(Calvin, Genesis 1. part 17)

determined to weave the history of the Church in one continuous
narrative, he postpones the progeny of Shem, from which the church
flowed, to the last place. Wherefore, the order in which they are
mentioned is not that of dignity; since Moses puts those first, whom he
wished slightly to pass over, as obscure. Besides, we must observe, that
the children of this world are exalted for a time, so that the whole
earth seems as if it were made for their benefit, but their glory being
transient vanishes away; while the Church, in an ignoble and despised
condition, as if creeping on the ground, is yet divinely preserved, until
at length, in his own time, God shall lift up her head. I have already
declared that I leave to others the scrupulous investigation of the names
here mentioned. The reason of certain of them is manifest from the
Scripture, such as Cush, Mizraim, Madai, Canaan, and the like: in respect
to some others there are probable conjectures; in others, the obscurity
is too great to allow of any certain conclusion; and those figments which
interpreters adduce are, in part, very much distorted and forced; in
part, vapid, and without any fair pretext. Undoubtedly it seems to be the
part of a frivolous curiosity to seek for certain and distinct nations in
each of these names. When Moses says, that the islands of the Gentiles
were divided by the sons of Japheth, we understand that the regions
beyond the sea were parted among them. For Greece and Italy, and other
continental lands,--as well as Rhodes and Cyprus,--are called islands by
the Hebrews, because the sea interposed. Whence we infer that we are
sprung from those nations.

8. "And Cush begat Nimrod." It is certain that Cush was the prince of the
Ethiopians. Moses relates the singular history of his son Nimrod, because
he began to be eminent in an unusual degree. Moreover, I thus interpret
the passage, that the condition of men was at that time moderate; so that
if some excelled others, they yet did not on that account domineer, nor
assume to themselves royal power; but being content with a degree of
dignity, governed others by civil laws and had more of authority than
power. For Justin, from Trogus Pompeius, declares this to have been the
most ancient condition of the world. Now Moses says, that Nimrod, as if
forgetting that he was a man, took possession of a higher post of honour.
Noah was at that time yet living, and was certainly great and venerable
in the eyes of all. There were also other excellent men; but such was
their moderation, that they cultivated equality with their inferiors, who
yielded them a spontaneous rather than a forced reverence. The ambition
of Nimrod disturbed and broke through the boundaries of this reverence.
Moreover, since it sufficiently appears that, in this sentence of Moses,
the tyrant is branded with an eternal mark of infamy, we may hence
conclude, how highly pleasing to God is a mild administration of affairs
among men. And truly, whosoever remembers that he is a man, will gladly
cultivate the society of others. With respect to the meaning of the
terms, "tsajid", properly signifies hunting, as the Hebrew grammarians
state; yet it is often taken for food. But whether Moses says that he was
robust in hunting, or in violently seizing upon prey; he metaphorically
intimates that he was a furious man, and approximated to beasts rather
than to men. The expression, "Before the Lord," seems to me to declare
that Nimrod attempted to raise himself above the order of men; just as
proud men become transported by a vain self-confidence, that they may
look down as from the clouds upon others.
  "Wherefore it is said." Since the verb is in the future tense, it may
be thus explained, Nimrod was so mighty and imperious that it would be
proper to say of any powerful tyrant, that he is another Nimrod. Yet the
version of Jerome is satisfactory, that thence it became a proverb
concerning the powerful and the violent, that they were like Nimrod. Nor
do I doubt that God intended the first author of tyranny to be
transmitted to odium by every tongue.

