God makes Everything
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Genesis chapters 1-11
This commentary has been through Advanced Theological Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
Many people think that Moses wrote Genesis. If he did, other people probably helped him. And if he did, he may have used some of the words of previous writers. The people who wrote Genesis wrote it in the ancient *Hebrew language. This language is like the modern *Hebrew language, which people speak in the country Israel today.
The word ‘Genesis’ means ‘beginning’. Chapter 1 tells us what God did in the beginning. There were no people until God made them. Therefore no people saw what God did in the beginning. Afterwards, God showed to people what he had done. And people wrote it in books. Peter, who lived at the same time as Jesus, tells us this. He is writing about the first part of the Bible (the Old Testament). He writes, ‘Men whom the Holy Spirit guided spoke words from God.’ (2 Peter 1:21) That is true for the whole Old Testament. Genesis is a part of the Old Testament. So we know that people wrote Genesis. But it is also true that the words of Genesis came from God.
In Genesis, God tells us about himself. He tells us how he deals with people. He also tells us about men and women. And he tells us that many people were very wicked. But some people trusted God and some people obeyed him.
In the first chapter of Genesis, God tells us how he made everything. This is not a scientific study. God does not speak only to scientists. He speaks to everyone. God shows to everyone what he has done. And he does this by words that everyone can understand. God has made it simple.
‘The sky and the earth’ means everything. God made the sky and the earth out of nothing. Before he did that, only God existed.
‘To create’ means to make something that is completely new. This chapter uses the word ‘create’ in only 3 verses. In verse 1, God created the sky and the earth. In verse 21, he created the first animals. In verse 27, he created people.
God made light because it would be necessary later. Later, he made plants. Plants cannot grow if there is no light. Later, he made animals and men. They cannot see if there is no light.
The story that is in this chapter has 6 parts. This verse is the end of the first part. Each part is called a day. Some people think that God made everything in 6 ordinary days. But the *Hebrew word for ‘day’ occasionally means an age. Some people think that God made everything in 6 long periods of time.
‘And there was evening and there was morning.’ Some people think that this means an ordinary evening and an ordinary morning. If that is true, the 6 days must be 6 ordinary days. But perhaps it means, ‘One age ended and a new age began.’ And so, the 6 days may mean 6 ages.
The space is the sky or the atmosphere. The ‘waters above the space’ may be outer space. That is where the sun and the stars are. The ‘waters under the space’ are the seas.
The earth produced grass and plants and trees. But God controlled everything that happened.
God had not yet made animals and people. Later, when he made them, they would need periods to be active and periods to rest. So God made the sun and the moon divide time into days and months and years.
God created animals. Animals were a new kind of living thing. They were quite different from plants. Animals have minds. Minds were a new kind of thing. Some of the animals lived in the sea. Some large animals lived in the sea. Some of the animals that God made were birds.
People are images of God. This does not mean that man’s body is like God. Man’s body is like an animal. But man’s spirit is like God. And so man can know God.
God said, ‘Let us make people.’ He did not say, ‘I will make people.’ Perhaps he said ‘us’ because he is 3 persons. He is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And he is also one God. But it is more likely that this is not the reason. The *Hebrew word that means ‘God’ is like a plural word. Perhaps that is why God called himself ‘we’.
God created people. To create means to make something that is completely new.
God told people to rule over the earth and the sea and the birds and the animals. Therefore, we are responsible for the whole earth. We must look after it and we must take care of it. That is part of our duty to God.
God gave plants to people as food. Later, God gave animals to people as food too. (See Genesis 9:3.)
Everything was truly very good. God himself said so. But after that time, evil things came into the world. The devil, who is called Satan, persuaded man and woman to do wrong things. (See Genesis 3:1-6.)
When God had created everything, he rested. That means that he did not create anything else. It does not mean that he did no more work. Genesis tells us that God did many more things.
Many people nowadays keep one day in each week special. Some keep the first day special, because Jesus Christ rose from death on the first day. Other people keep the seventh day in each week as a special day.
