Chapter 10 may seem to be one of those chapters to get through in order to get on with the rest of the story. After all, how does a list of names and nations compare to the devastating rebellion and judgment at Babel?
But looked at another way, chapter 10 serves as one of those microcosms of the Biblical story as a whole.
We have a group of people who soon forgot the judgment of the flood and consequently turned to disobedience, underestimating both the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin.
We have a group of nations listed, not to be taken as a comprehensive table, but those with whom national Israel might have dealings as they are established and grow. Remember, first of all, Genesis was written by Moses when Israel was first born as a nation.
There’s perhaps even a glimpse of the world-wide impact of the Gospel. Depending on how the chapter is read, we find 70 nations. Many thousands of years later, Jesus would send out 70 disciples to preach the good news of the kingdom. It might be a tenuous connection, but it could be a shadow of God’s desire to save all nations, not just Israel.
This would, then, tie in well with chapter 11, rather than be seen as an interruption in the flow of the story.
Babel is first mentioned in Genesis 10:10 as a part of the kingdom of Nimrod. The description of Nimrod as a mighty hunter before the Lord should not be taken as his being a hunter of animals, but of men.
Nimrod is described as being the founder of Nineveh and Babylon, and according to tradition, Babel was an idolatrous temple he established. By all accounts, he was a rebel against God and encouraged rebellion in others.
At Babel we see humanity indulge in sins we still see today, many thousands of years later.
- Self-worship – a primary motivation at Babel was the effort to preserve a name for themselves (let us make brick…let us build a city and tower… let us make a name… lest we be scattered – the very thing God desired and commanded they avoided)
- Self-righteousness – even as they sought to preserve their own name they reached for the heavens. They still seemed to desire God, but it was a god of their imaginations who they would reach on their terms.
Even in the midst of their rebellion, God showed grace. Left to their own devices it was possible that eventually, all would come under judgment. This would defeat God’s plan to bring a Savior through Adam’s line, and God’s plans cannot be thwarted.
So, to save humanity God brought in the judgment of the confusion of languages. No longer able to achieve everything they desired, the people divided according to the new languages.
A study of languages quickly reveals how every language today can easily be seen to come from just a few that God may have introduced at Babel. For example, Proto-Indo-European, spoken around 4500-2500 BC, is the ultimate ancestor of at least 449 European and Indian languages. This isn’t a rabbit trail for today, but there’s some amazing information here – https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/more-than-pie/
AIG provide two charts I’ve found helpful, one is the table of nations in Genesis 10 and the other is one compiled by Josephus that ties in nations as we know them.
The key thought here for me is that God divided the people in order to preserve a line of humanity through whom Jesus would be born, the Savior of the world! This selection we find introduced at the end of Genesis 11 – Abraham.
Verse 2 is key here to understand this psalm,
O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? How long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.
As David faced rebellion on all sides he endeavored to show that the people’s rebellion ultimately was not against him, but against God. God had placed him on the throne, so to remove him was to remove God’s choice of a ruler.
He admonishes them to repent (verse 4-5), but finds comfort himself in knowing that he was secure in God’s will,
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: For thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
Whether it be rebellion and war in the world or upset and turmoil in my life, God will get victory in the end!