Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for January 28

Here’s the Explore the Bible Sunday School lesson commentary for Jan. 28, written by Douglas K. Wilson, Ph.D. professor of biblical studies, University of Mobile.

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for January 28

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By Douglas K. Wilson, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical Studies, University of Mobile


Genesis 11:1–9

God gave clear instructions for humanity to spread across the earth in order to steward His creation. Genesis 1:28 establishes God’s plan, which He reiterates when Noah and his family are the lone survivors of the worldwide flood (9:1, 7).

The descendants of Noah succeeded with being fruitful and multiplying, eventually becoming the 70 people groups that came from the Shemites, Hamites and Japhethites. The family heads of these clans are listed in Genesis 10, often referred to as the Table of Nations.

United (1–4)

Genesis 11 begins with the description of a unified people — one place, one language, one goal. They are intent on following their own agenda, rather than the instructions of their Creator. Rather than focusing on bearing God’s image and bringing God glory throughout His world, they choose to exalt themselves and attempt to approach God on their own terms.

The people at Shinar are united in their conspiracy. “Let us build … a city and a tower with its top in the sky. … Let us make a name for ourselves.” Why conspire together? They are united in their rebellion against God. Rather than following God’s clear instruction to fill the earth, they conspire to settle together for their own glory.

Acts 2–7 parallels Genesis in some ways. First, the people are unified, even though they speak diverse languages in Acts.

Second, they stay in one place until an outside catalyst dispersed them. Third, God is glorified through the dispersion.

Reviewed (5–7)

God reviews what humanity is doing at Shinar. Building the city and the tower were not on the agenda. As the people work together with one language and one mindset, there is no telling how wicked their imaginings and their activities will become. Genesis 6:5 and 8:21 already record that the thoughts and intents of humanity are constantly devising wickedness. How much more wickedness would they plan in unified rebellion?

As an act of grace upon humanity, the Godhead confers and determines to confuse humanity through diverse languages. God’s plan will be accomplished, and humanity will be dispersed around the globe.

Dispersed (8–9)

In the earliest Semitic language, the name Bab-El means “door to God.” Evidently, the inhabitants and the builders intend to approach God or “the heavens” (in some translations “sky”) on their own terms. Humanity can only come to God on His terms.

The word for “confuse” in Hebrew (balal) sounds similar to the name of the city Babel (Babylon).

Like many other Old Testament narratives, word plays are creatively incorporated into the storyline.

Linguistic evidence from the Ancient Near East seems to indicate that after the rise of Sumerian writing, other language systems developed using Sumerian forms but representing entirely new language families.

This may illustrate epigraphic evidence for a confusion of earlier language, though no archeological artifacts empirically can “prove” the activity of God.

As Bible study groups and individual Christians study this passage, they would do well to remember the following: 1. Languages are a gift from God. 2. Language study should ultimately be intended for gospel communication. 3. Jesus commissioned believers to make disciples of all the nations. 4. People from every tribe and tongue and language and nation will be among the redeemed (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).