I got a late start on my study today because my day was spent at the University of Oregon talking to people about Jesus. I had some excellent and challenging conversations with many different kinds of students. My favorite part was talking to the people from the Alliance of Happy Atheists (AHA). It was a good afternoon.
And as such I was unable to get to Genesis 11 until around 9:45pm. But better late than never!
Chapter 11 begins and ends with people settling. The people settle on the plain of Shinar and Terah settles in Haran. More on him in a bit.
The Trouble With Towers
The Tower of Babel story is fascinating. You have the people and their arrogance and desire to make a name for themselves. You have God as the building inspector (add that to the list of “human” characteristics He shows). You have some extreme irony in that the reason the people built all that stuff was to not get scattered and yet that is exactly what happens to them BECAUSE they built it.
One could also make the argument that God is afraid of human development or decidedly anti-progress. They are building a great city and he clearly doesn’t like it. Why? What is wrong with it? He says that this is only the beginning and we will soon be able to achieve anything we set our minds too. The American in me has a lot of trouble thinking that is a bad thing.
But then I think about what we have done so far, it kind of makes sense. Every inclination of our hearts is evil all the time. We kill, we steal, we don’t listen, we are violent. What will happen when a huge mass of us put our heads together? What kind of abomination will we come up with?
Again, as with Adam and Cain, God’s punishment might actually be a grace to us.
I also noticed how God never outright says he is going to scatter the people. They are afraid of it but he doesn’t say it. All he does is confuse the language. The fact that they just leave their tower tells me that they were not as committed to it as they thought they were. Suddenly things got difficult and they dropped out. How bad did you want it guys? What, are you going to let a little “suddenly everyone speaks another language and we can’t understand each other” get in the way? Lame!
Haran and Haran
So after another genealogy, we are introduced to the first major players in the Genesis story: Terah and his sons. One of those sons is Haran and he dies an early death. This must have been difficult for Terah as I am sure it would be for anyone. But then he and his family pick up and set out for Canaan but they don’t quite make it. They come to a place called Haran and settle there.
A place with the same name as Terah’s dead son.
I don’t know why they stopped. We aren’t told. But we do know that they didn’t make it to where they were going. I wonder if Terah couldn’t do it. His journey took him literally into a place of great grief and he couldn’t carry on. I am not sure what to do with that right now but there it is.
And with that, we conclude the intro to Genesis. The first milestone has been reached! Next we will begin the story of the Patriarchs and the beginning of God’s redemption plan.