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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Tower of Babel - Why It Was Never Finished

The Tower of Babel - Why It Was Never Finished!

The Bible tells us that Noah was a man of faith and a man of God. After the flood the first thing he did when he came out of the arc was to worship God there on Mt. Ararat. Noah and his wife had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. Scripture says that Noah’s three sons were all married without children at the time of the flood. And so there were eight people who entered the arc when the flood occurred, Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives. After the flood, Noah’s family was the only family left alive on earth. Must have been lonely! So Noah’s three sons and their wives started having babies! “These three were the sons of Noah, and from these sons the whole earth was populated.” (Genesis 9:19) The whole tenth chapter of Genesis records long lists of Noah’s’ family tree: naming his sons, grandsons, and even on down to Abraham, nine generations and 300 + years later. (The women’s names aren’t recorded here in this genealogy!)

Noah and his descendents probably lived in the area that today is modern Iraq- the cradle of civilization. They were all one big extended family – brothers, sisters, grandparents and cousins and they all spoke the same language. Scripture tells that these early primeval peoples were hunter-gatherers and farmers. And we are even told how many years passed between each generation.

By the time we get down to Noah’s great great grandchildren, we read the story about the tower of Babel. It had been about 175 years since the flood and Noah’s family had grown into a big group by now. Some of the group had traveled to the plain of Shinar and they wanted to settle there. We don’t know exactly where Shinar was, but Biblical scholars believe that it was probably in the vicinity of the Euphrates River.

This group talked among themselves about building a tower there in Shinar. “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 earth.’” (Genesis 11:4)

We don’t know what was in the hearts of Noah’s great great grandchildren, the builders of this tower, but their motives must not have pleased God. Let’s listen: “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 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. Come let Us go down there and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’” (Genesis 11: 5-7)

This short story in Genesis ends quickly after telling us that the name of the tower was called “Babel” meaning “confusion”, because the Lord confused the peoples’ language. Just how this confusion occurred we don’t know. Perhaps over time if each small group began speaking a different language, the workers might not have been able to understand one another and coordinate their work, and thus complete the tower.

When Scripture says, ‘Come let Us go down there and confuse their language,…’ I believe that the “Us” here refers to the triune God,- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There are other Biblical passages that also refer to the Godhead as plural.

The story of the tower of Babel ends this way: “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.” (Genesis 11:9) Does this story from antiquity give us the answers as to why there are so many languages on the earth and why the human race spread so rapidly across the earth after the flood?

What can we take away from this Bible story? We can only guess at why God stopped Noah’s decedents from finishing their tower. Perhaps these tower builders wanted to impress future generations with a majestic tower that reached to the sky. They would achieve might and power by staying together around their tower. Perhaps the creative work of their hands would be more important in their lives than God would be! And the city and the tower would hopefully keep them all in one place. Together they could become famous and make a name for themselves. It might be that they forgot to include God in their tower building plans or to ask Him for His direction in their lives. The sins of self-sufficiency and pride might have been reasons that God was not pleased with their tower. They might have wanted to build a monument to their own strength and might and in their prideful rush just left God out of their plans.

God never likes to be left out of our plans or our lives. He doesn’t like us building our towers without Him. Scripture says that God is jealous when His children forget Him. (Exodus 34:14) The story of the Prodigal Son reminds us that the Father missed His oldest son so much and waited and watched anxiously for his return. (Luke 15:11-32) And God waits for us too. He so wants us to open our hearts and our lives to Him. Let’s make sure we do that.


  1. we wonder how God confused their language, well you answered it in another paragraph.. God scattered them across the Earth.
    So as they multiplied abroad, separate from one another.. the change came to the languages.. now the act of the separating may have been the event or just His spirit caused the desire to leave, Iraq.

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