Marcus Moritz Kalisch.

A historical and critical commentary on the Old Testament, with a new translation online

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to banish that humility which is the root
of practical piety, llie sin in Paradise
consisted in grasping after a spiritual ad-
vantage which was withheld from inscruta-
ble reasons; the offence at Babel was the
vain longing after external and perishable
goods which poison the heart. The curse of
exhausting physical labour was the punish-
ment of the former, dispersion and mutual
estrangement that of the latter; and in
both instances, God Himself stopped the
further progress in the same blameable
direction by contrasting the past conduct
with the possible future consequences
(ver. 6» and iii. 22) ; but in the happy times
of tlie Messiah, when the knowledge Of
God will be universal and perfect, and
when all the nations of the earth will
again, like one loving family, congregato
round one centre, not the temple of an
idol, but of the Lord of hosts, the dif-

ference of the languages will cease, and
as God will be one, so His name will be
one (Zech. xiv. lOX Such is the spirit of
our narrative; but the fono, as we* hare
observed, was borrowed im poit firom a
general and prevailing ancient traditioa.
It is marked by many of the peculiaridei
of the eariy Hebrew style; it does not
avoid human expressions in r^erence to
the Deity; God is represented as living on
high; He descends from heaven to see the
town and the tower; He reflects and toU-
loquizes; He seems, though without jea-
lousy or envy, to fear the too great approach
of mankind to His power, as fbrmeriy to
His wisdom ; He takes a resolntson, and
executes it. But this simplicity of lan-
guage, which produces sublime and ab-
stract thoughts in a familiar form, has
ceased to appear objectionable to oar
more discriminating age; it is distincily
separated from the ideas which it embodies;
and is but rarely and unsuccessfully used
to traduce the Biblical notiona

The linguistic researches of modem
times have more and more confirmed the
theory of one primitive Asiatic language,
gradually developed into the various mo-
difications by external agencies and Inflo*
ences. Formerly^ the Hebrew tongue waa,
by many scholars, advocated as the original
idiom; for it was maintained both by earir
Jewish and Christian authorities, that as
the race of Shem were no partners in the
impious work of the Tower, they ranained
in possession of the first language, which the
fathers of the earliest age had left to Noah ;
but this view, like the more recent one,
that a child if left alone without hnman
society wouldspeak Hebrew, is now classed
among the popular errors. At piieseat,
the scale of probability inclines more to
the Sanscrit, although the disqnisitioii is
for from being concluded or settled Coooa-
pare Pott^ in Erwch and Gruber^s £ncyci,
volxviiu ; Art" Indogermanischer Spirmch-
stamm**). We must, however, warn agaiiut
an inference which hasbeen drawn in faToov
of the Babylonian cuneiform langiiasa

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scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all
the earth : and they left off to build the city. 9. There-

from the circamstance, that those charac-
ters are found on the bricks forming the
foundation of Birs-Nimroad, the supposed
Tower of Babel. That temple, ta its ejr-
isting rum^ and relica, does not date, at
the utmost, earlier than the twelfth century
before the present era; and cannot, there-
fore, in any way be employed in deter-
mining the question concerning the one
primitire language.

The materials generally used for the
construction of Babylonian buildings are
here most faithfully described (ver.3).
As in Egypt, the edifices of Mesopotamia
consisted of sun-dried, but often also of
burnt bricks, baked of the purest clay, and
sometimes mixed with chopped straw,
-which materially enhances their compact*
ness and hardness; these bricks were
generally covered with inscriptions, pro-
mising to prove of the greatest historical
value. But instead of mortar, the Baby-
lonians used as a cement that celebrated
asphalt or bitumen, which is nowhere
found in such excellence and abundance
as in the neighbourhood of Babylon.
We refer, for further details, to our notes
on Exodus, i. 14, ii. 3, and v. 7. One of
the most gifted of the modem explorers
declared the ruins of Birs-Nimroud a spe-
cimen of the perfection of Babylonian
masonry, and remarked, *'that the cement
by which the bricks were united is of so
tenacious a quality, that it is almost im-
possible to detach one from the mass
entire" {Layard, Nin. and Babyl., p. 499).