10. "And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel." Moses here designates
the seat of Nimrod's empire. He also declares that four cities were
subject to him; it is however uncertain whether he was the founder of
them, or had thence expelled their rightful lords. And although mention
is elsewhere made of Calneh, yet Babylon was the most celebrated of all.
I do not however think that it was of such wide extent, or of such
magnificent structure, as the profane historians relate. But since the
region was among the first and most fruitful, it is possible that the
convenience of the situation would afterwards invite others to enlarge
the city. Wherefore Aristotle, in his Politics, taking it out of the rank
of cities, compares it to a province. Hence it has arisen, that many
declare it to have been the work of Semiramis, by whom others say that it
was not built but only adorned and joined together by bridges. The land
of Shinar is added as a note of discrimination, because there was also
another Babylon in Egypt, which is now called Cairo. But it is asked, how
was Nimrod the tyrant of Babylon, when Moses in the following chapter,
subjoins, that a tower was begun there, which obtained this name from the
confusion of tongues? Some suppose that a hysteron proteron is here
employed, and that what Moses is afterwards about to relate concerning
the building of the tower was prior in the order of time. Moreover, they
add, that because the building of the tower was disastrously obstructed,
their design was changed to that of building a city. But I rather think
there is a prolepsis; and that Moses called the city by the same name,
which afterwards was imposed by a more recent event. The reason of the
conjecture is that probably, at this time, the inhabitants of that place,
who had engaged in so vast a work, were numerous. It might also happen,
that Nimrod, solicitous about his own fame and power, inflamed their
insane desire by this pretext, that some famous monument should be
erected in which their everlasting memory might remain. Still, since it
is the custom of the Hebrews to prosecute more diffusely, afterwards,
what they had touched upon briefly, I do not entirely reject the former

11. "Out of that land went forth Asshur." It is credible that Asshur was
one of the posterity of Shem. And the opinion has been commonly received,
that he is here mentioned, because, when he was dwelling, in the
neighbourhood of Nimrod, he was violently expelled thence. In this
manner, Moses would mark the barbarous ferocity of Nimrod. And truly
these are the accustomed fruits of a greatness which does not keep within
bounds; whence has arisen the old proverb, 'Great kingdoms are great
robberies.' It is indeed necessary that some should preside over others;
but where ambition, and the desire of rising higher than is right, are
rampant, they not only draw with them the greatest and most numerous
injuries, but also verge closely upon the dissolution of human society.
Yet I rather adopt the opinion of those who say that Asshur is not, in
this place, the name of a man, but of a country which derived its
appellation from him; and thus the sense will be, that Nimrod, not
content with his large and opulent kingdom, gave the reins to his
cupidity, and pushed the boundaries of his empire even into Assyria,
where he also built new cities. The passage in Isaiah (23: 13) is alone
opposed to this opinion, where he says, 'Behold the land of the
Chaldeans, the people was not, Asshur founded it when they inhabited the
deserts, and he reduced it to ruin.' For the prophet seems to say, that
cities were built by the Assyrians in Chaldea, whereas previously, its
inhabitants were wandering and scattered as in a desert. But it may be,
that the prophet speaks of other changes of these kingdoms, which
occurred afterwards. For, at the time in which the Assyrians maintained
the sovereignty, seeing that they flourished in unbounded wealth, it is
credible that Chaldea, which they had subjected to themselves was so
adorned and increased by a long peace, that it might seem to have been
founded by them. And we know, that when the Chaldeans, in their turn,
seized on the empire, Babylon was exalted on the ruins of Nineveh.

21. "Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber." Moses,
being about to speak of the sons of Shem, makes a brief introduction,
which he had not done in reference to the others. Nor was it without
reason; for since this was the race chosen by God, he wished to sever it
from other nations by some special mark. This also is the reason why he
expressly styles him the 'father of the sons of Eber,' and the elder
brother of Japheth. For the benediction of Shem does not descend to all
his grandchildren indiscriminately, but remains in one family. And
although the grandchildren themselves of Eber declined from the true
worship of God, so that the Lord might justly have disinherited them; yet
the benediction was not extinguished, but only buried for a season, until
Abraham was called, in honour of whom this singular dignity is ascribed
to the race and name of Eber. For the same cause, mention is made of
Japheth, in order that the promise may be confirmed, 'God shall speak
gently unto Japheth, that he may dwell in the tents of Shem.' Shem is not
here called the brother of Ham, inasmuch as the latter was cut off from
the fraternal order, and was debarred his own right. Fraternity remained
only between them and Japheth; because, although they were separated, God
had engaged that he would cause them to return from this dissension into
union. As it respects the name Eber, they who deny it to be a proper
name, but deduce it from the word which signifies to pass over, are more
than sufficiently refuted by this passage alone.

Chapter XI.

