Friday, March 6, 2009

GENESIS: Chapter 11

Chapter 11
Summary:Apparently all mankind spoke a single language at this point, until a group of people started colonizing eastward into the land of Babylon. The people who lived there began talking about building a great city with a huge tower reaching to the heavens.
Apparently, God is none too happy to see the people all working together with political and linguistic unity, thinking that if they accomplish this unity that they'd become too smart for their own good*. God decides to put a stop to this by giving the people a bunch of different languages to prevent them from working together in unity - as they wouldn't be able to communicate with each other.

11:1 "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech."
Basically, God scattered them all over the earth with different languages, and it is noted that the city of Babel got it's name, meaning "confusion".

The rest of the chapter rattles of some names and ages of Shem's descendants:
  • Shem:
    • His son Arpachshad was born two years after the flood when Shem was age 100!
    • Died at age 600*.
  • Arpachshad:
    • Born two years after the flood.
    • Was 35 years old when his son Shelah was born.
    • Died at the age of 458*.
  • Shelah:
    • Was 35 years old when his son Eber was born.
    • Like his father, died at the age of 458*.
  • Eber:
    • Was 34 years old when his son Peleg was born.
    • Died at the age of 464*.
  • Peleg:
    • Was 30 years old when his son Reu was born
    • Died at the age of 239*.
  • Reu:
    • Was 32 years old when his son Serug was born
    • Like his father, died at the age of 239*.
  • Serug:
    • Was 30 years old when his son Nahor was born.
    • Died at the age of 230*.
  • Nahor:
    • Was 29 years old when his son Terah was born.
    • Died at the age of 148*.
  • Terah:
    • By the time Terah was 70, he had three sons: Abram, Nahor*, and Haran.
    • Haran:
      • Had two sons: Lot and Iscah.
      • Had a daughter named Milcah.
      • Died young (age unspecified) and was outlived by his father
    • Abram:
      • Married his half-sister Sarai.
      • Sarai was barren and gave Abram no children*.
    • Nahor:
      • Married his niece Milcah (Haran's daughter) after Haran's death.
    • Later took his son Abram, grandson Lot, and daughter-in-law Sarai and left Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. However, they stopped instead at the city of Haran* and settled there.
    • Died at the age of 205*.
Notes:1.) Seems to serve as a justification for stopping the spread of knowledge, or in other words, God seems to think people were becoming too smart for their own good.
2.) These are not typos. These are the actual ages listed in the bible.
3.) Not to be confused with Terah's father also named Nabor.
4.) Not to be confused with Terah's son Haran. Haran as mentioned here is the name of a city.
5.) Technically true, yet see chapter 17.
Thoughts: The beginning of this chapter is in fact very interesting, disguising itself as an explanation for the reason behind the multitude of languages mankind speaks. The really telling part however is God's motives which seem to be saying that people really shouldn't think too hard or deeply, and that many minds working together develop knowledge and wisdom which apparently God doesn't care much for either. In this context it's more clear to why such events as the Dark Ages occurred where religion felt that man "knew too much" and put a halt to it.

The biggest problems I personally have with religious beliefs is that they often put a halt to critical thinking. I find this dangerous and more over the real causes of war, killing, and censorship in the name of religious dogma. Taken alone, the Tower of Babel story seems to serve as a silly and harmless fable for why humans have so many languages, but upon closer inspection is really more about God acting out as the "Thought Police".

The rest of the chapter is similar in respects to chapter 5 in that it's simply listing various people and their ages. However, an interesting thing occurs amongst a few of these advanced ages, being that a few of the descendants of Shem share similar attributes of their fathers: Arpachshad and Shelah both had sons at the age of 35 and both died at the age of 458, and Peleg and Rue also died at the same age of 239. Also of note is that the life spans of the people are dropping rather quickly towards more reasonable (but higher than any recorded human ages) levels. Shem outlives his son Arpachshad by a "mere" 42 years; while Eber outlives his son Peleg (who dies at age 239) by 191 years; and Serug outlives his son Nahor by a "mere" 52 years.

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