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Sunday, October 20, 2019

posted Oct 20, 2019, 7:56 PM by Site Administrator

THE TOWER OF BABEL

 

Genesis 10:1-11:9 

Key Verse 11:9

 

That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

 

We all want to know our origin. When I was young, I heard that we Koreans came from Siberia. Then, I wondered, thinking,“What about before that?” Certainly, people cannot pop up in Siberia out of nowhere. There should be an origin. But no one gave me the answer, and no one talked about that either – simply, it was something no one knew about. Then, I became a Christian, and I understood that I was from God. Wow! That was great revelation. Then, I learned that after the flood, my ancestors travelled from the Middle East. So, I was happy. Knowing this origin is important; it is like knowing the root of our people. Today’s passage gives us some more details of how all peoples on earth were scattered over the surface of the earth after Noah’s flood. Let’s check out this passage and learn where our people came to settle in our lands.

 

First, The account of Shem, Ham and Japheth (10:1-32). Genesis chapter 10 describes the spread of the descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth, the three sons of Noah. The expression in verse 5each with its own language shows that what Genesis 10 records was the event that happened after the tower of Babel when God had confused their language, as recorded in Genesis 11. But Genesis 10 is inserted here to show how the nations were formed by the descendants of Noah. So, this chapter is the conclusion of the life of Noah and his sons. They spread out into their territories by clans and nations, each according to his own language. When these descendants of Noah spread, the places where they settled were called by their names - they are found in some of country names, or names for towns or villages. Now about four thousand years later, the names of those places may have been changed, but still maintaining some traces of the original names, and with some hints in the Bible and the records of other ancient documents, we can specify some of those places. 

 

Verses 2 through 5 talks about Japheth’s descendants. Verse 2 reads: The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras. So, 7 sons. Wait a minute! Japheth lived about 600 years, yet he only had 7 sons!? It must not be. Since they were only a small number of people in the whole world, they tried to have children as many as possible. We see in verse 25 that Eber had two sons – Peleg and Joktan, but Genesis 11:17 writes: And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters. But not all the sons and daughters were recorded, but only 2 sons were recorded, because these two sons were important and carried significance in God’s eyes. In the same way, Japheth had many sons and daughters, maybe, several hundred of them, but only 7 sons were recorded here, because they were influential or carried certain significance - Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and TirasThere are several historic records that identify Tubal as Tobolsk, and Meshech as Moscow in Russia. Also, Gomer, Magog, Tubal, Meshech, and Togarmah (Gomer’s son) are mentioned in Ezekiel 38:2-6, which talks about the last war that will happen even after the Millennium. When Jesus comes again, the Antichrist’s government and all his allies will be destroyed. Then the Millennium will begin, when Jesus and his people will rule the world for 1,000 years from Jerusalem.During time, Satan is locked up in the Abyss, and thereby, people live under the rule of righteous people of Jesus, without temptation and hindrance of Satan; so, they enjoy wonderful life. Then, at the end of 1,000 years, Satan will be released for a short time and he will tempt the whole world to attack Jerusalem, the unwalled holy city. At that time, even after tasting the goodness of receiving rule from Jesus and his people, many countries will join in this rebellion. Magog, Gomer, Tubal, Meshech, Togarmah, Persia (modern day Iran), Cush (African countries), and Put will join with all their soldiers and God will burn them all. Then, God will make everything new – new heaven and new earth – new natural laws. In describing these nations’ rebellion, Ezekiel chapter 38, verse 6 gives us the geographical location of Togarmah, saying, Beth-Togarmahfrom the far north,… From Babylon where the prophet Ezekiel lived, the country far north is Russia. So, it seems that Russia will play the main role in the final war; scholars also suggest that Gomer, Gog, Magog are of Russia. But instead of pointing out one nation, Russia, the Bible identifies several groups of people - Gog, Magog, Tubal, Meshech, and Togarmah - showing that either Russia is of many different groups of people or in the last days, the vast land of Russia will be occupied by many countries.

