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

In the last part of our series we saw God confuse the language of humans at the Tower of Babel. People stopped building the tower and scattered in multiple directions. We know something about those directions based on what we read in Genesis 10. That covers the descendants of all of Noah’s sons — Japheth, Ham and Shem. However, the focus of Genesis following the confusion of language and scattering of families is on Shem and one line of his descendants. Why does Genesis do that?

This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood. After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters. Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Salah. After he begot Salah, Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters. Salah lived thirty years, and begot Eber. After he begot Eber, Salah lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters. Eber lived thirty-four years, and begot Peleg. After he begot Peleg, Eber lived four hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters. Peleg lived thirty years, and begot Reu. After he begot Reu, Peleg lived two hundred and nine years, and begot sons and daughters. Reu lived thirty-two years, and begot Serug. After he begot Serug, Reu lived two hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters. Serug lived thirty years, and begot Nahor. After he begot Nahor, Serug lived two hundred years, and begot sons and daughters. Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and begot Terah. After he begot Terah, Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years, and begot sons and daughters. Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

Genesis 11:10-26

Shem became the father of many sons and daughters, but the Genesis account is concerned with one particular line of descendants –

  • Shem
  • Arphaxad
  • Salah
  • Eber
  • Peleg
  • Reu
  • Serug
  • Nahor
  • Terah
  • Abram

We know that the lineage was intended to go from Shem to Abram because of what follows in Genesis 11 –

This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah. But Sarai was barren; she had no child. And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.

Genesis 11:27-32

Abram (Abraham)

Abram’s name is mentioned about 50 times in the Old Testament – most of that in Genesis. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and that spelling is found more than 200 times in the Bible. Abraham played an integral role in God’s Eternal Plan.

The Holy Spirit of God inspired the authors of all the writings that became part of the Bible (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). The Spirit had a specific focus as He inspired the writers – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Seed of the woman that God promised in Genesis 3:15. That was and is the focus of the Holy Spirit. We see Jesus Christ throughout the Bible because He is the reason for the writing of the Bible.

That’s why the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to follow this verse –

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

With this verse and those that follow it –

This is the genealogy of Shem …

Genesis 11:10

God introduces the reader to the next part of His Eternal Plan.


We are led quickly from Shem through multiple generations to a man named Terah. That’s when the story slows down. It becomes obvious there’s something about Terah’s family that God wants us to see in greater detail.

One of the first things we should notice in the lineage from Shem to Terah is the huge shift in lifespans. Shem lived to be 600 years old. That was substantially younger than his father Noah who lived to be 950 years old. Terah lived to be 205 years old. That’s a big drop in lifespan in just nine generations.

The next thing to observe is where Terah lived. Terah had three sons: Abram, Nahor and Haran. Genesis 11:27 says Haran became the father of Lot. That’s important to note as well because Lot plays a big part in the life of Abram. Haran died while Terah was still alive – “While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth.”

Archaeologists believe Ur was an important city of ancient Mesopotamia, located about 140 miles southeast of the ancient site of Babylon. That gives us some insight on the direction that Abram’s ancestors took following the confusion of language at the Tower of Babel. The modern location of the ancient city is believed to be Tell el-Muqayyar, Iraq.

Courtesy Penn Museum

Ur was the capitol city of an ancient empire that developed after the confusion of language. Terah and his family may have lived during the 3rd dynasty period of Ur (22nd and 21st centuries BC). Archaeologists have uncovered a ziggurat (stepped pyramid similar to the Tower of Babel) that included a small shrine at the top to the moon god Nanna (Sin), the primary god of ancient Ur. As we read in Joshua 24, Terah and his family “worshiped other gods.” The moon god would certainly have been one of them.

[Read more about archaeological finds of Ur]

Terah took his son Abram, Abram’s wife Sarai, and his grandson Lot (son of Haran) and left Ur sometime after the death of Haran. They settled in ancient Harran, which is identified by archaeologists as an area of ancient Assyria near the Balikh River about 24 miles southeast of the town of Sanliurfa in Turkey. Interestingly, the chief religious cult of that time would have been the moon god, a religion that would have been familiar to Terah. Terah stayed there until he died.

The journey from Ur to Harran was about 600 miles and probably took months to complete.


That long journey for Abram and his family would be followed by another lengthy journey – several hundred more miles from Harran to Canaan.

Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.

Genesis 12:1-5


One of the keys to God’s Eternal Plan is found in these words to Abram – “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God’s Eternal Plan is to “bless” people. Here’s a quick history of how God blessed people up to Genesis 12 –

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. Genesis 1:28

He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. Genesis 5:2

So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. Genesis 9:1

The words bless, blessed and blessing are found hundreds of times in the Bible and many reference God’s Plan to bless people. God promised Abram that “all peoples on earth” would be blessed through him.

Next Time

In the next part of our study we will learn more about how God used Abram to bless all the peoples on earth.

[You can read more about the post-flood history in our book A History of Man’s Quest for Immorality.]

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.