Message of the Day: The Tower of Babel – A Symbol of False Identity, Pride, Rebellion, and Man’s Failure!
Text: Genesis 11:1-9
1Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.
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.
3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.
4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.
6 And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.
7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.
9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
Key Verse: Genesis 11:6
“And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” (NKJV)
The story of Babel shows that sin was not eradicated by the flood. Human beings still prided themselves on their own glory and rebelled against God. The symbol of this pride and rebellion was the huge ziggurat, or temple tower. A typical Mesopotamian/Babylonian temple tower (ziggurat), was a square at the base and had slopping, stepped sides that led upward to a small shrine at the top. Sometimes ziggurats rise two hundred feet or more. Babylonians regularly raised these ziggurats to their gods. Temple towers were made of brick for stone and tar for mortar. Stone and mortar were used as building materials in Canaan. Stone was scarce in Mesopotamia, however, so mud brick and tar were used.
The name “Babel” is related to another Hebrew term meaning “mixed up” or “confused.” It does not mean ‘gate of god,’ as the Babylonians held, but ‘confusion,’ and it evokes the similar sounding words ‘folly’ and ‘flood.’ As mentioned above, Babel was used to carry out the people’s plan to “build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (v.4) Other ziggurats in Mesopotamia were given names demonstrating this purpose, they serve as staircases from earth to heaven.
In doing so, this bunch of Mesopotamian has chosen to establish for themselves a secure center from which to control their own environment and protect themselves rather than heed to God’s command to spread out over the whole earth. Instead of a God-given unity and identity, they seek a false, autonomous collectivism and a reputation of their own devising. They rebelled against God by building the tower. They arrogantly challenge God to come down and bless their project. They think of their own tower as a wonderful achievement, a stairway to heaven. God recognized that if the whole human race remained united and with much pride and self-centered efforts, attempt to seize the reins of history,there would be no limits to their unrestrained rebellion. God has to descend from heaven just to be able to see the thing! God indeed come down and far from blessing this project, he condemns the arrogance that has that inspired it.
God judges the people by confusing their language and scattering them abroad. Human pride was utterly condemned. The nations are so scattered and so closed off by scrambled language that they will never even cooperate with one another, much less challenge God. In this manner, God forced them to fulfill his will for them, to spread out across the face of the earth.
Babel therefore, is the ultimate symbol of man’s failure to do things alone in defiance of his creator. it stands as a monument to the perennial human desire to build their own kingdom apart from God. As we have seen, this kind of move is doomed to fail.
Name in Scriptures stands for identity. With Babel, the people have sought a false identity, a reputation built on human autonomy. If anyone would do the same, God’s response would be to judge that sin and to stop every ambitious, idolatrous building program.
Notice that it was not the physical “Tower of Babel” that was condemned, but the rebellious, proud and arrogant character of people. As we have seen again and again, judgment is accompanied by mercy. Though Genesis chapter 11 marks a climax in the advance of human sinfulness within the good creation of God, Genesis chapter 12 marks yet another new beginning as God steadfastly pursues his purpose for his creation.
Bartholomew, Craig G. nad Goheen, Michael W. The Drama of Scripture. Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament. An Introduction. Manila, Philippines: St. Pauls, 2003.
Zondervan NASB Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999.
Olive Tree Bible Software, 1998.
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