spend way too much time reading about history. My wife can attest to the fact that I often read history books that are ridiculously long and detailed into the night while she is asleep, and I’m reading right next to her. It’s really weird, but I do that. I’ve also listened to history podcasts, an insane number of them, as well as watch history documentaries, of which I cannot count how many I’ve watched. I actually got marked down when I was in first grade because I was reading history books instead of The Boxcar Children or the Magic Tree House books. I don’t remember because I didn’t read them right and joke that Nathaniel Pastor Nathaniel usually or used to tell about me is this if you’re in a conversation with Lincoln long enough, the Roman Empire is going to come up. Which is just funny because I was there before it was cool. Okay. Anyways, anyways, for the longest time I didn’t know why I was so fascinated by history.

I don’t didn’t know why I was drawn to it as a subject because like some of you and many people think that history is boring, it is a collection of dates and names that you have to memorize in school, and it bears no weight or consequence on your life. Or in the present. But that is never the way that I saw history, even as a kid. I’ve always viewed history as the context of today, which brings meaning and understanding to what is happening around me and for each one of us as individuals as well as the things that we are part of, the collectives we are a part of, whether that be families, nations, nations or churches. We are products. They are products of what have gone before us. George Washington, Martin Luther and your great grandmother has had a significant impact on your life. And I know that because you are sitting right here. And my love of history has an eagerness to understand why things are the way that they are. How did we get here and what we as human beings are capable of? What are our strengths? What are our faults? And that’s what his history so often teaches us is not only the achievements of humankind, but also the deep depravity of humankind. And it gives us a picture that is sometimes unsettling of how we got here and why things are the way they are.

In Genesis ten and 11 are exactly that, a picture sometimes unsettling as to how the world got to where it was now. And the now that I’m talking about the context in which this passage is written to is 13th century Israelites who are who have just left Egypt and are wandering in the wilderness, going towards the Promise land. And the author Moses, who through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is writing this book. In this book of beginnings, the genesis of what is to give the Israelites a foundation of where they fit in the world, but much more importantly, who their God is this God that they are following in the wilderness. So if you flip open your Bibles to Genesis chapter ten, you can do that now if you want. You will find a list of names. Right. And those names are the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth, and all of their descendants, which to us may seem like a random collection of names that don’t really make sense, but to them it did mean something, because to them, the Israelites knew these names because they were the people groups, the cities, the places that they would have went to pass through, heard about and have seen some of the names we might recognize, such as in Genesis 1015, Canaan became the father of Sidon, his firstborn, and Heth and the Jebusite in the Amorite in the Girgashite. And if you’re familiar with your Bible, specifically Exodus, you will know that.

Or I mean, they come up more than Exodus, but you will know that the Canaanites, the sons of Canaan, are those who live in this land that God has promised to Abraham and his descendants, as promised to the Israelites. And they are heading there at this moment, right now to take the land, and they will through the conquest, eventually the conquest of Joshua and God’s divine providence in giving that land to them. And there are other names in Genesis ten that you might recognize, such as Tarshish or Nineveh. If you’re familiar with the story of Jonah, God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them to repent. And Jonah goes, I don’t want to do that, and runs away to Tarshish to get as far away from God and as far away as the calling that God has given to him as possible. But God eventually leads him to Nineveh. All right. Genesis ten is a passage on who’s who. And who’s where. Well, Genesis 11 details for us how they got there. Sticking in chapter ten, an important thing to remember when reading a genealogy. Genealogy in scripture, like Genesis ten and 11 as well, is that genealogies and Scripture are just as much about looking behind and what has gone before, and who has gone before. As much as who it is looking towards, what it’s looking towards in the future. It’s looking forward to the promise given to Adam in Genesis 315 that we talked about earlier, that Jesus went over the one who would, the one who would be the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent.

