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Babel: the Tragedy of Man

Collection:
Old Testament

A Sermon on Genesis 11:1-32

The Tower of Babel

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Shem’s Descendants

These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah. And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber. And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg. And Eber lived after he fathered Peleg 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Peleg had lived 30 years, he fathered Reu. And Peleg lived after he fathered Reu 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Reu had lived 32 years, he fathered Serug. And Reu lived after he fathered Serug 207 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Serug had lived 30 years, he fathered Nahor. And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah. And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

Terah’s Descendants

Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.

Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran. (ESV)

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What is wrong with the world today? Apart from the Bible, one can only speculate about the trouble we as humans find ourselves in. However, with the Bible, we can know the cause of our broken world, as well as the solution. In the Bible, we see God working out His plan of salvation for His rebellious people. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preaches from Genesis 11:1-32 about the Tower of Babel with this theme of Scripture in mind. In this story, he sees the whole essence of the tragedy of man. Man displayed great ingenuity in noticing the effect the sun had on clay and used that knowledge to make brick. The tragedy of man is that he uses his ingenuity to build a life apart from God. The controlling ideas of man revolve around trade, pleasure, and security; thus, the city of Babel was built out of pride and self-sufficiency. The tower was built with brick so it would last forever, yet Dr. Lloyd-Jones notes the trace of man’s lurking fear in the building of Babel. There was a threat of being scattered because God abhors the thought of His creation building a life apart from Him. Indeed, God came down, destroyed Babel, and scattered the people. Where is God in your view of life?


Additional Scripture Translations

Genesis 11:1-32, New American Standard Bible

The Tower of Babel

1Now all the earth used the same language and the same words. 2And it came about, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3Then they said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and fire them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4And they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let’s make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of all the earth.” 5Now the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the men had built. 6And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they have started to do, and now nothing which they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth; and they stopped building the city. 9Therefore it was named Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Descendants of Shem

10These are the records of the generations of Shem. Shem was a hundred years old when he fathered Arpachshad, two years after the flood; 11and Shem lived five hundred years after he fathered Arpachshad, and he fathered other sons and daughters.

12Arpachshad lived thirty-five years, and fathered Shelah; 13and Arpachshad lived 403 years after he fathered Shelah, and he fathered other sons and daughters.

14Shelah lived thirty years, and fathered Eber; 15and Shelah lived 403 years after he fathered Eber, and he fathered other sons and daughters.

16Eber lived thirty-four years, and fathered Peleg; 17and Eber lived 430 years after he fathered Peleg, and he fathered other sons and daughters.

18Peleg lived thirty years, and fathered Reu; 19and Peleg lived 209 years after he fathered Reu, and he fathered other sons and daughters.

20Reu lived thirty-two years, and fathered Serug; 21and Reu lived 207 years after he fathered Serug, and he fathered other sons and daughters.

22Serug lived thirty years, and fathered Nahor; 23and Serug lived two hundred years after he fathered Nahor, and he fathered other sons and daughters.

24Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and fathered Terah; 25and Nahor lived 119 years after he fathered Terah, and he fathered other sons and daughters.

26Terah lived seventy years, and fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

27Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28Haran died during the lifetime of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30Sarai was unable to conceive; she did not have a child.

31Now Terah took his son Abram, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they departed together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran and settled there. 32The days of Terah were 205 years; and Terah died in Haran.

Genesis 11:1-32, King James Version

1And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. 3And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. 4And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. 8So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 9Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

10¶ These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: 11And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. 12And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah: 13And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 14And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber: 15And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 16And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg: 17And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters. 18And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu: 19And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters. 20And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug: 21And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters. 22And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor: 23And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. 24And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah: 25And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters. 26And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

27¶ Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. 28And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees. 29And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah. 30But Sarai was barren; she had no child. 31And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. 32And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.


About Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.