Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” – Genesis 11:1-4
This incident happens before the worldwide scatter of nations described in Genesis 10. You may read Genesis 11:1-9 here: Gateway Bible.
Why Build a Tower?
The people in this story wanted to pay tribute to their own greatness. The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “The tower of Babel was most likely a ziggurat, a common structure in Babylonia at this time. Most often built as temples, ziggurats looked like pyramids with steps or ramps leading up the sides. Ziggurats stood as high as 300 feet and were often just as wide; thus they were the focal point of the city.”
Although this tower was a success from man’s perspective—a wonder to the world—the act came from self-preservation and pride instead of paying tribute to God.
Why Scatter the people?
God judges the people for their rebellion: placing trust in their own efforts instead of His provision. The word Babel means “confusion” in Hebrew and “the gate of gods” in Babylonian. Instead of settling in one place, God scatters the people over the whole earth by confusing their language.
The language of verse 6 may sound like God is worried, however, He is not threatened by man’s words or actions. Instead, He acts to protect man from himself.
Other Interesting Facts
- “But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower.” Verses 5-6 are described as anthropomorphic: a description of God’s response in human terms. God really doesn’t need to leave heaven to know what is happening on earth.
- Verse 7, “let us”, refers to the Godhead (Trinity) by using the same plural form of God as in the creation account (Gen. 1:26).
- The area later known as Babylon carries a reputation of evil and has a long history of being Israel’s enemy.
- Josephus and Genesis Chapter 10 by Bodie Hodge gives an insightful summary and excerpt from the great historian, Josephus, in his work: Antiquity of the Jews. Josephus’ research provides evidence of biblical accuracy in the Bible’s table of nations. You may read this article here: Answers in Genesis.
Achievements in themselves may not be wrong, but when they take God’s place in our lives they become idols. God gives us freedom to develop in many areas, but we are never free to replace Him.
I have been guilty in the past of building my tower of self-worth and identity based on achievements and/or success. How about you? Are there any towers in your life that need to be torn down?