The sharp sound of hammers hitting chisels hitting stone permeated the air in ancient Shinar, as a crowd of builders have come together to build a tower. Now, this was no ordinary building, this tower was going to be tall enough to reach Heaven itself. The workers caught the attention of God, when He went down to inspect the work of the men, the Lord was not pleased with what He saw. So God decided to hinder the building project forever.
Instantaneously, confusion turned the construction site of the tower of Babel into turmoil. The Divine caused the men to speak different languages. The men, unable to communicate with one another, went their separate ways, and the once potentially magnificent tower of Babel was left to corrode into the beginning pages of the Pentateuch.
Found in Genesis 11.1-9, the Tower of Babel explains how all of the languages in the world came to be, it has become a staple in Sunday School Classes around the world. Like any great story, the Tower of Babel has a moral. If you are like me, you have been told the moral of the Tower of Babel is: prideful man shouldn’t think that they can build a tower to see God (or something along those lines). While it is true that pride is a horrible and sinful character trait; that is not what the Tower of Babel is teaching. To see what the moral is, and why God caused men to speak different languages, we have to look at Genesis 9.1: “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.’”
After the genealogy of Noah given in Genesis 10, we see the Biblical narrative of early man continue in Genesis 11.1-2, “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 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.” The descendants of Noah were keeping the first part of God’s command by being fruitful and multiplying, but were neglecting the second half of God’s command to “fill the earth. When we read of the Tower of Babel, the entire human race was in one location working together to build a tower to the “heavens” (Gn. 11.4).
The Jewish people had three heavens: the sky, outer-space, and Heaven (where God dwells). The Hebrew word for heavens found in Genesis 11.4 is the same word used to describe the atmosphere around earth (the firmament) in Genesis 1.9. That means that the builders of the Tower of Babel were not trying to build a tower to God or the Heaven; they were simply trying to build a tall and impressive building, one that reached the sky (think ancient skyscraper). They wanted to build the tower to make a great city and a name for themselves “…lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the earth (Gn. 11.4).”
It was not pride that caused God to confuse the people building the Babel’s Tower, but a refusal to obey. They were comfortable staying together neglecting the command to spread out and fill the earth. God forced them to obey making it impossible for them to work with one another. That is the true story of the Tower of Babel, and the true moral of the story is: don’t allow your personal preferences or comfort stop you from following the commands of God. Take a lesson from the Tower of Babel. Get out of your comfort zone and go out and do His Will, “…’And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mk. 16.15).”
– Zachary Guiler