Chapter 1 told us the story about how God made everything. Chapter 2 tells us more details about how God made people. And it tells us about the garden that God made for his people.
The plants that man needed for his food were not growing. There were two reasons for this.
· There was not enough water for them. But God could send that.
· There was nobody to look after them. And man could do that.
So God sent water (in verse 6) and he put man in the garden (in verses 7-8). God’s work and man’s work were both necessary. In many things that we do, God’s work and man’s work are both necessary.
‘God made a man out of dust.’ So he made man’s body out of things that he had already made. ‘He blew the breath of life into him.’ This means that he made man alive. If an animal has breath, it is alive.
But the *Hebrew word that means ‘breath’ also means ‘spirit’. So this verse also means that God put man’s spirit into man’s body. Man is different from animals because he has a spirit. That is why man is like God. (See Genesis 1:26.)
We do not know much about these two special trees. (See Genesis 3:22 and the comment.)
People used ‘spice’ to give more flavour to food. ‘Onyx’ is a special stone. We do not know where rivers Pishon and Gihon were. Rivers called Tigris and Euphrates flow through the country that today is Iraq.
We can be sure that God made this tree for a good purpose. Perhaps he intended that men and women should eat its fruit later, at the right time. But it certainly made Adam and Eve distinguish between good things and evil things. (See the comment to Genesis 3:22.)
‘If you eat that fruit, you will certainly die.’ The *Hebrew words say, ‘In the day when you eat it you shall die.’ But the real meaning of this is, ‘Certainly when you eat it you shall die.’ Adam and Eve did eat the fruit. (See Genesis 3:6.) They certainly did die, although they did not die immediately. However, ‘die’ might mean that their spirit would die then. Their body would die later.
A ‘helper’ means a person who will work together with another person. It does not mean a servant or a slave. We know that because the word ‘helper’ can mean God. Exodus 18:4 says, ‘My father’s God was my helper.’ And the *Hebrew word for ‘helper’ is the same word.
God had told man to rule over all the animals. (See Genesis 1:28.) So God did not give names to the animals. God let man do that.
‘Adam’ is a *Hebrew word that means ‘a man’. It is also the name of the first man.
None of the animals was a suitable helper because they are not like man. God made man as an image of himself. Man is similar to God. Man has a spirit but animals do not have spirits. (See Genesis 1:26 and the comment.) Man rules over the animals and he looks after them. (See Genesis 1:28 and the comment.) And when man works with animals, they are his servants. So they are not the helpers that man needs.
The bone was a rib. A rib is a thin bone in the upper part of the body.
‘This is my bone’ means, ‘This was my bone until God changed it. And ‘it is part of my body’ means, ‘This was part of my body until God changed it.’
The *Hebrew word for ‘woman’ sounds like the word for ‘man’.
‘The two people become one body.’ From the beginning, God intended that a man should have only one wife. But after this time many men had several wives. And from the beginning, God intended that a man and his wife should stay together. But after this time some people divorced each other. (See Deuteronomy 24:1-4.) Jesus referred to this verse (Genesis 2:24) and he said that people should not divorce. (See Matthew 19:5-6, or read all of Matthew 19:3-9.)
An ordinary snake could not do what this snake did. The devil, who is called Satan, used the snake to speak to Eve. Genesis does not mention the devil, but other parts of the Bible mention him. (See Revelation 20:1-3.)
The woman started by saying what God did allow. God allowed Adam and Eve to eat almost all the fruit that was in the garden. (See Genesis 2:16.) The snake said only what God did not allow (in verse 1). There was only one tree that they must not touch. But the snake mentioned that one tree and he did not mention all the other trees.
The devil often works like that. He wants people to think about the things that they must not do. And he wants people to forget all the good things that God has given. We should thank God for all those good things. That will help us to remember them.
‘You will not die.’ It was true that they would not die immediately. But they would deserve to die. They would die unless God rescued them. And God had a plan to rescue them. God mentioned this plan in verse 15. See the comment on verse 15. Also see the comment on Genesis 2:17.