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a
plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them
throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top
[may reach] unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered
abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the
children of men builded.
6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people [is] one, and they have all one
language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained
from them, which they have imagined to do.
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may
not understand one another's speech.
8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the
earth: and they left off to build the city.
9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there
confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD
scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
10 These [are] the generations of Shem: Shem [was] an hundred years old,
and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat
sons and daughters.
12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah:
13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years,
and begat sons and daughters.
14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber:
15 And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and
begat sons and daughters.
16 And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg:
17 And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and
begat sons and daughters.
18 And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu:
19 And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and
begat sons and daughters.
20 And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug:
21 And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and
begat sons and daughters.
22 And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor:
23 And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons
and daughters.
24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:
25 And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years,
and begat sons and daughters.
26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 Now these [are] the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor,
and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in
Ur of the Chaldees.
29 And Abram and Nahor took them 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.
30 But Sarai was barren; she [had] no child.
31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son,
and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth
with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and
they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.
32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died
in Haran.

1. "And the whole earth was of one language." Whereas mention had before
been made of Babylon in a single word, Moses now more largely explains
whence it derived its name. For this is a truly memorable history, in
which we may perceive the greatness of men's obstinacy against God, and
the little profit they receive from his judgments. And although at first
sight the atrocity of the evil does not appear; yet the punishment which
follows it, testifies how highly God was displeased with that which these
men attempted. They who conjecture that the tower was built with the
intent that is should prove a refuge and protections if, at any time, God
should determine to overwhelm the earth with a deluge, have no other
guide, that I can see, but the dream of their own brain. For the words of
Moses signify no such thing: nothing, indeed, is here noticed, except
their mad ambitions and proud contempt of God. 'Let us build a tower
(they say) whose top may reach to heaven, and let us get ourselves a
name.' We see the design and the aim of the undertaking. For whatsoever
might happen, they wish to have an immortal name on earth; and thus they
build, as if in opposition to the will of God. And doubtless ambition not
only does injury to men, but exalts itself even against God. To erect a
citadel was not in itself so great a crime; but to raise an eternal
monument to themselves, which might endure throughout all ages, was a
proof of headstrong pride, joined with contempt of God. And hence
originated the fable of the giants who, as the poets have feigned, heaped
mountains upon mountains, in order to drag down Jove from his celestial
throne. This allegory is not very remote from the impious counsel to
which Moses alludes; for as soon as mortals, forgetful of themselves; are
inflated above measure, it is certain that like the giants, they wage war
with God. This they do not openly profess, yet it cannot be otherwise
than that every one who transgresses his prescribed bounds, makes a
direct attack upon God.
  With respect to the time in which this event happened, a fragment of
Berosus is extant, (if, indeed, Berosus is to be accounted the author of
such trifles,) where, among other things, a hundred and thirty years are
reckoned from the deluge to the time when they began to build the tower.
This opinion, though deficient in competent authority, has been
preferred, by some, to that which commonly obtained among the Jews, and
which places about three hundred and forty years between the deluge and
the building of the tower. Nor is there anything more plausible in what
others relate; namely, that these builders undertook the work, because
men were even then dispersed far and wide, and many colonies were already
formed; whence they apprehended that as their offspring was daily
increasing, they must, in a short time, migrate to a still greater
distance. But to this argument we may oppose the fact, that the peculiar
blessing of God was to be traced in this multiplication of mankind.
Moreover, Moses seems to set aside all controversy. For after he has
mentioned Arphaxad as the third of the sons of Shem, he then names Peleg,
his great-grandson, in whose days the languages were divided. But from a
computation of the years which he sets down, it plainly appears that one
century only intervened. It is, however, to be noted, that the languages
are not said to have been divided immediately after the birth of Peleg,
and that no definite time was ever specified. It must, indeed, have added
greatly to the weight of Noah's sufferings, when he heard of this wicked
counsel, which had been taken by his posterity. And it is not to be
doubted that he was wounded with the deepest grief, when he beheld them,
with devoted minds, rushing to their own destruction. But the Lord thus
exercised the holy man, even in extreme old age, to teach us not to be
discouraged by a continual succession of conflicts. If any one should
prefer the opinion commonly received among the Jews; the division of the
earth must be referred to the first transmigrations, when men began to be
distributed in various regions: but what has been already recorded in the
preceding chapter, respecting the monarchy of Nimrod, is repugnant to
this interpretation. Still a middle opinion may be entertained; namely,
that the confusion of tongues may perhaps have happened in the extreme
old age of Peleg. Now he lived nearly two hundred and forty years; nor
will it be absurd to suppose that the empire founded by Nimrod endured
two or three centuries. I certainly,--as in a doubtful case,--freely
admit that a longer space of time might intervene between the deluge and
the design of building the tower. Moreover, when Moses says, 'the earth
was of one lip,' he commends the peculiar kindness of God, in having
willed that the sacred bond of society among men far separated from each
other should be retained, by their possessing a common language among
themselves. And truly the diversity of tongues is to be regarded as a
prodigy. For since language is the impress of the minded how does it come
to pass, that men, who are partakers of the same reason, and who are born
for social life, do not communicate with each other in the same language?
This defect, therefore, seeing that it is repugnant to nature, Moses
declares to be adventitious; and pronounces the division of tongues to be
a punishment, divinely inflicted upon men, because they impiously
conspired against God. Community of language ought to have promoted among
them consent in religion; but this multitude of whom Moses speaks, after
they had alienated themselves from the pure worship of God, and the
sacred assembly of the faithful, coalesce to excite war against God.
Therefore by the just vengeance of God their tongues were divided.

