Prologue to Genesis

The Unauthorized Version

Genesis 11

The whole earth spoke the same language. As they travelled East, and settled in the plain of Shiner, in Babylonia, they decided to bake bricks. They said to each other, “Let’s build a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, and let’s make a name for ourselves, or else we will be smashed open and scattered all over the face of the earth.

Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of the adam had built. He said, “Look, they are one people with one language. If this is how they begin, then nothing will stop their plans! Let’s go down there and confuse their language so that they can’t understand each other.”

So Yahweh smashed open and scattered them all over the face of the earth. And they stopped building the city.

Therefore it’s shem [name] was Babel, because there Yahweh balal [confused] the language of the whole earth.

These are the descendants of Shem.

When Shem was 100 he became father to Arpachshad – two years after the flood. The age of Shem lasted another 500 years.

When Arpachshad was 35 he become father to Shelah. The age of Arpachshad lasted another 403 years.

When Selah was 30 he became father to Eber. The age of Selah lasted another 403 years.

When Eber was 34 he became father to Peleg. The age of Eber lasted another 430 years.

When Peleg was 30 he become father to Reu. The age of Peleg lasted another 209 years.

When Reu was 32 he became father to Serug. The age of Reu lasted another 207 years.

When Serug was 30 he became father to Nahor. The age of Serug lasted another 200 years.

When Nahor was 29 he became father to Terah. The age of Nahor lasted another 119 years.

When Nahor was 70 he became father to Abram, Nahor and Haran.

These are the descendants of Terah.

Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran, and Haran was the father of Lot. Haran died before Terah, his father, in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his birth. Abram took a wife called Sarai, and Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, who also fathered Iscah. Sarai could not have children.

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, Abram’s wife, and they left Ur of the Chaldeans and set out for the land of Canaan. But when they reached Haran – “the crossroads” – they settled there. The age of Terah was 205 years and he died at the crossroads.

Translation notes

– I have repeated the use of ‘smashed open and scattered’ here, referencing the same language as used in Genesis 9 to describe the movement of population after the flood. The Hebrew root word is the same in both uses.

– The meaning of Haran as “the crossroads” seemed significant to the story, so I have included it in the translation.

– The narrative relationship between shem as ‘name’ and Shem as Noah’s first son, and Babel as the name of the city and balal meaning ‘confusion, also seemed important enough to make explicit in the translation.

Prologue to Genesis

The Unauthorized Version