‘You will distinguish things clearly.’ This does not mean that they would see more clearly. It means that they would know the difference between good things and evil things.
The woman decided what was good. She should not have done that. God decides what is good. And the woman’s decision was different from what God had said.
Adam and Eve knew that they had done a wrong thing. Their wrong deed separated them from God. They did not want to meet God. That is why they hid themselves. But they could not hide from God.
If we do a wrong thing, our wrong deed separates us from God. Then we need God to forgive us. We need to ask him to forgive us. He will forgive us because Jesus has taken the blame for our wrong deeds.
‘Where are you?’ God knew where they were. But God said this because he wanted them to speak to him.
Adam did not say, ‘I have eaten the fruit of the tree that you forbade us to eat.’ And he did not say, ‘I am sorry.’ If we do a wrong thing, we should tell God. We should tell him that we have done it. He knows already, but we should tell him. And we should tell him that we are sorry.
‘Have you eaten the fruit?’ God knew that they had eaten it. He knows everything that we do. But he wanted Adam and Eve to tell him what they had done. That is why he asked these questions.
Adam did not want to confess what he had done. So he did not say, ‘Yes’. Instead, he tried to blame God. He said, ‘You gave to me the woman who tempted me.’
‘What have you done?’ God knew what she had done. But he wanted her to confess. And he wanted her to say that she was sorry. She did confess what she had done. She tried to blame the snake. She did not say that she was sorry.
The words ‘you shall eat dust’ mean that the snake will always have its head low in the dust. And everything that it eats will have dust on it.
This verse seems to say that snakes would hurt people. And it seems to say that people would kill snakes. Perhaps it means that. But, if it means that, it has a more important meaning too.
The devil was using the snake. (See the comment on verse 1.) So the first half of this verse means that people and the devil would be enemies.
In the second half of the verse, God says that a man will hurt the devil’s head. A hurt of the head means a hurt that will cause death. And he says that the devil will hurt the man’s foot. A hurt of the foot means a hurt that will not cause death. So the devil would cause damage but he would lose the fight. This has happened in many ways at many times.
Jesus Christ was a *descendant of Eve. And when Jesus died, the devil made him suffer great injury and pain. We might say, ‘The devil hurt his foot.’ But Jesus won the fight against the devil. So we might say, ‘Jesus hurt the devil’s head.’ And God promised that, when he spoke to Adam and Eve. That is a part of what God meant.
Man and woman turned themselves away from God. But God had a plan to bring men and women back to himself. It was God’s plan that Jesus would come into the world. And God made a promise about this to Adam and Eve. But he did not explain it clearly at that time. He explained it more clearly afterwards.
God intended to give good things to people. He intended to show to people how they could live well on the earth. But Adam and Eve did not obey God. They did what he had told them not to do. That spoiled God’s plans. Therefore, people would not have all the good things from God. They would not have plenty to eat. And they would have to work very hard.
‘Thorns’ and ‘thistles’ are two kinds of plant. They have sharp points. One cannot eat them.
‘I made you out of the dust on the ground.’ God made man’s body out of the things that he had already made. But he created man’s spirit out of nothing. (See Genesis 2:7 and the comment.)
Adam and Eve had turned themselves away from God. What they had done spoiled God’s plans. But it did not change God’s *command. God had said, ‘Have large families. Increase so that you fill the earth.’ (See Genesis 1:28.) So Eve was still the mother of everyone who would be born after this time. And God provided clothes for them so that they could continue their lives.
The name ‘Eve’ is like the word that means ‘alive’.
When Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit, they knew something. They knew that that they had not obeyed God. They knew that this deed had separated them from God. They knew that their deed was evil. So they could distinguish good things and evil things. And the tree was truly ‘the tree that makes you distinguish good things and evil things’.
Cherubim are servants of God who live in heaven. They are greater than the *angels.
Eve said, ‘By the *Lord’s help’. So Adam and Eve still knew God. And God still helped them. But they did not meet God as they had done in the garden.
We do not know why Cain’s *offering did not please God. These are two possible reasons.
· Perhaps the reason was that Cain did not offer an animal. Later, people killed sheep or cows as *offerings to God. These *offerings were important because they were signs of Christ’s death. Christ died as an *offering to God.
· But, if that was a reason, there was probably another reason too. God saw that Abel trusted him. (See Hebrews 11:4.) And God saw that Cain had evil thoughts in his mind. (See 1 John 3:12.) We cannot serve God if we have evil things in our minds.
Cain was angry. That was an evil thing, but God did not accuse him. Instead, God offered to accept Cain. So when we do wrong things, God does not accuse us. Instead, he asks us to come back to him. If we do that, he accepts us.
Adam and Eve had not obeyed God. (See Genesis 3:6.) That was the first evil deed. Then Cain did another evil deed. After that, evil things spread through the earth.
‘Where is Abel your brother?’ God knew what Cain had done. He knew that Abel was dead. But God wanted Cain to speak to him about it.
Cain deserved to die, but God did not kill Cain. Instead, he sent Cain away so that Cain would not kill anyone else. And God protected Cain so that nobody else would kill Cain. (See verse 15.) So Cain might think about the evil deed that he had done. He might be truly sorry and God would forgive him.
Cain was not sorry. He thought about himself. He did not think about Abel, whom he had killed. But God still protected Cain because he might be truly sorry later.
This verse tells us that there were other people on the earth in addition to Adam, Eve and Cain. Adam and Eve had other children. (See Genesis 5:4.) One child of Adam and Eve became Cain’s wife. (See verse 17.)
‘Cain went away from the *Lord.’ God is everywhere. God was in Nod. So Cain did not escape from God when he went to Nod. But Cain left God out of his life. That is what this verse means. If we give honour to God, he is with us everywhere. But if we do evil deeds, we can turn ourselves away from God.
Cain certainly had many other sons and daughters before he built the city. He built the city after he had lived in Nod for many years.
This Enoch is not the same person as the Enoch that Genesis 5:18-24 mentions. And this Lamech is not the same person as the Lamech that Genesis 5:25-31 mentions.
We do not know whether this list of names is complete. Perhaps it leaves out some names. The word ‘son’ in the Bible sometimes means ‘grandson’ and it sometimes means ‘*descendant’. (For example, Jesus was called ‘David’s son’. But there were many fathers and sons between king David and Jesus.)
God had said, ‘A man and his wife join. Then the two people become one body.’ (See Genesis 2:24.) So God intended that a man should have only one wife. Lamech was the first man to have more than one wife. After this time, Abraham had an extra wife. (See Genesis 16:1-2.) And Jacob married both Leah and Rachel in addition to 2 extra wives. (See Genesis 29:21-30.) God did not say in Genesis that to marry more than one wife was wrong. But it caused much trouble.
Harps and flutes are musical instruments. A harp has many strings. It produces sound when somebody touches the strings. A flute is a tube with holes. It produces sound when somebody blows air across one hole.
Lamech repeated what God had said about Cain. (See verse 15.) But Lamech said that he punished more severely than God does. He meant that he was stronger than God is. Lamech was proud of this. But God did not punish him immediately.
‘Seth’ means ‘given’.
‘Men began to pray to the *Lord.’ When Adam and Eve were in the garden, they talked with God. Then their evil deed separated them from God. Cain turned away from God and so he did not pray. Abel might have prayed, but he was dead. But Seth and Enosh and other people prayed. People again talked with God.
When Genesis describes two families, it first describes the less important one. And after that, it describes the more important one. So it describes the family of Adam’s son, Cain, in Genesis 4:17-22. And in this chapter, it describes the family of Adam’s other son, Seth. Cain was older than Seth. But Cain was less important because he was not sorry for his evil deeds.
This chapter describes God’s work and man’s work. God’s work was to create man. (See verses 1-2.) Man’s work was to increase so as to fill the earth. That was God’s *command. (See Genesis 1:28.)
