What a lot of names! Why is all this included in God’s Word? It may describe the historical context of God’s unfolding purpose of providing salvation for sinners, but what does it say to us? The inclusion of so many obscure names emphasizes that everyone – however obscure – is important. ‘God so loved the world’ (John 3:16) – not only the ‘important’ people but all people. Names are important to God. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls His sheep ‘by name’ (John 10:3). Among the many names there is an interesting reference to ‘Nimrod, the first mighty warrior on the earth…a mighty hunter whom the Lord blessed’ (8-9). First among ‘the cities of his kingdom’ was ‘Babylon’ (10). Alarm bells ring! – Babylon’s rebellion! The privilege of God’s blessing brings the responsibility of maintaining His blessing. We must be ‘mighty warriors’ for God (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:10-20).
Human pride sets itself up against the authority of God. This is the oft-repeated story of the ‘Tower of Babel’. The end of godless men is sure – ‘Tower and temple, fall to dust’ (Church Hymnary, 405). Sin can be analyzed psychologically in terms of the human attitude of proud independence – ‘let us make a name for ourselves’ (5), sociologically in terms of sin’s pervasive influence on a whole society (this was the sin of a whole society), and theologically in terms of the divine judgment which human sin brings upon itself (5-9). What a contrast there is between the Tower of Babel and the great declaration of Proverbs 18:10 – ‘The Name of the Lord is a strong tower’. In Babel there is scattering (9). In the Lord, there is safety – ‘A righteous man runs to it and is safe’. Do not imagine yourself to be strong (Proverbs 18:11). True strength is in Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:27).
Another list of names! Again, there is something here for us – God is moving on. These many names summarize the times between Noah and Abraham. We must look beyond this list of names. We must see them in connection with His Story. History can be tedious, until we see it as His Story. From the human standpoint, things seem to have come to a dead end: ‘Now Sarai was barren; she had no child’ (30). There are, however, no dead ends when God is at work. From verse 30, we move on to 12:1-3. We read on though the story of Abraham. We learn of the faith of Sarah and the faithfulness of God (Hebrews 11:11-12). We follow the Story on to Christ, who is the fulfilment of the promise given to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16). This is the Story of ‘the God of Abraham’, the ‘God of love’. Through Christ our Saviour, we will ‘sing the wonders of His grace for ever more’ (Church Hymnary, 358).