That a promise was given to Adam and therefore all mankind, that the Messiah would come and destroy the head of the serpent, in other words, the power of Satan. And in Genesis chapter 12, as Nathaniel will talk about next week, we see that this promise given to Adam will be passed down and narrowed down to the descendants of Abraham, with the blessing and covenant that God makes with him, which will in turn mean that the rest of the genealogies of Scripture will focus on the descendants of Abraham. And we will see that that will get further narrowed down to David. If you keep reading your Bible, that’s not in Genesis, but that happens. And now we as Christians ultimately know that that promise, the one who would be the seed of the woman that crushes the head of the serpent is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, of which Matthew in his gospel, in his genealogy, references and talks about Jesus being the son of both David and Abraham. While Luke in his genealogy stresses that Jesus is the descendant of Adam and Adam being the Son of God as well as John’s gospel begins with telling us that Jesus, Jesus’s divine nature, his eternality that he is the Word of God made flesh and genealogies can be really boring, really hard to get through when you read scripture, but knowing what they’re pointing to and understanding that they’re just as much as about recording who’ve gone before, as well as looking to what is ahead.

We know that that promise, that promise of a messiah is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. And that’s why when we read Genesis ten and 11. We see. That the power of Satan. Meaning the head of the serpent is still alive and well, and that God’s crowning creation, that being mankind, of which he created as his image bearers in the world that he created for us to steward, are still just as sinful and just as broken as they were in the fall in Cain and Abel and the generations that preceded the flood. And we know this because we read it in Genesis chapter ten eight through ten. Sorry for the misprint up there which says this. Now Kush became the father of Nimrod. He became a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord. The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Eric, and Akad and Cana in the land of Shinar. Now, it may not be apparent at first glance as to why this passage signifies the depravity of humankind. But as we go on, I think we will begin to see.

First of all, Nimrod’s name, translated from Hebrew, means rebel, rebel. And there is some debate amongst scholars of whether this word before the Lord should be translated as against the Lord. That name. The word is pernem and is translated in our Bibles as either before or against in different places, and whether or not it should be before or against. What is clear is that Nimrod is this mighty one, the founder of the world’s first kingdom or empire, and he is leading a rebellion of the sons of Noah against the Lord by building the city of Babel in direct disobedience to God’s command found in Genesis nine one, where God told Noah and his family to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. And they aren’t just building a city. We usually don’t talk about the city of Babel. We usually talk about the tower, and they are constructing this tower to challenge God in his authority and to make their name great by reaching towards the heavens, as Genesis 11 one through four tells us. Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly. And they use brick for stone, and they use tar for mortar. They said, come, let us build for ourselves a city and a tower, whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name.

Otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth. Now I think to understand when reading Genesis ten and 11, which can be confusing if you’re just reading through fast, is that Genesis ten and Genesis 11 are not in chronological order. Genesis ten, as we said before, is who’s who and who’s where. Genesis 11 is how they got there. They’re. Genesis 11 is not a contradiction. It is an explanation of what happened after the flood narrative in Genesis six through nine, where in this flood narrative that Noah and his family are delivered from the wrath of God, which which descended upon the earth in the form of a flood because of man’s wickedness before God. And it’s through the favor of God which finds Noah, and in his obedience builds an ark, and his family are saved through this apocalyptic event where God gives humanity another chance. And after this construction, this destruction. The Lord makes a covenant with Noah and every living creature for all generations, that he will never again destroy the earth by a flood, and that the sign of that covenant is a rainbow. But it doesn’t take long for man to once again go back to his wicked ways and rebel against the Lord. For Nimrod is Noah’s grandson, not some distant relation that he never met. They would have known each other, and Nimrod’s father Ham, would have survived the flood in the ark.

Right now. There is some speculation as well in verse three of chapter 11 when it mentions tar and mortar, because this tower was made to reach the heavens, but also it could be said, or it could be interpreted, that they are also building this tower impervious to weather, that that same word tar and mortar means pitch or asphalt, which is what Noah covered his ark in to make it weatherproof, to make it so that it would float. And there are some people that think that by doing this, by making it with tar and mortar, what they’re trying to do is to make it weatherproof, suggesting that the sons of Noah do not trust God to keep his promise. To not destroy the Earth by the flood, and they use this tower not as only a way of making their name great, and to reach the heavens and gain the praise of men, but also as a way to withstand the wrath of God for their direct disobedience to him. They very well could be building a tower for their protection, their salvation. Whether that is what they’re doing or not, they are clearly in rebellion to God’s command. And instead of worshiping God, trusting in following in His Word to fill the face of the whole earth, they are seeking to build something so great. So they they can be like him.

