The Confusing Case of Babel
by Zack Howard
What causes God to break up a unified people? In Genesis 11, a group of people gather together, unified by one language and one goal. Their goal was simple: build a grandiose tower, and make a name for themselves. As they are building their tower, God decides to disperse them among the world, with different languages. While this story may just seem confusing, there are two lessons to learn from Babel.
Man Has A Tendency To Get Self-Centered.
This story has all the echoes of a self centered mankind.In verses 1 and 2, the story sets the stage ““1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.” This is a group unified by their language, that choose to settle together in one spot. As they are in the land, they propose a plan: “3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
The goal is to build a grandiose tower, so that their name will be remembered, long after their death. They want to be remembered for what they have done. We have this same mindset today, and we can see it in the monuments that are created, the programs that are built, the championships that are won.
Man wants to be remembered for what he does—and this focus can drive him to be self-centered in all that he does. This is shown in how we treat people, how we prioritize our lives, and how we act in difficult times. When we get self-centered, we ignore anything that doesn’t help us progress or be remembered—including God.
God Is A Jealous God.
The second lesson comes from God’s actions. In verses 6-8, it reads: “6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.” God’s jealousy is often noted in the bible, and it is often when his people look to idols instead of him. In this story, we see this jealousy come out. The people are building a great tower, and surely they will continue to build whatever they put their mind to; therein lies the problem. As they continue to strive for personal greatness, they will not see a need for God. They would feel unstoppable and powerful; and God would be left out of their lives.
God recognizes this and puts a stop to it. God desires their focus to be on him, not on the great things they can do. This is not saying that God does not allow man to build great things or accomplish anything; rather this shows his desire for our pride to be in him rather than our own abilities. So what should we do if we recognize God is a jealous God? We need to glorify him in all that we do and recognize our need for him. We need God’s love and mercy to save us from sin and death. We need God; the more we realize this, the more we glorify him.
Babel is an intriguing story but ultimately it reminds us of how tempting pride can be and how God is a jealous God.