Hints on Genesis 10-14

We have had in a certain sense the whole history of the new world as regards Noah and his sons, the altar, his drunkenness, and so on. In chapters 10, 11, you get a statement all by itself, before you come to God's dealings with the world as now commenced afresh.
We have first the history of Noah's generations.
In verse 21 Japheth is stated to be elder son. In verse 5 you have “by these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families in their nations.” There you get nations, which is an immense thing. Then the sons of Ham who stretched from the Euphrates to the Nile and got hold of Canaan somehow.
Chapter 10 is no history, but a survey of the whole earth. There were no tongues or nations at all till Babel; if you try to put this chapter into time, you will go all astray.
Then in Ham you have another principle, and that is a royal conquering power. “Cush begat Nimrod,” who began to be a mighty one in the earth, with beasts first and then with man. He was a mighty hunter, wherefore it is said, “Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord, and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech, and Accad and Calneh in the land of Shinar.” Then Asshur goes out and builds Nineveh. These are the first great monarchies.
“Before the Lord” means just that he was very great; as Moses was fair or beautiful “to God,” and in Hebrews “exceeding” fair. So, too, in Jonah 3, “Nineveh was an exceeding great city,” is a city great of God, in margin and literally.
Then we learn how the dispersion came.
I suppose Eber (ver. 21) is mentioned because the Hebrews came of him. There is another fact in verse 25: in the days of Peleg the earth was divided, and at that moment man's life went down to just half, at one bound. You see it in the next chapter. Eber lived four hundred and sixty-four years, and Peleg lived two hundred and thirty-nine. Here, so far then, we have the history of the world; the world settled and it is all regulated in its general principles, with all the races still going on; then in chapter 11 it goes back to the races, “and the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.” And they set to work to build a city and a tower, that they might make a name; not out of the reach of another flood, as some say, for this is the greatest nonsense possible. It was to be a great central temple to their own name. Babel was in principle apostasy, for it was a name for themselves instead of God. It is man uniting for himself. They say, Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad. They wanted to concentrate themselves there so that they should be all one. And this is just the great idea of the present day. But then the Lord comes down and confuses them, and they are all scattered.
This is followed by the specific generations of Shem until you come down to Abram and a totally distinct line of things. We have had the generations of Noah, a genealogical history, and the generations of Shem are a specific thing besides. In it you find the shortening of life we spoke of, when the earth was divided.
They went to the east and got a name, they were the direct descendants of Eber. God did not call them Hebrews; it was the other nations. Some take it from Arba in Hebrew, for the word means to come over, because Abraham came over the river.
Languages do blend, though kept apart, and I do not doubt providentially too. We cannot say much about it in England; for we have two or three languages together, Latin, and German, and so on.
Then we go on to Terah. Abram comes first, not because he was oldest, but because he was the important one. All that we have got thus far; we have it is the whole world parceled out into nations, and this comes from the judgment of Babel because man would not be scattered. And you hear nothing of Noah in all this: his power is gone, though he was alive all the time; he lived to Abram's time if you take the Hebrew computation. Shem lived to Isaac's time, who was twenty-eight when he died. Noah died a few years (twelve) before Abram's time.
We have had how the world was settled, and, after Noah has gone from the scene, the nations divided, and the fact of God's judgment confounding their language. The languages we know come, I believe, from Sanskrit or Zend. Latin and Greek, they say, were sister languages, and not mother and daughter (and they call them now Aryan), and all the languages of Europe except the Basque, and so all the northern languages of India. Then there is the Shemitic and that class of languages, the Turanian, the North American languages having been Shemitic made up since. Scythian or Assyrian they cannot read yet.
They have made out the Shemitic and Arian, but not the Turanian. Such are the great roots of what has covered the world.
There was nothing to hinder Moses from speaking Hebrew; the Jews all spoke it among themselves. It is a very child's tongue, not an elaborately formed language at all. Besides God may have made him know it perfectly. They have found an inscription put up by Mesha, king of Moab, the sheepmaster, in an old Phoenician character. The Samaritans still keep nearly the same. When the Jews came back from Babylon, they had only the present Hebrew characters.
Thus the old world is done with, and certain great principles shown, and then the new world is set up, being split up into these nations; and with that the beginning of what will be the beasts, that is, in Babel. Empire was set up in Nebuchadnezzar, but the germ of it is here. And we have the sphere in which God's plans and purposes come out.
