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Genesis 11: The Tower of Babel

Original Publication Date
June 27, 2015
Updated
Jan 10, 2023 1:04 AM
Tags
GenesisChapter StudyBabylonNimrodCommunication
Bible References
Genesis 11:1-9
Status
Done
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Table of Contents
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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on June 27, 2015 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.

Introduction

Most people know the story of the Tower of Babel, but most also reduce it to the explanation of different languages and nations. There is much more to think about than the simple consequence of divided nations, such as the power of communication. It is such a well known story that today we have a language learning company called babbel, and Babel may be the origin of the word babble, which is defined a incoherent speech. The word babel (in Hebrew) actual means “to confuse” or “be confused.” So, Bablyon actually means confusion, which is interesting considering the end time power is also known as Bablyon.

The Story of the Tower

In Genesis 11, we find the account of the Tower at Babel. After the flood, as people are expanding and growing, a group of these people find a plain in the land on Shinar, which is near the Euphrates River we know today and will eventually become ancient Babylonia. When the people reach this land they decide to make a great tower. The reason given for their inspiration to become masterful architects is to avoid being scattered across the land and to make a name from themselves. God comes down from Heaven to see the tower. We are told that God does not approve of the tower and punishes the people by confusing their language and scattering them across the world (exactly what they were trying to avoid).

3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. 4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

Significance

In Genesis 10 we are told that Nimrod, son of Cush, descendant of Ham, and a mighty hunter before God, becomes started his kingdom with Babel. Therefore, it is likely that either Nimrod was the progenitor of the idea to create the tower (which is attributed to the whole group not an individual person), or the one to claim the land and provide claim to those who stay after the incident.

The reason given for their inspiration to become masterful architects is to avoid being scattered across the land (as God commanded in Genesis 9:1) and to make a name for themselves. Their act was a rebellion against God. God had instructed these people to repopulate the world and fill the planet, instead they were using their time to glorify themselves.

Does God Hate Skyscrapers?

The first thought I had after re-reading Genesis 11 was, "Does this mean God hates skyscrapers?" I'm not sure how the tower at Babel was, but for comparison, the tallest pyramid in Egypt was 481.4ft (171m) at when it was built, which are estimated to date back to sometime between 2575 BC to 2465 BC,[3] It is estimated that the flood occurred in 2350 BC. According to The Book of Jubilees—a book contained in the Apocrypha—the tower was 5433 cubits tall, which coverts to 8150ft (2484m).[1][2] Today's tallest skyscraper, standing at 2717ft (828m) is Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The new World Trade Center will be the tallest building in the US, third largest in the world and is only 1776ft (541m).[4] If The Book of Jubilees is correct (you can look forward to a post on the Apocrypha soon), our buildings aren't even worthy of being called skyscrapers compared to the Tower of Babel, but let’s investigate the matter anyway.

To determine if God hates skyscrapers, we first have to figure out what angered God in this scenario. Was it the tower itself? Was it the people's success in building the tower? The architecture? The mindset of the people? What didn't He like?

5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

When I read this as a child I didn't really think about why God was upset that they built the tower, and as I got older, I began to think the issue was over their attempt to thwart God. Without different languages or "races" there was nothing keeping man from uniting, which would be a good thing if they were uniting to worship and do as God said, but a dangerous and horrible thing if the devil used this unity to turn man against God. The ability to unite people under the idea that God was wrong, obsolete, or in a position that man can achieve, is dangerous for many reasons. The obvious reason is that mankind turns away from the Creator. Another reason is that the people who chose to follow God's way will be ostracized, outcast, and persecuted by the powerful majority. Moreover, when the people learned that they could do great things that had nothing to do with God, what would stop them from doing so? When the people came together, the first thing they did is go against God and take a stand against his order. Perhaps this was the first instance of "mob mentality" after the flood. Since then man has been trying to "unlock the secrets of the universe," create life, etc. Essentially, as we form elaborate cities and kingdoms we either end up playing God or forgetting God. Think about it, we shoot fireworks on the fourth of July to celebrate the independence of the nation, but how do we celebrate God? Where does God fit in the nation that voted to build a tower that 1776ft tall, but maintains prayer bans?

Consequences

As a consequence over their actions, God created multiple languages so that the people could not understand each other. This forced them to follow God's plan and scatter across the globe. Today, researchers estimate that there are over 7000 languages![5]

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The older I get, the more I realize that this occurs within same-language speakers. From dialect, to simple differences in connotation, to regional idioms, we still have difficulty understanding each other sometimes, even when we speak the same language. Unsubstantiated opinion: I believe that before this point, humans could talk to animals and when God mixed up our tongues, we lost the ability to communicate with animals easily. (Note: God enables a donkey to communicate with a human in Numbers 22, and somehow Noah was able to communicate with the animals of The Ark.) Wouldn’t stake my salvation on it, but it’s definitely something I that just clicks in my mind.

References and Footnotes

  1. The Book of Jubilees 10:19-27
  2. Pelletier, William T. "Tower of Babel: What Did It Look Like?". Bible Science Guy. March 20, 2013
  3. "Pyramids of Giza". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2015
  4. Stanglin, Doug. "It's official: World Trade Center is USA's tallest building". USA Today. November 12, 2013
  5. Maren Pauli. “How Many Languages Are There in the World?”. Babbel. November 3, 2019; visited August 2022

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