Genesis 11:1-91NIV New International Version Translations
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men 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 and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men 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.
To frame these verses in Genesis, consider that we have just ended the story of Noah and the Great Flood. God has saved his family, made a covenant with Noah, and given Noah a command to spread out and begin a new world. Chapter 11, we again see the disobedient children of God.
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. 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.
Items for Discussion
- Why do you think God chose to confuse mankind by creating so many languages? Wouldn’t it have been much easier for Jesus and the Disciples if there was only one language to deal with?
- God was trying to get their attention in a strange way – What offense might the Babylonians have been committing that God was responding to?
- Explore the idea that the offense of the builders was that they were no longer trying to serve God and were instead trying to bring God down to the level of sinful humanity
- How does modern society today, try to bring God down to our level?
- How might God try to accomplish the same thing, to stop us? Would He still use confusion and frustration?
- Can mankind stop God’s plans? If not, why do men try? If so, how do men influence God to allow it?
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 them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own 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?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine. ” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ” ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Luke probably had several reasons why he wrote Acts. People were telling false stories about Christians. They were afraid that Christians wanted to cause 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 also wrote about many miracles. God gave 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 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 traveled 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.
If you are interested in looking at the original Greek words and definitions used in our Scripture verses, you can find an analysis at the following link: http://www.lectionarystudies.com/studyot/studyn/pentecostotn.html
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. Some people think that Luke is describing the gift called ‘tongues’ They think that the disciples spoke in foreign languages because this was a special day. There were many foreign visitors in Jerusalem on that day. So, using those foreign languages, these visitors could understand the disciples when they spoke about God.
Verse 5 ‘Every nation in the world’ means every nation where there were Jews. These Jews had traveled 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 unusually. 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 12-13 Luke says that they could not explain what was happening. He says it several times. But some people tried to explain things in their way. They said that the disciples had drunk too much wine. It is the same nowadays, too. When the Holy Spirit comes with power, people do not always understand this event. They do not always understand what is happening.
Verses 17-18 Peter spoke verses from the book called Joel (Joel 2:28-32). They describe the Day of the Lord. For Jews, this meant the day when God would change the world. They believed that God would give power to Israel then. It would also be a day when God would bring terrible judgment. The Jews divided time into two ages. ‘The Present Age’ was completely evil. There was also the ‘Age that would Come’. This was the time when God would rule over all. The Day of the Lord separated the two ages. These strange events at Pentecost happened because God was sending his Holy Spirit to people. The Greek word for ‘send out’ here also means ‘pour out’. This was the beginning of the ‘last period’ before Jesus returned. ‘Last period’ can also mean ‘last days’ in Greek.
Verses 19-20 A few weeks earlier, people in Jerusalem had seen that the sun had become dark. This happened in the afternoon when Jesus died on the cross. Maybe the moon had also appeared to be red in the dark sky. Or perhaps these events may still happen in the future.
Verse 21 People cannot save themselves from God’s judgement. But God will save anyone who calls to him. But the person must want God to help him or her.
Items for Discussion
- What similarities do you see between the story of the Tower of Babel and the coming of the Holy Spirit?
- How would the stories in this study affect your opinion as to whether God is active and alive in the world today?
- How did the gift of the Holy Spirit ensure God’s message would spread?
- How was this the perfect gift to accomplish God’s plan?
- What gifts do you think the people of those times would have asked for?
- How do these stories reinforce why faith is such an important component of believing in God?
- What are the modern-day stories that inspire us?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations