The Foundation of Babel

Genesis 11:4  

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 whole earth.”

Yesterday, we covered the background that begins to explain why this was such a problem. God’s will was that humanity spread throughout the earth. But, instead of obeying God’s command (Genesis 9:1), almost all of the descendants of Noah defied God. They decided to settle close together and build a unified culture. This sadly demonstrates that the Flood had not taught humans the lesson of recognizing God as the supreme authority over their lives.

Let’s break down this scripture and discover what exactly was happening:

  • “Let us build ourselves a city”: This indicates that the spirit and motivation behind the founding of this city (later called Babel) was to build a city for all of mankind. It would become a symbol of man ruling himself in defiance of God. Our human minds tend to believe the deceiver’s view of God (Revelation 12:9) and then reject and resist God’s direction in our lives (Romans 8:7). This problem was clearly on display in the building of this city and was the same prideful and arrogant spirit that Satan stirred up in such great rulers as a later king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. He declared: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30).
  • “And a tower whose top is in the heavens”: The centerpiece of this city was to be a tower. Scholars believe this was a ziggurat—an ancient pyramidlike structure unique to this region of Mesopotamia, often displaying a shrine to a pagan god at the top. We are told that they planned to build this tower so high that its top would extend into “the heavens.” Perhaps these people believed that building a tower into the heavens could save them in the case of another massive flood. The global flood stayed in the human consciousness for many generations—as demonstrated in the Gilgamesh epic and other ancient literature. It is a reasonable hypothesis that a fear of a flood could have motivated the building of this tower.
  • “Let us make a name for ourselves”: This reinforces the point that the core motivation behind this project was a desire to gain personal power rather than seeking the leadership and guidance of the Creator. The basis of this motivation is selfish human pride (Proverbs 16:18; Mark 7:21-23).
  • “Lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth”: We can safely deduce from this statement, that their purpose was to oppose the will of God for mankind to spread throughout the entire earth. The apparent intent was to unite all of mankind under one human authority. This has been the goal of the Babylonian system throughout history, and it will be attempted one final time before the return of Jesus Christ (Daniel 4:1; 5:19; Revelation 17:12-13, 15; 18:2-3).

The Bible indicates this movement was led by a man named Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-10). Nimrod is called “mighty” and was the founder of the Babylonian political and religious system that has influenced the world throughout history.

The problem with this concentration of power is that humans are inherently incapable of maintaining humility, submitting to moral law and serving the needs of subjects without God’s guidance. All examples of human empires throughout history have shown the corruption, abuse and tyranny that result from it. Only the rule of the Kingdom of God—under the direct authority of Jesus Christ—will successfully govern the entire earth (Daniel 7:27).

To learn about the future rule of God over the entire earth, read about the Kingdom of God.

Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “Nothing Will Be Withheld.”

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