We turn in our study of the Word of God to the eleventh chapter of Genesis and to what is one of the most well-known portions of the book of Genesis having to do with the Tower of Babel. We’ll be looking and reading these nine verses in just a moment; a few introductory thoughts first.
The book of Genesis, as you know, is the book of origins; it’s the book of beginnings. That’s actually what “genesis” means. It is an amazing revelation by God, written by the pen of Moses. And in this book of Genesis, in particular the first 11 chapters, we have a critical revelation of the origin of all things that constitute a full world view.
There is here the universe in its origin, the origin of time, action, space, matter. There is the origin of the solar system. There is the origin of the atmosphere, the origin of the hydrosphere. There is the origin of all life. There is the origin of mankind. There is the origin of marriage. There is the origin of the family. There is the origin of sin, and the origin of guilt, and the origin of redemption, and the origin of forgiveness. There is the origin of culture and civilization and animal husbandry and metallurgy and other enterprises, the origin of poetry, the origin of music. There is the origin of nations. There is the origin of languages. And all of that runs up through the eleventh chapter, so that when you arrive in chapter twelve, you have the origin of the chosen people, through whom the Word of God and the Savior of the world would come.
From chapter 12 on, through the entire Old Testament, the focus is on Israel, the chosen people of God. Everything happens in and through and around that nation.
We come into the New Testament. Israel, having failed to fulfill its responsibility to God to be the witness to the world that they were called to be, is temporarily set aside. And in the place of Israel, God establishes a new chosen people, made up of Jew and Gentile, called the church. And everything that happens in the New Testament then begins to focus in and through and around the church.
So, from chapter 12 of Genesis on, it’s God’s redemptive work in the world, through Israel, and through the church. But before you get to chapter 12, you have the origin essentially of everything else. It sets the stage for this work of redemption.
Now, the first nine verses of this chapter are obviously brief, but it is packed; it is a stuffed text. Because in these nine verses, we’re going to find that we have here the only true record of the origin of nations and the origin of languages. And nations and languages essentially came into existence by a single act of God.
We are very much aware of the fact that the world in which we live believes in evolution. They believe in the evolution of the universe. They believe in the evolution of biological life. They believe in the evolution of man. They believe in the evolution of everything else. They believe in the evolution of intellect. They believe in the evolution of sociology. They believe in the evolution of nations. They believe in the evolution of language. They believe in the evolution of everything.
And the Bible teaches the evolution of nothing. The universe created by God and everything in it in a six-day period. Nations and languages essentially established by God by one divine act. Sociologists and anthropologists and language theorists imagine a slow, long, evolutionary process socializing man and somehow evolving from grunts and chatter and chirps languages. We know better from the Word of God. We have followed the brief history of man from Adam and Eve, the first man, first woman, to Noah and the flood. When God destroyed the entire population of the world except Noah, his wife, his three sons and their three wives, which meant that after the flood drowned the Earth and completely changed its topography and its environment, from those eight people came the rest of human history.
The flood was in chapter 6 through 9. We came into chapter 10 and 11, and we, in chapter 10, began to learn about the families that came from Noah’s three sons. As we get into chapter 11, verses 10 and following – we saw that in chapter 10 – as we get into the rest of chapter 11, we’ll focus on the line that led to Abram or Abraham, because Abraham becomes the key figure in chapter 12 because it’s through him that God creates the Jewish people, the nation of Israel.
The Bible is the only accurate record of all of this. The only record for creation, the only record for the flood that is accurate. There are flood myths because all the people of the world go back to Noah, and they all at least had some connection with those survivors of the flood. And so, flood myths abound, as I showed you in our study of chapter 10. But the only accurate record for creation, from Adam to Noah, and from Noah to Abraham, is contained in Scripture. This is the precise Word of God.
Now, it is not an extensive history, as is obvious, just a few chapters. It’s not an exhaustive history. It is brief, and it is selective, but it is true and enough to make sense of the general flow and the monumental events that punctuated the life of early man from Adam to Abraham.
