Genesis 11:1-91NIV New International Version Translations
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Genesis is a name taken from the Greek, and signifies “the book of generation or production;” it is properly so called, as containing an account of the origin of all things. There is no other history so old. There is nothing in the most ancient book which exists that contradicts it; while many things recorded by the oldest heathen writers, or to be traced in the customs of different nations, confirm what is related in the book of Genesis. Chapter 11 covers the distinction between the sons of God and the sons of men when men began to multiply, their presumptuous design, to build a city and a tower, ver. 1 – 4, the dispersion of the sons of men at Babel, ver. 1 – 9 and the righteous judgment of God upon them in His disappointment by confounding their language, and so scattering them, ver. 5 – 9.
All the people spoke the same language because they were all Noah’s descendants and they wanted to live together. They were proud. They wanted to be more powerful so they built a great city. But God had not told people to live together. He told them to move across the world (Genesis 9:1) so that the whole world would have inhabitants. So the people were not obeying God’s commands. In fact, they were trying to oppose God. God did not allow them to continue the construction of that city. He confused their languages and he ended their unity. They could not talk with each other. So they had to move to different places.
In verse 5, the Lord shows how great He is. People thought that they could reach up to the sky. Because they thought that God was in the sky. But God came down to the earth to see their tower. When we compare the tower with God, we quickly see it was very small and not very important. It is God who makes people great. We cannot make ourselves great in God’s opinion. People think that they are great and powerful. But God is in control. He confused their language and he scattered them. So, he stopped the people before they could become more evil. He stopped them before they could make more trouble.
Items for Discussion
- Why was God angry that the people were attempting to build a tower to reach Him?
- What were the advantages to God had the people obeyed His original command to disperse throughout the world?
- In what way is the role of the Christian Church the same today?
- How has the role of the Church changed?
- How does God “confound the plans of cities and countries” today in order to see His plan is being followed?
- Why couldn’t the people see the futility in their plan to build a tower?
- Are there things we do today in our society that are as futile?
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Background4http://www.easyenglish.info/bible-commentary/acts-lbw.htm & 5http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Acts/Pentecost
Most people agree that Luke wrote Acts. In Acts, he told how the good news about Jesus Christ spread. It spread to the world beyond Jerusalem. Luke was a Gentile and he was a doctor (Colossians 4:14). He worked with Paul and he travelled with Paul (Philemon 1:24). Luke was very careful about what he wrote. He knew that some things were true. And he wrote only those things. At the beginning of his Gospel, he wrote this. ‘You have heard many things. I am writing this account so that you will know the truth about them’ (Luke 1:4). In Acts, he continued with this account. Luke was travelling with Paul. Luke wrote about what happened during that time (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). In these verses, he used ‘we’ instead of ‘they’ or ‘he’. So, we know that Luke was there at those times. After Luke had arrived in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17), he stayed in Judea. He stayed there for two years. Then he left to travel to Rome (Acts 27:1). He went to Rome with Paul. While Luke was in Judea, he probably spoke to other witnesses. They told him about the other events that he describes.
Luke had several reasons why he wrote Acts. People were telling false stories about Christians. They were afraid that Christians wanted to make trouble. Luke wanted the Roman rulers to know that this was not true. Christians helped other people to behave well. He wanted to show that to the rulers. It was good for the Roman government. Luke wrote about many miracles. God gave to Christians the power to cure people, for example. Also, God rescued Peter from prison by a miracle. So, anyone who opposed the Christians was opposing God. He also wanted to show to the Jews that the Christian faith was not a separate religion. Instead, it made Judaism complete, because Jesus is the Messiah. However, Luke had one main reason why he wrote this book. The good news about Jesus had travelled from Jerusalem to Rome. Luke wanted to record how that happened. Rome was the most important city in the world. Luke showed that the gospel was for all people in every nation. It was for Jews and it was also for Gentiles.
In the twentieth century Pentecost has become a source of confusion, embarrassment or division for Christians, even as it has become a curiosity, if not an object of ridicule, for non-Christians. What is repeatable–and what is unrepeatable–of that miraculous outpouring of the Spirit and speaking in tongues? Luke helps us sort through our various reactions so Pentecost can become the comfort and the challenge it was meant to be. Peter’s speech speaks to the cause and significance of the event.
Verse 1 The day called Pentecost was an important day for the Jews. It came 50 days after the Passover. Many Jews had grown plants for food. Then on Pentecost day, they gave the best ones to God. They also remembered how God had given the Law to them. On this special Pentecost, God gave the Holy Spirit. Now, the Holy Spirit lives in every Christian. The Holy Spirit helps us to obey God’s rules. The Holy Spirit helps us to do the things that God wants.
Verse 2 Everyone knew when the Holy Spirit came. Luke says that it was ‘as if a very strong wind was blowing’. In the Bible, writers often use the word ‘wind’ to describe the Spirit’s power. (Look at Ezekiel 37:9-14, for example.)
Verse 3 First, they heard the Holy Spirit. Next, they saw something. It was ‘tongues that seemed like fire’. In the book called Exodus, we read that Moses saw a very special bush. We know that God was in the bush. We know it because the bush was burning all the time (Exodus 3:2-5). We can see that God was here in Acts too, because of the fire.
Verse 4 The words ‘different languages’ here can also be ‘other tongues’. People do not always agree about what this means. The disciples spoke in foreign languages. This was so that all the foreign visitors in Jerusalem could understand them. There were many foreign visitors in Jerusalem on that day. So, by means of those foreign languages, these visitors could understand the disciples when they spoke about God. Paul writes about the gift called ‘tongues’ in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14.
Verse 5 ‘Every nation in the world’ means every nation where there were Jews. These Jews had travelled to Jerusalem because it was Pentecost.
Verse 6 A large crowd came together because of the noise. The believers came out into the street. Perhaps they were going to the Temple.
Verses 7-8 People from Galilee spoke in an unusual way. People from other places could not always understand them. But now, these disciples from Galilee were speaking in different languages. Everyone could understand what the disciples were saying.
Verses 9-11 More Jews lived in other countries than in Judea. Their enemies had taken them there more than 500 years earlier. This list shows that many Jews from many different nations were in Jerusalem. They all heard about the wonderful things that God had done on this special Pentecost day. They would go back to their countries and they would tell other people. The other people in the world were beginning to hear the good news about Jesus.
Verses 12 Luke says that they could not explain what was happening. He says it several times. But some people tried to explain things in their own way. Holy Spirit comes with power, people do not always understand this event. They do not always understand what is happening.
Items for Discussion
- What is your personal opinion on “speaking in tongues?
- Think back to Genesis and the Tower of Babel—why do you think God went through so much, first to take away common language and then to fix the problem of a multi-lingual world?
- Using what you know about your experience with the Holy Spirit, how could two people of different languages understand each other?
- Why is it so important for people of different cultures and languages to communicate about God and their faith?
- What are the ways that two people could share Christ without the necessity of a common language?
- What are the ways that a person who does not speak the native tongue spoken in a church understand that you are worshiping God?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations