Starting at Genesis 11:10, there is a great shift of focus in the Bible from worldwide, universal events to localized, specific details in the lives of individuals. Up to this point, God has been dealing with mankind in general, no distinction has been made concerning race or ethnicity, but humanity only. Now, the Lord of Heaven will pluck from the tree that contains all the nations of the Earth a single branch with which He will deal directly. God will prune and cultivate this single branch, that is, the nation of Israel, with the purpose of preparing it to bear the Fruit that will come forth from it: the Lord Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah.
The first 11 chapters of Genesis cover the span of possibly billions of years from the very dawn of time until the first part of the life of Abraham. The narrative deals in eras and epochs and speaks of the human condition in general – giving very limited detail whatsoever – moving rapidly from one monumental incident to the next. These chapters, although they literally cover an immensely greater span of time than the entire rest of the Bible combined, are really simply a background given to familiarize the reader of Scripture with the setting against which the remainder of the Word of God will unfold. Even though the details and explanations are often minimal and meager, many of the most perplexing questions and dilemmas that have plagued the thoughts of man since the most ancient of times are summarily resolved within these first 11 chapters of Genesis. Where did man come from? Why are we here? Are we alone in the Universe? Why does there exist a universal yearning in the hearts of all men for spiritual fulfillment – for a connection with our Creator – that seems so impossible to fulfill? What is it that has separated us from the One Who put us here in the first place?
Sin And Judgment
If we were pressed to arrive at a simple, recurring theme throughout these first 11 chapters of the Bible, we could summarize this theme as one of sin and judgment. Since Adam, I think that it would be very hard to find a single, honest individual who did not look at the world around them and conclude that something was very, very wrong. Whether they be men of faith or not, whether they be spiritual, philosophical, contemplative, or simply given to pure logic apart from emotion: most people realize that the world is not the way that it should be. Something has gone terribly wrong. Just about the time that another secular philosopher is ready to again advance the concept of the innate goodness of the heart of man, another catastrophic tragedy grips the headlines and leaves people shaking their heads and wondering what this world is coming to.
But the Bible makes it clear that there has always been evil in the heart of man, since the very beginning. From Adam and Eve’s Fall in the Garden of Eden, to Cain’s murder of Abel, to the people living in the time leading up to the Flood, to the denizens of Babel and their audacious Tower; the case is clearly made that the problem of man is his sin and it is his rebellion that separates him from God. If we learn nothing else from this portion of Scripture, we can be sure of one thing: God judges the sins of man.
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16)
The antediluvians fulfilled all the lusts of their flesh; Cain demonstrated the pride of life in his arrogant, self-reliant offering to God; and the early Mesopotamians at the Plain of Shinar catered to the lust of their eyes when they sought to construct the Tower of Babel. Man has been opposed to God since the very beginning. It is in this setting and against this background and with this understanding that we will now meet Abraham: the man of faith. From this point on, the Bible will deal primarily with individuals rather than global events. We have heretofore gazed at the entire world, as through a telescope; now we will look upon more specific locations, as through a microscope. The pace will also greatly slow down as the elapsed time between one chapter to the next will be measured by days, months, and, sometimes, years; rather than decades, centuries, and millenia.
We have been introduced to the human condition in these first chapters of Genesis with scarcely a brief glance at the remedy that God would eventually provide for the problem of man’s sin. Starting in Chapter 12, we will now see how God moved toward providing the break in the endless cycle of sin and judgment and how man can again be reconciled to his Creator.