2. "They found a plain in the land of Shinar. It may be conjectured from
these words, that Moses speaks of Nimrod and of the people whom he had
collected around him. If, however, we grant that Nimrod was the chief
leader in the construction of so great a pile, for the purpose of
erecting a formidable monument of his tyranny: yet Moses expressly
relates, that the work was undertaken not by the counsel or the will of
one man only, but that all conspired together, so that the blame cannot
be cast exclusively upon one, nor even upon a few.

3. "And they said one to another." That is, they mutually exhorted each
other; and not only did every man earnestly put his own hand to the work,
but impelled others also to the daring attempt.
  "Let us make brick." Moses intimates that they had not been induced to
commence this work, on account of the ease with which it could be
accomplished nor on account of any other advantages which presented
themselves; he rather shows that they had contended with great and
arduous difficulties; by which means their guilt became the more
aggravated. For how is it that they harass and wear themselves out in
vain on a difficult and labourious enterprise, unless that, like madmen,
they rush impetuously against God? Difficulty often deters us from
necessary works; but these men, when they had neither stones nor mortar,
yet do not scruple to attempt the raising of an edifice which may
transcend the clouds. We are taught therefore, by this example, to what
length the lust of men will hurry them, when they indulge their ambition.
Even a profane poet is not silent on this subject,--
      "Man, rashly daring, full of pride,
      Most covets what is most denied."
And a little afterwards,--
      "Counts nothing arduous, and tries
      insanely to possess the skies."

4. "Whose top may reach unto heaven." This is an hyperbolical form of
speech, in which they boastingly extol the loftiness of the structure
they are attempting to raise. And to the same point belongs what they
immediately subjoin, "Let us make us a name;" for they intimate, that the
work would be such as should not only be looked upon by the beholders as
a kind of miracle, but should be celebrated everywhere to the utmost
limits of the world. This is the perpetual infatuation of the world; to
neglect heaven, and to seek immortality on earth, where every thing is
fading and transient. Therefore, their cares and pursuits tend to no
other end than that of acquiring for themselves a name on earth. David,
in the forty ninth psalm, deservedly holds up to ridicule this blind
cupidity; and the more, because experience (which is the teacher of the
foolish) does not restore posterity to a sound mind, though instructed by
the example of their ancestors; but the infatuation creeps on through all
succeeding ages. The saying of Juvenal is known,--'Death alone
acknowledges how insignificant are the bodies of men.' Yet even death
does not correct our pride, nor constrain us seriously to confess our
miserable condition: for often more pride is displayed in funerals than
in nuptial pomp. By such an example, however, we are admonished how
fitting it is that we should live and die humbly. And it is not the least
important part of true prudence, to have death before our eyes in the
midst of life, for the purpose of accustoming ourselves to moderation.
For he who vehemently desires to be great in the world, is first
contumelious towards men, and at length, his profane presumption breaks
forth against God himself; so that after the example of the giants, he
fights against heaven.
  "Lest we be scattered abroad." Some interpreters translate the passage
thus, 'Before we are scattered:' but the peculiarity of the language will
not bear this explanation: for the men are devising means to meet a
danger which they believe to be imminent; as if they would say, 'It
cannot be, that when our number increases, this region should always hold
all men; and therefore an edifice must be erected by which their name
shall be preserved in perpetuity, although they should themselves be
dispersed in different regions.' It is however asked, whence they derived
the notion of their future dispersion? Some conjecture that they were
warned of it by Noah; who, perceiving that the world had relapsed into
its former crimes and corruptions, foresaw, at the same time, by the
prophetic spirit, some terrible dispersion; and they think that the
Babylonians, seeing they could not directly resist God, endeavoured, by
indirect methods, to avert the threatened judgment. Others suppose, that
these men, by a secret inspiration of the Spirit, uttered prophecies
concerning their own punishment, which they did not themselves
understand. But these expositions are constrained; nor is there any
reason which requires us to apply what they here say, to the curse which
was inflicted upon them. They knew that the earth was formed to be
inhabited and would everywhere supply its abundance for the sustenance of
men; and the rapid multiplication of mankind proved to them that it was
not possible for them long to remain shut up within their present narrow
limits; wherefore, to whatever other places it would be necessary for
them to migrate, they design this tower to remain as a witness of their

