Now let's consider the episode that has gained the Babelites great disrepute in the eyes of the many generations since. What could they be trying to do?
Genesis 11:1-2 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.
Chapter 10 was a list of Noah’s descendants. Chapter 11 goes back to shed specific insight on what happened shortly after the Earth was beginning to be repopulated. We learn that everyone spoke the language of Noah. There may have been many languages before the Flood however the only language to survive was that of Noah and his family. There was great unity among the growing population. The text gives us a key clue as to how the population of the earth interacted-
Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.
A seemingly simple verse tells us two things: first, all people knew the same language. Second, they were speaking it to one another. There was a certain unity of thought among the people described here. Obviously there is nothing wrong with being unified, however if there is a negative, influential, leader like Nimrod wielding power, there was great potential for a wrong mindset to set in and spread quickly. The unity described in verse 1 is very likely a direct result of a unifying leader. The unified activity of the people appears to be influenced by some authority among them and the authority was not God-
Genesis 11:2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.
At first glance this looks pretty innocuous, pretty natural. But remember for a moment back to the command of God to Adam and Eve early in Genesis-
Genesis 1:28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
God doesn’t tell them to hunker down and build a great city. He tells them to spread out, fill the whole earth. This mandate to spread out and fill the earth doesn’t stop with the Fall of man, recall what God told Noah after the Flood in Genesis 8-
Genesis 8:17 “Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”
Obedience to the Lord’s mandate meant spreading out and filling the whole earth. In our passage, the inhabitants of the earth under apparent leadership decide they know better than God’s command and decide they will move together. They stay unified and defiant. As a whole group they move to what is now the Euphrates River valley. These two simple verses (11:1-2) show us great pride. They ignore the command of God to spread and fill the earth in order to actualize their leaders desire to build a great kingdom for himself.
The evidence of their pride shows forth brilliantly with the actions their statement and subsequent actions in verses 3 and 4, look there with me-
Genesis 11:3-4 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.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.”
They decided to make a name for themselves. They decided to build something that would defy God himself. Remember, from what we can tell, this city consisted of all the inhabitants of the earth. When they proclaim “let us make a name for ourselves” to whom are they wanting homage? They are speaking directly in the face of their creator- God himself! What pride. What haughty arrogance-
Genesis 11:3-4 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 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.”
They would make a huge tower that would reach up into the heavens. Never mind that there was no rock to make such a structure. They were so determined to defy God that they set out to make building bricks with the materials they had available. They say- “let us build OURSELVES a city”. There is no mention of homage to their creator. These people are only one generation removed from the flood! Already they have dismissed God in their thinking. Obviously their leader has great influence in this whole process. Of course the mighty hunter named Nimrod is so named because it means “we will revolt”. We can be absolutely sure that they are standing in opposition and defiance to God when we look at the last phrase of verse 4-
Genesis 11:4 lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
The wording is eerily familiar. They are twisting the mandate of God to fill the whole earth. They are saying "we don’t want to do what God wants us to do so lets fortify ourselves and resist him. …we are going to do what we want to do." Think of how highly these people must think of themselves. They build an enormous structure. It probably was much like the ancient pyramids or ziggurats. It probably was enormous and could be seen for miles. It stood as a giant monument to the mightiness of man. It stood as a structure intended to magnify the presence and autonomy of man against God.
I have to ask myself- what towers am I erecting in my life? Material possessions? Stock portfolio? Job? Perfected kids? They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by His discipline.