We do not know whether this list of names is complete. Perhaps it leaves out some names. For example, verse 6 may mean, ‘Seth lived for 105 years and then he became a father. And one *descendant of Seth was Enosh.’ And other verses may have a similar meaning. (See the comment on Genesis 4:18-22.)
Genesis tells us that ancient people had very long lives. They were much longer than modern people’s lives.
Enoch did not die. Instead, God took him into heaven. (See Hebrews 11:5.) The Bible tells us about one other person who did not die. That was Elijah. God took Elijah into heaven. (See 2 Kings 2:1, 11.)
This Lamech is not the same person as the Lamech that Genesis 4:23-24 mentions.
This does not mean that Shem, Ham and Japheth were born at the same time. This verse probably means, ‘Noah lived for 500 years and then he became the father of Shem. And in the next few years he became the father of Ham and of Japheth.’
We do not know who ‘the sons of God’ were. Some people suggest that they were *angels. Those people think that 2 Peter 2:4 tells us this. But perhaps the ‘sons of God’ were *descendants of Seth who married *descendants of Cain.
Two different meanings of this verse are possible.
· Some people think that God made people’s lives shorter. People’s lives had been much longer than this. (See for example Genesis 5:27.) Instead of that, people’s lives after this time would be 120 years or less.
· A different meaning of this verse is possible. God said that he would wait for 120 years. During those 120 years, people would continue to live. And during those 120 years, God would look at people. He would decide whether any people were good. If he found any good people, he would save them. He decided to save Noah and his family. (See verse 8.) But everyone else died in the flood. Compare this with the story that Jesus told about crops and bad plants. (See Matthew 13:24-30.) The farmer did not remove the bad plants, because good crops were among them. He waited until the harvest. God does not remove evil things immediately when good things are among them. He waits until the right time. So he waited for 120 years and he did not remove evil men immediately. He waited until the right time. In that way, he could save Noah and his family.
God made people who were images of himself. So people were like God. God is good. So people were good. God can do anything. So people could choose what they would do. And people chose to do things that God had forbidden. That was the beginning of the evil things that men did. After that, men became more wicked.
God was extremely sad. God is a judge. He removes things that are evil. But he loves everything that he has made. Especially, he loves people. He is very sad when he has to kill people.
‘There was no blame on him.’ This does not mean that Noah was perfect. He had certainly done things that were wrong. But he was a good man. And God had forgiven any wrong things that Noah had done.
When God made everything, it was very good. (See Genesis 1:31.) But when Noah lived, everything was evil. This change started when Adam and Eve did not obey God. (See Genesis 3:17-19.) The effect of their deed spread to everything.
The *ark was a very big box that floated on water. It was like a ship. We do not know what kind of wood ‘gopher wood’ was. Bitumen is a black substance that people find in the ground. People put it on cracks in ships so that the ships do not leak.
The *ark had to be big so that there was room for many animals and for their food. Noah must have taken many years to build such a large thing. And he must have trusted God completely. Otherwise, he would not carry out such a big task.
‘Finish the roof to half a metre at the top.’ We do not know what this means. Perhaps it means, ‘Make a gap at the top. The width of the gap must be half a metre.’ The gap would let air blow into the *ark. And it would let light come into the *ark.
God told Noah to take pairs of animals. Each pair was a male and a female. God did not tell Noah at this time how many pairs he should take. Later, God explained more details to Noah. Then he told Noah to take 7 pairs of some kinds of animals. (See Genesis 7:2.)
God chose Noah from among the people who were alive at that time. God chose Noah so that Noah could live a good life with God.
‘Clean’ animals were ones that people ate. For example, people ate the meat of sheep and cows. So sheep and cows were ‘clean’ animals. There were some animals that people did not eat. So they were not ‘clean’ animals.
Many years later, God gave to Moses a list of ‘clean’ animals and ‘unclean’ (not clean) animals. (See Leviticus 11:1-47.) In Noah’s time, people already called some animals ‘clean’. But Genesis does not use the word ‘unclean’.