5. "And the Lord came down." The remaining part of the history now
follows, in which Moses teaches us with what ease the Lord could overturn
their insane attempts, and scatter abroad all their preparations. There
is no doubt that they strenuously set about what they had presumptuously
devised. But Moses first intimates that God, for a little while, seemed
to take no notice of them, in order that suddenly breaking off their work
at its commencement, by the confusion of their tongues, he might give the
more decisive evidence of his judgment. For he frequently bears with the
wicked, to such an extent, that he not only suffers them to contrive many
nefarious things, as if he were unconcerned, or were taking repose; but
even further, their impious and perverse designs with animating success,
in order that he may at length cast them down to a lower depth. The
descent of God, which Moses here records, is spoken of in reference to
men rather than to God; who, as we know, does not move from place to
place. But he intimates that God gradually and as with a tardy step,
appeared in the character of an Avenger. The Lord therefore descended
that he might see; that is, he evidently showed that he was not ignorant
of the attempt which the Babylonians were making.

6. "Behold, the people is one." Some thus expound the words, that God
complains of a wickedness in men so refractory, that he excites himself
by righteous grief to execute vengeance; not that he is swayed by any
passions, but to teach us that he is not negligent of human affairs, and
that, as he watches for the salvation of the faithful, so he is intent on
observing the wickedness of the ungodly; as it is said in Psalm 34: 16,
"The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the
remembrance of them from the earth." Others think there is a comparison
between the less and the greater, no if it had been said, 'They are
hitherto few and only use one language; what will they not dare, if, on
account of their multitude, they should become separated into various
nations?' But there rather seems to me to be a suppressed irony, as if
God would propose to himself a difficult work in subduing their audacity:
so that the sense may be, 'This people is compacted together in a firm
conspiracy, they communicate with each other in the same language, by
what method therefore can they be broken?' Nevertheless, he ironically
smiles at their foolish and hasty confidence; because, while men are
calculating upon their own strength, there is nothing which they do not
arrogate to themselves.
  "This they begins to do." In saying that they begin, he intimates that
they make a diligent attempts accompanied with violent fervour, in
carrying on the work. Thus in the way of concession, God declares, that
supposing matters to be so arranged, there would be no interruption of
the building.

