“Great Name Building” | Genesis 11:1-9 Bible Study

First streamed on 6.7.23. First posted on 6.11.23.

People often want to follow their-way to heaven.

   But there’s no human stairway to heaven.

Ironically, people in Shinar (Gen 11:2) a.k.a. Babylon (meaning “gate of the gods”) sought to build a monumental tower – likely the massive ancient ziggurat (temple-tower structure) Etemenanki (meaning “temple of the foundation of heaven and earth”) – to reach the heavens (Gen 11:4).

Yet, it’s so small, God has to “come down” to see it (Gen 11:5)!1

We may think we’re doing great things. But are they great in the eyes of our great God?

Ironically, these Babylonians tried to build to avoid being scattered (Gen 11:4); but it’s actually their building that causes them to be scattered (Gen 11:8-9).2

And though they wanted to make a name for themselves (Gen 11:4), they give themselves a bad name (Gen 11:9)!3

(Babel sounds like the Hebrew verb that means “mix up” (בָּלַל | bālal).4 And, at Babel, God mixes up their language (Gen 11:7, 9).)

God would be the One to give man a great name – namely Abraham (Gen 12:1-3), through whom all the scattered nations would be blessed (Gen 12:3; Gal 3:7-9).

For through the line of Abraham would come the Messiah (i.e., the Christ) (cf. Mt 1:1-16). And all who are faithful to Jesus are blessed children of Abraham (Gal 3:7-9) who receive the Holy Spirit.

And, when the Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, people from every nation under heaven miraculously understood each other’s language (Ac 2:5-11) – a reverse of the curse at Babel!

There’s so much reversal in the (chiastically-structured) story of the Tower of Babel. And so much of the biblical story is about the reversal of the scattering at the Tower of Babel.

And, in the end, people from every nation and tongue will worship and serve the LORD (Is 2:2f.; Zep 3:9-10; Rev 7:9-10, etc.) – in true, godly unity (cf. Gen 11:1).

The people at Babel likely thought they were closer to the heavens than anyone else on earth.5

But you can’t come close to God through purely human effort – nor on purely human terms.

No matter how high we build, we can only have access to the Father through the Son (Jn 14:6).

So, let’s focus not on making a great name for ourselves, but on making known the great Name that is above every name (Php 2:9).

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6-7-23 Bible Study Slides Genesis 11_1-9

Bibliography

  • Atkinson, David. The Message of Genesis 1–11: The Dawn of Creation. Edited by J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball. The Bible Speaks Today. England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990.
  • Brown, Francis, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs. Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977. [BDB]
  • Caiafa, Luigi. “Mesopotamia, Archaeology Of, Middle Bronze through Iron Age.” Edited by John D. Barry, David Bomar, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, Douglas Mangum, Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, Lazarus Wentz, Elliot Ritzema, and Wendy Widder. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016. [LBD]
  • Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. “Enuma Elish.” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.[BEB]
  • Gesenius, Wilhelm, and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003. [GHCLOT]
  • Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990.
  • Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999. [TWOT]
  • Kidner, Derek. Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 1. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967.
  • Koehler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000. [HALOT]
  • Mathews, K. A. Genesis 1-11:26. Vol. 1A. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996.
  • Ross, Allen, and John N. Oswalt. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: Genesis, Exodus. Vol. 1. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008.
  • VanGemeren, Willem, ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997. [NIDOTTE]
  • Wenham, Gordon J. “Genesis.” In New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, edited by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed., 54–91. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Sources

  1. Atkinson, 176; Matthews, 483; NBC, 69
  2. cf. Matthews, 469
  3. Matthews, 482
  4. TWOT, 112; Atkinson, 176
  5. NBC, 69
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