So Noah took pairs of every kind of animal. But he took more of the ‘clean’ animals. He took 7 pairs of the ‘clean’ animals.
‘Noah went into the *ark in order to escape.’ Noah and his family were safe because they were in the *ark. They had done what God told them to do.
We shall be safe if we are ‘in Christ’. We must trust Christ, as God tells us to do. So the *ark helps us to know about Christ.
Verses 8, 14
For ‘clean’ animals, see the comment on verse 2.
Many years later, Jesus Christ used this event to teach people. It tells us about the end of the world. (See Matthew 24:37-39.) Before the flood, people lived in an ordinary way. They ate and they drank. They married wives. They did not know that the flood would come. Then the flood came and it killed them. Jesus said that the end of the world will be like that. People who do not know God will live in an ordinary way. They will eat and they will drink. They will marry wives. They will not know that Jesus will come back again. And what happens then will be like the flood. But anybody who continues to trust God will be safe. (See Matthew 24:13.)
For ‘clean’ animals, see the comment on verse 2.
‘God remembered Noah.’ This does not mean that God forgot Noah until this time. It means that at this time God acted to help Noah.
‘Mount Ararat’ means the mountains that are in the east part of the modern country Turkey.
A raven is a black bird that can live on mountains. It can eat dead animals. There were dead animals on the mountains. So the raven found enough food and it did not return to the *ark.
A dove is a bird that likes to live in valleys. The dove returned because the water still covered the valleys.
The kind of tree was an ‘olive’ tree. Nowadays people use a picture of a dove that carries a leaf of an olive tree. It is a sign that means ‘peace’.
An *altar was a pile of stones like a table. Noah made a fire on the *altar and he burned the animals. They were a gift to God. Many ancient people burned animals. They were *offerings to God.
The animals died as a sign that Christ would die on the cross. Nowadays, we put our trust in Christ, who saves us. God’s ancient people did not know about Christ. So God told them to kill animals as *offerings. Each animal that they killed was a sign of Christ.
For ‘clean’ see the comment on Genesis 7:2.
Before the flood, all people were evil except for Noah and his family. (See Genesis 6:12.) God killed the evil people. But God knew that people would still be evil. Good people and bad people will live together while the earth remains.
‘I will never again make the ground produce little.’ God had done this in the time of Adam and Eve. (See Genesis 3:17.) He decided that he would not do it again.
God began to teach men that blood is especially important. Later, he taught this to men in other ways. (See Exodus 12:7, 13.) Blood is especially important because it is a sign of Jesus’ death. Jesus died so that he could remove our blame. When he died, he gave his blood for us. Jesus has saved those who trust him. Jesus’ blood is a sign that he has saved them.
People are very important to God. He said clearly that no-one may kill a person. And God explained an extra reason for this. People are images of God. (See Genesis 1:26.) Therefore, if one kills a person, that is an attack on God.
‘If anyone kills a man, a man shall kill him.’ So people would kill a killer. God did not say that it was wrong. But we may want to know whether it is right nowadays. For that, we must study also what other parts of the Bible say. We must not decide that from this verse only.
For ‘clean’ animals see the comment on Genesis 7:2.
An agreement is different from a promise. God made promises to people and he also made agreements with people. He made this firm agreement with Noah. And later he made a firm agreement with Abraham. (See Genesis 15:18.)
When two people agree with each other, there is an agreement. Both people must agree. But God is the God who can do anything. He can do what he wants to do. And he can do it when people do not agree. But he chose to meet Noah as one person meets another person. As two people may make an agreement, so God and Noah made an agreement.
God often meets us as one person meets another person. Abraham was called ‘God’s friend’. (See James 2:23.) God used to speak to Moses as a man speaks to his friend. (See Exodus 33:11.) And Jesus said, ‘Whoever obeys God is my brother or my sister or my mother.’ (See Matthew 12:50.) We must obey God. But God meets us as if we were his friends or his relatives.