 

Verse 3 mentions about 3 sons of Gomer – AshkenazRiphath and TogarmahAnd verse 4 mentions about 4 sons ofJavan – Elisha, Tarshish, the Kittim, and the Rodanim. The place, Tarshish appears in the Bible 24 times in 21 verses – in Genesis, 1,2 Chronicles, Esther, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Jonah, usually, in the expression, ships of Tarshish, showing that Tarshish was a well-known port city. When the prophet Jonah was called to go to Nineveh, which was located in the east, or northeast, he went to Joppa and got on the ship that was headed to Tarshish. So, Tarshish was in the opposite direction of Nineveh from Israel. So, where was it? People say, Spain, some others says, Greece, and still others say, Britain. Another son, named Kittim is identified as Italy in Daniel 11:30 – so Kittim is the ancestor of Italian people. The Rodanim are the people of the island, called Rhodes in Greece. The book, titled, Scripture Geography, by Thomas B. Smiley, published in 1842, shows that ancient Bible scholars and historians such as St. Jerome, Eusebius, Isidore, and others agreed that the island Rhodes was originally peopled by the Rodanim. Acts 21:1 shows that in his journey to Rome, the apostle Paul dropped by this island. Historically, Rhodes was famous worldwide for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in EuropeThe name of the U.S. state of Rhode Island is thought to be based on this island. Verse 5 states that from these (meaning from the sons of Javan) the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language. The maritime people were sailors or Vikings. So, the sons of Japheth were the ancestors of the European people: to the West and Northwest – Spain, Greece, Italy, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Denmark; to the North – Moscow, Tobolsk

 

Verses 6 through 20 describes Ham’s descendants. Among the descendants of Ham, the representative is Nimrod who established a kingdom (governmental system) for the first time in the world history. He was a mighty warrior before the LORD, excellent in hunting; probably, he solved many serious problems caused by wild animals in those days, and thereby, earned great fame and trust. Even there was a saying, Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD. If anyone was strong, that person was compared to Nimrod, and all great people's dream was to be like Nimrod. He was great. Thus, with many people following him with loyalty and obedience, he built his own kingdom. The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh in Shinar. Shinar was the very place where people rebelled against God by building a city and the tower of Babel - the very symbol of systematic rebellion against God. When people could not communicate with each other any longer, they left Shinar, looking for a proper place to settle. But Nimrod and his followers remained in Shinar, establishing the first empire in human history, showing that most likely, Nimrod was the ring leader in building the tower of Babel. Thus, the beginning of Babylonian rebellion against God, which will end in the last days as we see in Revelation chapters 17 and 18. (cf. Zech 5:6-11) Nimrod occupied Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh in Shinar and expanded his kingdom to Nineveh in Assyria. In the book of Numbers, we see Moses taking a Cushite woman as his wife, an African lady. This shows that Nimrod’s father Cush was an ancestor of African people. Ham’s son, Canaan was very fruitful and powerful that his descendants occupied the Palestine area. Thus, we see that Ham’s descendants occupied the Middle East and spread from there to the south, occupying Egypt and Africa. Many people think Ham was cursed by Noah. But actually, even if Ham did what was wrong, Noah did not curse Ham, but Canaan, one of his sons. Why did he do so? I don’t know, but that’s what Noah did, and God honored his words, and maybe, as a result, the Canaaniteslater were destroyed by Joshua and the Israel army during the conquest, and those who survived became the slaves to the Israel people. Thus, Noah’s curse on Canaan was fulfilled. Also, verse 14 shows us the origin of the Philistines – “Casluhites, the son of Mizraim, the son of Ham.” When we think about Nimrod staying in Shinar while all others left that place, we can see that Ham’s descendants were most popular and powerful among all Noah’s children. It seemed that God blessed Ham’s descendants a lot too.

 

Verses 21 through 31 talks about Shem’s descendants. Look at verse 21. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber.

 

