First: Chapter 10 is so called “chapter of nations”. It describes how all the nations in the world are descended from Noah’s sons. The most successful at first was the family of Ham, who founded powerful cities, nations and cultures. Africa and Palestine belonged to them as well. The family of Japheth spread to the region of the Mediterranean, for instance to Greece and to the north of that. The family of Shem remained relatively small and their territory was a mountainous region between the regions of Ham’s and Japhet’s. But it was of the very descendants of Shem that the seed of the woman and the bruiser of the snake’s head would be born.
Verses 1-3. It was the fifth generation of Noah that started the building of the tower of Babel. It is probable that Nimrod acted only after the tower was already built (10:8-12). Shinar means Sumeria, which is the name of the oldest culture known in Mesopotamia. Now the mass migration to the plain of Shinar had started. Apparently there were descendants of all Noah’s sons and ancestors of Abraham as well among these people.
• Imagine what it was like to live in a world, where people only spoke one language.
• If any of you knows anything about the making of a brick, let us know about it.
• In what respects did the ability to make bricks influence human life?
Verse 4. On a historical preserved tablet one of the kings of Babylon mentions the restoration of the tower of the temple as early as in 2250 B.C. The tower is apparently a step pyramid. On its wall was a stairway leading up to the top where the temple was situated. It may have been situated on the location of the original tower of Babel.
• Why didn’t the people living on the plain of Shinar like the idea of other people moving further around the world?
• How did the building of the tower and the city change the economy of the people living in Shinar.
• What was the connection of the tower and the city?
• What was their political and cultural aim when they started to build the tower?
• In whose honour was the tower built? (Why did mankind all of a sudden want to have a name/ a reputation?)
• What was their aim, when they wanted the top of the tower to reach the heavens? (What was the religious purpose? What does it prove that the Lord wasn’t mentioned at all when planning this project? If they were planning to build a temple on the top of the tower, in whose honour was it?)
• What sort of know-how was needed to be able to build a tower made of bricks as tall as the Stadion tower in Finland, 72 metres? (How much did they need labour or bricks? How did they try to make the tower strong enough to withstand earthquakes etc. etc.)
• Real believers, in other words the descendants of Shem, presumably did not participate in this project. How do you think they felt having to listen to the stories about the tower reaching higher and higher.
• What would have happened to mankind if the building of the tower had succeeded?
• In what different ways has mankind tried to make God useless during its history?
• What are the towers of Babel our generations are trying to build?
Verses 5-7. Language is an extremely important part in both God and human’s being. “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1)
• How did the Lord evaluate mankind's first project together?
• What did the words of the Lord at the end of verse 6 mean?
• Whom does the pronoun “us” refer to in verse 7?
• How do you think the confusion of languages took place in practice?
Verses 8-9. Babil means the gate of gods’ in Akkadian language. In Hebrew babel = to confuse.
• Why didn't God want this mankind’s first big project to succeed?
• The tower must have reached pretty high, but not to the heavens anyway. Why didn’t they complete the building of the city?
• What would have happened to the real believers, if the tower and the city had been made complete?
• Think of positive and negative effects of the confusion of languages on mankind’s history and culture?
• What’s the significance of a language to the identity of man and a nation?
• How did the right and the wrong religion spread when the confusion of languages was taking place?
• Why did idolising spread from the tower of Babel all over the world while only a few stuck with the real faith?
Verses 10-26. (There’s no need to read these verses aloud. It’s enough to look at them in the Bible.)
• What do you notice when you look at the genealogy of Shem?
• Why is there only Shem’s genealogy and not the genealogies of Noah’s other sons? (What is the main point of this genealogy?)
More questions: What sort of comfort does this chapter bring to us, who want to be building God’s temple instead of the tower of Babel?
• What happened to the confusion of languages on the first day of Pentecost?
• Why won’t Jesus come back before all the nations and tongues have heard the gospel? (Approximately how long will it take?)
• A trick question: What language do they speak in Heaven?
Finally: The situation changed completely on the first day of Pentecost. The Christian
Church was established then, and all its members of all nations and tongues were sisters and brothers. Together we build the Kingdom of God and the Temple of the Lord, the Christian Church (The Acts 2:1-11). In Heaven all the tongues are represented and all the redeemed from all the nations praise the slain Lamb in unity - each of them in their own language (Rev. 7:9-10).