7. "Go to, let us go down." We have said that Moses has represented the
case to us by the figure hypotyposis, that the judgments of God may be
the more clearly illustrated. For which reason, he now introduces God as
the speaker, who declares that the work which they supposed could not be
retarded, shall, without any difficulty, be destroyed. The meaning of the
words is of this kind, 'I will not use many instruments, I will only blow
upon them, and they, through the confusion of tongues, shall be
contemptibly scattered. And as they, having collected a numerous band,
were contriving how they might reach the clouds; so on the other hand,
God summons his troops, by whose interposition he may ward off their
fury. It is, however, asked, what troops he intends? The Jews think that
he addresses himself to the angels. But since no mention is made of the
angels, and God places those to whom he speaks in the same rank with
himself, this exposition is harsh, and deservedly rejected. This passage
rather answers to the former, which occurs in the account of man's
creation, when the Lord said, "Let us make man after our image." For God
aptly and wisely opposes his own eternal wisdom and power to this great
multitude; as if he had said, that he had no need of foreign auxiliaries,
but possessed within himself what would suffice for their destruction.
Wherefore, this passage is not improperly adduced in proof that Three
Persons subsist in One Essence of Deity. Moreover, this example of Divine
vengeance belongs to all ages: for men are always inflamed with the
desire of daring to attempt what is unlawful. And this history shows that
God will ever be adverse to such counsels and designs; so that we here
behold, depicted before our eyes what Solomon says: 'There is no counsel,
nor prudence, nor strength against the Lord,' (Prov. 21: 30.) Unless the
blessing of God be present, from which alone we may expect a prosperous
issue, all that we attempt will necessarily perish. Since, then, God
declares that he is at perpetual war with the unmeasured audacity of men;
anything we undertake without his approval will end miserably, even
though all creatures above and beneath should earnestly offer us their
assistance. Now, although the world bears this curse to the present day;
yet, in the midst of punishment, and of the most dreadful proofs of
Divine anger against the pride of men, the admirable goodness of God is
rendered conspicuous, because the nations hold mutual communication among
themselves, though in different languages; but especially because He has
proclaimed one gospel, in all languages, through the whole world, and has
endued the Apostles with the gift of tongues. Whence it has come to pass,
that they who before were miserably divided, have coalesced in the unity
of the faith. In this sense Isaiah says, that the language of Canaan
should be common to all under the reign of Christ, (Isaiah 19: 18;)
because, although their language may differ in sound, they all speak the
same thing, while they cry, Abba, Father.

8. "So the Lord scattered them abroad." Men had already been spread
abroad; and this ought not to be regarded as a punishment, seeing it
rather flowed from the benediction and grace of God. But those whom the
Lord had before distributed with honour in various abodes, he now
ignominiously scatters, driving them hither and thither like the members
of a lacerated body. This, therefore, was not a simple dispersion for the
replenishing of the earth, that it might every where have cultivators and
inhabitants; but a violent rout, because the principal bond of
conjunction between them was, cut asunder.

9. "Therefore is the name of it called Babel." Behold what they gained by
their foolish ambition to acquire a name! They hoped that an everlasting
memorial of their origin would be engraven on the tower; God not only
frustrates their vain expectation, but brands them with eternal disgrace,
to render them execrable to all posterity, on account of the great
mischief indicted on the human race, through their fault. They gain,
indeed, a name, but not each as they would have chosen: thus does God
opprobriously cast down the pride of those who usurp to themselves
honours to which they have no title. Here also is refuted the error of
those who deduce the origin of Babylon from Jupiter Belus.

10. "These are the generations of Shem." Concerning the progeny of Shem,
Moses had said something in the former chapter: but now he combines with
the names of the men, the term of their several lives, that we might not
be ignorant of the age of the world. For unless this brief description
had been preserved, men at this day would not have known how much time
intervened between the deluge and the day in which God made his covenant
with Abraham. Moreover, it is to be observed, that God reckons the years
of the world from the progeny of Shem, as a mark of honour: just as
historians date their annals by the names of kings or consuls.
Nevertheless, he has granted this not so much on account of the dignity
and merits of the family of Shem, as on account of his own gratuitous
adoption; for (as we shall immediately see) a great part of the posterity
of Shem apostatized from the true worship of God. For which reason, they
deserved not only that God should expunge them from his calendar, but
should entirely take them out of the world. But he too highly esteems
that election of his, by which he separated this family from all people,
to suffer it to perish on account of the sins of men. And therefore from
the many sons of Shem he chooses Arphaxad alone; and from the sons of
Arphaxad, Selah alone; and from him also, Eber alone; till he comes to
Abram; the calling of whom ought to be accounted the renovation of the
Church. As it concerns the rest, it is probable that before the century
was completed, they fell into impious superstitions. For when God brings
it as a charge against the Jews, that their fathers Terah and Nahor
served strange gods, (Josh. 24: 2,) we must still remember, that the
house of Shem, in which they were born, was the peculiar sanctuary of
God, where pure religion ought most to have flourished; what then do we

(continued in part 18...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-01/cvgn1-17.txt