A Straight Path: Genesis 11:10-26


A Straight Path: Genesis 11:10-26

Pastor John Weathersby

Sunday January 22, 2023

Notes/Not a Transcript

Let us never be complacent, over-familiar, or dismissive of God’s word. 

Two weeks ago, Pastoral Intern Stephen Howard, in his study on Genesis 11 (which I commend to you), where we learn about the Tower of Babble, said, perhaps you’ve studied this before in Sunday school like him.  So you were ready to understand that this is where languages came from and then to color in a picture that looked like the leaning tower of Pisa. 
His point is well-taken. 
The word is living.  We learn this in Hebrews 4:12

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

What we will study in Genesis 11:10-26 isn’t something to get past quickly to the color page; it is instead waiting for insight into the early Biblical world.  If you pay attention to it, you’ll find God’s grace, perseverance, endurance, and, ultimately, purpose. 

Moreover, I hope you’ll find a personal call to participate in what God is doing through you with fervor.
We won’t read it verse-by-verse as we usually do, but that is NOT because it is unimportant.  We will study the context, the world, and the implications of the nations, and I ask that you’d go back and read Genesis 11 as a unit next week as we finish the chapter.  Following the notes and points made in our three-week focus on Genesis 11. 
In these verses (10-26), we are on a straight path to redemption through a crooked, wobbling fallen path of men.  It is essential to know that Jesus’ saying it is, finished (John 19:30) points to the new priesthood under his final sacrifice.  Before that, in Israel was the sacrificial system that pointed to Christ). Before that, “believing God” (see Romans 4:1-5 on Abraham) because God has always provided a way through faith by His grace.  The means of faith has depended upon His unfolding plan for salvation occurring in time to build the fullness of the elect – it’s a straight path of God through the crooked journey of humanity.

John 19:30 (ESV)
30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Romans 4:1-5 (ESV)
Abraham Justified by Faith
1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?
2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

There are those scholars who work to argue that the first 11 chapters of the Bible (Genesis 1-11) are not historical but rather to be understood as allegorical stories to learn from.  In our study today, we’re in the 4th of 4 distinct genealogies, the others being Genesis 4:17-26 Cain’s offspring, Genesis 5:1-32 the offspring of Adam, Genesis 10:1-32, the post-flood generations of Noah’s sons (Shem, Ham, and Japeth).  This is to be understood as historical accounts of people who lived, not allegory. 

Genesis 4:17-26 (ESV)
17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.
18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech.
19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.
20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.
21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.
22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
23 Lamech said to his wives:
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;    you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:I have killed a man for wounding me,    a young man for striking me.24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,    then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”
25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”
26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

These genealogies aren’t abandoned in Genesis chapters 1-11.  They’re picked up again time and time again, Exodus 6, Numbers 1-4, Ruth 4, 1 Chronicles, and on and on.  Genesis 1-11 flow into the rest of Genesis 12-50 making one historical account that also teaches theology as you go.  Genesis 3:15, the protoevangelium promises salvation through the seed of the woman (Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and the tribes of Israel Genesis is theological history.  Jesus affirms this (take note and read these later) in Matthew 19:4-6 Jesus draws from the creation account saying, “have you not read” theological truths established in Genesis such as death in Adam as referenced in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22.

Genesis 3:15 (ESV)
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,    and between your offspring and her offspring;he shall bruise your head,    and you shall bruise his heel.”

Matthew 19:4-6 (ESV)
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 (ESV)
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

There is great and deep insight into human nature, which is sin, but more than that, this table highlights God’s grace, and we’ll learn there is no idle purposefulness in listing words in scripture.  It has been preserved and superseded by God to come to us today, and with that gravity – let’s dive in. 

As we study Genesis 11:10–26, we’re able to link back to Genesis 5 and pick up the line of Seth that was provided there.  As noted above, this would be the 3rd of 4 genealogies in Genesis 1-11, and let’s note the construction of them because they change after the flood in our text from today, Genesis 11:10-26, a patriarchs age when he conceived the next in line, the next in lines name, how long the father lived after conceiving the next patriarch, they had other sons and daughters (quite a fertile bunch), and his life span, “and he died.”  These verses continue to map a straight path to redemption through a crooked, wobbling, fallen path of men.

Genesis 5:1-32 (ESV)
1 This is the book of the generations of Adam.  When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.
2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.
3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.
4 The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years, and he had other sons and daughters.
5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.
6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh.
7 Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters.
8 Thus, all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.
9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan.
10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters.
11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.
12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel
13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters.
14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.
15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared.
16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters.
17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.
18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch.
19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.
21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah.
22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.  23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years.
24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech
26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters.
27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.
28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son
29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”
30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters.
31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.
32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

With  Noah, we are ten steps from Adam in the provided lineage Adam to Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalael, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech 9, Noah 10 – Genesis 11 we’ll now see: Shem 11 Arphaxad 12, Shelah 13, Eber 14, Peleg 15, Reu 16, Serug 17, Nahor 18, Terah 19, to Abraham 20.