This may not mean that God put his rainbow in the cloud for the first time. Perhaps there had been rainbows before and Noah had seen them. But before this time the rainbow was not a sign. God told Noah that the rainbow would be a sign of his firm agreement with all people and animals. It was a firm agreement that God would not again destroy all people and animals by a flood.
‘Canaan’ in this chapter is a person’s name. After this, *Canaan is also the name of a country.
A vine is a kind of plant. People make wine out of the fruits of vines.
‘Then he knew what his youngest son had done to him.’ But Noah’s youngest son was Japheth. And what Japheth did was not wrong. And verse 25 shows us that Canaan had done something wrong. So ‘his youngest son’ may mean Noah’s grandson, Canaan. The *Hebrew word for ‘son’ also means ‘grandson’. And so the word ‘son’ in the Bible sometimes means ‘grandson’. (For example, Jesus was called ‘David’s son’. But there were many fathers and sons between David and Jesus.) But we do not know what Canaan did to Noah.
Genesis tells us the less important families first. After that, it tells us the more important ones. Shem’s family is the most important because Shem was the oldest son. So Genesis tells us the family of the youngest son, Japheth, first. Then it tells us the family of Ham. When it has done that, it tells us the more important family of Shem.
‘Egypt’ and ‘Canaan’ in this chapter are people’s names. After this chapter, they are names of countries.
Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites were *tribes that were *descendants of Canaan.
‘Peleg’ means ‘division’.
‘The earth was divided.’ We do not know what that means.
This verse tells us that all people spoke one language. But chapter 10 tells us that people spoke many languages. (See Genesis 10:5, 20, 31.) And chapter 10 is before chapter 11. There are two possible explanations for this.
· Genesis usually tells us things in the order that they happened. But sometimes it does not do this. Perhaps this verse tells us about an earlier time.
· Perhaps people spoke different languages. But there was also one language that they all understood. So they all had one language in addition to their own languages. That is often true nowadays. For example, some people speak English in addition to their own language. And if they meet people with a different language, they speak English. And so they understand each other.
The people made bricks out of clay. Clay is a kind of soil. If clay is wet, one can form it into bricks. Sometimes people let the sun dry the bricks so that they become hard. Then they use the bricks to make buildings. But these people burned their bricks. That means that they dried them by a fire. When the bricks became very hot, they became very hard and strong. So after the bricks cooled, people could make very tall buildings.
Bitumen is a black substance that people find in the ground. People also use it in ships. They put it on cracks in ships so that the ships do not leak. Noah put bitumen on the *ark. (See Genesis 6:14.)
What the people did was evil. It is not evil to build a city. But they tried to show that they were important. They did not give honour to God. And they thought that they were more important than God.
God said, ‘Let us go.’ He did not say, ‘I will go.’ Perhaps he said ‘us’ because he is 3 persons. He is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And he is also one God. But it is more likely that this is not the reason. The *Hebrew word that means ‘God’ is like a plural word. Perhaps that is why God called himself ‘we’. (See Genesis 1:26 and the comment.)
We do not know how God confused their language. It is possible that people spoke different languages. But they all spoke one language in addition to their own languages. (See verse 1 and comment.) So perhaps when God confused their language he made them forget that one language. Therefore, they could not understand each other.
The people called the city ‘Babel’. That could mean ‘the gate to God’. The people thought that its top would reach heaven. (See verse 4.) But ‘Babel’ also means ‘confusion’.
So the people did not have the things that they wanted. They wanted a city where they could live together. But God made them scatter. They wanted a tall building. But they did not complete it. And they wanted to show that they were important. But their plans failed because their plans were different from God’s plans.
Nahor’s brother Haran died. After that, Nahor married Haran’s daughter Milcah. So Nahor married his niece. In those times, a man would marry his niece if her father had died.