Then as soon as we have the world parceled out into nations, peoples, tribes, and tongues, God's providence doing it, the first thing He does is to tell a man to leave it all. “Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, into a land that I will show thee.” (Gen. 12)
Providence is never the guide of faith. God may guide us by providences, and He overrules us and so on; and I may be forced to use a circumstance, or it may come and stop me because I am like a horse or mule that must be held in by bit or bridle; but providence is never the guide of faith. In the case of Moses, was there ever anything more providential than that Pharaoh's daughter should come and take him up, just as he was exposed in the river, to be brought up as her own son? But this is not the guidance of faith. I may be controlled by circumstances; God may use them so, He will lead the blind by a way that they know not, that is, not seeing.
But the principle here is, that He calls one out—Abram. The first dealing of God, when He had put the framework of the world to work in, is calling one out to work by. And there is another principle; when He does call him out, Abram is the father of the faithful. As we had a bad race in Adam, we have a race of God now. The Jews were the fleshly seed of Abram, but Abram is the head of God's people at large. There is another thing, and that is what all hangs upon: election, calling, and promise belong to this family, and to nothing else. God takes Abram out: this is election. He calls him, and the God of glory reveals Himself to him, giving him the promises. It is not church ground here, but it is grace, election, calling, and promise. These are the first three things.
Election means choosing. And the calling is of those whom He has chosen; it is the making good their election. In “many are called but few are chosen,” the two are in opposition, not as here.
Then Abram is to go out by faith; the necessary consequence when he is called. There is trust in God, believing His word; and so we get upon a new footing altogether.
It is not the old world with just a testimony of Enoch, but God positively dealing in the new world. As the apostle reasons, the first thing after the world is settled is grace, then law after; but now we get into the direct dealings of God, which is an immensely important thing. There was no dealing of God before, except the flood, and this finishes that state. There was a revelation of important principles, sacrifice and so on, but no dealings.
Abram did not go out at first, or rather he went out but did not go in; he left his country and kindred, but not his father's house. “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 from Ur of the Chaldees to go into the land of Canaan, and they came unto Haran and dwelt there.” Stephen says in the Acts, “after the death of his father,” whilst chapter 12:4, says, “So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken unto him, and Lot went with him, and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran, and Abram, and Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came.” In Josh. 24:14, 1514Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. 15And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:14‑15), you find the occasion on which God called Abram out—the worship of other gods. All this world had gone into idolatry, and the nations into which God had separated it.
The God of glory had revealed Himself to him, and it becomes quite a new scene. It is all on the earth of course: you get nothing of heaven here.
I believe Abram went afterward to heaven, but here it is, “I will make of thee a great nation,” (not you shall go to heaven) “and I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing, and I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
In 2 Peter 1:33According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: (2 Peter 1:3) it is by glory and virtue (it is the dative of the instrument there, not to). He says there is the glory, and you must have the courage to cut your way through to it. In Abram's case the God of glory appears to him; but what He calls Abram by is the land. In the second Epistle of Peter the principle is the same exactly. Only as we have Christ in the glory above to whom we are called, so Abram was called to go and possess the land. Clearly the force of the word “virtue” there is courage.
As soon as Abram had got to the place that God had called him to, he was obliged to look higher still, or did so however. Our calling and our race are identical; but with Abram, he went forth to go into the land of Canaan and came there, while God did not give him so much as to set his foot on. And so it was he had to look for something else: not that he ever gave up the land.
The city for which Abram looked stood very much as tire glory in Peter practically, but his calling was to the land. Abram found he had to look for something else by being in the land where he had no city, no possession, and he had even to buy a grave in it—that was all. He had a tent, and he had an altar there, but no more. In that sense it is the picture of the life of faith. God says, “I will make of thee a great nation, and thou shalt be a blessing.” He puts him as a center of blessing: “blessed is he that blesseth thee and cursed is he that curseth thee;” and then you get the thing that is insisted on in Galatians, (chap. 3): “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed,” though we have nothing about the seed here stated; the great nation is the fleshly seed. Abram is the root of the tree of promise.
There is no promise to Abram and his seed as to our blessing, but there was to be a seed like the stars for multitude, but that is not “one.” What you get in chap. 22 is, “because thou hast done this thing,” when Isaac was offered up, “and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice.” The promise was given to Abram and confirmed to Christ the seed: it was never given to Abram and the seed, but confirmed to the seed. The offering up of Isaac was the occasion, for then the promise was given in resurrection, and it is confirmed to the seed. You do get Abram and his seed when you come to the land. In Gal. 3 change the order of the words, “Now to Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed,” and he says, “if it be a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulled or addeth thereto,” &c. He insists that you cannot have the law along with Christ: “now to Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed,” which is Christ, and the promise which was confirmed before of God to Christ, the law which was 430 years after cannot annul. When God has confirmed it, you cannot disannul it, nor can you add to it. You must take the promises as they come: this is true of man's covenant, much more of God's.
