The Meaning of Genesis 11:1 Explained

Genesis 11:1

KJV: And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

YLT: And the whole earth is of one pronunciation, and of the same words,

Darby: And the whole earth had one language, and the same words.

ASV: And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.

What does Genesis 11:1 Mean?

Study Notes

one language
The history of Babel ("confusion") strikingly parallels that of the professing Church.
(1) Unity Genesis 11:1 --the Apostolic Church Acts 4:32 ; Acts 4:33
(2) Ambition Genesis 11:4 using worldly, not spiritual means Genesis 11:3 ending in a man-made unity--the papacy;
(3) the confusion of tongues Genesis 11:7 --Protestantism, with its innumerable sects.
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Babylon
The city, Babylon is not in view here, as the immediate context shows. It is important to note the significance of the name when used symbolically. "Babylon" is the Greek form: invariably in the O.T. Hebrew the word is simply Babel, the meaning of which is confusion, and in this sense the word is used symbolically.
(1) In the prophets, when the actual city is not meant, the reference is to the "confusion" into which the whole social order of the world has fallen under Gentile world-domination. (See "Times of the Gentiles," Luke 21:24 ; Revelation 16:14 ; Isaiah 13:4 gives the divine view of the welter of warring Gentile powers. The divine order is given in Isaiah 11. Israel in her own land, the centre of the divine government of the world and channel of the divine blessing; and the Gentiles blessed in association with Israel. Anything else is, politically, mere "babel."
(2) In Revelation 14:8-11 ; Revelation 16:19 the Gentile world-system is in view in connection with Armageddon; Revelation 16:14 ; Revelation 19:21 while in Revelation 17. the reference is to apostate Christianity, destroyed by the nations Revelation 17:16 headed up under the Beast; Daniel 7:8 ; Revelation 19:20 and false prophet. In Isaiah the political Babylon is in view, literally as to the then existing city, and symbolically as to the times of the Gentiles. In the Revelation both the symbolical- political and symbolical-religious Babylon are in view, for there both are alike under the tyranny of the Beast. Religious Babylon is destroyed by political Babylon Revelation 17:16 political Babylon by the appearing of the Lord Revelation 19:19-21 . That Babylon the city is not to be rebuilt is clear from; Isaiah 13:19-22 ; Jeremiah 51:24-26 ; Jeremiah 51:62-64 . By political Babylon is meant the Gentile world-system. (See "World,"; John 7:7 ; Revelation 13:8 ) It may be added that, in Scripture symbolism, Egypt stands for the world as such; Babylon for the world of corrupt power and corrupted religion; Nineveh for the pride, the haughty glory of the world.
burden
A "burden," Heb. massa= a heavy, weighty thing, is a message, or oracle concerning Babylon, Assyria, Jerusalem, etc. It is "heavy" because the wrath of God is in it, and grievous for the prophet to declare.
Babylon
The city, Babylon is not in view here, as the immediate context shows. It is important to note the significance of the name when used symbolically. "Babylon" is the Greek form: invariably in the O.T. Hebrew the word is simply Babel, the meaning of which is confusion, and in this sense the word is used symbolically.
(1) In the prophets, when the actual city is not meant, the reference is to the "confusion" into which the whole social order of the world has fallen under Gentile world-domination. (See "Times of the Gentiles," Luke 21:24 ; Revelation 16:14 ; Isaiah 13:4 gives the divine view of the welter of warring Gentile powers. The divine order is given in Isaiah 11. Israel in her own land, the centre of the divine government of the world and channel of the divine blessing; and the Gentiles blessed in association with Israel. Anything else is, politically, mere "babel."
(2) In Revelation 14:8-11 ; Revelation 16:19 the Gentile world-system is in view in connection with Armageddon; Revelation 16:14 ; Revelation 19:21 while in Revelation 17. the reference is to apostate Christianity, destroyed by the nations Revelation 17:16 headed up under the Beast; Daniel 7:8 ; Revelation 19:20 and false prophet. In Isaiah the political Babylon is in view, literally as to the then existing city, and symbolically as to the times of the Gentiles. In the Revelation both the symbolical- political and symbolical-religious Babylon are in view, for there both are alike under the tyranny of the Beast. Religious Babylon is destroyed by political Babylon Revelation 17:16 political Babylon by the appearing of the Lord Revelation 19:19-21 . That Babylon the city is not to be rebuilt is clear from; Isaiah 13:19-22 ; Jeremiah 51:24-26 ; Jeremiah 51:62-64 . By political Babylon is meant the Gentile world-system. (See "World,"; John 7:7 ; Revelation 13:8 ) It may be added that, in Scripture symbolism, Egypt stands for the world as such; Babylon for the world of corrupt power and corrupted religion; Nineveh for the pride, the haughty glory of the world.

Context Summary

Genesis 11:1-9 - The Confusion Of Tongues
Driven by the fear of another deluge, though God had given distinct assurances to the contrary, and impelled by the desire to perpetuate their name and memory to coming generations, Noah's descendants began to build on the plain of Shinar-a fertile valley watered by the Euphrates and Tigris. Babel, Babylon and Babylon the Great, such is the lineage of the apostasy which has ever opposed the Church of God; like a shadow, stealing along the wall at our side. To Babel we must oppose Abraham; to Babylon, Jerusalem; to Babylon the Great, the Bride, the Lamb's wife. "Come out of her, my people," is the cry that rings down the ages. God comes down to see! From him no secrets are hid. All things are naked and open to His eyes. The one language or lip refers to the pronunciation; speech to the stock of words; God touched the lips. When disunion prevails, destruction follows. But Pentecost and Heaven will undo the wreck of Babel. See Revelation 7:9. [source]

Chapter Summary: Genesis 11

1  One language in the world
2  The building of Babel
5  It is interrupted by the confusion of tongues, and the builders dispersed
10  The generations of Shem
27  The generations of Terah, the father of Abram
31  Terah, with Abram and Lot, move from Ur to Haran

What do the individual words in Genesis 11:1 mean?

And had all the earth language one and speech one
וַֽיְהִ֥י כָל־ הָאָ֖רֶץ שָׂפָ֣ה אֶחָ֑ת וּדְבָרִ֖ים אֲחָדִֽים

וַֽיְהִ֥י  And  had 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: אֶהְיֶה 
Sense: to be, become, come to pass, exist, happen, fall out.
הָאָ֖רֶץ  the  earth 
Parse: Article, Noun, feminine singular
Root: אֶרֶץ  
Sense: land, earth.
שָׂפָ֣ה  language 
Parse: Noun, feminine singular
Root: שָׂפָה  
Sense: lip, language, speech, shore, bank, brink, brim, side, edge, border, binding.
אֶחָ֑ת  one 
Parse: Number, feminine singular
Root: אֶחָד  
Sense: one (number).
וּדְבָרִ֖ים  and  speech 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Noun, masculine plural
Root: דָּבָר  
Sense: speech, word, speaking, thing.
אֲחָדִֽים  one 
Parse: Number, masculine plural
Root: אֶחָד  
Sense: one (number).

What are the major concepts related to Genesis 11:1?

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