The Tower of Babel

God said to Noah after the flood in Genesis 9:1 "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." Again in Genesis 9:7 "Be fruitful and multiply. Bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply in it." That's exactly what began to happen. Noah's sons each had many children of their own, and the population on earth began to grow. But it doesn't seem like they were in any hurry to spread out. Many of them settled in the land of Shinar. But something happened to change all of that. We read about it in Genesis 11.

Genesis 11:1-9

1 The whole earth was of one language and of one speech. 2 It happened, as they traveled east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they lived there. 3 They said one to another, "Come, let's make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 They said, "Come, let's build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top reaches to the sky, and let's make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth."

5 Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. 6 Yahweh said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do. 7 Come, let's go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." 8 So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there on the surface of all the earth. They stopped building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there Yahweh confused the language of all the earth. From there, Yahweh scattered them abroad on the surface of all the earth.

The plain of Shinar area was probably fertile ground that lent itself to farming, so it could support a large population. I don't think there was anything wrong with many of the people settling there. But they weren't content just to live there. They wanted to make a name for themselves. So they decide they will build a city for themselves, and in the city they will build a tower. It will be a tall tower, and very impressive. People will be able to see it for miles. News about it will spread throughout the earth, and everyone will want to see it. They will come, bringing their wealth with them. The city will become prosperous, and its builders will become famous.

But there's another aspect to this tower too. It will reach to the heavens. That is where God dwells. Symbolically, the tower will say that we are like God. We can reach His level. What He can do, we can do also. We are not under His rule.

And it's true that man can accomplish quite a lot. When the Lord came down to see the city and the tower they were building, even He was impressed. He said in effect, "If these people can communicate freely and act as one, then they can do pretty much whatever they want to do." They were making progress. They could have completed the city and tower they had planned. Not a tower that actually reached the heavens where God dwells, but one that would reach farther into the sky than anything else that had been built up to that time. They could have built just about anything else that they wanted to build as well, if they worked together.

But God didn't let them work together. He confused their language, so they couldn't understand each other. I take it that everybody started speaking a different language. If you and I were talking in English, suddenly I may be speaking Greek and you could only understand Chinese. All conversation ceased, as did the ability to work together effectively and even the desire to do so. These people had wanted a name for themselves, so they would not be scattered over the earth. Now, they didn't even know one another's names. There was no reason to stick together anymore, so they did scatter throughout the earth.

That was a long time ago, and much has happened since then. There are still many languages in the world today, but it is less and less of a barrier. We can communicate not only by word of mouth, but also through printed pages. Translations of everything are available. Mass communication lets us learn about thinks instantly via radio and television. Even personal messages are now instant via cell phones and the internet.

As communication has increased, so has knowledge, and so has man's accomplishments. I'm sure that our modern skyscrapers put the tower of Babel to shame, and they have modern conveniences like indoor plumbing, electric lights, and air conditioning. We can travel by rail, car, airplane, even through space. Our medicines can cure deadly diseases. But not all of our development has been positive. Our bombs can kill millions. It is truly impressive what we are able to do.

Where is God in our society? With everything we have accomplished, do we need Him? Do we even acknowledge that He exists?

He does, you know. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. (John 1:3). And He still knows what we are up to. He knows each and every one of us, and Rom 2:6 says He will pay back to everyone according to their works. If God paid you back according to your works, how would you do?

The truth is, there is a little bit of the rebels of Babylon in each one of us. We set ourselves higher than we ought to, and rebel against God's authority in our lives. All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way (Isa 53:6). We are sinners and one day, God will judge sin. But He won't merely change what language we speak. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), and that's more than just a physical death. It is described as eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thes 1:9).

God, being Holy and Righteous, has to judge sin. But He is also a God of love. He doesn't take any pleasure in sending anyone to hell. So God judged His own son for our sins. Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God (1 Pet 3:18). With our sin paid for, He now invites us to come to Him, and be saved. Saved from the wrath of God (Rom 5:9). Saved not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy (Titus 3:5).

In John 5:24 Jesus said "Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn't come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."

That's what God wants for you. I hope that it is what you want as well. If so, you can turn the Lord Jesus Christ today. For, whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom 10:13).