We’ve been pointing out, for those who haven’t been here, that a careful chronology of the book of Genesis would indicate that man was created between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago. If you follow the carefully crafted, divinely inspired genealogies of Genesis 10 and 11, that is substantiated.
So, Noah and his family come out of the ark in chapter 9, and they start to reproduce. Chapter 10 then chronicles the development of the families. Noah, as you remember, had three sons, and out of those sons came various sons and grandsons and then families and clans and people and nations.
We traced, in chapter 10, the line of Japheth, the line of Ham, the line of Shem into the nations of the Earth. And as I said, when we get into chapter 11, verse 10 and following, we’ll focus on the line of Shem that went straight to Abram, because Abram was God’s chosen man who was given the covenant that resulted in the whole plan of redemption.
Now, the first nine verses of chapter 11 are crucial because they give us the event that launched the scattering. When they came out of the ark, they were a group of eight. And they began to reproduce and reproduce. But they were still together as a family. And the question is what scattered them everywhere?
We showed in chapter 10 – if you weren’t here, you need to get the tape; it’s really a very, very fascinating and important study. And you can sort of trace your heritage through it. But what caused them to literally spread over the face of the Earth? What catalyst brought that about? And the answer to that is here in chapter 11, the first nine verses. Let’s read them. You listen as I read.
“The whole Earth used the same language and the same words. And it came about as they journeyed east that 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 used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.
“And they said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole Earth.’
“And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language that they may not understand one another’s speech.’
“So, the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole Earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole Earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole Earth.”
Now, this is a very simple and straightforward explanation of how nations developed all over the world and how languages developed. God did it in one single act. It is, in a way, a profound tragedy, as humanity is separated and splintered and scattered from each other, already having rebelled from God.
And it is most likely true, and I won’t drag you through all of the process to arrive at this, but it’s most likely true that the Tower of Babel happened no more than a hundred years after the flood. No more than a hundred years after the flood.
We can identify the time – I often have commented on that – by the identification of a particular child that was born. We’ll have some comments on that a little bit later. That child was named for this great act of separation. Chapter 10, verse 25, “Two sons were born to Eber” - who gives us the name Hebrew – “the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the Earth was divided.” We can follow the genealogy and know that Peleg was born about a hundred years after the flood.
So, it isn’t a lot of time. In a hundred years, the Earth has gone away from God. In a hundred years, the population’s still one tribe, one language, one nation, one family, but hopelessly sunk already into rebellion and sin.
And so, they are in need of judgment. And that judgment is a dispersion. In the flood, it was judgment by destruction. At Babel, it is judgment by dispersion. And frankly, the world at the time of Babel was not an different than the world at the time of the flood. And God would have had every reason to drown this entire civilization, with the exception of whatever few were true to Him, but He didn’t do that. God promised that He would not destroy sinners in that fashion again. This was to be an age of grace and patience and forbearance.
And so, rather than a judgment by destruction, as at the flood, this is judgment by dispersion. He scatters them over the whole Earth and changes their language. And as I said, man was no better than in Noah’s day, but common grace prevailed, and God was patient with man as far as world destruction was concerned.
But they had already turned their backs on God. They had already gone down the path of Romans 1, and this is an act of judgment as well as an act, in some ways, of protection. And I’ll explain that in a moment.
Now, when they were scattered, the sons of Japheth went into a certain area and splintered into various people groups. The sons of Ham went into other areas and splintered into people groups, and the sons of Shem did the same.
Remember from our study of chapter 10 the sons of Japheth are indicated in verses 2 to 5. They became the Indo-European nations from Western Europe, across Russia – actually, across the Bering Strait into North America and South America. The sons of Japheth ultimately possessed most of the territory on the planet but lost their souls.
The sons of Ham, who were noted in 10:6 to 20, inhabited Africa, Asia, into the Far East, and some of them remained in the area around Canaan.
