An Exposition on the
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
First published in 1691, by Charles Doe.
An unfinished commentary on the Bible, found among John
Bunyan's papers after his death, in his own handwriting.
er. 1. "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech."
Moses having thus briefly passed through the genealogies of Japheth, Ham, and Joktan; in the next place he cometh to shew us their works which they had by this time engaged to do; and that was, to build a Babel, whose tower might reach to heaven. Now, in order to this their work, or rather to his relation thereof, he maketh a short fore-speech, which consisteth of two branches. The first is, That now they had all one language or lip. The other was, That they yet had kept themselves together, either resting or walking, as an army compact. An excellent resemblance of the state of the church, before she imagined to build her a Babel. For till then, however one might outstrip another in knowledge and love; yet so far as they obtained, their language or lip was but one. Having but one heart, and one soul, they with one mouth did glorify God, even the Father.
"And the whole earth was of one language." By these words therefore, we may conceive the reason why so great a judgment as that great wickedness, Babel, should be contrived, and endeavoured to be accomplished. The multitude was one. Not but that it is a blessed thing for the church to be one: as Christ saith, "My beloved is but one" (John 17:11). But here was an oneness, not only in the church, but in her mixing with the world. The whole earth, among which, as I suppose, is included Noah, Shem, and others; who being overtopt by Nimrod, the mighty hunter, might company with him until he began to build Babel. Therefore it is said in the next verse, that they companied together from the east, to the land of Shinar.
Hence note, That the first and primitive churches were safe and secure, so long as they kept entire by themselves; but when once they admitted of a mixture, great Babel, as a judgment of God, was admitted to come into their mind.
Ver. 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."
By these words, we gather, that the first rest of Noah, and so the inhabiting of his posterity, was still eastward from Babylon, towards the sun rising.
But to gospelise: They journeyed from the east: and so consequently they turned their backs upon the rising of the sun. So did also the primitive church, in the day when she began to decline from her first and purest state. Indeed, so long as she kept close to the doctrine and discipline of the gospel, according to the word and commandment of the Lord Jesus, then she kept her face still towards the sun rising: According to the type in Ezekiel, who saith of the second and mystical temple, Her fore front, or face, did stand towards the east (47:1). Also he saith, when he saw the glory of God, how it came unto this temple, it came from the way of the east (43:2). Their journeying therefore from the east, was, their turning their backs upon the sun. And to us, in gospel times, it holdeth forth such a mystery as this: That their journey was thus recorded, to show they were now apostatized; for assuredly they had turned their back upon the glorious Sun of Righteousness, as upon that which shineth in the firmament of heaven.
"They found a plain in the land of Shinar." Shinar is the land of Babylon (Dan 1:2; Zech 5:11), as those scriptures in the margin declare.
"They found a plain." Or, place of fatness and plenty, as usually the plains are; and are, upon that account, great content to our flesh: This made Lot separate from Abraham, and choose to dwell with the sinners of Sodom; why, the country was a plain, and therefore fat and plentiful, even like the garden of the Lord, and the land of Egypt. Here therefore they made a stop; here they dwelt and continued together. A right resemblance of the degenerators' course in the days of general apostacy from the true apostolical doctrine, to the church of our Romish Babel. So long as the church endured hardship, and affliction, she was greatly preserved from revolts and backslidings; but after she had turned her face from the sun, and had found the plain of Shinar; that is, the fleshly contents that the pleasures, and profits, and honours of this world afford; she forgetting the word and order of God, was content, with Lot, to pitch towards Sodom; or, with the travellers in the text, to dwell in the land of Babel.
Ver. 3. "And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly [and burn them to a burning]. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar."
Now they being filled with ease and plenty, they begin to lift up the horn, and to consult one with another what they were best to do: Whereupon, after some time of debate, they came to this conclusion, That they would go build a Babel.
"And they said one to another, Go to." This manner of phrase is often used in scripture; and is some times, as also here, used to show, That the thing intended, must come to pass, what opinion or contradiction to the contrary soever there be. It argueth that a judgment is made in the case, and proceedings shall be accordingly. Thus it is also to be taken in Judges 7:3; Ecclesiastes 2:1; Isaiah 5:5; James 5:1, &c. Wherefore it shows, that these men had cast off the fear of God, and, like Israel in the days of the prophet Jeremiah, they resolved to follow their own imagination, let God or his judgments speak never so loud to the contrary. And so indeed he says of them at verse the sixth: "And this they begin to do: [saith God] and now nothing will be restrained from them."
This is all Mr. Bunyan hath writ of this EXPOSITION, as we perceive by the blank paper following the manuscript.