on Genesis 11 :8
on Genesis 11 :8
The effect of the divine interposition is noted in Genesis 11:8-9. "And the Lord scattered them abroad." Not understanding one another's mode of speech, they feel themselves practically separated from one another. Unity of counsel and of action becomes impossible. Misunderstanding naturally follows, and begets mistrust. Diversity of interest grows up, and separation ensues. Those who have a common speech retreat from the center of union to a sequestered spot, where they may form a separate community among themselves. The lack of pasture for their flocks and provision for themselves leads to a progressive migration. Thus, the divine purpose, that they should be fruitful and multiply and replenish the land Genesis 9:1 is fulfilled. The dispersion of mankind at the same time put an end to the ambitious projects of the few. "They left off to build the city." It is probable that the people began to see through the plausible veil which the leaders had cast over their selfish ends. The city would henceforth be abandoned to the immediate party of Nimrod. This would interrupt for a time the building of the city. Its dwellings would probably be even too numerous for its remaining inhabitants. The city received the name of Babel (confusion), from the remarkable event which had interrupted its progress for a time.
This passage, then, explains the table of nations, in which they are said to be distinguished, not merely by birth and land, but "every one after his tongue." It is therefore attached to the table as a needful appendix, and thus completes the history of the nations so far as it is carried on by the Bible. At this point the line of history leaves the universal, and by a rapid contraction narrows itself into the individual, in the person of him who is to be ultimately the parent of a chosen seed, in which the knowledge of God and of his truth is to be preserved, amidst the degeneracy of the nations into the ignorance and error which are the natural offspring of sin.
Here, accordingly, ends the appendix to the second Bible, or the second volume of the revelation of God to man. As the first may have been due to Adam, the second may be ascribed in point of matter to Noah, with Shem as his continuator. The two joined together belong not to a special people, but to the universal race. If they had ever appeared in a written form before Moses, they might have descended to the Gentiles as well as to the Israelites. But the lack of interest in holy things would account for their disappearance among the former. The speakers of the primitive language, however, would alone retain the knowledge of such a book if extant. Some of its contents might be preserved in the memory, and handed down to the posterity of the founders of the primeval nations. Accordingly we find more or less distinct traces of the true God, the creation, the fall and the deluge, in the traditions of all nations that have an ancient history.
But even if this two-volumed Bible were not possessed by the nations in a written form, its presence here, at the head of the writings of divine truth, marks the catholic design of the Old Testament, and intimates the comprehension of the whole family of man within the merciful purposes of the Almighty. In the issues of Providence the nations appear now to be abandoned to their own devices. Such a judicial forsaking of a race, who had a second time heard the proclamation of his mercy, and a second time forsaken the God of their fathers, was naturally to be expected. But it is never to be forgotten that God twice revealed his mercy "to the whole human race" before they were left to their own ways. And even when they were given over to their own willful unrighteousness and ungodlincss, it was only to institute and develop the mystery by which they might be again fully and effectually brought back to reconciliation with God.
The new developments of sin during this period are chiefly three - drunkenness, dishonoring of a parent, and the ambitious attempt to be independent of God's power, and to thwart his purpose of peopling the land. These forms of human selfishness still linger about the primary commands of the two tables. Insubordination to the supreme authority of God is accompanied with disrespect to parental authority. Drunkenness itself is an abuse of the free grant of the fruit of the trees orignally made to man. These manifestations of sin do not advance to the grosser or more subtle depths of iniquity afterward explicitly forbidden in the ten commandments. They indicate a people still comparatively unsophisticated in their habits.
The additional motives brought to bear on the race of man during the interval from Noah to Abraham, are the preaching of Noah, the perdition of the unbelieving antediluvians, the preservation of Noah and his family, the distinction of clean and unclean animals, the permission to partake of animal food, the special prohibition of the shedding of man's blood, the institution thereupon of civil government, and the covenant with Noah and his seed that there should not be another deluge.
The preaching of Noah consisted in pressing the invitations and warnings of divine mercy on a wicked race. But it bore with new power on the succeeding generations, when it was verified by the drowning of the impenitent race and the saving of the godly household. This was an awful demonstration at the same time of the divine vengeance on those who persisted in sin, and of the divine mercy to the humble and the penitent. The distinction of the clean and the unclean was a special warning against that conformity with the world by which the sons of God had died out of the human race. The permission to partake of animal food was in harmony with the physical constitution of man, and seems to have been delayed until this epoch for moral as well as physical reasons. In the garden, and afterward in Eden, the vegetable products of the soil were adequate to the healthy sustenance of man. But in the universal diffusion of the human race, animal food becomes necessary.
In some regions where man has settled, this alone is available for a great portion of the year, if not for the whole. And a salutary dread of death, as the express penalty of disobedience, was a needful lesson in the infancy of the human race. But the overwhelming destruction of the doomed race was sufficient to impress this lesson indelibly on the minds of the survivors. Hence, the permission of animal food might now be safely given, especially when accompanied with the express prohibition of manslaying, under the penalty of death by the hands of the executioner. This prohibition was directly intended to counteract the bad example of Cain and Lamek, and to deter those who slew animals from slaying men; and provision was made for the enforcement of its penalty by the institution of civil government. The covenant with Noah was a recognition of the race being reconciled to God in its new head, and therefore suited to be treated as a party at peace with God, and to enter on terms of communion with him. Its promise of security from destruction by a flood was a pledge of all greater and after blessings which naturally flow from amity with God.
Thus, we perceive that the revelation of God to the antediluvian world was confirmed in many respects, and enlarged in others, by that made to the postdiluvians. The stupendous events of the deluge were a marvelous confirmation of the justice and mercy of God revealed to Adam. The preaching of Noah was a new mode of urging the truths of God on the minds of men, now somewhat exercised in reflective thought. The distinction of clean and unclean enforced the distinction that really exists between the godly and the ungodly. The prohibition of shedding human blood is the growth of a specific law out of the great principle of moral rectitude in the conscience, apace with the development of evil in the conduct of mankind. The covenant with Noah is the evolution into articulate utterance of that federal relation which was virtually formed with believing and repentant Adam. Adam himself was long silent in the depth of his self-abasement for the disobedience he had exhibited. In Noah the spirit of adoption had attained to liberty of speech, and accordingly, God, on the momentous occasion of his coming out of the ark and presenting his propitiatory and eucharistic offering, enters into a covenant of peace with him, assuring him of certain blessings.
There is something especially interesting in this covenant with Noah, as it embraces the whole human race, and is in force to this day. It is as truly a covenant of grace as that with Abraham. It is virtually the same covenant, only in an earlier and less developed form. Being made with Noah, who had found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and added to the former expression of the divine favor to man, it explicitly mentions a benefit which is merely the first and most palpable of the series of benefits, temporal and eternal, flowing from the grace of God, all of which are in due time made over to the heirs of salvation. We cannot tell how many of the Gentiles explicitly or implicitly consented to this general covenant and partook of its blessings. But it is only just to the God of Noah to be thankful that there was and is an offer of mercy to the whole family of man, all who accept of which are partakers of his grace, and that all subsequent covenants only help to the ultimate and universal acceptance of that fundamental covenant which, though violated by Adam and all his ordinary descendants, was yet in the fullness of time to be implemented by him who became the seed of the woman and the second Adam.
on Genesis 11 :8