Among the descendants of Shem, the representatives are the sons of Eber - Peleg and Joktan. In describing Shem's descendants, Genesis emphasizes the importance of the sons of Eber, saying, Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber.From the name, Eber comes the title for Israel, Hebrew.When we read the Bible, we see the word, “Hebrew,” and wewonder where it came from. Some people suggest that the word, “Hebrew,” whose root word means, “to cross over,” describes Abraham crossing over the two rivers of the Euphrates and the Tigris to come to the promised land. But actually, that root wordfor “Hebrew” is “Eber,” which means, “to cross over,” or “to pass over,” or “the region beyond.” According to Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, the word, Hebrew means an Eberite or simply descendant of Eber. The English translation of the Septuagint by Brenton, published in 1851 calls Eber as Heber.His name was “Heber” and his descendants were called, “Hebrews.” ERV (Easy-To-Read Version, published in 1987) describes Eber as the father of all the Hebrew people. And GNB (Good News Bible) published in 1976 by American Bible Society translates this expression as Shem was the ancestor of all the Hebrews. So, not only all Israel people, but also all the sons of Eber are called Hebrews. Eber had many sons, but two sons were important - Peleg and Joktan. Peleg, which means, division was named because during his time, the land was divided. Before this time, there was one big continent, called Pangea as many so called-intellectuals suggest. They say that this supercontinent Pangea existed about 300 million years ago, and it began to break apart about 175 million years ago. They say that even today, the continents are moving away from each other at the speed of maybe, 1 inch per year. They assume that the continents have moved at the same speed all the time, and based on that assumption, in order for 5 continents to be as far as today from one supercontinent, it took 175 million years. But that’s not the case. In the year Peleg was born, such a great event of Pangea being divided occurred; at that time, big earthquakes were there, and Pangea broke apart, and continents moved several miles per hour – it was such a huge event that when Eber had a new son that year, he named him Peleg, to remember this event. Through Peleg, God's redemption history would go. Abraham was of Peleg. But in describing the sons of Eber, Genesis chapter 10 does not mention about Peleg's descendants at all; instead, the whole description zeroes in on Joktan'sdescendants. Both Peleg and Joktan were important, but,because, since the Bible would talk about Peleg's descendants after this chapter all the way, and Joktan’s name would not appear there, it focuses on Joktan's descendants in this chapterJoktan had 13 sons, not just ordinary sons, but great and influential sons. He was really great. And the passage gives us a hint of where they went. Look at verse 30. Let’s read this verse together:

 

The region where they lived stretched from Mesha toward Sephar, in the eastern hill country.

 

The region Joktan's descendants lived stretched from Mesha toward Sephar, in the eastern hill country; while others went to West, North and South, they went to the east bound.From Turkey area, or from Babylon area, when we check out the world map, we see in the east, the Caucasus mountains – these areas were called eastern hill country. They went that way. And they stretched to Sephar. Based on many ancient documents and Asian history, we can say that Sephar is Siberia today. Until the 16th century, until the Russian Empire occupied Siberia, there was no name for Siberia in the world. But ancient Koreans called Siberia as “Sebar,” and later, it was called, Sibiri.” Joktan’s descendants stretched to Siberia. From there, they went southeast to Lake Baikal, the largest lake in the world. That Lake Baikal was one important place for them; maybe, they settled there for a while; some people just stayed there continually, becoming native people around Lake Baikal; some others traveled to the east continually, crossed over the Bering Sea (scholars say that, most likely, in those days, the Bering Sea did not exist, so they could go to Alaska on foot); then, those who settled there in Alaska became Eskimos; and those who came to North America became Native Americans. Still others continued to move and settled in South America, establishing civilizations like the Mayan and Aztec empires. Many of these peoples share a lot in common in their languages, looks, andcustoms. Still, some others, from Lake Baikal in modern day Russiawent southeast to Manchuria in Mongol, and then, reached to the east part of modern day China, where they established a kingdom in 2,333 B.C. When Joktan’s descendants came to that area, they carried the knowledge of God and of Genesis. They drew pictures of the events of Genesis to keep the knowledge of God, and these pictures, as time passed by, were simplified and became Chinese letters – that’s how some of Chinese letters contain the things that are recorded in Genesis chapters 1 through 9. They had also the constitution – 8 commands: one, Serve the one and only true God with all your heart and purity; one, respect the heaven with your heart and be close to your people; one, honor your father and mother; one, love and help one another; don’t accuse others falsely, and donot murder; one, men and women should be in peace with each other; don’t hate others; do not be jealous of others; do not be lustful; one, you must yield to each other and plow together; one, don’t hurt others by becoming rough and proud; do notsteal or take other’s things by force. The description of the 8 commands in an ancient Chinese book, called Sanhaekyung (山海經, written in about 220 B.C. in China) talks about 3 of 8 commands: One, a murderer shall be put to death; one, theperson who injured others shall compensate with crops; one, the person who stole from someone shall be a slave in that house. Very fair and just. 

 

While Joktan’s family left for Sephar, the other son of Eber, Peleg stayed in the Middle East; that’s why later, Abram about 200 years later, was found living in Ur of the Challdeans, an ancient Babylonian city, as an idol worshiper, losing his faith in God. As of Abram’s time, there were many of Peleg’s descendants living in that area, and some of them were really devout. Then, we can understand how all of sudden, Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High Godappeared in Genesis 14; most likely, he was of Peleg; and also, Job who wasthe contemporary of Abrahamost likely, was of Peleg too

 

So, now let’s sum up Genesis 10. From Turkey area or Babylon area where they built the tower of Babylon, Japheth descendants went to Western Europe, Northern Europe, and Moscow and Tobolsk. Ham’s descendants went to the south (Egypt and Africa), while the majority of them stayed in the Middle East, forming a great empire – this may be the Sumerian Kingdom. Shem’s descendants stayed in the Middle East, while Joktan’s descendants went to the east, to Siberia, Mongolia, the East part of China, and Korean Peninsula. That was the first movement. Then, as the population grew in number, they spread more widely. So, Japheth’ descendants covered all the European countries. Ham’s descendants and Shem’s descendants that had settled in the Middle East spread eastbound very quicklycovering Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and China.

