Sabbath School Lesson for April 23-29, 2022

Overview of Lesson 5

In order to understand what happened to the world after the Flood, we examine…

  • the incident concerning Ham in his father’s tent (Sunday)
  • why genealogies are important in the Bible (Monday)
  • what made them desire a Tower on the plain of Shinar (Tuesday)
  • God’s involvement with their unwise scheme (Wednesday)
  • what caused the confusion at Babel and what was the result (Thursday)

So far, Genesis has presented us with individuals to study (Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Seth, and Noah). But our focus now is on groups of people. Noah’s three sons would have families that go their separate ways, and not always in the right, moral direction.

After the Flood, God commanded that they multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1), just as He told Adam and Eve to do in the beginning (Genesis 1:28). But, it seems humanity’s idea of how to achieve that goal often runs counter to God’s benevolent intentions for the earth.

The story of the Tower of Babel shows us that it’s possible to be united for the wrong purpose, causing wickedness to fester and disrupt all those caught in its clutches. Satan likes to see people united against God. But God desires us to use our unity to go out into the world and share the good news of redemption. Had humanity done it God’s way, there would be far less evil in the world, even today.

Memory Text: “Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” Genesis 11:9 NKjV

How merciful of God to once again intervene and do all He could to rectify the mistakes of man. Noah’s son Ham strayed from the careful upbringing of his parents, and his descendants paid for his reckless behavior. Their attempt to make a name for themselves and build a Tower that would reach to heaven almost derailed God’s plan to redeem the world.

God, with His amazing wisdom, however, dramatically corrected the situation in a way that must have shocked even Satan. Confusing their language caused them to scatter and fill the earth. One way or another, God would allow His plans to move forward.

Sunday: The Curse of Ham

We might not at first see the similarities between the stories involving Noah’s son Ham and Adam and Eve, but they share many themes. For instance, fruit was involved in both cases.

God forbade our first parents to eat the fruit of the wrong tree, and God never intended for fruit to be fermented for the purpose of becoming intoxicated, as Noah had. And, of course, there was the resulting nakedness, attempted covering, and curses and blessings that were given at the end.

Even the fact that Ham “saw” his father’s nakedness reminds us how Eve “saw” the forbidden fruit. This helps us understand how Ham’s reaction was so disrespectful. He not only “saw” his father’s predicament, but he ignored doing anything about it, and told his brothers, probably in a mocking, derisive manner (Genesis 9:21, 22).

Honoring our parents is not a commandment to take lightly. It is called the first commandment with promise (Ephesians 6:2). It is followed with the promise of a long life. Our willingness to obey or disobey this commandment has far-reaching outcomes for our descendants. Our choices continue to impact the lives of our children long after we’re gone. And Ham was no exception to this rule.

The curse Noah had for Ham, after he realized what he had done, included Ham’s son Canaan (Genesis 9:25-27). Although the land later called Canaan, after this son, was filled with idolatrous tribes, it became the land of promise for Abraham, and eventually was where the Messiah would be born. The curse of Ham was turned into a blessing for all nations, for all those who accepted His salvation.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 9:18-27

  • Why do you suppose Noah decided to become a farmer?
  • What was wrong with Ham’s reaction when his father became drunk?

Ephesians 6:2 and Exodus 20:12

  • What promise does this commandment bring, and how is it fulfilled?

Monday: The Genesis Genealogy

It is tempting to pass over lists of genealogy in the Bible, without giving them a thought. But they are included for a purpose. Actually, three purposes:

  1. They give historical significance to the events that are recorded. They occurred during times when actual, named people lived on the earth.
  2. The named individuals, presented in order of their existence, provide a link of the past with the present. We can see more clearly when the events in the Bible happened, as related to our own time in history.
  3. And, probably most importantly, they emphasize the tragic result of sin…all these people died. All but a few of them are sleeping in their graves, waiting for either the first or the second resurrection (Revelation 20:6).

The documentation of these patriarchs remind us that the stories in the Bible would have been shared by people who had witnessed, or had close connection with those who had witnessed them. How thrilling it must have been to hear Grandpa Adam, Seth, and others in these genealogical family lists tell stories of actual events that they had personally experienced.

We should remember that these names of patriarchs each represented large families, groups of people that settled in various parts of the world. There are 70 names mentioned in Noah’s genealogy record. These became 70 “nations”.

The number 70 has become a symbol for the unity of humanity. For example, there were 70 members of Jacob’s family when they first settled in Egypt during the famine (Genesis 46:27), with 70 elders of Israel later in the wilderness after their escape (Exodus 24:9). Jesus, also, sent out 70 disciples to evangelize the surrounding areas (Luke 10:1).

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 10

  • What value is there in having a record of the names of these descendants of Noah?

