Lest We Be Scattered

Christian MölkFriend of Strangers Leave a Comment

After Adam and Eve are displaced from the garden and Cain from the field, humanity begins to migrate and spread across the earth. But when they reach the land of Shinar, things come to a halt:

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then 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 scattered over the face of the whole earth.””

(Ge 11:1-4)

In a strange and vain attempt to avoid obeying God’s command to “fill the earth”[i] , mankind tries to wall itself into a city and build a tall tower that reaches all the way to heaven.

Trying to build a tower that reaches up to heaven means that people tried to come up to God’s level and become like God in their own strength. In the language of the Bible, “heaven” and “God” are often interchangeable words with the same meaning. To avoid misusing God’s name, a pious Israelite might say “heaven” instead of “Yahweh”. In the New Testament we see this in the parallel words “kingdom of God”[ii] and “kingdom of heaven”.[iii]

It’s almost comical that while man proudly thought he was beginning to build his tower to heaven, in God’s eyes the tower is so small that God had to step down from heaven to even see it:

5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.”

(Ge 11:5-9)

To prevent people from continuing to try to make themselves God, God obscures their language, so that they can no longer speak to each other. Without a common language, it is undeniably difficult to communicate, cooperate and build a common city.

The city was named “Babel”, a word that means “confuse” or “blur”. Instead of being a monument to man’s deification, the unfinished tower of Babel becomes a monument to mankind’s foolish and failed attempts to stand up to its own Creator. The corruption of language becomes a constant reminder of man’s pride in his God, a divine punishment that will only be resolved on the Day of Pentecost, of which I write in chapter 31.

As we have now seen in three chapters, God created man to migrate, to fill the earth and to care for his fellow man. But in the fall, man stopped obeying God, mistreated his fellow man and tried to shut himself up behind walls. In the following chapter we will see how God starts a long process that aims to save man by bringing him back into a good relationship with God and his fellow man again. This story of salvation begins with the patriarch Abraham, continues in Israel, and reaches its completion in Jesus.

You have read a free chapter of my book Friend of Strangers. If you like this book, please consider purchasing the ebook through Amazon. Since English is not my native language, there may be some linguistic inaccuracies. Please contact me if you find any.

Read the next chapter: From Stranger to Guest

Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[i] Ge 1:28

[ii] Mk 1:15

[iii] Mt 4:17

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