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Genesis 11b

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Genesis 11:10-26… The generations of Shem, who was 100 years old when he begat Arpachshad two years after the flood. Shem lived 500 years after he begat Arpachshad, and he had other children. When Arpachshad was 35 years old he begat Shelah, then he lived 403 years that and had other children. When Shelah was 30 years old he begat Eber, then he lived 403 years after that and had other children. When Eber was 34 he begat Peleg and lived another 430 years, having other children. When Peleg was 30 he begat Reu and lived another 209 years, having other children. When Reu was 32 he begat Serug and lived another 207 years, having other children. When Serug was 30 he begat Nahor and lived another 200 years, having other children. When Nahor was 29 he begat Terah and lived 119 years, having other children. When Terah was 70 he had three sons: Abram, Nahor and Haran.

Commentary

            The list of names in the passage above has one main purpose: to show the lineage of Shem as it leads to Abram (later Abraham). This is how the son of Noah traces his lineage to the father of the Hebrews. This genealogy reveals how the Semitic line begins with one man (Shem) and culminates with Jesus Christ, the true Messiah. Shem’s children lead to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and eventually to King David. God promised King David an eternal kingdom in 2 Samuel 7:12ff, and He promised that one of David’s descendants would always occupy that throne. That king comes in Jesus Christ, the son of Shem and Abraham and Jacob and David. The above passage only begins the process by showing how Shem eventually leads to Abram.

            The names above are not all new names, for Genesis 10:21-25 reveal Shem’s descendants after the Flood up to Peleg, Shem’s great-great grandson. The present passage, however, reveals who Peleg’s descendants are, and it lists five more generations ending at Abram for a total of 10 names. Luke’s gospel account in 3:36-37 lists another name, Cainan, that is not attested in many ancient manuscripts. Luke 3:36 says that Arphachshad begat Cainan, and Cainan begat Shelah, whereas the above passage says nothing of this Cainan. It is likely that Luke’s account contains a scribal error here by inserting Cainan in the wrong place. For Luke 3:37 lists Cainan again, and this time Cainan’s name corresponds accurately with Genesis 5:10-16 in Kenan. Therefore the above passage accurately lists ten names of men who were direct descendants of Shem.

            There is another observation to be made. Prior to the Flood of Noah’s day men lived to be almost 1,000 years old. Though difficult to comprehend today, it must be reasserted that the atmospheric conditions prior to the Flood were much different than they are today. If the vapor canopy theory is true, then it is easy to explain how the environment sustained larger people for much longer life spans. After the Flood, when the canopy fell to the earth to help flood it, life spans fell dramatically. Whereas Noah himself lived to be 950 years old, Shem only lived to be 602 years. His son Arphachshad had Shelah when he was only 35 years old, and he only lived 438 years in all. Shelah lived 433 years, Eber lived 464 years, but Eber’s son Peleg made another dramatic change in life spans by living only 239 years in all. It was in his day that “the earth was divided,” and this also factors into the equation given that this “division” on the earth likely reflects the events at the Tower of Babel. No man after this time is said to have lived longer than 250 years. The post-Flood environment clearly reduced the life expectancy in humans.

Food for Thought

            Modern advances in medicine have failed to stretch the life-span of humans beyond the norm of 70-80 years (cf. Psalm 90:10). We still live in the post-Flood environment, and it’s Genesis that reveals why we live as we do. The Bible’s teachings are ever-so timeless.

Genesis 11:27-32… Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot. 28 And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 And Abram 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. 30 And Sarai was barren; she had no child. 31 And 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 out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. 32 And the days of Terah were 205 years; and Terah died in Haran.

Commentary

            The name Terah means nothing without the previous contexts. Terah is a direct descendant of Shem, the son of Noah, and he fathers Abraham, the father of the Israelites.

            Terah has three sons. One of these sons, Haran, died “in the presence of his father Terah.” The Hebrew phrase literally says, “upon the face of Terah his father.” This is obviously a premature death of Terah’s son given that the father outlives him, and it might signify that Haran died in the arms of his father. When the text says that the land of their birth was “Ur of the Chaldeans” it should be noted that this is likely a later editorial addition to the original text. The Chaldeans as a race of people did not enter into this land until the first millennium BC, and Abram and his family lived in the region sometime around 2190 BC. Moses, as the final editor of Genesis, probably added this statement so as to show his generation, which included the Chaldeans, where exactly Abram and his family originated. Ancient Ur has been located by archaeologists, and this ancient city is believed to have been a thriving metropolis during Abram’s day. At any rate, ancient Ur is the modern-day region of Iraq bordering on Kuwait.

            Verse 29 is the account of Abram and his remaining brother Nahor. Both men took wives. Abram married Sarai (later Sarah) whom is said in Genesis 20:12 to be Abram’s half-sister (daughter of his father but not mother). Nahor took a wife named Milcah who was the daughter of his deceased brother Haran. She was Nahor’s niece, but now she becomes his wife. Sarai is said to be “barren,” and as Waltke has stated: “Sarah’s infertility tests Abraham’s faith and drives the whole story. The theme of God’s purposes in overcoming symbolic barrenness (cf. Isa. 54:1) recurs with Rebekah (Gen. 25:21), Rachel (29:31), and Hannah (1 Sam. 1:2), and it foreshadows the virgin birth (Luke 1:26-38). All these women actively commit themselves to God’s grace” (Waltke, 200-01). Indeed, Sarai’s barrenness sets the tone for the entire narrative.

The names “Sarai” and “Milcah” both have their origins in the principal pagan god of Ur (Sin). Sarai means “princess” – a name stemming from the goddess who served the pagan god Sin. Milcah’s name reflects the pagan goddess Ishtar, the daughter of the moon god Sin.

Verse 31 shows how Terah took his family and made their journey to Canaan. The narrator introduces Lot, the nephew of Abram, the son of the deceased Haran. The group travels on to the city of Haran, and following Terah’s death Abram becomes the focal point of the story.

Food for Thought

            Genealogies in the Bible are crucial to understanding the whole Bible. Though somewhat  boring to read through, they reveal God’s plan and purpose for man. God is not a random God who makes things up as time moves forward; He has a perfect plan. Abram’s life and all that follows in the Bible through the Book of Revelation proves that God is still working out that plan. If you’re reading this today, you also fit right into that plan no matter who you are.

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