That people will come and worship them. That people will follow after them and trust them. And they are quite clearly putting themselves in the place of God. You see, if you remember what happened in Genesis three, that this serpent’s power is working the same way as it did back then, where he convinces Adam and Eve that God is holding out on him them. That God does not have their best interests at heart, that his commands are restrictive and oppressive. So they choose to rebel against the Lord because Satan convinces them that if they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they shall be like God. And it’s so easy to read. Genesis. And go, what is are these people’s problems like what is wrong with them? They can’t get it together for five minutes. God keeps having to pick up the pieces of their rebellion. But if we were going to be honest with ourselves, the same sins that are in Genesis three, ten and 11 are the ones that we still struggle with today. When I was 18 years old, I left my home in Michigan and I departed for Wyoming. I went to a small Bible school called Frontiers School of the Bible in La Grange, Wyoming. It is about an hour away from Cheyenne, 30 minutes from Torrington and 45 minutes from Scottsbluff. And I really hope you only know one of those cities names. Well, while I was there, I obviously studied the Bible.

I was out of Bible school, but I also started reading a book called Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis, and it was a book that my small group leader from youth group back in Michigan, Michigan, gave me for my graduation, and I finally decided to open it and read it. And what I figured out when I started reading chapter eight of Mere Christianity. Which the chapter is titled The Great Sin. Is that I was not good and the condition of my heart became known to me instantly. See, I grew up around Christians my whole life. Being from West Michigan there Zondervan, which prints a ton of Bibles, a ton of Christian books, there’s cornerstone, there’s Kuyper, there’s Calvin, which are all Christian colleges, probably ten minutes away from my house there. I grew up, I grew up around Christians. My family were devout, devout Christians. My mom worked for the church. My dad served as a deacon, and I believe as an elder at different points in growing up. And I was involved in everything youth groups, summer camp and Sunday school ministries. And I thought that I was good. But when I started reading chapter eight, I realized. How broken. And realized how. Rebellious I was. See, I didn’t do the things that my other friends did. I wasn’t going and partying. I wasn’t doing drugs, I wasn’t I wasn’t doing what I was not supposed to do. But on the inside, my heart was full of pride.

And in an instant, my eyes were open to my sin. For I realized that almost everything that I had ever done up to that point. Whether good or bad, was for myself. It was for my benefit. It was for my kingdom, my glory and my will to be done. No. No matter how pathetic my empire was when I was 18 years old, it meant the world to me. And I wanted people to know how good I was, not how good Christ was. I wanted people to listen to what I had to say, not what God’s Word had to say. I wanted people to pay attention to me, to center around me and to praise me. And in short. I was a Nimrod, as funny as that is to say, I was a Nimrod and my kingdom came crashing down that night. Praise God! C.s Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, says this about pride. I don’t have it on screen, but if you guys want to listen, pay attention. It says he says this the essential vice. The utmost evil is pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness and all that are mere fleabites in comparison. It was through pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice. It is the complete anti-God state of mind. It is the complete anti-God state of mind. And of course it is. And because it is, it is the devil’s most effective weapon.

Romans eight. Romans 118 through 25 will go through it together. Says this for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them. For God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes, his eternal power, and his divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God and they did not honor him as God, or gave or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools and exchange the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man, and of birds and four footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in their lust of their their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. You know what Paul is saying in this passage? He is saying it is not out of ignorance that man denies God. It is not out of what he doesn’t know that makes him disobey him. Almost every person alive knows what the right thing to do is.

Yet we still choose the wrong all too often. And it is out of arrogance. That we think that we are above what right and wrong is, and that the ends justify the means because I deserve it. That is the pride that lives within us. Professing to be wise, they became fools, suppressing the truth and unrighteousness. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator. We don’t reject God because we are ignorant of him. It’s because we would rather have our kingdom and not to submit to his. We see this probably most evident in scriptures, in the people, in the people or person group of the Pharisees. You guys know what I’m saying? We see that most evident in the Pharisees, who knew more scripture than I could ever dream of knowing, right? Knowing the Old Testament by heart, they would have known every single prophecy of the Messiah, and they would have seen it with their own eyes. Jesus fulfilling those prophecies. But what do they do when Jesus is in front of them? When he confronts them with his wisdom and with fulfilling of these prophecies, they reject him, and they don’t do so out of ignorance. They do so because of their arrogance and their pride, and because they were angry that Jesus dared steal their show, their kingdom of Israel, that they thought belonged to him and not the Messiah’s.

