“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; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth,’” [Genesis 11:4]
Digging Deeper into Genesis 11:1-9
I have a book called, “ The Jesus Storybook Bible” by Sally Lloyd-Jones, which is basically a compilation of Bible stories written for children, including beautiful illustrations. I would say I own this because I have nieces back at home, but they actually have their own copy so I’ll be honest and say that I enjoy the simplicity of reading it every now and then. Highly recommend.
Anyway, in its Tower of Babel Bible story, the text says this:
“We’ll say, ‘Look at us up here!’ and everyone will look up at us. And we’ll look down on them. And then we’ll know we are something. We’ll be like God. We’ll be famous and safe and happy and everything will be all right.”
The people in this story have the wrong intentions.
The brick that they chose to use was man-made, and it was not as hard as stone. They preferred their own materials over tools that God had already provided for them.
The model for the tower was called a ziggurat, which looked like a pyramid with steps up the sides. Most ziggurats were built as temples, but they wanted to consider this tower a monument to their own greatness. The people worked together, using their common language, to build a tower that “reached to the heavens.”
At the time of construction, everyone spoke the same language. They were able to so easily work together because they could communicate well.
But God saw that the people were taking matters into own hands. He saw that they wanted to give themselves credit for their efforts. He saw that they were starting to find their worth and identity in something that they build. They began to believe that they didn’t need God. In Genesis 9:1, God specifically told humankind to "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." His command was for his people to scatter and fill the whole earth. So when the people began building the tower in Shinar, they were choosing to rebel and ignored God's clear instructions. Just two chapters later.
So, God interrupted. He stopped their plans because he knew there was no way that they would be able to depend upon their own skills forever. He interrupted because he cared for them and loved them too much to allow them to continue in their ways. And so the Lord gave them each a new language.
Once God interrupted, they scattered.
Funny how God’s plan happened anyway, despite the mistakes of his people.
The people did not need a stairway to heaven. The way to heaven wasn’t a staircase, it was a person. And thank God he decided to come down that staircase in the person of Jesus, rather that expect us to work our way up there.
When we build things in order to glorify ourselves, we take credit for the things that God made happen. What kinds of monuments are we building to draw attention to our achievements?
The descendants of Noah were seeking a way out of obeying the Lord’s command to multiply across the earth. They lost vision of what the Lord had for them and began to take matter into their own hands. In what areas of your life are you not trusting God?
The word babel comes from the Hebrew word, balel, which means to confound or jumble or confuse. To confound is to cause surprise in someone by acting against their expectations. God totally surprised his people in this event. How are you being open to the Lord’s interruptions?
God, thank You for promising that when we draw near to You, You draw near to us. Thank you for teaching us more about Your love for us in the story of the Tower of Babel. I pray that I never lose sight of Your will for me, and that I can trust You with my whole life. Lord, show me where I am taking credit for things that You do. Lord, interrupt the areas of my life where I need redirection. Love you, Amen.