Herodotus, who, both fh)m inspection
and personal enquiries on the spot, gives
a similar account of the materials, adds,
that about eight days' journey from Baby-
lon, there is a city, /», on a small river of
the same name, which flows into the
Eaphrates,and brings down with it a great
quantity of bitumen (i.279). But this is
not the only testimony we possess. Strabo,
Pliny, Ammianus, Zosimus, and others,
either speak in general terms of the
abundance of asphalt occurring in Meso-
|)OtaiDia; or mention, though sometimes

with orthographic deviations, the town
itself where it is chiefly found. Writers
of the middle ages, as Edrisi and Abul-
feda, allude to, or describe the same
locality. But the fullest accounts are due
to the observations of modern travellers, of
Olivier and Chesney, Ormsby, Wellsted,
and Winchester, /i is identical with the
little town Hit; is situated on the Eu-
phrates (30^ 38' lat), in the vicinity of
hills containing gypsum and chalk form-
ations; is built on an elevation which it at
present but partially covers, and protected
by high ramparts provided with towers; it
contains not more than 2,000 inhabitants,
living in miserable, gloomy-looking huts;
but it possesses, for the purposes of irri-
gation, colossal water-wheels, 30 to 40
feet in diameter, and aqueducts, led to
the greatest current of the Euphrates;
and it furnishes still, in undiminished
quantities, the same material for which it
was celebrated in antiquity. The in-
habitants, who have no earthen jars,
make them of plaited straw, covered with
bitumen, which useful product, besides
serving as fuel and light, is also employed
for coating the roofs of the houses, for
bath-rooms, boats and ships, and other
objects required to be water-tight. The
nnmerons asphalt-springs, the largest of
which, almost 70 feet in circumference,
lies about half an hour from the town,
yield, besides, a great quantity of excel-
lent salt, affording, in addition to the
bitumen, the manufacture of wool and
burnt bricks, and some other pursuits, the
chief means of subsistence to the poor
population, which is a fine and warlike
race, and contains some families acknow-
ledging Christ, revering St. John in the
same manner as the Roman church honours
the Virgin Mary, but inclining, in many
points, to Sabffian paganism (compare
Bitter, Erdk., xi. 749—762).

Nothing but the violence of a fearful
conflagration, the ravages of which are
manifest in the ruins of Birs-Nimroud,
would have been able to annihilate a

Digitized by




fore is its name called Babel; for there the Lord con-
founded the language of all the earth; and from thence

building which appeared to be beyond
the destractive power of tine.

God is stated to have frustrated the
ambitious schemes of men by miracalons
interference: it is, therefore, futile to guess
whether flashes of lightning conrerted
their speech into an unintelligible stam-
mering, or whether a temporary suspen-
sion of the intellectual faculties changed
the thought into absurdity. But the
words of our text do certainly not imply
that God destroyed by lightning the
upper part of the building; **He de-
scended*' merely to confound the speech
of the builders; and it is inadmissible to
base the interpretation of this passage on
the circumstance, that the higher portions
of the temple of Belus present a glazed,
fused, or burnt appearance; for this de-
stmaion, by whatever agency it might
hare been worked, did not take place
till considerably after the time of Nebu-

Philological Rbicabk8.— If the new
inhabitants of the earth immigrated from
the Armenian province of Ararat (viii.4)
into the land of Shinar, that is, the lower
part of Mesopotamia (p. 259), they moved
southward; the words DlpD C^D^2
mean, therefore, "as they journeyed m
the east"; this is the usual sense of
D*1pD, for instance in xiii. 1 1, and Isal
is. 1 1 (comp. also Gen. ii. 8 ; Zech. xiv. 4);
for D*ljJ means generally the orient, or
tbo eastern parts; and viewed from Pa-
lestine or Arabia, those migrations took
place in the east (comp. Num. xxiiL 7).
This removes the difficulties which have
necessarily been found in the wonl DlpD,
if it is rendered **Jrom the east."— The
territory of Babylon proper consisted of an
almost unbroken pktm (nyp2, irc^tovi
comp. Ez, iii. 23; xzzvii. 1, 2; Strabo, ii.
t09; xvi. 734, etc); and the '*cainpi
Mesopotamia" are celebrated (CurC, iii.
2 ; iv. 9). Saadiah's translation of HuD,

