Focal Passage: Genesis 11:1-9
After retirement, my dad served for a year as an interim pastor in Kowloon, Hong Kong, at an English-speaking church. My family went for a visit. Dad wanted to take us out to experience the Hong Kong culture and took us downtown in a taxi to a small “hole in the wall” restaurant for an authentic Chinese meal.
Dad had help writing down directions and ordering in the proper language. At the end of our night, we were successful. However, we spent most of the night pointing instead of speaking, looking confused and trying to understand a different language and culture. When you don’t speak the same language, it is easy for confusion to reign.
The story of the tower of Babel showed how God authored confusion to stop His people from their continued ways of being disobedient. The people could no longer communicate with each other, and it stopped their plans. The tower of Babel was a continuation of the Biblical truth: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23).
In Genesis 6, God saw that “every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time.” The result of humanity’s sinfulness was the Flood and the destruction of creation that God had made. Nevertheless, God was merciful and allowed humanity to continue by sparing Noah and his family through the Ark.
God renewed His covenant to Noah to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Yet again, even after the Flood, the people chose to be disobedient to God. Instead of “filling the earth” or scattering through the world in new places and new languages, they stopped in one place, had only one language, and built a tower unto the heavens to be as a god.
The tower of Babel presented a dilemma of sorts for God. He had made His creation, and His crowning achievement was Adam and Eve. They were “naked and not ashamed.” But soon they yielded to the temptation of the tempter.
Judgment came, and they were banned from the Garden of Eden. Then sin exploded, and even humanity’s thoughts were “nothing but evil.” So, God “repented” (Genesis 6:6) that He had made humanity, and the Flood came, and His creation was destroyed. But God “remembered” Noah, and through Noah, humanity would be saved.
Would humanity learn a lesson? Judgment came because humanity was disobedient to God. Now, after the Flood and the judgment that came with it, humanity still had not learned the lesson about disobedience. What would God do? Complete destruction? It was justified. Every opportunity had been given for humanity to repent. Somewhere, I imagine that the angels waited with bated breath — what would the Almighty God, the creator of the ends of the earth, do?
The tower of Babel, known as a term meaning confusion, and later as a place called Babylon, meaning an enemy of God, becomes central in humanity’s theological structure. Following the tower of Babel, where God could have chosen destruction, God chose mercy.
For the rest of the book of Genesis, then the Pentateuch, and then all Scripture, now turned on this moment, as our merciful God sought to restore humanity to its rightful place, first through a nation where Abraham served as its father and then through a Savior, the very son of God. B&R