Gen 11 – Beyond Babel
Although I’m not going to take the time to discuss it in depth, this chapter also includes the genealogy of Shem down to Abram (Abraham). According to Gen 10:25 the events Tower of Babel is attributed to the days of Peleg. Peleg was the 15th generation of creation. The name Peleg means “divided.” It is interesting to note that Peleg marks the start of generally much shorter average life spans (Gen 11:19). The Gen 11:27-32 genealogy gives much more detailed information about Abram’s immediate relatives and we are introduced to the setting for future chapters relating to Abraham.
Gen 11:1-9 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 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.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And 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. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore 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.
United We Stand
Mt 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Whether united for good or ill, there is strength in numbers. I recently read that while a lion will loose to a tiger in a one-on-one match, pitch 5 lions against 5 tigers and the lions will win. That’s because lions work together while tigers work independently. Being united is generally considered a lofty goal. The people of Babel were united (Gen 11:1-3). To unite for self service (v4) is vain and will not be tolerated (v7). When united in Christ, however, the power can do great good.
Divided We Fall
1 Cor 1:10-11 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. Paul warns us to be united by the name our Lord Jesus Christ. He goes on to address the divisions and for the rest of the chapter deals with the various issues resulting from division. In Mk 10:9 Jesus says, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.” We see in Genesis 11 what happens when God divides. In fact, division has caused one fall after another. There was a division between man and God in Gen 3 causing the original fall of man. Joseph’s brothers divided him off from them, then later fell on their knees before that same brother just to eat.
The division of language is a unique event in history. According to Gen 11:1 everyone alive spoke the same language. This certainly makes sense. In fact, there’s no logical explanation for such incredibly diverse languages today except for what happened at Babel. There are regional dialects within many languages, but even so a person with one dialect can usually communicate effectively with another dialect of the same language. The notion that people living in relatively close proximity would develop a number of extremely different languages (such as French, German, Italian, and Russian all found in Europe) seems ludicrous. Even a person who says that Genesis is nonsense is hard pressed to explain diverse language any other way. In my mind the world’s languages of today only validate Gen 11 and by extension the whole account of Genesis.
Repairing the Damage Done at Babel
Acts 2:6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. Man tried to unite and make himself collectively greater than God. God has authority over all things, great and small. Just as God divided men who stood against Him, he unites men who stand with him. Those who share genuine faith in Christ receive the Holy Spirit as a deposit toward eventual eternal salvation. When the Holy Spirit came in power upon those gathered in prayer at Pentecost, the first documented outward sign was the ability to overcome the tower of Babel. The disciples spoke in languages they didn’t know, telling the Good News to foreigners who could understand them. Man was responsible for the division, but God can and will repair the damage when we don’t act against Him. It is also interesting to know that the bible we have today has been translated into more languages than any other written work in history. Again, God unites what man tries to divide allowing each to understand in his own language. The Holy Spirit does today still do these things. God hasn’t changed and neither has the Spirit. I caution the reader of this to beware, though. The subject of “speaking in tongues” is highly controversial. There is a good deal more spoken on this subject in the New Testament and the subject extends well beyond the scope of this post, so please don’t read more into it than what’s here.
The Good News of Gen 11
1 Jn 5:1-5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Man divides, but God unites. Man divides himself from God through sin, but God loves us enough to overcome sin and the forces of the world that seek to keep us divided from Him. It is possible to overcome this divide and unite with God. This is done through our faith. Faith is not just a prayer and not a one-time “decision.” It is a way of life where the actions of life are in harmony with the beliefs the life is based on, specifically where the belief is placed in Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice and the corresponding way of life is one of obedience in submission to the will of the giver of life. God is God and we are not. Not only is God happy when we accept this simple fact, but we are infinitely happier, too. Submission to our perfect loving creator is the ultimate source of joy and fulfillment. Joy from the relationship; fulfillment from the victory of overcoming and hearing that phrase: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” You, too, can overcome the world and find the joy of experiencing God’s love as part of His family. If you’d like to know more, just ask. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know where and from whom to find them.