Genesis 10 – Sometimes I’m Wrong

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Today’s PassageGenesis 10

I want to start this one off with an observation. Genesis 10 is Noah’s genealogy, and it starts by going down Japheth’s branch of the family tree. Talking about all his offspring, it concludes, “From these the coastlands of the nations were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations” (5). I read that, and I thought to myself: hey, here we’ve got differentiation of language. No, wait, re-differentiation of language! It struck me that the Tower of Babel didn’t account for the multiplicity of human languages after all: Noah and his family represented a second choke point where everyone once again shared a single native tongue. Except that I got the chronology wrong. The Tower of Babel doesn’t precede the flood; it follows it.

See, I’d gotten it into my head that the Tower of Babel occurred in Genesis 6. I’d conflated it with the Nephilim and the degradation of humanity. After all, in both events, humankind is going nuts with their disregard for righteousness, and God says to himselves, “Crud, we’d better do something about this.” But the flood is the solution to one problem, and God’s confounding of human communication is another solution to another problem. Babel comes later.

And it goes to show that you can live in this stuff since early childhood and still get it wrong. You can get your wires crossed; you can mix up crucial details, and Lord only knows what spurious conclusions you may draw if you let your faulty premises go unchecked. Think twice, friends. You are not immune to error.

There are tons of names, both people and places, in this genealogy that are unfamiliar to the modern eye. These accounts are ancient, some real mists-of-time stuff. This line is almost hilarious: “[Nimrod] was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord’” (9). I’m not sure if the tone is meant to explain a foreign cultural expression that the reader may not be familiar with, or if it’s more along the lines of “This is the guy Nimrod that everyone’s always talking about when they say, ‘‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord!’” I can’t point to the great city Resen on a map. I don’t have even a vague sense of where you’d find Sidon or Gerar. There is a massive gulf of time between our world and that of these human beings, and bridging it is far from easy.

I note that this genealogy, like Cain’s in chapter 4, doesn’t give ages or number anyone’s years, but I’m hesitant to make a call on what that says about it. I don’t really have any ideas, and if I tried to come up with something, it might well be wrong.

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