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Genesis chapter 11

New International Version

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.
10 This is the account of Shem's family line. Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. 11 And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. 13 And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber. 15 And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. 17 And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu. 19 And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug. 21 And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor. 23 And after he became the father of Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah. 25 And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
26 After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.
27 This is the account of Terah's family line. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29 Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah. 30 Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.
31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.
32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.
English Standard Version

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
10 These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. 11 And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
12 When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah. 13 And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber. 15 And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg. 17 And Eber lived after he fathered Peleg 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he fathered Reu. 19 And Peleg lived after he fathered Reu 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he fathered Serug. 21 And Reu lived after he fathered Serug 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he fathered Nahor. 23 And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah. 25 And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
26 When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28 Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31 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 forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.
King James Version

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. 3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. 4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
10 These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: 11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. 12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah: 13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber: 15 And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. 16 And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg: 17 And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters. 18 And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu: 19 And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters. 20 And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug: 21 And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters. 22 And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor: 23 And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. 24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah: 25 And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters. 26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. 28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees. 29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah. 30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child. 31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. 32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.
New American Standard Bible

1 Now all the earth used the same language and the same words. 2 And it came about, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 Then they said to one another, 'Come, let’s make bricks and fire them thoroughly.' And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 And they said, 'Come, let’s build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let’s make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of all the earth.' 5 Now the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the men had built. 6 And the LORD said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they have started to do, and now nothing which they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.' 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth; and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore it was named Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
10 These are the records of the generations of Shem. Shem was a hundred years old when he fathered Arpachshad, two years after the flood; 11 and Shem lived five hundred years after he fathered Arpachshad, and he fathered other sons and daughters.
12 Arpachshad lived thirty-five years, and fathered Shelah; 13 and Arpachshad lived 403 years after he fathered Shelah, and he fathered other sons and daughters.
14 Shelah lived thirty years, and fathered Eber; 15 and Shelah lived 403 years after he fathered Eber, and he fathered other sons and daughters.
16 Eber lived thirty-four years, and fathered Peleg; 17 and Eber lived 430 years after he fathered Peleg, and he fathered other sons and daughters.
18 Peleg lived thirty years, and fathered Reu; 19 and Peleg lived 209 years after he fathered Reu, and he fathered other sons and daughters.
20 Reu lived thirty-two years, and fathered Serug; 21 and Reu lived 207 years after he fathered Serug, and he fathered other sons and daughters.
22 Serug lived thirty years, and fathered Nahor; 23 and Serug lived two hundred years after he fathered Nahor, and he fathered other sons and daughters.
24 Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and fathered Terah; 25 and Nahor lived 119 years after he fathered Terah, and he fathered other sons and daughters.
26 Terah lived seventy years, and fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28 Haran died during the lifetime of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 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 Sarai was unable to conceive; she did not have a child.
31 Now Terah took his son Abram, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they departed together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran and settled there. 32 The days of Terah were 205 years; and Terah died in Haran.
New Living Translation

1 At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. 2 As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.
3 They began saying to each other, 'Let's make bricks and harden them with fire.' (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) 4 Then they said, 'Come, let's build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.'
5 But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. 6 'Look!' he said. 'The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! 7 Come, let's go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won't be able to understand each other.'
8 In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.
10 This is the account of Shem's family. Two years after the great flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. 11 After the birth of Arphaxad, Shem lived another 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
12 When Arphaxad was 35 years old, he became the father of Shelah. 13 After the birth of Shelah, Arphaxad lived another 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
14 When Shelah was 30 years old, he became the father of Eber. 15 After the birth of Eber, Shelah lived another 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
16 When Eber was 34 years old, he became the father of Peleg. 17 After the birth of Peleg, Eber lived another 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
18 When Peleg was 30 years old, he became the father of Reu. 19 After the birth of Reu, Peleg lived another 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 When Reu was 32 years old, he became the father of Serug. 21 After the birth of Serug, Reu lived another 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
22 When Serug was 30 years old, he became the father of Nahor. 23 After the birth of Nahor, Serug lived another 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
24 When Nahor was 29 years old, he became the father of Terah. 25 After the birth of Terah, Nahor lived another 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
26 After Terah was 70 years old, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 This is the account of Terah's family. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. 28 But Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his birth, while his father, Terah, was still living. 29 Meanwhile, Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife was Milcah. (Milcah and her sister Iscah were daughters of Nahor's brother Haran.) 30 But Sarai was unable to become pregnant and had no children.
31 One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram's wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran's child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. 32 Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran.
Christian Standard Bible

