Different translations of Genesis 11:1

(a)At first, the people of the whole world had only one language and used the same words.  (b)At one time the whole earth had the same language and vocabulary.  (c)There was a time when the entire earth spoke a common language with an identical vocabulary.  (d)The whole earth had a common language and a common vocabulary.  (e)And all the earth was one language, one set of words.

Watch your Language

We noticed the different Hebrew terms for “language” previously.  “Lashon” and “safa” are both rendered “language.”  In Biblical Hebrew, the word “safa” refers to a given language considered by itself, not in relation to other tongues.  “Lashon” is used when it is intended to express relationship and differentiation between languages.  Genesis Ch.10 uses the word “lashon” because if focuses on the difference between the nations and their languages.  Genesis Ch.11 uses the word “safa” because it discusses the common language spoken by all the people of the world; a lingua franca perhaps.  At one time Sumerian was the common international language; that was replaced by Akkadian, Aramaic, and then Greek.  English is considered the default language in many parts of the world today.  Let us look a little closer at the words in the text.

The two words we have considered thus far are not alone in Ch’s 10 and 11.  There is a double description in the first line of the first verse above: “…the whole earth had one language (safa aḥat) and the same words (devarim aḥadim).  As with many things in Scripture, there are different thoughts about what this means.  It could be read as signifying that their thoughts were one and the same.  They didn’t simply speak the same language, but they thought similar thoughts, and had the same mind-set – a situation I suggested is being constructed in our own day.  They didn’t have differences of opinion or conflicts.  Everything was the same, even the same goals.  One sees something a little similar in places like China, and North Korea for instance.  It is the direction in which today’s world is heading.  We (the world) are and will voluntarily and democratically give up our rights, to live under the dictatorship of a man (sorry ladies!), who in the eyes of the world, has “got it all.”  He will be a man that is ‘mighty before the Lord’ somewhat similar to Nimrod (Genesis 10:9).  We in the Western world particularly, are already in a process of thinking the same, having the same opinions, saying and doing the same things.  We surrender our laws and make new ones to bring us into line, not only in behaviour, but in our thought processes too.  Our children are being indoctrinated and in effect brainwashed in schools on sex issues, LGBT, Mental Health and meditation techniques, Climate Change, environmental issues, and evolutionary issues to name just a few.  Then there is indoctrination through the media, movies, industry, and even Dr Who!  The mindset for cataclysmic change is being quietly and patiently put into place, as our minds are bombarded from all directions.  In our verse, it was the “Whole world”, and in the coming Last Days it will be the “whole world” (Lit., “the land,” ha-ares) referring to the people living on the land.  These people lived a proto-type lifestyle as the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16-18).  Their mind-set and actions were in tandem.  The mark of the beast is not so much a microchip implant, it is the outliving or outworking of the nature of the beast by those devoted to him.  As with the Jews, the chosen people in Deuteronomy 6:4-8 were to “Bind (God’s commandments) as a sign on your hand and they will be on your forehead”, so it will be with those bound to the laws and life-style of the fake god, antichrist.

And it was (vayehi) that the whole earth had one language and the same words.  And it was (vayehi) that as people journeyed from the east (mikedem), they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there (Genesis 11:1-2).  The word for ‘valley’ can also mean a ‘plain’.  The repetition of “vayehi,” points out two important aspects: one concerning language – “the whole earth had one language,” and secondly, the geographical focus – “they settled there.”  Both aspects will be reversed by the end of the story, and the two opening verses that we are looking at now, will be paralleled with two concluding statements – “That is why it was called Babel: for there the Lord turned the language of all the earth into babble, and from there the Lord scattered them over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:9).

Eastward Bound – Bound in Sin

The direction they took is significant as is the direction humanity is taking today.  Moving east meant that they were increasing their distance away from God – that is what sin does – They were moving further and further away from Him.  After their sin Adam and Eve went out towards the east (Genesis 3:24).  After his sin, Cain went towards the east (Genesis 4:16), and that was the direction humanity travelled in before settling and building Babylon (Genesis 11:2).  In Revelation, the Euphrates river is dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East (16:12).

Terah, the father of Abraham was the first one to buck this trend by reversing the direction and setting out for Canaan (Genesis 11:31), showing his desire to draw close to God.  The Messiah, when He comes again, will finally reverse the eastern direction.  He will return to the Temple from the direction of the east (Ezekiel 43:2).  The Temple is a symbolic recasting of the Garden of Eden (Ezekiel 43:7), meaning that at His Second Coming, Messiah will vanquish His human enemies, and also sin’s dominion over humanity.  However, today, humanity is on its own move away from the Lord and is on the highway to Babylon, which will result in catastrophe.  Babylon the Great, the Whore of Babylon and Mother of Harlots, that is, the mother of all false religious systems.  The merchants of the earth traded with her, and the kings of the earth shared her luxury (Revelation18:9-11).  That is what their mind-set was beginning to construct in Genesis.  “This is what they begin to do,” it was only their first act of rebellion in this particular place.  Their purpose was to rebel against God in many other ways, as suggested in Genesis Ch.11.  The rabbis have an interesting take on this, and one that might turn out to be prophetic – “With such unity, they will enthrone idolatry for all time so that no man will be able to turn to the worship of the true God.”  Their purpose wasn’t completed because God stepped in and intervened.  God’s act to quell the rebellion was to scatter the people throughout the whole earth, but they will gather again in a future rebellion under a mighty, ‘whole world’, rebel leader.

“They found”

They journeyed east and found a plain, meaning it was good land for cultivation.  The plain was in the land of Shinar – Shinar means Babylonia.  By travelling east, you not only go away from something or someone – meaning God here; but you go towards something – Babylon.  “They found” implies that they had discovered the perfect place for them to settle.  They didn’t seek the Lord; they used their own knowledge, wisdom and ingenuity to create the lives they wanted for themselves.  The world today is turning away from God and is travelling along the highway to Babylon.  That is why Babylon features so much in the Book of Revelation.  In Genesis we have the birth of humanism, man-centred as they were, they built a tower called “the gate of God.”  That, in Hebrew, is what “Babylon,” Babel means.  Here we have the beginning of false religion and idolatry, something we see all around us in our “enlightened” times.  There will be a time and perfect place for the Man of Lawlessness, the son of destruction to be revealed (2Thessalonians 2:3).  This guy fits perfectly into “the gate of God” – “who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).  I can accept the argument that humankind, with their efforts in Babylon were aspiring to transcend the limits of its creaturely condition – as with Eve and the temptation “you shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5), and the Nephilim taking the daughters of man (Genesis 6:1-4).  It was the breaking of the boundaries set by God, and the sheer arrogance to which their new technological capacity lends them.  There was the breaking out in urbanism and the overweening confidence of humanity in the feats of technology.  As we saw, the story lines up with those of the tree in Eden and the Nephilim where humankind is seen aspiring to transcend the limits and the boundaries set by the true God.

What man joins together – Genesis 11:8-9

What man joined together, God scattered far and wide (Genesis 11:8), which explains the dispersion of Genesis 10:5, 10:20, 10:31 and 10:32; and also explains why Nimrod had to leave Babylon for Assyria.  Many plans are in a man’s heart, but it’s the Lord’s counsel that is fulfilled (Proverbs 19:21).  This proverb is a Hebrew equivalent of “man purposes and God disposes.”

All that cemented the people together, all their building of the city and the tower, all their great thinking and sense of purpose, was to result in them being scattered throughout the earth.  Man was reaching up to heaven by his own arrogant works, just as false religion does; but as man reached upward, God came down (Genesis 11:7).  Jesus would come to bring man back to God.  He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6; He is the Door or the Gate to God, John 10:9), Jesus/Yeshua, not Nimrod or any other mighty leader that will arise in the earth.  “No-one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man” (John 3:13).  The Antichrist will be a pretender to the throne.  The people united and God scattered them (Psalm 68:1-3).  The negative impact of humanity’s sin on the land itself is described at the end of this narrative, and is similar to that at the end of the Flood narrative.  In both instances the people are scattered and the land is divided (Genesis 9:19; 11:8-9).  Both accounts represent an indictment of all humanity, not just a portion.  All humanity was willingly involved in the Babel rebellion.  That is why we have the focus on the same language, identical ideas, the same words.  We are somewhat forewarned when we consider the reference to Shinar (Genesis 11:2) which is previously mentioned in connection with the rebel Nimrod (Genesis 10:10), as well as the journey humanity was taking, from the land of Ararat (Genesis 8:4), and settling in the east. 

In 8b They discontinued the building of the city; and in 9a, is the naming of the city.  Babel or Bavel in Hebrew is the word for Babylon.  It is called Babel because God confounded the speech in that place.  There is a word-play between two words.  Both have different origins but have similar sounds.  In Hebrew, Babylon is Bavel, which is a Babylonian word that comes from Babalu, meaning to “scatter.”  A further Babylonian word is Babilu, which means “the gate of God” (a later form is “bab-ilani”, “the gate of the gods”) What man intended to be the gate of God, in fact became a “scattering.”  The word “confuse” comes from the Hebrew word balal, which also means “to confound”, or to “babble confusion.”  What people called the gate of God, God made into a gate of confusion, making a babble of it all.

The 21st Century spirit of Babylon

The ‘Abrahamic Family House’: Church, Mosque and Synagogue to Share New Complex in the United Arab Emirates capital, is expected to be completed in 2022.  It is located on Saadiyat Island near Abu Dhabi.  The initiative follows Pope Francis's historic trip to the UAE in February 2019, the first time a pontiff has visited the Arabian-peninsula.  While there, he met with Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, to discuss interfaith harmony in the Arab world and across the globe.  The duo released “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” which urged political leaders and influencers to “work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace.”

The mosque will be orientated toward Mecca; the synagogue's bema will face Jerusalem and the church's altar will point east towards the sun.  Each will have its own individual street entrance, but the ground will slope up into a podium in the centre, allowing visitors in the garden to see into all three. The winning design for the Abrahamic Family House was by London-based architects Adjaye Associates.  The creator of the buildings and garden, David Adjaye, said that he sees the garden “as a powerful metaphor, this safe space where community, connection and civility combine.”  ‘A fourth space – not affiliated with any specific religion – will be an educational centre where all people can come together as a single community devoted to mutual understanding and peace.’  A spiritual union of different religions is officially forming, and a political union of a One World Government is on the horizon.

Blessings and shalom,

Malcolm [02.09.2020]

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