Another thing is, that the promise was absolutely without condition; the law brought them under conditions, there were two parties to it; but there are not two to this covenant—it is an absolute promise without any condition whatever. “So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken unto him, and Lot went with him,” and so on. “And the Canaanite was then in the land, and the Lord appeared unto Abram and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land, and there builded he an altar unto the Lord who appeared unto him.” There I get another thing: not only God appeared to him and called him, but God reveals Himself to him in the place of promise, and this makes worship. He is in the place promised, though he had not got it yet; and there he builds an altar. Then he goes about to a mountain on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west and Hai on the east, and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord. There we have Abram's history as the child of faith and as the father of the faithful. The rest of the chapter is his failure as the child of faith and what comes of it. “And Abram journeyed going on still towards the south, and there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there.” He has not consulted the Lord; but he tells Sarai to say that she is his sister—a kind of picture of the way in which the church has denied her Lord. I think I have found that the woman represents a condition, and a man rather the action in the condition or conduct if you please.
The church is Christ's wife, and has denied its real place and gone into Pharaoh's house. But you will find another thing: the Lord delivers Abram and judges Pharaoh.
“And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south, and Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold, and he went on his journeying from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai, unto the place of the altar which he had made there at the first, and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.” Down in Egypt we have no altar, and no calling on the name of the Lord: God takes care of him and watches over him, but Abram is no worshipper there, nor until he gets back.
He goes down to Egypt, forced, as people say, by circumstances, not in the place of dependence or communion: it is the character of the position. You find the same thing in Jacob,' only he came back to Shechem.
Where you get “all the families of the earth,” it applies to us, though that will be really made good in the millennium in another way. Gal. 3:88And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (Galatians 3:8) says, “The scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying In thee shall all nations be blessed: so then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham,” and thus we come in.
The promise in somewhat different terms is given to Isaac and Jacob; but in Abram is the root of the olive tree, and therefore all the great general principles are found. In Isaac the reason is, “because Abraham obeyed my voice,” whilst in Jacob we see God's dealings with Israel, that is, as to mere general principles. And so about Isaac you have very little given except that he is heir of all his father has, and he is brought up and takes a wife. In the case of Jacob after Sarah's death, it is an earthly picture; there is no resurrection glory or the like.
Now you see Abram had been snared a little in going down into Egypt. It looks like providence and provision. But when he gets back, we come to another principle: a person that had been walking with Abram, not by his own faith, but by Abram's, is before us, and that kind of thing cannot go on forever; that is Lot. And they could not dwell together in the land; so Abram gives up everything. Lot chooses the world; he is a believer, but he “sees the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as thou comest unto Zoar: then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan.” There Lot goes and settles, and loses everything he has, because he was a believer. But in Abram's case, the moment Lot has left him, God says to him, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever, and I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth,” and so on. It is very striking and definite.
Abram did slip a little into what was not the life of faith in the famine, but Lot went quite astray, and he vexed his righteous soul from day to day. Yet it was no thanks to him that his soul was vexed; if he had not gone there, he would not have vexed it. And he is no witness either. They tell him presently “This fellow came in to sojourn, and must needs be a judge.” He had no business to be a judge in Sodom; and he calls them his brethren. “I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly.” His whole place was wrong.
Then again, “Abram removed his tent and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.” There he is living the life of faith, sojourning, and building his altar where he goes.
Next, we see in Abraham power over the world. Lot has been taken prisoner. The four kings beat the five, and Lot was carried off. Abram arms his servants, comes upon them, gets the victory and Lot's things back. But he will not take from a thread to a shoe latchet; he will have nothing to say to it at all. And then we get Melchizedek, and a millennial picture. You have the heir of faith beating his enemies entirely, and then, looking at it as the accomplishment of victory, Melchizedek comes forth to meet him, and says, “Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be the Most High God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand.” It is the final triumph in that way, looked at typically, with Christ as Melchizedek, coming out to bless upward and bless downward: just what Christ will be in that day. Thus viewed, Abram represents Israel, I have no doubt, in that day; but Christ will come with the armies of heaven. The history of Lot comes in here, by the way, just showing that the believer, if in the world (or with it I mean), has no power against it.
Melchizedek's priesthood is special; but we have had an altar before. There is no establishment of a family priesthood yet. Abram as the head was the natural person in the family to be priest, and they were all living in families; whoever was head would offer. Abel was not the head of a family, but he offered, as Noah did; and Melchizedek also.
Here we have immense principles: a person justified by faith, called out from the world, having no altar while in Egypt, and, when back in the land, no possession but only a tent, and with that an altar—great principles of the life of faith; and in chapter 14 a typical expression of what has yet to come on earth, a royal priest at once in Melchizedek.