Many cultures have creation or migration legends that tell how a people group or nation began. Some skeptics view the table of nations in Genesis 10 this way. Seventy names are listed along with the nations that proceeded from Noah’s descendants. The biblical narrator does not give any indication, however, that this list is legendary or allegorical. The list includes the names of individuals along with some of their accomplishments, including some of the greatest cities in biblical history.
The purpose of the list is to set the stage for the destruction of the Tower of Babel. The overall impression is one of proliferation and growing ambition. In the next chapter this will culminate in an arrogant attempt to supplant God Himself.
Instead of multiplying and filling the earth as they had been commanded (see Gen. 9:1, 7), the men of Babel chose to build a monument to themselves in the form of a city with a tower that reached to the heavens (Gen. 11:4). The function of this tower does not appear to have been for the purpose of worshiping God or even astrological deities. Instead, it was part of their project of self-worship. They were more intent on making a name for themselves than they were on glorifying God’s name. God thwarted their plan by destroying their tower, confusing their language, and scattering the people. This judgment was also a blessing, for it halted their rebellion.
This curse was reversed on the day of Pentecost—not by restoring everyone to a single language, but by allowing everyone to declare the wonders of God in the langue of “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). Despite mankind’s rebellion, God continues to work out His ultimate purpose for His creation. The whole earth will be filled with His glory.
Apply the Word
Have you ever wished that God had placed you in another family? Paul’s words in our key verse for today, Acts 17:26, are also true of our family background. God’s sovereign purpose was at work in selecting our appointed time and place. Pray for each of your family member by name today and ask God to extend His grace to them.