The first part of Genesis (indeed, of the Bible!) is often neglected in Bible and mission writings. Is Gen. 1-11 merely a backdrop or prelude to Abraham’s call which is when the story of God’s mission really gets going in Gen. 12?
There are writers who do reflect on Gen. 1-11 missiologically (e.g., Ida Glaser in her book The Bible and Other Faiths or Brian Russell in his blog, to name just two). While taking a look at the website for Review and Expositor journal today I came across an issue from 2006 on Genesis 1-11 which features a couple of interesting looking articles, which will provoke thought, sympathy and disagreement: Bible and Mission MA students take note!
Missiological Thoughts Prompted by Genesis 10 by Isam Ballenger
The table of nations, Genesis 10, represents the post-history of Noah and his family with the fulfillment of the command given to be fruitful and multiply and the prehistory of Abraham and his family who are to bless all peoples on earth. Fulfillment, rather than a culmination, appears to be preparatory for what is yet to come; history appears to be prologue, attesting to the sovereignty and love of God and claiming time as an integral factor for mission. The peoples of this chapter are not without a relationship to God, raising the question about the relationship of all nonchosen peoples to God. Assuming God initiates relationships, i.e., mission occurs first in God, relationship assumes new dimensions, becomes more inclusive, less individualistic, and thus more demanding of the disciple of Jesus Christ.
God Came Down . . . and God Scattered: Acts of Punishment and Acts of Grace? by Nancy deClaissé-Walford
Throughout the stories in Genesis’ primeval prologue, humankind’s persistent sinfulness is met with punishment but also with acts of grace on the part of God. The last story, the Tower of Babel is usually understood as the ultimate act of disobedience on the part of humanity. In this interpretation, God punishes the people by scattering them over the face of the earth. There is no act of grace. Thus the primeval prologue ends in darkness; God moves to “Plan B” and decides to reveal Godself to humanity through a single family, that of Abram ben Terah. But what if we understood the scattering at the Tower as an act, not of punishment, but of grace on the part of God—an act that allowed humankind to fulfill the creation command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28)? How might that inform and affect our reading of the primeval prologue and the ancestral stories?