Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Nimrod and Babel

Nimrod was Ham's grandson, though by Cush rather than Canaan.  Perhaps the Canaanites were already too slavish to do the kinds of " mighty" works Nimrod did.  Nimrod founded two cities that grew into two of the mightiest empires of the ancient world: Babylon and Nineveh (Assyria).  Genesis 10: 8 - 12 tells us that he built Babylon first and then moved to the Assyria.  The story of the Tower of Babel explains his move. 
Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth.  He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, "Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD."  The first centres of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar.  Genesis 10:8-10
As we begin the story of the Tower of Babel we read, "now the whole earth used the same language and the same words" (Genesis 11:1).  This common translation does not bring out the meaning of the Hebrew, for the word translated language in the verse actually means lip.  The phrase "same words" refers to language, but the phrase "same lip" - literally "one lip" - refers to religion*. 
Now the idea of speaking one language or another is not absolutely excluded from this word lip (see Isaiah 19:18), but in the context of Genesis 11, there is clearly a difference between the "one lip [confession, ideology]" and the "one words [vocabulary]" of verse one.  What happened at the Tower of Babel was not first and foremost a division of languages, but rather a division of religious belief, as we shall see more fully below.

*Zephaniah 3:9; Psalm 81:5; Job 27:4; 33:3; Psalm 12:2-4; 16:4; 40:9; 45:2; 51:15; Isaiah 6:5; 6:7; Malachi 2:6-7
Primeval Saints: Studies in the Patriarchs of Genesis by James Jordan

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