Reading For Friday Genesis 11:1-9

The Tower of Babel is the subject of three oil paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

The Tower of Babel is the subject of three oil paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Children change so quickly. If you have had the joy of being around young children, then you have seen the phases they go through in their development. Something takes place as they progress through infancy into childhood; children discover they possess and ability to make noise. It normally begins when they start experiments with the pitch and timbre of their voices. Making different sounds is one of the stages that requires a bit more patience than usual. They advance to a point where they start to emulate the sounds and words that they hear around them. Adults with strangely contorted faces, slow speech patterns, and particular enunciation volunteer to help them learn to speak. This stage usually includes a lengthy period where children with babble almost incessantly which may also require a great deal of patience because babbling seems to be simply making noise without the desire or skill to articulate language. Babbling can be frustrating, and it makes it almost impossible to communicate.

This part of the story is both sad and far-reaching. One would assume that people learned their lesson after God's judgment is poured out on creation through the great flood. Surely this fresh start with Noah and his family which found favor would render a complete transformation of humanity. However, that assumption is contrary to the storyline of Scripture. God's great story is not about people who try hard and do great things, it is about a rebellious and broken people that rarely do what's right, yet God graciously rescues them. The post-flood family was one language and dialect. Imagine one culture and one language with the opportunity to begin again. Everyone was able to communicate well, and this must have been a beautiful thing. 

There is nothing wrong with building a tower. Perhaps they wanted a new architectural feat to admire. Being close by in a community with one language doesn't seem all that bad either. The problem is that they not only disobeyed God, but they wanted to make a name for themselves. Instead of trusting God, they would glorify and fortify themselves. God did not come down because he was unaware of what was taking place, nor did he fear the people working as one. His visitation is there to remind us that he is and always will be involved with his creation. I think perhaps the point is not what man can achieve together, but if their sin is left unchecked, there will be no end to their rebellion. God exercises his restraining grace and everything changes. God is always just and right in his judgments. Nothing escapes God’s attention. No individual sin, no sin of a nation. That is the lesson of Babel. 

God is gentle in judging the rebels at Babel. God did not let man’s rebellion run its full course, as He did before Noah’s Flood. He cut short their rebellion in its early stages so that humans would not hurt themselves too much. By changing one language into many, God effectively separated nations. God intervened to prevent mankind from falling under the sway of a single, absolute tyrant over all the earth. As the creator of human speech, God rewired language so that the evil speakers could no longer speak to one another. Mankind’s rebellion came full circle and the city earned a name for itself– Babel, from a related word meaning “confusion."  

Things To Consider: 

  • What are some ways you see the sin of the people repeated today?
  • How do we explain the many cultures that exists today if we came from one people?
  • What do we learn about God by the way he responded?
  • Why do we miss his grace in judgment?
  • Imagine what it will be like when Christ gathers together God’s family from every nation and tongue (Revelation 7:9).