Babel: A City that Ignored the Will of God
Genesis 11:1-9

Our speech is salted with many words and phrases that have their origin in the pages of Scripture. If we talk of the "forbidden fruit" or "turning the other cheek," it immediately communicates. If we call someone a "doubting Thomas" or a "prodigal son," we can relate to the description. There is one such word that comes to us from the eleventh chapter of Genesis that has retained its meaning over thousands of years. It is a word that still stands for confusion and warns us of the judgment of God; the word - Babel. The city of Babel was literally torn apart by its refusal to yield itself to the will of an almighty God. In order to avoid its errors we must understand three basic truths concerning this city.


God had plainly revealed His will for man as stated in Gen. 11:1, "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth." God's first statement to Noah and family after they left the ark was that they were responsible to repopulate the Earth after the flood. This replenishing the Earth would necessitate the early descendants of Noah to spread far and wide until planet Earth was filled. God revealed His will to mankind, and the people of Babel knew to keep moving rather than stopping to build. They also were without excuse because they had an example to follow, because mankind was on the move when they "journeyed from the East..." (Gen. 11:2). If mankind ignores the will of God today, they are still without excuse since God has revealed His will to man in the eternal Word of God. It is our God-given responsibility to know and obey it. The chaos of our world can really be summed up in one basic tendency of man; he has willfully ignored the will of God. This is proven in the pages of history as well as the pages of today's newspaper. We each would do well to reexamine our own level of obedience to the Word of God.


It is clear from Genesis 11:4 that the citizens of Babel were motivated by pride. Note the repeated phrase in verses three and four: "go to, let us." This should be read with special emphasis on "US". Pride can be diagnosed by priority on OUR plans apart from a careful consideration of the will of God . The rallying cry of Babel and our day is "let US build US a city." It was their desire to build a place that would display their abilities and ingenuity. They certainly would be the envy of the world to build a magnificent city on the barren plains of Shinar. Lacking resources, they even had to make their own building materials. They must have patted themselves on the back for being so clever. The monument of the city would be to them! How sad when man does not pause to think of our Creator as the source of human intellect and physical ability. The one who gives life and strength to each of us is to be obeyed, thanked and worshipped. When unchecked, human pride leads to the institution of a rival religion. Their goal was to build "a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven." There have been many questions raised about this tower but the point of its construction is plain. They obviously knew that their tower would never actually take them high enough to reach the abode of God, but the mere fact that they were going that direction indicates that it was religious in its intent. They were the first to institute a religious system apart from the knowledge of the true God. The tower was most likely built for worship and observation of the stars and planets. Unrestrained pride will always lead to the judgment of a God who will tolerate no rivals. Instead of honoring the name of the one true God, they pridefully sought to make a name for themselves. The cry of verse Gen. 11:4 sounds familiar. "Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." Let us ever be wary of making a name for ourselves. It is better to set our inner compass on bringing glory to His.


The reason that they, as we, cannot escape, is that our God is omniscient! Absolutely nothing avoids His attention. Gen. 11:5 states that "The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded." What a sobering thought to realize that every activity, word or even thought is in full view of God. The residents of Babel could not get away with such a deliberate attempt to thwart His perfect and benevolent will. The Lord said, "behold the people are one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do." (Gen:11:6). The Lord knew full well the power of a group of people if they are "one". God is not only all knowing He is also all powerful, and He does use His power to intervene in the affairs of men. God declares His intentions in the Gen. 11:7. "Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language," One can readily imagine the chaos created by this confounding of language. Because of the barrier of speech man naturally scattered and regrouped according to language groups. Gen. 11:9 tells of the end of the story. "They left off to build the city. Because there the Lord did confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth." It is interesting that secular history cannot explain the origin of language only the Bible gives the answer. Human languages are a result of the judgment of God. The overriding lesson of Babel is that we must not ignore God's will but seek it and obediently perform it.

Jesse Waggoner
Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

©1997 Calvary Baptist Church