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.