Curtain Call | Genesis 11.10-26
These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters. When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah. And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber. And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg. And Eber lived after he fathered Peleg 430 years and had other sons and daughters.When Peleg had lived 30 years, he fathered Reu. And Peleg lived after he fathered Reu 209 years and had other sons and daughters.When Reu had lived 32 years, he fathered Serug. And Reu lived after he fathered Serug 207 years and had other sons and daughters.When Serug had lived 30 years, he fathered Nahor. And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters. When Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah. And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters. When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Genesis 11:10-26 | ESV
Ten more generations of names. Though this list is evidently streamlined a bit. First, scholars note that this genealogy has been “schematized” or simplified to the number ten, just like the genealogy from Adam to Noah in Genesis 5 – ten being a number of completeness signifying a full cycle (it also aids in memorization; yes, they would memorize these!). Ten generations from Adam to the hero Noah; ten generations from Noah after the flood to the one who is, finally, well, the one. So Archbishop Ussher and others who try to calculate the age of the earth by a simple tally of Genesis genealogical figures is trying to make a complete puzzle with a good number of missing pieces. This list is also streamlined in that it omits the bell-tolling refrain that appears after each named generation in Genesis 5 – “and he died.” He lived, he had a son, he lived more and he had more sons and daughters, and then he lived, he had a son, he lived some more, he had more sons and daughters, etc. etc. It makes for a less gloomy list without the intonations of death and leaves us with a growing sense of hope. And perhaps that’s another factor in this list of ten, whether consciously or unconsciously, the narrator may just being trying to cut to the chase after so much delay, so many detours through tales of tyrants and towers, to get to him. The one. The one who’s family will birth the seed of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head and through whom the great rescue of humanity will be effected; the one through whom the planet will be “ruled” under the reign of God. As one scholar puts it, “The cadenced, highly structured format again communicates a sense of restored order, in contrast to the structurally (and thematically) fractured preceding unit (Genesis 10:1-11:9). This sense of well being is confirmed by the unit’s positive conclusion: the birth of Abraham, Israel’s revered ancestor.” Waltke adds, “Although before the Flood tyrants transgressed the marriage ordinance and after the Flood humanity collectively breached the boundary separating earth and heaven, God’s program to save humanity cannot be stopped.” Whereas to us this is probably just another tedious list of names, to that audience it was a life-giving, breath-restoring recitation. When the Narrator reaches the end of this list with the words, “Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran,” there is a collective sigh of relief and a shout of joy. “There he is! And here we go. Everything will be okay now.”
Do you tend to view history as an ordered flow of events with underlying purpose, or do you see it as random cycles of random events that randomly results in good or bad? Why do view it this way? If you were to explore the ten generations leading up to your arrival, what purposes might you see being carried out?
Lord, help me to trust your hand in all the events that transpire or befall humanity and this world; help me to hold on for purposes I can’t even begin to fathom or discern; and to find my place within them. Through Christ.
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