Luke 3:23-38

  • Why does this list show us names, including Noah’s, going backward from Jesus’ birth? How does it verify who Christ was?
  • Why wouldn’t Jesus’ genealogy have been as believable without the genealogical lists that came before it in the Bible?

Tuesday: One Language

Genesis 11:1-4 brings out some interesting observations. The wording in verse 4 reminds us of the language of Genesis, chapter 1. “Let us build ourselves a city”, whereas God said “Let us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26). It is obvious that the city builders here are trying to be God. They had the skills and materials to build a Tower that would reach the heavens, God’s dwelling place.

They not only wanted to make a city and a tower, but they expressly wanted to make a name for themselves, as verse 4 declares. Their efforts demonstrated that they no longer trusted God to keep them safe from another Flood. They believed instead that this Tower would allow them to escape floodwaters. It is an overt measure to save themselves, denying any mercy or salvation that God could provide.

The location of this worksite is interesting. The plain of Shinar is mentioned again in the book of Daniel. Daniel 1:2 says that articles in God’s holy temple were carried by Nebuchadnezzar to the land of Shinar and his own pagan temple there. It could have been the place where the king set up an image on “the plain of Dura”, said to be in Babylon, known as the land of Shinar (Daniel 3:1). Some even speculate that it will be the final battleground of Satan’s army against God in the place called Armageddon (Revelation 16:14-16).

For further insights about what the confusion of Babylon means for us today, see this article:

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 11:1-4 and Genesis 1:26

  • What details here indicate that they were trying to take the place of God?

Genesis 9:1, Genesis 11:4, and John 17:18, 21

  • Why did God want His people to “fill the earth”?
  • Although it appears that unity is desired by God, what was wrong with the unity in Babel?
  • Why does God want His people to be united?

Wednesday: “Let Us Go Down”

A constant theme in the Bible narrative is the idea that God comes down to find and rescue mankind, but we are not always willing to be found. We are often like the builders of the Tower of Babel, wanting to find our own way to God, reaching upward in ways God knows will only lead to our self-destruction.

Genesis 11:5 indicates that this building project had gone too far, and “the Lord came down to see”, to investigate the situation firsthand. What He saw must have been shocking. Their daring exploit would require a bold, swift action. Confusing their language seemed like a reasonable approach that would lead to a halt of the work and eventually a scattering across the land–God’s original desire for Noah’s family.

This kind of dependence on self and rejection of God’s commands was what led to Satan’s expulsion from heaven, to Cain’s unacceptable offering, and to all of man’s tragic choices recorded in the Bible. The builders of the Tower of Babel did make a name for themselves, but it wasn’t a good name. We, hopefully, can learn from their frivolous mistake, and, with God’s help, avoid the pain of unnecessary separation and grief their actions caused.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 11:5-7 and Romans 8:14

  • Who were the builders of the Tower and who was their leader?

Exodus 4:10-12, Psalm 94:9, and Acts 2:4

  • In what ways does God control our speech, and why does He have this power?

Thursday: The Redemption of the Exile

Their stated purpose for building the city and Tower of Babel was to prevent their being “scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). This scattering was exactly what God wished for them to do, however, after the Flood when they left the safety of the ark (Genesis 9:1).

God has a message for the world, and in order to reach everyone, His people must be scattered. When they haven’t done this on their own, God has shown that He has methods to make it happen. In this case, He scattered them by confusing their language. Genesis 11:8, 9 states clearly that the Lord scattered them, lest their unholy kingdom continue to destroy His plans to save the world.

Much later, God chose to scatter His people in Judah and Israel by causing a foreign power to invade and carry them off in exile. Some of those exiles, including Daniel, would be agents of redemption in the places where God caused them to be taken. God sometimes uses tragedies, when necessary, to save His people, either as groups, or individuals.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 11:8, 9, 1:28, and 9:1

  • For what purpose does God expect us to be spread across the globe? Why is this important?

Friday: Conclusion

We were convinced with the study of Noah’s story that God has a plan for each of our lives. His meticulous, detailed directions for how Noah’s family could survive the Flood indicate that our careful attention to His plans deserves consideration as well.

The story of the Tower of Babel is a stark example of what happens when we don’t follow God’s plan. Things can crumble profoundly when we foolishly stray from the will of God and attempt to make changes on our own.

Any line of action that centers too much on self is subject to failure. It’s one thing to strive to be LIKE God–after all, we were made in His image and designed to be close to Him–but another thing, to BE God, to take His place, which is what the builders of Babel attempted to do.

What is forever amazing, however, is the way God repeatedly steps in to correct our mistakes. His mercy draws Him to us, especially when we desire His involvement, and take even a moment to reconsider our selfish choices. But we may still suffer consequences, just as they did when their language was so affected that they had to separate from each other and start their lives over in another part of the world.

Thankfully, for those who desire His assistance, God is there, helping us with our fresh starts…when we are willing to go where He wants us to go.

Next Week: The Roots of Abraham

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