yrithj,^] (castle), has misled to tho

identification of the tower of Babel with

the JTosr, in the east of the Euphrates
(p. 299). — The fourth verse has giveo
rise to many discussions; but, we belkre,
it might simply be thus explained: the
town had for its purpose the formatioQ of
a centre for the possible and probable
event of a future separation of the tribes;
it was intended to secure for them in all
perpetuity the character of one £unfly
and one nation (ver. 6, first part); but the
gigantic tower was at the aame time
designed as a permanent raonnment of
their enormous power and resources, and
as a proof of the mighty deeds which
their united forces were able to adiiere
(ver. 6, second part). DB^ is, therefore,
here certainly yaia« or ghry (as in 2 Saaou
vii.23; Isai.lxiii.l2, 14, etc); but it is,
at the same time, the wumttmemi from
which that fame was expected; so that
D(^ unites here the two disputed signifi-
cations (comp. 2 Sam. viii. 13). Josephus
represents Nimrod as the wicked origi-
nator of the tower, and remarks that he
built it chiefly for the purpose of frus-
trating the designs of God if he should
inflict another deluge upon mankind.
But this acceptation is without any Bib-
lical foundation; whilst that of Periao-
nius (Orig. Bab., p. 236), who takes DB^
as a beacon, or rallying point for the
people in the flat cpuntiy of Shinar, is
against the tenor of our passage (see
ver. 6). But {& has here almost the
meaning of perhaps, as indubitably as in
iii. 22; xxxi. 31 ; xxxviiL 11, etc; thcj
feared, indeed, that they would, in the
course of time, necessarily spread by the
progress of population (hence the con-
junction |d); but they had neither the
power nor the will to avert it by building
a city which, however laige, they knew
must ultimately become too small for
their increasing numbers. — God 'f*»rr ndv
to inspect the works designed by raaitf
and executed by arrogance ; comp. xriiL
21; Exod. iit 8; etc — D^nn, infinitiva
Hiphil of 77n, to begin, instead of O^WI
(as ^riimil, in Deat. ii. 31, instead oc

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GENESIS XL 1—9, 10—32.


did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the

^O'^nrp, with the suffix, ** their begin-
mw^.^-l^DTJ, an abbreviated form of the
falore Kal of DDT, instead of Hq)% as in
the following verse, n^3lJ (from hh2) is
shortened instead of n^bi*; and so napj
for n^DJ (Biek.xlL7^, etc., etc.; comp.
Ooem^ liebrg., p. 872). — About the
plural, "* let OS go dawn," etc., in the soli-
loquy of God, see p. 80; that He speaks
to BiMue/f a/one, is obvious from ver. 8 :
"And the Ix)rd scattered" C^ yB^^),_
The conjunction 1^^ is here (in ver. 7)
tued instead of the more usual one of
TTK {PD^, as it is, in xxx. 18, applied for
TB'K Tiff*} similar instances are Deut iv,
40; vi. 8, etc. — jyOB' means, not unfre-
quentlj, to understand (compare Deut.
xxviii. 49; Jer. v. 15; Ez. iii. 6, etc)—
The name ^33' is here derived from the
Hebrew root 773, to confound, instead
of ^2^3 (compare niSDto instead of
nia^B^, Com. on Exod^ p. 225), which
form is osuall j employed in the Aramaean
dialecto (comp. Gej«ii., Lehrg., pp. 134
and 869X so that the great and mighty
town assomcd, or suffered the certainly

remarkable name of "Confusion": (<rvy-
Xvtric, Sept., and J(M«p^.,Antiq.,I.iv.3);
although it can scarcely be OYerlooked,
that the second part of the name Babel is
the chief national god Bel, or Baal, to whom
the temple was dedicated; and the whole
word is either Jjc-^b, "the gate, or

court of Bel,** or, perhaps, contracted
from 73"n^3, "the temple of Bel,** as
mne^3 is composed of mfl^ n^3
(Josh.xxi.27; comp. Deut. iii. 29; Josh,
xvi 41 ; Gesen., Thes., pp. 175, 198, 212).
The foreign name. Babel, appears, there-
fore, like Afoses, and some other proper
nouns, to have been traced to a Hebrew
etymology, which might illustrate the
supposed origin and character of the
town. Mr. Oppcrt believes he has found
allusions to the Deluge and the confusion
of tongues on a cylinder discovered at
Birs-Nimrond, and considers this circum-
stance as an additional proof of the iden-
tity of Birs-Nimroud and the Tower of


Chapter XI 10—32.