The sons of Shem, settled north and east of Canaan, included the Semitic people. And it’s from that group of people – the sons of Shem – that Abram came, and from Abram came the Jews and the nation Israel. They were the people to whom God gave the law of the prophets, the covenants, the promises, the adoptions, and Scripture, and the Messiah. It wasn’t that God had chosen them simply to be the recipient of all of that, but rather had chosen them to be the proclaimers of all of that truth to the rest of the world. They were chosen as a missionary nation. And Shem’s great-grandson Eber, as I noted, gave the name Hebrew to that chosen people.
Now, we then understand, from chapter 10, about the scattering. Chapter 11, verses 1 to 9, tells us how it happened. Chapter 10 ends with the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, by their nations, and they were all separated on the Earth after the flood. The chapter ends and says they were all separated. Chapter 11 starts and explains exactly how. That’s a very typical way in which Genesis records the divine record of history.
The structure of the text is simple – very simple. It can get complicated with the Hebrew. I won’t do that to you. The structure of the text is very simple. It’s a structure of reversal. Verses 1 to 4, man is building up what he wants. Verse 5, God steps in; and verses 6 to 8, God tears down what man has built up. It’s just the structure of reversal. Verses 1 to 4, the action of man. Verses 5 to 8, the action of God. And that’s a simple way to understand it. Verse 9 is a summary by Moses.
Now, the action of man is indicated in verse 3 with this statement. “They said to one another, ‘Come, let us.’” They repeat it again as in verse 4, “‘Come, let us.’” That was sort of the statement indicating that they were going to launch their great ambitious active rebellion. The action of God is described in verse 7, same words, only this time God says, “‘Come, let Us.’” So, you have then the action of man in verses 1 to 4, the action of God in verses 5 to 8.
The contrast in this brief text is between what man desires to achieve - directed at self-glory, self-fulfillment – and what God does to show man’s impotence and emptiness before Him. It is man at his best and his noblest, trying to achieve his greatest anti-God act, and God steps in and undoes the whole thing. Frankly, the attitude of the people at Babel is essentially the same as the attitude of the Adam and Eve in the garden. It is an attitude of rebellion; it is an attitude of wanting to live apart from God, driven by personal ambition and personal pride.
And interestingly enough, the locations are the same. Shinar, the plain in which they built Babel, was very near to the location of the garden of Eden. Both of them were in the Mesopotamian valley, the lower Euphrates valley between the Tigris and the Euphrates River. So that man, then, is twice thrown out of what was the most beautiful place on the planet. Once it was just Adam and Eve thrown out of Eden. Now it’s the whole of the population of the world thrown out of the Plain of Shinar.
Now, to sort of set it up, after the flood was over, you remember that the ark landed on – what area, the mountains of what? – Ararat, to the very north of the Mesopotamian valley. But they migrated south to that fertile area. They left the area of Ararat and went somewhat southeast to the Euphrates valley and where they wanted to settle. That’s what it indicates in verse 2, “They journeyed toward the east” - it’s actually south and east – “and they found a plain in the land of Shinar and they settled there.”
Now, God had instructed the leader of the family, Noah, in chapter 9, verse 1, “‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth.’” Fill the Earth. It was a reiteration of exactly what He had said to Adam, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth.” The command of God was to take people and search the planet, find all of the wonderful things that God had prepared for man and populate the planet. But that was not what man wanted to do. So, there was a defiant, rebellious disobedience at this point.
Verse 1 says, “The whole Earth used the same language and the same words.” That’s not redundant because those two are not synonymous. The same language means language. The same words means vocabulary. They not only had the same language, but they spoke with the same vocabulary. I know the English language; that’s obviously my language. I can say things in England, and South Africa, and Australia, and New Zealand, and Hong Kong, and Singapore, and India, and other places where English is spoken, that they do not clearly understand because though we have a common language, we have variations in the vocabulary. And I have said things, in some places, which have horrified audiences, and I will not even tell you the things that I said lest I embarrass myself. But in this case, you had the same language and the same vocabulary. They all spoke the same, obviously, because they spoke the language that was spoken by Noah and his family.
