What does Genesis 11:8 mean?
ESV: So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
NIV: So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
NASB: So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth; and they stopped building the city.
CSB: So from there the Lord scattered them throughout the earth, and they stopped building the city.
NLT: In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city.
KJV: So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
Verse Commentary:
In the previous verse, God decides to confuse the languages of the united peoples of the earth. This was specifically intended to stop them from accomplishing whatever they set out to do. In context, God's concern is that a united humanity will slip back into the same cycle of sin and death as existed prior to the flood (Genesis 6:5).

Now, we're told that God also dispersed humanity from the area of Shinar all over the earth. Taken at face value, these verses describe supernatural acts of God in creating and assigning languages to people and placing them where in the earth He wanted them to be. Other interpreters see God's actions in this chapter in a more gradual way, describing the effects without necessarily implying that they were immediate.

Taken literally, Genesis' claim is that these languages did not develop naturally over time as people developed their own variations on an original language. God simply did it. Such an act would require enormous power, creativity, and authority. Certainly, the God who created the world and sent a global flood would be capable of such actions.

God's initial command to Noah and his sons was to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). Since the people refused to separate and obey God in this way, God did it for them. He would not allow humanity to set its own agenda for the earth.

Building on the city came to a stop. It would no longer be the focus of humanity's combined effort. The place took on the name Babel, which is very similar to the Hebrew word for "confusion." Later, this city would be known as Babylon.
Verse Context:
Genesis 11:1–9 recounts one of the most dramatic acts of God recorded in Genesis. Before the tribes and nations described in Genesis 10 were formed, all the people of the earth shared one language and one culture. They also shared the goal of not wanting to be separated. To that end, they decided to make themselves great by building a great city with an enormous tower—and without apparently acknowledging God. To keep humanity from being too powerful, and lapsing into the widespread sin which inspired the flood, God confuses human languages and scattered mankind around the world. The city of Babel, similar to the Hebrew word for ''confused,'' would later become known as Babylon.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 11 contains three sections: God confuses and scatters the people of the world to stop the building of Babel and its tower. A genealogy is provided showing the direct links between Noah and Abram. The ''generations'' of Terah are introduced, providing a description of the family out of which God will call Abram to become the father of His chosen people.
Chapter Context:
Genesis 10 provided a table of the nations, describing the peoples and tribes that descended from Noah's three sons and where they settled. Genesis 11 describes how God scattered the peoples of the world after confusing their languages to stop the building of Babel and its tower. The chapter also provides a direct genealogy from Noah to Abram and then introduces Abram by way of his father Terah. The following chapter will begin the story of Abram and God's chosen people, Israel.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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