10. These are the generations of Shem: Shem was a
hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after

!. The genealogy of Shem, which
foi U14 the contents of this section, is the
immediate continuation of the table of the
Adamhes contained in the fifth chapter;
md botib are parallel in every respect.
Both consist of ten generations; and
both end with the individual selected to
glorify and to propagate his race; the one
with Noah, the other with Abram. In
both lists nearly the same chronological
» are inserted, and both are therefore

equally intended to serve for historical
computations. But there is one great
difference between both. Whilst the list
of the Adamites contains individuals,
that of the Shemites enumerates, at least
partly, representatives of nations. We
know from the preceding chapter, that
Arphaxad and Salah, Eber and Peleg,
were the founders of tribes; but ttio
difficulty consists in ascertaining where
here the reeU individuals begin. It may,

Y Digitized by VjOOQ iC



the flood: 11. And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad
five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. —
12. And Arphaxad lived thirty-five 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: 16. And Salah lived after he begat Eber four
hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
— 16. And Eber lived thirty-five years, and begat Peleg:

perhaps, not be impossible to find nations
whose names have some resemblance
with Ren and Serug; but it is undoubted
that the three last names of our list,
Kahor, Terah, and Abram, are intended
as indiyidoals; and although the uncer-
tainty concerning Beu and Serug, de-
prives OS of an interesting addition to
oar knowledge of ancient geography, their
connection with Eber proves, at least, to
which part of the Shemitic branches they
belonged; and if they indeed represent
cities or tribes, we must seek them in the
neighbourhood of the Euphrates; and
Reu can scarcely be the Median town
Rogau, although Serug may be identical
with the once blooming district Sarug, in
northern Mesopotamia, including the
towns of Batna and Anthemusia, only
one day*s journey south-west of Edessa
iRitier, Erdkunde, x. 11 19, 1170; zi. 289).
But however this may be, the general
historical meaning of this genealogy is as
ceruin as it is important. That branch
of the Shemites which inhabited Arphaxad
or northern Assyria (see p. 277), after
having increased and crossed the Eu-
phrates, was divided into several tribes,
no doubt on both sides of the river, till
the descndants, in the fourth generation,
migrated westward to Canaan (see p. 278).
Thus the descent and the journeys of
Abraham and of his progeny are traced
with an accuracy which will guide our
judgment regarding the other geographi-
cal allusions of this passage. Terah and
Abraham are stated to have been bom in
«* Ur of the Chaldees^ (DnK'D "))«, ver.
28); they intended to exchange their

native abodes with those of Canaan; and
on their way to this land they stayed ia
Haran (jnTI). The identity of the last-
mentioned town with Carrhae of the
classical writers, is andisputed. It was
situated on the river Baliasus (Bilecha or
Belik), 20 miles south-east of Edeea, in
a country destitute of water and of trees,
to which circumstance it may owe its
name, which means a ** dry or parched
place**; surrounded by moantains, thoogli
itself built in a large plain. It was the
point whence several caravan roads issued,
one over Nisibis to the Tigris, another
southward to the Euphrates, to Circesinm
and Babylon ; and another sooth-west to
Syria and Palestine. It belonged to the
chief towns forced by Sennacherib's pre-
decessors under the Assyrian sceptre
(2 Kings xix. 12; IsaL xxxviL 12); and
stood with Tyre in commercial rdatioas
(Ezek. xxvii. 23) naturally favoured by its
position; it was, after the time of Alex*
ander the Great, peopled with Macedo-
nians (DiW., xix. 9 1 ; Dion Caa^ xxxviL
57); offered e£Scient assistance to Poo-
pey, who here stationed a Roman garrisoo;
but became chiefly famons bj the death
and total defeat which Crassus sofiered
in its vicinity from theParthians(B.a53);
it preserved a faithful attachment to the
Romans, who therefore made it the fint
Roman colony in Mesopotamia, and raised
it to the metropolis of the country (l&S
A.c); it was further renowned by iti
oracles, and its mysterious worship devo-
ted to the moon-goddess, Atargalia («
Anoctis), and shared by the Roman ea-
pcrors^ Cai'acalla and Julianus; it becaae

Digitized by




17. And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred
and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters — 1 8. 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 thirty-two
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 :


And Serug

lived after he


the frontier town of the Bjzantine empire,
wherefore Justiniaoas fortified its walls;
it is mentioned by Arabic writers, by
Isthikri and £bn Haukal, by Edrisi and
Abtilfeda, as a principal town of Sabaean
worshippers, who here possessed an ora-
tory ascribed to Abraham ; it was, there-
fore, by Syrian aathors contemptuously
called the ** heaven town," in contra-
distinction to the Christian city, Edessa,
and asserted to have been the centre from
which idolatry spread over the whole
earth; it was, in the twelfth century, ac-
cording to Benjamin of Tudela, still in-
habited by some Jewish families, which
stated that their synagogue was built by
Ezra, and pointed out the site where the
house of Abraham is said to have stood,
where no other building is allowed to be
constructed, and which the Mohammedans
also held in high veneration. But already
in the diirteenth century, Haran was
called an extinct town by Bar Hebraeus.
At present it lies mostly in ruins, though
some towers are left, and is still visited
by pious pilgrims, as a spot hallowed by
its connection with the patriarch Abraham
(comp. Ritter, £rdk.x.243, 1121, 1138;
xi. 291 — 299). From the situation of
Haran above described, the general posi-
tion of Ur of the Chaldees cannot be
doubtfuL The identifications with the
tofuthem palaces, Mngeyer and Wurka, .
are out of the qnestion (see pp.292, 293).
Equally untenable is the opinion of those
who believe that Ur means the toum C^^V),
and understand the Persian fortress Ur,
between Dura on the Tigris, and Nisibin,
mentioned by Ammianug in hit narrative