Now, there were then no barriers to communication. None at all. No barriers to unity. The literal Hebrew here is they had one lip and one set of words.
Now, as we will see in the last half of chapter 11, the event regarding Babel just occurred, as I said, about a hundred years after the flood. The flood is 1656 after creation, not B.C. because the numbers go the other way. About 1,656 years after creation. This is about 1,756 years after creation, marked out by the birth of Peleg, soon after the flood.
So, they were still speaking the same language. Languages hadn’t developed; they were just one people, all descendants of Noah, united around one form of language and one vocabulary. This is very beneficial. Very beneficial. They all had the same history; they all had the same freedom of communication. Nothing at all like the world in which we live, where everybody’s got a different history, and every nation’s got a different tale to tell, and people speak so many different languages.
But there was a seriously deadly and dark side to this unity. Because they were sinful, and because they were rebellious against God, and because they were proud and wicked, that unity allowed for a concentration of evil that was unacceptable to God. Power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately. One nation, all speaking the same language, all under the power of the same influence, essentially led by the same man, lacks the checks and balances against evil that help preserve man in a sinful world. Sin had a united front, united force. This is not helpful to people because it elements the constraints and the restraints that nationalities bring to bear upon human life.
Down in verse 6, you’ll see that God recognizes this. He says – it’s recorded I the middle of the verse – “This is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” Because nobody’s going to stop them. Nobody is going to stop them. I mean part of the freedoms that we enjoy right now today, in America, are due to the fact that when Hitler wanted to rule the world, somebody stopped him. But if it was one people and one world and one leader, nobody could stop him. That’s not helpful. The checks and balances system in the world, even on a national scale, is part of a grace – a common grace that God has given to restrain unilateral evil. And since you had an evil world, they would choose an evil leader, be dominated by an evil leader, and there would be absolutely nothing to stop that wickedness.
Adolph Hitler wanted to rule the world. Obviously it would have been a disaster of all disasters. The same with any world conqueror, all of whom had evil ambition. So, people gave their lives to stop his efforts, and the efforts of Stalin and others, in order to create a measure of restraint, and justice, and freedom, and peace on the Earth.
It is true that even warring nations act as a restraint to autocratic, dominating power. And they restrained the free run of a singular evil. And so, I want to say to you one world unity is a curse. The New Agers are really into this, aren’t they? “One world, one world” – even the World Council of Churches. Coming down here tonight, I was listening to a tape that was sent to me by Ian Anderson, works with Grace to You in South Africa. It was a presentation by a black pastor down there on ecumenism. And he was talking about how massive concerted efforts are being made within Christianity, within even evangelical Christianity, to create one world church, which portends the need for one world leader over that entity. And if he’s as evil as the world he rules, then there is no checks and balance, there is no constraint or restraint.
World unity is a curse. One world ruler would be a disaster. One people only escalates the unified, intrepid force of evil. And God knows that, and so does Satan. And Satan is moving this world back to a one world – one world, one religion, with one ruler who is identified in the Bible as Antichrist. Satan wants to produce one world, one government, under one ruler – the beast of Revelation. And someday his kingdom will bring the entire world under unilateral, unlimited power and evil. Hell will belch forth the bound demons, the demons that have been in the heavens will descend upon the Earth, cast there by God Himself, and all hell will break loose. And what the New Agers are wanting to happen is exactly what Satan wants to happen. They are simply his advanced publicity team.
And Satan would want a one-world government, and then he would select the one-world leader, and he himself would rule the world through his puppet, the Antichrist. And when that happens, you read in the book of Revelation about the horrors that will occur there. And what are those horrors? Well, the prophets tell us, as well as the book of Revelation, there will be mass slaughter, mass death, people will be killing each other even in the families. All hell will break loose.
