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Genesis 11:6-9

Context
11:6 And the Lord said, “If as one people all sharing a common language 1  they have begun to do this, then 2  nothing they plan to do will be beyond them. 3  11:7 Come, let’s go down and confuse 4  their language so they won’t be able to understand each other.” 5 

11:8 So the Lord scattered them from there across the face of the entire earth, and they stopped building 6  the city. 11:9 That is why its name was called 7  Babel 8  – because there the Lord confused the language of the entire world, and from there the Lord scattered them across the face of the entire earth.

1 tn Heb “and one lip to all of them.”

2 tn Heb “and now.” The foundational clause beginning with הֵן (hen) expresses the condition, and the second clause the result. It could be rendered “If this…then now.”

3 tn Heb “all that they purpose to do will not be withheld from them.”

4 tn The cohortatives mirror the cohortatives of the people. They build to ascend the heavens; God comes down to destroy their language. God speaks here to his angelic assembly. See the notes on the word “make” in 1:26 and “know” in 3:5, as well as Jub. 10:22-23, where an angel recounts this incident and says “And the Lord our God said to us…. And the Lord went down and we went down with him. And we saw the city and the tower which the sons of men built.” On the chiastic structure of the story, see G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:235.

5 tn Heb “they will not hear, a man the lip of his neighbor.”

6 tn The infinitive construct לִבְנֹת (livnot, “building”) here serves as the object of the verb “they ceased, stopped,” answering the question of what they stopped doing.

7 tn The verb has no expressed subject and so can be rendered as a passive in the translation.

8 sn Babel. Here is the climax of the account, a parody on the pride of Babylon. In the Babylonian literature the name bab-ili meant “the gate of God,” but in Hebrew it sounds like the word for “confusion,” and so retained that connotation. The name “Babel” (בָּבֶל, bavel) and the verb translated “confused” (בָּלַל, balal) form a paronomasia (sound play). For the many wordplays and other rhetorical devices in Genesis, see J. P. Fokkelman, Narrative Art in Genesis (SSN).



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