of the return of the Roman army under
Jovianus, after the death of Julian
(Ritter, Erdk.,x.l59; G<'*«i.,The8.p.55).
For it appears that Ur is rather the name
of a province than a town; and that
Haran also belonged to it For when
Abraham was living in this town, God
•aid to him: ** Go out of thy country
and the place of thy birth .... to the
land which I shall show thee** (xii. 1).—
The reason why TcrAh resolved to leave
his home, is not stated; we may, how-
ever, suppose that the increasing popula-
tion, and, perhaps, the growing numbers
of his flocks and herds, induced him to
seek richer pasturage and a less occupied
soil ; he began his journey in the direction
towards Canaan, but found already in the
important town of Haran the object of
his migration realised ; here he settled, and
stayed for a considerable time; for here
his family acquired wealth and numerous
servants (xii. 5). The distance from the
original dwelling-place of Terah to Haran
might, therefore, not have been very great;
and this determines sufficiently the posi-
tion of the district of Ur.

Terah the idolator intended, of his own
accord, to leave Mesopotamia, and to settle
in Canaan. His son, Abraham, received
from God only the same command ; and
yet his obedience was regarded as the first
great proof of his faith (Ilobr. xi. 8).
Bnt the great difference is this, that whilst
Terah*8 emigration was only the conse-
quence of an external necessity or dci^iro,
that of Abraliam had a spiritual or reli-
gious motive; so far from suffering want
in Haran, Abraham had there risen to %


gitized by




Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters*
— 24. And Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and begat
Terah: 25. And Nahor lived after he begat Terah a
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.

state of flourishing prosperity; that
countiy had, therefore, become to him en-
deared by all human ties; and Ood Him-
self seems with emphasis to have pointed
to this happy abode, in addressing him:
** go from thy country, and from the place
of thy birth, and from thy father's house**;
—but Abraham brought the sacrifice with-
out murmuring or reluctance; he felt that
the formation of a pure religious centre
required the perfect separation from the
pagan country, where the bonds of rela-
tionship or of patriotism might retard or
check the progress of the new doctrines ; and
he, therefore, disregarded his worldly ad-
vantages, and conquered his prepossessions
to secure the higher privileges of religion.
Terah *s wish for emigration was a matter
of expediency, and he changed his plans
at the first place which promised him the
desired benefits; he stayed and died at
Haran; but the unaltered end of Abra-
ham's journey was Canaan (xii.5); and
he proceeded thither even during his
Esther's life-time. For, as Terah was 70
years old at Abraham's birth (ver. 26),
and died at the age of 205 years (ver. 32),
and as Abraham was 75 years old when
he left Haran (xii. 4) : it is evident that
the father survived his son's emigration
by 60 years, namely 205 — - (70 -|- 75>
Thus disappears the difficulty which those
dates imply, if we suppose that Abram
left Haran only after his father's death,
and which the Samaritan text endeavours
to remove by arbitrarily changing the
number 205 into 145, an expedient which
in later times seems to have been exten-
sively adopted (Acts vii. 4). But this is
sot the only falsification which the num-

bers of our chapter have suffered. The
Septuagint endeavours here, as in the fifth
chapter, to effect a greater amount of
years for the ten generations; but the
principles on which these alterations have
been made are so obvious, that they betray
themselves at the first glance as spurious.
The reader will easily detect them by ex-
amining the table at the end of the Sum-
mary; and he will there also find similar
unwarrantable alterations which the Sa-
maritan text permitted itself (comp.
MichaelU, DeChron. Mos. post dil., p. 128;
Gesen., De Pent. Samar,, p. 48). — The
Alexandrian version inserts, besides, be-
tween Arphaxad and Salah the name of

Online LibraryMarcus Moritz KalischA historical and critical commentary on the Old Testament, with a new translation → online text (page 55 of 136)