I’ve been reading – in fact, I finished reading a little book called Neighbors. It’s a secular book written by a man named Jan Gross. And it looks at a very strange anomaly for sociologists to deal with and anthropologists to deal with in the world in which we live. The explanation of the contemporary sociologists and anthropologists that man is basically good, and that when man does something really bad, it’s because he gets brainwashed. And that the only explanation for the holocaust in Germany, the only explanation for good German people massacring six million Jews is that they were under a relentless onslaught of Nazi propaganda that literally overpowered their thinking, so that eventually they were so severely brainwashed that they just went out and massacred the Jews. That has been the standard response by the evolutionary sociologist and anthropologists who believes that man is on the ascendancy, getting better and getting better, and has to explain the incredible holocaust of Germany, to say nothing of the 50 million, perhaps, that were killed by Stalin. And the explanation has always been, “Well, they were under this brainwashing for a long time, and they were so brainwashed, they couldn’t think the normal way. They were terribly victimized by this brainwashing.
And then they found this town in Poland called Jedwabne. Now, when in ‘39, when Hitler started his movement to take over the world for the Third Reich, he didn’t want to have to fight a war on the eastern border. So, he made a truce with Russia. And in order to kind of keep a buffer zone – Germany is here, Russia is here, in the middle is Poland. And so, he split Poland down the middle and annexed the eastern part of Poland to Russia, and took the western part to Germany so there would be a buffer there.
So, Jedwabne was in eastern Poland and was never occupied by any Nazis. It was never occupied by any Germans; it was occupied by Russians. Russians were trying to conquer the world as such; they weren’t interested in racial propaganda. And so, there was no propagandizing at all of the 3,000 people that lived in Jedwabne. Three thousand people, 1,600 of them were Jews. The Jews had lived in the town for 300 years. They farmed together with the folks – the Gentile people who were there. They went to school with them. They worked with them. They occasionally married them. They bought their groceries in the same place. They worked the fields together. They carried on in the same social events in the town, and they had for 300 years. There was essentially no racial attitudes there; everybody got along fine.
Well, in – it was July – it was June 22nd of 1941, and Hitler didn’t want that truce anymore because he wanted to defeat Russia. So, he swept through Poland and the truce was broken. And he took that town Jedwabne, along with Poland – all the way to the Russian border. That was on June 22, 1941. On July 10th, that’s a little over two weeks later, the Gentile townspeople massacred all 1,600 Jews in one day. Slaughtered them all. The ones they couldn’t stab with a pitchfork or behead with an ax, because they were running out of time that day, they herded into a barn, poured gasoline all over the barn, an incinerated them all.
This nagging event couldn’t be explained by the sociologists. Absolutely could not be explained by the sociologists because that town was never under any Nazi propaganda. They’d never been there. The history records indicate not one of those people was killed by a German. Not one of them was killed by a Nazi soldier. Every single one of those Jews was killed by one of his neighbors, hence the title of the book.
And the question the sociologist asked in the book, and he can’t really answer, is how in the world can people, in a two-week period, massacre their neighbors in a bloodbath? How can they do that? The answer? The Germans simply gave them permission. They said, “You could do that.” And they didn’t do it because of race; they did it because they wanted their farms and their farm implements, and their furniture, and their money, and their jewelry, and everything they possessed. That is the heart of man. No brainwashing necessary.
Romans 3, “Their feet are swift to shed blood.” All it would take to create a world in which people massacre each other is to have one government that says, “You can do that.” Just turn them loose. Jedwabne is a testimony to the wretchedness of the human heart. That’s exactly what’s going to be repeated across the face of the Earth during the reign of the Antichrist. All he has to say is, “You can do it. You can do it.”
When sinners get concentrated under one power in one place, wickedness abounds. Folks, all you have to do is just remember the greatest amount of crime and wickedness in the world occurs – where, in the countryside? where? – in the cities. And the bigger the city, the worse it is.
