Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 11:18–26

Genesis 11:18–26
When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu.  19 And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug.  21 And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor.  23 And after he became the father of Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah.  25 And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
26 When Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
(NET Bible)

Preparation for Abraham and the covenant

God is not in a hurry! He works toward long-term goals, not the quick fix. His plan to remedy the ruin of humankind took millennia to unfold and is not yet complete.

How does our impatience interact with God’s patience? What are we to make of God’s decision to bring his solution by working through humankind? What does Genesis show us about God’s guiding hand on history?

Kenneth Mathews puts this passage into perspective:

The Babel account (11:1-9) is not the end of early Genesis. If it were, the story would conclude on the sad note of human failure. But as with earlier events in Genesis 1-11, God’s grace once again supersedes human sin, insuring the continued possibilities of the promissory blessings (1:28; 9:1).[1]

Gordon Wenham adds, “With this short genealogy from Shem to Abram, the Genesis narrative steps from the primeval period, whose events have cosmic significance directly affecting all mankind, into the patriarchal period.”[2] The patriarchs are, at minimum, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Terah, the father of Abram [later Abraham], waited more than twice as long to have his first son as all the others born after the flood and listed in Genesis 11. Genesis 11:26 tells us he was 70 years old when his first son was born. However, it may shed light on the fact that Abraham did not have his own first son Ishmael (by the servant Hagar) until he was 85 or 86 years old (Gen. 16:3-4).

Terah’s name may be connected to the word for “moon.” Even if it is not, Wenham says, “Several of Abram’s relations have names that suggest adherence to lunar worship (cf. Sarah, Milcah, Laban), a cult that was prominent in Ur and Harran.”[3]Ur was Abram’s birthplace about 186 miles southeast of modern Baghdad. Perhaps this moon worship explains the Lord’s words in Joshua 24:2 saying: “In the distant past your ancestors lived beyond the Euphrates River, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor. They worshiped other gods.”

By God’s grace and selection, Abraham became a towering figure in Old Testament history and New Testament theology. But that is a story for another day!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[This post concludes the series on Genesis 1–11.]



[1] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 487.

[2] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 253.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 252.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 11:10–17

Genesis 11:10–17
This is the account of Shem. Shem was 100 years old when he became the father of Arphaxad, two years after the flood.  11 And after becoming the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah.  13 And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber.  15 And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg.  17 And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
(NET Bible)

Shem’s family extends God’s chosen line

God is faithful, but that does not mean that things always go smoothly. Consider the life of Shem, who survived the flood, protected the honor of his father Noah, and helped found a renewed human race.

What does it mean to have a covenant with God? How does God’s blessing relate to the suffering that comes because of living in a sinful world?

Genesis 11:10 contains one of the linguistic markers that divides sections of Genesis into separate accounts. The big thing to consider is the fact that only Shem, of Noah’s three sons, received separate attention in the form of a detailed genealogy. In effect, Shem’s short genealogy is given in chapter 10 with regard to the development of nations; in chapter 11 Shem’s lineage is traced to Abram, who is later renamed Abraham.

You will recall our previous statements that Genesis is a theological history with specific interests. Shem gets all this attention for the simple reason that his line leads through Abraham and through David to Jesus, the Messiah.

Commenting on Genesis 11:10, Gordon Wenham says, “The birth of Arpachshad, the first after the flood, shows that Shem fulfilled the new mandate to mankind to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (8:17; 9:1, 7).”[1]

Genesis 11:16  When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg.

We have previously said the name Eber is related to the name Hebrew, though nothing is made of that fact in Gen. 11:16. Peleg’s name has three consonants that form the root of a verb meaning “divide, separate.” That would scarcely matter except that Genesis 10:25 has the cryptic remark: “One was named Peleg because in his days the earth was divided” (emphasis added).

Many commentators think this division is a reference to the dispersion at Babel, thus placing that event in Peleg’s lifetime, but that is not certain. If heaven has a FAQ, it will probably contain the answer in the top fifty questions asked.   :-)

A retrospective look at Genesis will show that an extended genealogy ends at Genesis 5:32 with the naming of Noah’s three sons. Before it resumes with Seth’s line in Genesis 11, we have the cataclysm of the flood and the dramatic intervention by God at the tower of Babel. We may say that the resumption of the genealogy in Genesis 11 is reassuring. Kenneth Mathews says, “While the threats of the flood and Babel are alarming, the return to the predictable pattern of genealogical descent after each (9:29; 11:10–26) shows that God’s purposes for humanity are back on track.”[2]

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 250.

[2] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 489.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 11:8–9

Genesis 11:8–9
So the LORD scattered them from there across the face of the entire earth, and they stopped building the city.  9 That is why its name was called Babel– because there the LORD confused the language of the entire world, and from there the LORD scattered them across the face of the entire earth.
(NET Bible)

 Opposing God leads to confusion

Whose plans are going to prevail? Will it be humankind’s plan to concentrate power and make a mighty name, or will it be God’s plan to populate the world with those who honor his mighty name?

In the language the Bible speaks, scattering is not a favorable outcome. One illustration of this is the statement by Jesus: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30).

In Genesis 1:28 and 9:1, the original creation and its replacement, God commanded that the people be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Contrary to that command, the people gathered on the plain of Shinar in opposition to dispersal.

At times someone will argue that the Hebrew phrase translated as “the entire earth” does not actually mean the whole world. This argument is made, for example, to support a regional flood. But consider how this phrase is used in other locations within Genesis: 1:29; 7:3; 8:9; 9:19; 11:1; 13:9; 13:15; 18:25; 19:31. The only instance that does not mean the entire earth is Genesis 13:15 in which God tells Abraham that he will receive all the land he is looking at. But the norm consists of situations such as God serving as the judge of the entire world (Gen. 18:25) or giving humankind the seed-bearing plants of the entire earth for food (Gen. 1:29).

So, before the people populate the entire world, they pause for rebellion at a city called Babel. When the common language was replaced by as many languages as people, the people stop construction of the city and scatter.

“The Babylonians understood Babel to mean ‘the gate of the god.’ The Hebrews liked to suppose it to mean ‘mixed up, confused.’”[1] Mathews adds, “Our author’s sarcasm bites at the Babelites’ deluded aim of obtaining a ‘name’ through the erection of the city (v. 4).”[2] They got a name—“confused”!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Wenham, Genesis 1-17, 241.

[2] Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 486.