 

Second, The tower of Babel (11:1-9). Genesis chapter 11 shows us why the descendants of Noah were scattered. After the great flood, people increased in number quickly. All of them used only one language – maybe, Hebrew, or English, or Korean. When they came to a plain in Shinar and settled there, they encouraged each other, saying, Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly. They used bricks instead of stones, and tar for mortar, showing that as of this time, they had developed some technology in construction. Then they said, Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth. Their slogan, their catchphrase was, Come, let us… meaning Together, or Unity, or Corporation. Their purpose in building this city and the tower was so that they might not be scattered over the face of the whole earth. They just wanted to stay together forever, without having any problems or conflicts or strife with each other in the society. Indeed, they wanted to build a wonderful city, utopia where they all would live happily ever after.  

 

But what was their true motive? They said, “Let us build ourselves a city.” Building a city is not wrong; even building a utopia where people can live in peace and unity forever is good. But the problem was, “ourselves,” meaning “without God involved.” They wanted to build a wonderful city, where they would live happily after all together, all by themselves, and there in the city, God had no place to stay; in this way, their true motive was to remove God’s name from their society and all by themselves, they would enjoy life freely, without being bothered by God. This was what they pursued nationwide, society-wide, all together, under the name of “Unity” or “Together.” That was real, systematic and society-wide rebellion against God. This is the true color of humanism – humans’ struggle to remove God from human society

 

Their slogan sounded really good - “Come, let us...” “Together.” And their purpose seemed good - building utopia where they would enjoy their life happily ever after with everyone together. But behind the scene, their true motive was to get rid of God's name and the knowledge of God from their society and build the society based on humans alone, and by humans and for humans. It was really terrible rebellion against God. I am not sure if all the people who worked together to build the city and the tower were aware of this true purpose, that was, rebellion against God; I think, they were not aware of it; only top leaders who came up with this kind of slogan, and who organized the whole society to build the tower knew what they were doing. Actually, human history is about this all the time - peoples' struggle to build an idealistic society where everyone can live happily ever after; with this idea, they try hard to come up with good sounding catchphrase, such as, “Global family,” “We are the world,” “Disease-free world,” and gather people together and pursue it in unity. Many naïve Christians, without knowing what’s really going on, volunteer in these things; even Christian churches support such movements, without knowing what these people really seek. We must not be deceived by humanism that comes with good sounding slogans; instead of standing on humans' side, we must stand on God's side, doing what God what God has been pursuing – God’s world redemption plan. Jesus says, “In this world, you will have trouble.” So, don’t think about building utopia in the world.Instead, in your entire life, just live as good soldiers of Christ Jesus. When Jesus comes again, true utopia will be established here on earth.

 

When they said, with a tower that reaches to heaven, they showed their confidence that they could do it. They were confident that if they worked together, they certainly would be able to build a city where they would all live happily ever after - they were confident that, if they worked together, they would build utopia on earth all by themselves without God involved; they didn't think that they needed God any longer

 

How did God respond to this worldwide and systematic rebellion against Him? Look at verses 6 and 7. The LORD said, If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other. God confused the language of the whole world. Suddenly, people could not communicate with each other any longer, and thereby, could not continue their work. So, they moved away with those who used the same language and were scattered over the face of the whole earth. It was really by God's grace upon them that, even if he knew their rebellion, he did not destroy them, but just stopped what they were doing by confusing their language. 

 

This is the conclusion of the first half of the book of Genesis. In this first half of Genesis, we have seen a great contrast between God's goodness and human's evilness that was revealed in each and every chapter. God is good all the time! But humans are bad all the time - Adam's disobedience, Cain's rebellion, the total corruption of the people of Noah's time, the systematic rebellion of the people in Shinar! But in love and hope for them, God bears with all man's wickedness continually, showing his goodness and love for them all the more. Today, the same thing is going on. People must stop their rebellion against God; now they must accept God's love for them and turn to Him in repentance and live as God's children. 

 

One Word:God’s Patience and God's Hope

 

 

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