Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
There are so many questions that arise out of the story of the Tower of Babel, so instead of finding a clever story to illustrate the point of the story, let’s just take a few minutes to answer some of those questions.
1) Did this really happen?
Honestly, you could ask that about everything in the Bible. And if we’re going to say that one thing did happen, but another thing didn’t, then it opens the entire Bible to doubt. In some way, yes, I absolutely believe the story is true. People decided they were just as good as God – we still see that every day, don’t we? So it has the ring of truth and believability.
2) What was wrong with building a tower?
I’m sure God has no problem with people building towers. Just look at the skyline of any major city and you’ll see huge buildings that reach toward the sky. The problem wasn’t with the building, but with why they were building it.
3) So, why was God mad with them?
In the first chapter of Genesis, God gave a simple command: “Fill the earth and subdue it.” God didn’t want people to just congregate in one place. He wanted them to spread out over all the earth and carry God’s message with them. At Shinar, they decided to all stay and do things their way. That’s where you hear them say, “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” They didn’t want God’s way, but their own.
4) Is this the origin of languages?
It would seem so. God, in order to keep all of the people from uniting – ultimately against Him – “confused” their language into many, and He himself scattered them in different directions so they would do what He originally commanded.
5) How high was the tower?
No one knows, and the height wasn’t really the point. The condition of their hearts was far more important, and it seemed that mankind had so quickly after the Flood decided again that people knew more than God. As far as the height of the tower, without the understandings of modern engineering and materials like steel, it’s doubtful they truly could have ascended into the heavens with their tower. But if God hadn’t intervened, it’s also doubtful they ever would have stopped trying to accomplish that.
6) What lesson can I learn from this story?
Basically, doing things God’s way is always right and never wrong. If God tells us to do something, we should never assume that we’re smarter than He is, and look for a better way without Him. All such effort will ultimately fail and prove to be foolish.
Reflection copyright © 2016 Doug DeBolt.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.