In Genesis 11, the tower of Babel is a wonder of the ancient world. It was to make the people who built it “famous” and even received attention from God. However, in the story God is not impressed with the people’s self promotion through the building of this structure and moves to confuse their language so that they have to stop focusing on the tower. Often, the question that comes up in this text is in regard to God’s action: Was God jealous of human achievement? God speaks in verses 6-7 and admits that the people are united in purpose and nothing they do will be impossible for them. What are we to make of this?
Towers built in the plain are most certainly a reference to Babylonian Ziggurats, standing about 300 feet in the air and were usually about as wide as they were tall. Much like a Pyramid without the pointy top, the Ziggurat would be used as a meeting place between the people and the gods. So, the fact that God takes notice of this place is not unusual. However, the biblical story claims that God’s problem with the tower was not their achievement, but the people’s arrogance. The tower was for their fame, it was built a a symbol of the people’s glory. The Ziggurat stood as a testimony to how wonderful the people were, not how wonderful God was. Just to put some perspective on this great human achievement of the ancient world, the Willis Tower (commonly known as the Sears Tower) in Chicago stands 1729 feet, and the Empire State Building stands at 1454 feet, even some the ancient Pyramids are over 400 feet tall. Perhaps this was the first of many times a group of people overestimated their achievement, and from God’s perspective; their boasting was not only laughable, but needed to be corrected.
The tower wasn’t evil or bad, it wasn’t the tower that made God react…it was the pride of the builders. They had forgotten that God wanted them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” and God wanted them to enjoy the creation (and recreation after the flood) but people are often more preoccupied with their own creations. We must live in gratitude for the gifts, skills, and ideas that we receive from God. We must build towers that honor God and not ourselves. We must be weary of projects that show people how great we are, because a 300-foot tower looks tall on a desert plain, but it’s not that great… Let’s not overestimate our achievements and become boastful, let’s make sure God receives a place of honor within our achievements and we give him the glory for the good things we build. by the way, the Tower of Babel story stands in direct contrast to the call of Abraham in Genesis 12, “leave your country, family, and your house, and go to the land I will show you and I will make you into a great people.” When God builds the tower, then the people are indeed great…
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.