So, God knew what was being potentiated here. Man was evil, and his evil singularly and unilaterally, in one package would abound to such a degree that there would be no way to preserve him from self-destruction because man, by nature – Romans 3 – is swift to shed blood, just give him permission. God knew the sinfulness of the post-flood people was the same as the sinfulness of the pre-flood people.
And some missionary out there is going to say, “Yeah, but did God know that because he did that I have to learn Swahili or Russian or Ukrainian? I mean it’s a complicated deal here.”
That’s the lesser of evils. And so, God scattered these people everywhere. And as they went from a common language, they began to develop the variations that God had assigned them because He confused their speech. And you can see what would happen. The people who could communicate with each other would group together, and they would separate from the people with whom they couldn’t communicate. They didn’t even understand what was going on because here had always only been one language and one set of words.
And by the way, as we move toward Antichrist kingdom, languages are disappearing. National Review online, June 20th this year, the article said, “Thousands of human languages head toward extinction. The 15 most common languages are now on the lips of over half the world’s people.” Half the world’s people speak one of 15 languages – one or more of 15 languages. “Ninety percent of humanity speaks a hundred languages.” We’re down to 6,800 languages today. Half of those are spoken by 2,500 people. Now, as I said, 90 percent of the world speaks 100 languages.
“At the current rate,” says the National Review, “linguists estimate that by the end of this century, half the present languages will be completely gone.” Here’s an interesting thing in the article, “Only 600 are being taught to children. The rest can’t survive because there’s not another generation to speak them.”
Well, I think that just kind of plays into the scene, doesn’t it? Everybody in the world is anxious to learn English. It’s sort of my guess – purely a guess that English would be the language of choice in the kingdom of Antichrist. So, God knew the potential power of evil contained in a unilateral structure.
Verse 2 – let’s go back to it a minute – “It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land if Shinar and settled there.” That’s the key; mark that – settled there. That’s exactly what God told them not to do. They said, “This is the place to build our one-world civilization. We’re not going to scatter as God said. We’re going to stay together, and we’ll have more power here.” Defiant rebellious.
Now, we don’t know how many people there were. I suppose you could do some kind of calculations if there were eight people and how many there could possibly be born within a century of time. But it certainly wouldn’t be a great number – several thousands of people. And they had decided they weren’t going to go anywhere. “We want to stay together. We like being together. We don’t want to weaken our power by dividing the talent, the resources, the people.”
Of course they had a leader – right? Sure. If you want to meet the leader, go back to chapter 10, verse 8, here was their leader. “Now Cush” – who was the son of Ham – “became the father of a man named Nimrod.” Nimrod. You remember that from our study of chapter 10. You might want to know his name means rebel. A man named Nimrod. “He became a mighty one on the Earth.” Now, here’s your leader. Out of all of those in the record there in chapter 10, he’s the only one that’s given that accolade – the mighty one in the Earth.
This was the leader. He stands out because of the importance that he plays – the role of importance that he plays in the developing nations. Further reading, “He was a mighty hunter.” And I’ll help you with the word “hunter.” It means a warrior. It doesn’t mean he was hunting animals; it means he was a killer of people, not animals. Here we have the great-grandson of Noah, grandson of righteous Ham becoming a powerful, powerful man, ruthless and deadly. And he seems to be the man who rises to the ascendency not by any political means, certainly not by any democratic means, but by the sheer power exhibited. He leads the open rebellion against God.
It is said, in verse 9, “Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’” Even God recognized this man as a great killer. He was a Hitler. He was a Stalin. He was a mass murder.
And then verse 10 says, “The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and then Erech and Accad” – from which we get the Accadian people – “and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” There you are with Shinar and Babel.
So, Nimrod rises to lead these thousands of people who’ve come from the line of Noah and his family. And he reaches his position by wickedness, by being a tyrant, by being a killer. And he is such a killer, of course, that even God recognizes his amazing rebellious show of force.