The structure of Genesis from 5-11 is interesting as it is enlightening.  In the text, we have a timeline from the flood through the earth’s origins to the line of the patriarchs.  We see generations from Adam to Abraham – and as such interrupted by the judgment of earth reduction to 8 people, it’s rebuilding lack of discontinuity of sin and with the line to Abraham showing how God is paving a way according to his Purposes in Election to preserve the line for Christ and build His Church.

What do I mean by God’s election? 

As a church that holds to the Biblical view of Unconditional Election (as discussed in adult Sunday school this morning by Pastor John Nicholas in our series on TULIP), this view recognizes that God doesn’t “elect” some for salvation based on foreknowing a future action or decision, but rather by His Grace for His glory elects those whom it pleases him to save.

Through this line of patriarchs, we see God electing those to Himself accomplishing his purpose, to usher in Christ as foretold.  It is the straight path to redemption through a crooked, wobbling fallen path of men.

This great care God has in everything and telling the story of His miraculous works leading up to the age of the Church should not free us to inaction.  It should inspire us to be diligent disciples full of action.  Our lives should burn with a purpose for God and His kingdom.  What we’re reading laid the groundwork for the Church, is the way we live worthy of this groundwork?

What we’re reading provides a chronology for time but isn’t expressly chronological.  Noah’s death, for example, is announced in Genesis 9:29, ending the line of Seth, picking back up in 11:10, and we’re back to God’s redemptive plan.  Chapter 10 was a break to explore the sidewise generations with Shem, who is #11, or Noah’s sons, in the line, and his other brothers, who we studied in 10 and their generations.

Other interesting notes to make between Genesis 5 and Genesis 11.  Genesis 11’s presentation neglects to give us the duration of the patriarch’s life, moreover doesn’t include the “and then he died” portion that we’ve become familiar with.  Moving us post-flood, quickly to Abraham, and transitioning us from the desperate condition of the pre-flood world by changing focus from death to Abraham.  Of whom Jesus would say:

Genesis 9:29 (ESV)
29 All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.

Matthew 3:9 (ESV)
9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

Genesis 11:10-26 (ESV)
10 These are the generations of Shem.  When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood.

So, we’re post-flood (or if you want to sound smart and confound people at parties post postdiluvian) time, and we’re starting with Shem.  It is the style that will be followed in Luke 3’s telling

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.

In this timeline, we see the genealogy of Shem flowing through his son, Arphaxad.  To line these patriarchs up from Noah through Abraham, we would find Noah and Shem living in the same overlapping period.  In Genesis 11, we start to see a drastic reduction in life spans (Arpachshad was 600 at his death, were as math would suggest Nahor was in his 140s)
Noah would have been Abram’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather.

What do we learn in the historical theology of Genesis 1-11, and our study today of 11:10-26, lots.  But earlier, we said, “if you pay attention to see it, you’ll find God’s grace, perseverance, endurance, and ultimately God’s purpose.”
Through the lines God chose to pass, we’ll find the 12 tribes of Israel be born.  To these, his Law will be revealed, demonstrating the irreparable fracture from the fall in Genesis 3:7.  In Genesis 3, we see how eyes are opened to evil, creating a world in need of rescue.  We see God’s elect line who’ll ultimately bring about Jesus (promised in Genesis 3:15) but through broken men, families, and circumstances. 

Genesis 3:7 (ESV)
7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Genesis 3:15 (ESV)
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,    and between your offspring and her offspring;he shall bruise your head,    and you shall bruise his heel.”

As Thomas Watson would say, “God can strike a straight stroke with a crooked stick.”
Genesis 3 and the history of scripture help us understand the broken world where we find ourselves.  Why are coworkers backbiting, your boss unempathetically mean, why are marriages strained, and children don’t seem to live for you – the world is steeped-in and obsessed with sin loving hear that gain slowly, L-O-V-I-N-G darkness over light.
This world gives juxtaposition to God’s loving grace.  Who, forward of the fall, provided a path to redemption and called His elect into that redemption.
From the fall, we see his perseverance and endurance through Cain and Able, delivering the Patriarchs even when they were so keenly aware of the flood.  We know Abraham was born into a pagan house.  God was patient and continually provided input to people for worship and gave them gracious mercy, all for His purpose.  God rests the purposes of everything, all the history of the fall of the generations pointing to his grace/mercy, on Christ who would establish the church until His ultimate triumphant return.
Genesis is our history, steeped in God’s grace, perseverance, and endurance, fulfilling His Purpose – His glory through the redemption of the elect.

So what?

So let’s be inspired to be diligent disciples full of action. Our lives should burn with a purpose for God and His kingdom. What we’re reading laid the groundwork for the church, is the way we live worthy of this groundwork?

Maybe you feel like a crooked stick, be encouraged by all that God has done through people just like you. This is the call to find a personal call to participate in what God is doing through you with fervor.

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