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The Bible – Short and Important Stories

Tower of Babel by Lucas Van Valckenborch in 1594

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11:7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

For such a long book, I am often surprised to see that the things I learned as a child – and I thought these were the really important stories – are often really really short.  I recall having loads of lessons, back before I bothered reading it, where the telling took hours.  So, we begin Genesis 11 with the Tower of Babel.  Now, without looking, how long do you think this tale is?  Remember, it tells how early man spoke just one language (probably because all the multitudes had Noah as the common ancestor) and they all got together to build the highest tower ever made to go up and see heaven.  How long? (find out after the jump)

If you said “9″ lines, I would say that you cheated: either by looking it up or by having a depressingly good memory.  That’s right, Genesis 11, verses 1 to 9 tell the whole story of the Tower of Babel.  Including the way that God invented languages simply as a way to stop men from going to see him.  Genius and dick move in one.

Verses 11:10 to 11:32 (22 verses, for those counting) are yet another list: of the children of Shem this time.  And that big long list is just so we can skip the boring, but long-lived, descendants and jump straight over to meet Abram.

Now, Abram was ordered out of his country by God and told to move.  For no clear reason.  Not really, it was so that God could start a new nation.  So, 75-year-old (but sprightly, we hope) Abram left with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot and everyone he had gathered in a place called Haran, and off they went to Canaan.  Now, Abram went travelling and built altars for sacrifice in various places until they came near Egypt.  Abram decided that if the Pharoah knew that Sarai and Abram were married, that Abram would be killed and Sarai taken.  What to do?  Abram had a genius brain wave though.  he told Sarai to pretend to be his sister so that instead of Abram being killed and Sarai taken by the Pharoah, Abram would live – though the sentence ends the same.  Presumably it is better to live with another sexing your wife, than to be dead and unaware.  And the Pharoah, characteristically, as we shall see later on,  treats them both extremely well.  I will go so far as to say that the Pharaohs are the few decent people you will meet in the OT.

For being such a nice Pharaoh, God “plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife” (Genesis 12:17).  Yep, again someone is being punished for a transgression they were unaware of and were completely set up.  And then, and for this reason I guess all the Pharaohs were damned, when Abram admitted what he did, the Pharoah – and you’ll agree that this makes him a bastard who deserves all he gets – allows Abram and Sarai and friends to leave the country unmolested with all the presents they were given.  Which makes the Pharoah some sort of Hitler/Stalin/Pol Pot mechanoid, surely?

Anyway, all this to do takes up to Genesis 13 where Abram and Lot separate and Lot goes off into Jordan.  God give Abram the land in Hebron and Lot gets Jordan.  Wonder if there was anyone living there already and whether they minded?  Possibly not.  This paragraph is a concise summary of Genesis 13 1:18 which says all that and a little more.

That brings us to the end of that!  Genesis 14 next time.

Dramatis Personae:

  • Lot
  • Abram
  • Pharaoh
  • Sarai
  • Bloody great big Tower of Babel
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5 Comments

  1. eh. Full story of Babel is that the people are too prideful. So God thwarts them with a non-violent protest, since he can't wipe them all out with a flood, due to keeping his promises.

    The deal with Pharoah suffering is that it's Abram's fault, so lesson is that your sin affects others.

    Also: no mention of Enoch, who doesn't die but is taken up to heaven? I always thought that was a cool story. (Doesn't happen again til Elijah.)

    • rayNo Gravatar says:

      Well, as we shall see, God has no issue with wiping out large numbers of people. And why not use one of them as an object lesson to the rest?

      Poor Pharaoh. Not much of a lesson really, "for your transgressions, I shall afflict someone else!" Why not just afflict Abram or speak to him direct?

      Enoch comes later, the Enochs we see now are too early. If they arrived at the right time, they'd get a chariot of fire too :)
      My recent post Edict Number 465

  2. Yeah you left that part out about man being too arrogant (and stupid) to think that they can build a tower that could reach to heaven in the story of the Tower of Babel.

    Anyway, I don't know if I should be sorry for this but your style of writing makes me laugh. Literal interpretations of the bible are well, literal.

    • rayNo Gravatar says:

      I don't think arrogance or stupidity had anything to do with it. Clearly they were seen as enough of a threat to do it or else God would have left them alone.

      And as to "literal interpretations", if it's not to be read as written, what use is it? Lest we forget, one of the books of the Bible is called "Chronicles". The issue with the whole is that there are a mix of clear mythological stories – Babel, for example – and recordings of events and people – all the begats, for example. However, because we are told that the whole thing is the word of God, the obvious fiction is mingled with the supposed facts and it's all a mess.
      My recent post Edict Number 465

  3. Lasik FactsNo Gravatar says:

    I also wondered the same thing. All those important verses are written really sparsely, like the verses about the Nephilim. Needless to say, there's so much confusion about the Bible and so many weird theories today.