He expands his kingdom into “Assyria, built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.” So, he’s pictured as having this great kingdom that’s sort of centered in this place called Babel, which is the capital city of this empire that he’s building in the Mesopotamian valley. All the places in verses 10 to 11 are in the Mesopotamian valley. They kind of run from north to south in that valley.
He builds a kingdom of evil, a kingdom of rebellion, idolatry, and pride, very much like the later king of Babylon by the name of Nebuchadnezzar. When you come to the king Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 1, it says, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand” – that is Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jehoiakim; and it says – “and brought them” – the vessels of the house of the Lord – “to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.” So later on, the Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar, the great king in Daniel’s time, is still located in Shinar. And Babylon is just a later version of Babel, this world empire established by Nimrod, in the very same area, where the garden of Eden was created by God Himself.
Now, the human enterprise then becomes the theme. Let’s look over at chapter 11, verse 3, “And they said to one another” – an, of course, there’s agreement on everything here, because they’re all together – “They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’”
Mutually appealing to pride and sinfulness, they said all together, “Let’s make bricks and mortar.” “Come, let us” – it marks their human action. They are proud. They are rebellious. And they are also ingenious. There’s no comparison between mankind and any animal. The gulf is vast as that between a plant and an animal. There is no transitionary form, the gulf is too great. Man, created in the image of God, is ingenious. And sinful, proud, rebellious man finds that human ingenuity only strengthens his wickedness.
“‘Come, let us make a permanent settlement.’” There’s a lot of play on Hebrew words here that I won’t bother you with. But for you Hebrew scholars, you’ll find some fascinating things in the actual Hebrew text.
Now, there’s an abundant supply – has been through the centuries – of clay and asphalt, in the Mesopotamian valley, used as materials in ancient Babylon, for example. And so they said, “‘Let’s get this material that is readily available. We’ll make bricks; we’ll burn them thoroughly.’ And they used brick in the of stone, and they used tar for mortar.” Tar available, as I said, in asphalt and in the bricks which allowed building to occur much more readily than stone because stone is so much harder to shape.
Verse 4, “And they said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole Earth.’”
Now, here comes the plan – three-phase plan: a city, a tower, and a name. A city, a tower, and a name. First of all, they said, “Let’s build a city.” That’s their social goal. Their social goal. The tower had to do with their religious goal, and the name had to do with their psychological goal. “Let’s build for ourselves a city” – not for God, not for the glory of God, not for the honor of God, but for ourselves. This is the first city of man, if you will, after the flood. The city by man, of man, for man, without God.
This also drives my thinking immediately to the fourth chapter of Daniel, where Nebuchadnezzar looks out over Babylon. He’s walking on the roof of his royal palace in Babylon – Daniel 4:30 – “‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’”
It’s the same thing, “Let’s build for ourselves a city, and we’ll have one people and one ruler.” And they are doing it for evil motives, nothing to do with God. And as I’ve been saying to you, the power of evil is greater when it’s concentrated. The power of evil is greater when it’s unhindered and unrestrained and there’s no checks and balances. You get a group of people together in one place like that, and evil abounds. That’s why people move to the suburbs, even in modern times, to escape the overwhelming force of evil that occurs in many cities. Apparently they had highly developed architecture skills, building construction skills. They wanted to build a city where they could live together for their own fulfillment and their own satisfaction.
Secondly, they wanted to build a tower. This is really the most curious part of this. What’s the point of a tower? I mean if you were going to build a tower for the purpose of, say, looking out over the countryside to see your enemies; that would be one thing, but there weren’t any enemies; you just had one group of people. I can understand a tower if you were afraid you were going to be attacked, but there wasn’t anybody to attack essentially. What’s the tower about?
Well, you look a little more carefully, you will notice that it says, “‘Let us build a tower whose top” – and “will reach” is in italics in the NAS, which means it’s added to try to help you to clarify things; if you just take it out – “whose top into heaven” – whose top connects to heaven. I think there’s no other way to understand this than this was their supposed connection to the gods, which indicates that they had already begun to worship false gods. Not surprising. Satan disguises himself as a angel of light, and his ministers are disguised as angels of light. False religion is his business. It didn’t take long for him to develop in them a false religion to take the place of the worship of the true and living God, and they connected that false religion to the heavens.