1 The whole earth had the same language and vocabulary. 2 As people migrated from the east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, "Come, let us make oven-fired bricks." (They used brick for stone and asphalt for mortar.) 4 And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered throughout the earth."
5 Then the LORD came down to look over the city and the tower that the humans were building. 6 The LORD said, "If they have begun to do this as one people all having the same language, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let's go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another's speech." 8 So from there the LORD scattered them throughout the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore it is called Babylon, for there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth, and from there the LORD scattered them throughout the earth.
10 These are the family records of Shem. Shem lived 100 years and fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. 11 After he fathered Arpachshad, Shem lived 500 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 12 Arpachshad lived 35 years and fathered Shelah. 13 After he fathered Shelah, Arpachshad lived 403 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 14 Shelah lived 30 years and fathered Eber. 15 After he fathered Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 16 Eber lived 34 years and fathered Peleg. 17 After he fathered Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 18 Peleg lived 30 years and fathered Reu. 19 After he fathered Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 20 Reu lived 32 years and fathered Serug. 21 After he fathered Serug, Reu lived 207 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 22 Serug lived 30 years and fathered Nahor. 23 After he fathered Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 24 Nahor lived 29 years and fathered Terah. 25 After he fathered Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 26 Terah lived 70 years and fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 These are the family records of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and Haran fathered Lot. 28 Haran died in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans, during his father Terah's lifetime. 29 Abram and Nahor took wives: Abram's wife was named Sarai, and Nahor's wife was named Milcah. She was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. 30 Sarai was unable to conceive; she did not have a child.
31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot (Haran's son), and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram's wife, and they set out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 Terah lived 205 years and died in Haran.

What does Genesis chapter 11 mean?

Genesis 11 contains three sections: the story of the Tower of Babel, the genealogy from Shem to Abram, and a description of the life of Terah, Abram's father. Abram will later be renamed Abraham and he will become one of the most important figures in Israel's history.

The events surrounding the building of the city and Tower of Babel are breathtaking. God exercises His power, authority, and creativity to confuse the languages of all the peoples of the earth and then to disperse them geographically around the known world.

God's reason for doing so is equally fascinating. As the families of Noah's children Shem, Ham, and Japheth grew, they continued to live together as a community with one language and one culture. Eventually, they moved to the area known as Shinar and began to build a massive city with a huge tower. To avoid separating from each other, they planned to make themselves great and powerful on the earth.

Not only did the people disobey God's command to "fill the earth," they apparently did not acknowledge God or seek His help. They became arrogant in their self-reliance and accomplishments. Some scholars think the building of the tower was an attempt to evade a future flood from God, or possibly as a symbol of man's power.

God acknowledged that nothing would be impossible if they continued to operate as one people with one language. This comment has been interpreted in various ways, but seems to follow the same line of thought God used prior to the flood: left alone, mankind can find a way to commit any act of evil imaginable. To prevent this, God confused and dispersed the people.

The section involving the Tower of Babel is composed as a chiasm, meaning a literary mirror-image. Everything mankind attempts in the first half of the narrative is undone in the second half. The building of the city, Babel, later to be called Babylon, ceases. Later, when the Israelites came into conflict with the powerful Babylonians, the name of this city was a reminder that God's power was far greater than the plans and might of mere human beings.

The second section of the chapter provides a simple genealogy from Noah's son Shem to Abram, showing specifically how God's people descended in a direct line from one to the other. This genealogy also shows that the lifespans of men quickly decreased after the flood, from nearly a thousand years, to several centuries, to roughly a century by the time of Abram.

The final section of the chapter sketches out the life of Abram's father Terah and his family, including Abram's two brothers, his wife, and his nephew. Together, the family moved from Ur, in what is now southern Iraq, some 600 miles closer to Canaan, settling in Haran. From Haran, God will call Abram and Sarai to leave their home and move into the promised land of Canaan. These two will eventually be renamed Abraham and Sarah, two of Israel's most crucial ancestors.