We do not know where Ur was. A city in east Mesopotamia was called Ur. (Mesopotamia is the country that is between the river Tigris and the river Euphrates. Nowadays it is mostly in the countries Iraq and Syria.) That city Ur is about 1000 kilometres (600 miles) from Haran. Many people think that Abram was born there. But that city Ur would not be called ‘a city in Chaldea’. It is in east Mesopotamia, but the Chaldea was in the west part of Mesopotamia. And Abram called the west of Mesopotamia ‘my country’. That seems to mean that he was born in the west of Mesopotamia. (See Genesis 24:4.) So it is more likely that Abram’s city Ur was near to Haran. Perhaps it is the same as Urfa. That is 30 kilometres (20 miles) to the north of Haran.
‘They set out together to go into the country that is called *Canaan.’ They probably did not know that they would go to *Canaan. This is probably a short way to say, ‘They set out together on a journey. And the journey ended in the country that is called *Canaan.’ That is likely for this reason. In Genesis 12:1, God says to Abram, ‘Go to the country that I will show to you.’ So Abram probably did not know what country that was. He did not know until God showed him.
We do not know why Terah and Abram left Ur. Perhaps God told them to do so.
‘Haran’ was the name of a man. He was a brother of Abram. (See verse 27.) And ‘Haran’ was also the name of a city. It was the city where Terah and his family stayed.
altar ~ a table where one burned an animal as an *offering to God. An altar is usually several large stones that form a pile.
angel ~ a servant of God who brings messages from heaven. The *Hebrew word that means ‘angel’ also means ‘*messenger’.
ark ~ an ark is a box. The ark in Genesis was a very big box that floated on water like a ship.
Canaan ~ the country where the *Canaanites lived. (See *Canaanites.) It is approximately the same land as the modern country Israel together with the land of the Palestinians.
Canaanites ~ Canaan’s *descendants. Canaan was a grandson of Noah. (See Genesis 9:18.) The word Canaanites included Amorites and Hivites and other nations. (See Genesis 10:16-17.) It sometimes also included other people who lived in the country *Canaan. These people were not *descendants of Canaan.
command ~ to tell people (or a person) that they must do something; to say to people (or to a person) something that they must obey; to control by means of commands. A command is an order that one must obey.
descendants ~ children and grandchildren and later members of the family.
Hebrew ~ the Hebrew people were Abraham and his *descendants. The ancient Hebrew language is the original language of Genesis. It is also the original language of most of the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible). This language is like the modern Hebrew language, which people speak in the country Israel today.
Lord ~ a lord is a person who has authority. ‘The Lord’ means God. It is a translation of God’s name. The *Hebrews wrote God’s name as YHWH. We may write it as Yahweh.
messenger ~ someone who brings a message.
offering ~ a gift to God. An offering may be an animal. People killed the animal and burned it on an *altar.
Philistines ~ people who lived on the coast of the country that is called *Canaan. In the times of Genesis, few Philistines lived in *Canaan. And they were peaceful people. Very many years after that, many more Philistines arrived. They were not peaceful. The modern name ‘Palestine’ comes from the name ‘Philistine’.
pregnant ~ a woman is pregnant when she has a baby in her.
tribe ~ a large group of people who are relatives of each other. Judah’s *descendants were called ‘the tribe of Judah’. In a similar way, each of the 12 sons of Israel became a tribe. But Joseph’s *descendants were not called ‘the tribe of Joseph’. They were the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons.
G. Ch. Aalders ~ A Short Introduction to the Pentateuch ~ Tyndale Press
V. P. Hamilton ~ The Book of Genesis (NICOT) ~ Eerdmans
E. F. Kevan ~ ‘Genesis’, The New Bible Commentary ~ IVF (1953)
G. T. Manley ~ The New Bible Handbook ~ IVF
M. Salisbury (editor) ~ Skills for Translating and Exegeting the Primary Scriptures (STEPS) ~ SIL (CD-ROM)
J. A. Thompson ~ The Bible and Archaeology ~ Paternoster
G. J. Wenham ~ ‘Genesis’, New Bible Commentary 21st Century Edition ~ IVP
Chambers Concise Dictionary
Oxford Bible Atlas ~ Third edition
Logos Bible Computer Software 1.6
Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon
Bibles ~ KJV, NIV, REB, RSV, TEV
© 1997-2004, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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