Now, this kind of tower became very common in Mesopotamian religion. If you – you may have heard this word “ziggurat” – Z-I-G-G-U-R-A-T – ziggurat. In fact, very, very common to find a ziggurat in the ancient cities in the area of the Mesopotamian valley.
It was, in theory, a ladder by which the gods could descend and ascend and make connection with men. A stepladder. It could be made of bricks and mortar and was generally rectangular or square at the base, and there was a temple there. So, you went there to worship the ascending and descending gods. This was their connection with God. And Nimrod, who rejected the true God, knew that the people needed religion because it is an opiate for the people. And so, he concocted some kind of religion associated with a ziggurat, and the base a temple area for the earthly imitation of the heavenly residents of their gods. Babylonian writings, Babylonian legends refer to these ziggurats that may well be copies of this original migdal, this original tower.
Sumerian culture, Babylonian culture also speak of an ancient united people with one language. So, the true account here is passed down through the tradition of these peoples. In fact, in later Babylonia, every important city had a ziggurat, a similar tower - even in Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon - and it was introduced right back here by Nimrod in Babel. He knew that people needed religion. They needed to overcome their vacuum when they rejected the true God. And so, he concocted this false religion, obviously aided and abetted by Satan.
In fact, the Bible traces all false religions back to – where? - Babylon. Babylon - Revelation 17, Revelation 18. They had rejected the true God. They had developed belief in false gods. Babylonian mystery cults developed from this and spread over the whole world. You got a Babylonian mystery cult, a Babel mystery cult – that’s the worship of false gods; that’s a system of idolatry in Babel. And when God scatters them all, this was not a revival spiritually; they just took bits and pieces of that false religion and spread it all over the Earth. And that’s why Scripture indicates in Revelation 17:5 that all the false religions of the world find their way back to Babel. Even the form of religion that characterizes Antichrist at the end of the age, Revelation 18, is called Babylon. Babylon.
The gods of Rome, the gods and goddesses of Greece, India, Egypt, the original pantheon of the Babylonians all sort of comes from Babel. One historian says, “Nimrod himself was apparently deified as the chief god Marduk of later Babylon.” So, here they turn Nimrod into a god in later worship in Babylon. And they built a tower not to reach – that’s not, as I said, in the Hebrew; rather, it says, “‘whose top is’” – in/with/on/or by – “‘heaven.’” It simply means it’s dedicated to the heavenly gods.
The third element – the first one was social, a city; the second one was religious, a tower – the third one was psychological, they wanted to - “‘make for ourselves a name.’” This indicates their pride, their self-will, their ugly rebellion. They didn’t want to make for God a name; they had turned their back on Him. This is their great ambition. This is, “Come, let us!”
And as we will see, God steps in and says, “No, come, let Us,” and reverses it.
Well, Lord, we thank You for giving us the revelation that You have so that we can understand things the way they really happened and the way they really are. Thank You for the wonderful, faithful attention of Your people to Your truth, and may they be rewarded greatly for their eagerness to learn. And may they be blessed as they worship and praise You as the true and living God, tragically rejected by so many through all of history, even by those who had firsthand family testimony of the flood. How unimaginable it is that those who survived the floor were still alive at the Tower of Babel, and still their testimony of divine judgment must have fallen on deaf ears, even in their own family. How evil is man, how vicious, how wicked, how self-exalting, and still today saying, “Come, let us build our cities of wickedness, build our false religions, build our psychological self-esteem,” only as in the days of old, to have it all reversed in a coming act of divine judgment.
Father, may we take the message, the truth to all around us so that others can come even into these waters of baptism and testify to Your saving power and Your deliverance, we pray in Christ’s name, amen.
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