That is crazy. Their pride gave birth to jealousy, which in turn bore the fruit of murder and blinded them to the evil that they did. And the thing is, we aren’t that different. We all can be nimrods. I’m sorry. I called myself a Nimrod. Calling you guys Nimrods? We’re all nimrods because we get. We get caught up in the same thing as Nimrod, building our own little kingdoms so that we can be safe. Which is an illusion. We build our kingdoms so that people will admire us, gather around us, give us attention, whether that is through business or through social media. Et cetera. We do it so we can get what we want in the Bible so clearly demonstrates to us in the story of Adam and Eve and the Tower of Babel, and on and on throughout its pages. Is that we all have a sin problem rooted in selfishness, whose foundation is our pride. And what does the Lord do to the people of Babel, to Nimrod in their rebellious pride? Genesis 11 five through nine records and tells us, the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, behold, they are one people. They all have the same language, and this is what they began to do. And now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there and confuse their language, so they will not understand one another’s speech.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth, and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because the Lord confused the language of the whole earth, and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. Listen. No matter how tall they built that tower, they were never going to reach God. God still has to come down and let that be a reminder to us that no matter how great a kingdom we build here on earth, God is still going to be looking down at it and it’s not going to last. And it stands no chance against the Lord of Lords. Verses six through seven. Of Genesis 11 confuse me a lot. When I was little, I thought, why would God limit our abilities by spreading us out in dividing us? But the older I got, the more I realized. Thank you, God, for your severe mercy in doing that. For as you may have realized, we as people have almost no capacity or capability to say no to things that we have the ability to do. And modern technology just makes it clear to us that passive knowledge and technology that could destroy us. We jump into because we feel like we have to. And I don’t want to go into the detail of all that, but it’s safe to say, I think the Lord, in verses six and seven of Genesis 11, is being merciful and gracious to the people of Babel, even in their rebellion, even though they tried to disobey God and fortify themselves from him.

And they thought they could get away with it. And we should not be so foolish. Proverbs 16 nine tells us the mind of man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps, and we are never going to outmaneuver or outthink an all powerful, all knowing, and all loving God. After verse nine, the chapter elaborates even further. On the descendants of Shem. If you don’t know, Shem is where we get the word Semitic from. The Semitic languages are those descendants of Shem, and Hebrew is a Semitic language as well as a bunch of other languages in the Middle East. And what we learn through looking at that genealogy in the rest of Genesis 11 is that that genealogy is still looking for the one who would destroy the power of Satan, which has so far worked mightily in the fall of man, in the killing that precipitated the flood, as well as the rise and fall of Babel. So what’s the answer? The one promised by God in Genesis three, verse 12. Now. Genesis 315. Sorry, what’s the answer? We see what God does to say in in Colossians 213 through 15, where Christ crushes the head of the serpent. It says, when you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.

He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness which stood against us and condemned us. He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross, and having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Amen. We have all sinned. We have all rebelled against the Lord, as the Bible teaches. We have all tried, in one way or another, to usurp God’s place as King, as Savior, as judge, as God. But what the Bible says is, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. That the Lord came down and this time he didn’t come down to to sow confusion and to spread the people amongst the face of the earth. He didn’t come down with a sword in a crown, riding on a white horse, of which revelation tells us he will, this time as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John testify, he came. In a manger and on a donkey and as a servant. And he died on the cross so that we could enter into his kingdom, an eternal one. Unlike Babbel and unlike our own, he made a way that we could be reconciled to God and be forgiven of our rebellion against him. And what he calls us to is to humble ourselves and to trust him. As Mark. The gospel of Mark says, repent and believe.

James four six tells us, For God is opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. I read that again. I’m sorry. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded. God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. And as Matthew 18 two through four says, and he, this is Jesus speaking. And he called a child to himself, set him before them, and said, truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child. He is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Listen. Jesus invites us all with open arms into his kingdom. Romans 1213 says, all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. And let’s be clear we don’t get to invite Jesus into our kingdom. He invites us into his. He is the king, and we are not to be about our business, but his about him being glorified, not ourselves. His will being done, not our own. And as Jesus teaches in the Beatitudes in Matthew five, he says, blessed are those who do. Amen.