Thursday, November 17, 2016

Genesis Notes: The Tower of Babel


The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

One of the familiar stories contained here is that of the Tower of Babel. According to Life Application Study Bible:
The tower of Babel was most likely a ziggurat, a common structure in Babylonia at this time. Most often built as temples, ziggurats looked like pyramids with steps or ramps leading up the sides. Ziggurats stood as high as 300 feet and were often just as wide; thus they were the focal point of the city.
When an atheist friend challenged me with this story as showing that God hates people gaining knowledge I didn't have any response. Too bad I hadn't read Genesis Part I: God and His Creation yet because they point out it is not the knowledge God disapproves of, but why the tower is being raised ... because of man's pride.
These descendants of Ham reached a high degree of technical proficiency. This seems to have created a great deal of power among them. They did not want anything to threaten that power. They especially seemed to dread having to move out over the uninhabited parts of the earth. Perhaps they feared their power would dissipate if they got separated. Perhaps they didn't want to leave the comforts that come with civilization. Their desire to build a tower to heaven speaks of an arrogance and autonomy that has been dangerous when we have seen it in others (Adam, Cain, Lamech, Ham). The tower represents a physical manifestation of the pride of man, which, in its birth pangs, leads to disobedience to God; when pride is full-grown, it can lead to a direct assault on God Himself, with the desire to be rid of Him for good. The tower comes provocatively close to that. Of course, when Heaven came to earth, in the body of the Son of God, Jesus, men actually were able to assault Him, putting Him to death ...

The diversity in human languages represents the pride and arrogance of man, who abused his original unity with others to work against God instead of for Him. On the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles to begin the work of creating the Church, it is of no small significance that there was a miracle that undid the effects of Babel. It was a thrilling sign that what God was about to do in men would now enable them to use their unity in the right way-to live as God's family on earth.

This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

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