Genesis chapter 11, let’s read the opening nine verses. I will read as you follow along in this very interesting portion of Scripture. Genesis 11, beginning at verse 1, “Now 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 to 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 so 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.”
The origin of nations is here given to us. The origin of languages is here given to us. And the nations of the world, the linguistic families of the world, the languages of the world all had their origin here. We have been learning, as we study the book of Genesis, about origins. And we know that the world teaches that origins is related to some kind of evolutionary process, and that is also used as an explanation for the development of nations and languages.
There was a certain long, drawn-out, national evolution that began with man when man first stood up upright eight million years ago and then began to find a way to socialize himself, and over a period of time he developed nations, and over a period of time he developed languages and so forth, millions of years of this development took place. That is the typical view of modern anthropologists and linguists, but that is not true. Nations and languages had a singular origin. It began right here by a direct act of God. God launched it all in one act. And it is true nations have developed through the 4,000 plus years since Babel, and so have languages developed. Even English, like every other language, is a developing language. All you have to do is get an original copy, if you can find one, of the King James Bible, and you will be unable to read it, even though it’s English, because the development is so great. There has been a development of national identity. There has been a refining of language, but the scattering of the linguistic distinctions happened suddenly through God’s powerful judgment.
Now, let’s just put this in context a little bit. We learned last time about the dispersion of humanity over the Earth and the variation in language. This is the explanation of how what is described in chapter 10 came to pass because in chapter 10 you have the records of the toledoth, the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Out of the ark, after the flood, comes one family: Noah, his wife; Shem, Ham, Japheth, their wives – eight people. Everybody else has been drowned. The entire world of people, from Adam to Noah, is now gone. And they are the new humanity. They are the forefathers of the entire world. They come out of the ark and there is, in chapter 10, a record of the development of Shem’s family, and Ham’s family, and Japheth’s family.
And as we went through that chapter, we noted that these families developed sons and grandsons and great-grandsons, multiplying into various people groups. And we talked about how that some of them became the Indo-Europeans; some of them became the folks in the north; and in some cases the people in Africa, and in Asia, and the Far East. And we can trace the lines of Shem, Ham, and Japheth into those various parts of the world. And the line of Shem being the most notable line because out of the line of Shem comes Abraham. And so, the line of Shem is further traced starting in chapter 11, verse 10, where you focus on the line of Shem, from Shem to Abram, later called Abraham, who is the father of God’s people Israel, who are given the responsibility of being the witness nation to tell the world the truth about the one true God.
So, in chapters 10 and 11, you have these genealogies that indicate to us that families are developing, and societies are developing, and nations are developing out of that original eight that came off the ark. And in chapter 11, verses 1 to 9, which I just read, you have the divine catalyst that propels all of that development.
Early human history, after the flood, is laid out then in the genealogical records of chapter 10 and 11, all the way from Noah to Abram or Abraham. You have that genealogical record. There’s a careful, careful record of those genealogies from Noah’s sons – Shem, Ham, and Japheth – and, as I said, particular attention is given to the line of Shem because it’s all the way to Abram.
When you look at chapter 10, just by way of review again, in verse 5, it says, “From these the coastlands of the nations were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations. So, chapter 10 describes all of this development in nations and languages. Verse 32 says the same thing, “These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, by their nations; and out of these the nations were separated on the Earth after the flood.”
Then chapter 11 tells you how it was launched, and it was launched because God said, “We’re going to confuse their language, and We’re going to scatter them all over the world.” This was a divine act on God’s part.
So, you could say that the people were scattered is stated in chapters 10 and 11. How and why the people were scattered is stated in chapter 11, verses 1 to 9. And this then becomes the origin of nations and the origin of languages.
If you go back far enough linguistically, as far back as people can go, you’re not going to go back to one common language which evolved into a whole bunch of languages; you’re going to go back to a divine miracle in which God instantaneously created languages and gave the people full capacity to speak those languages. Just as God created a mature universe and a mature Earth, populated by a mature life, he created mature languages so that they weren’t just grunting at each other until they could sort it all out.
So, we saw, then, in chapter 10 that the various families spread all over the Earth after the initial breakup of their one world society. We talked about that last time. The reason God broke up their one-world societies, there in verse 6, because they were able to do anything they wanted to do. There would be no checks and balances; there would be no restraint on them.
Now, chapter 12, which we’ll get to, just as kind of a preview, begins the story of God sending His witness to these scattered nations. And He sends His revelation, discloses Himself, reveals Himself, and calls this nation Israel into existence to go to the nations of the world and tell them about the true God.
By the time that Bible comes, they’re already idolatrous; they’re already into false religion. By the time Israel is given its commission and sent to witness, they’ve become very sophisticated idolaters, and they’re into polytheism – many gods; polydemonism – many demons; animism; who knows what – everything that’s imaginable in religion the world was into. But primarily they were into a multi-god concept of religion. And so, the monotheism of Israel – one God and only one God, the Shema, the singular doctrinal truth of Israel, was the starting point of their witness, that there was not all these gods, but only one God. That witness is launched with the calling of Abraham and the covenant that God gives him starting in chapter 12.
So, by the time you get to Abraham’s day, you’ve got scattered nations speaking different languages in different forms of idolatry, being aided by demons who are always the purveyor of lies and false doctrine, designing their own demon-inspired gods and worshiping in a condition of utter lostness.
We have studied, in our earlier look at Genesis 6 to 9, particularly about in chapter 6, the condition of the world when God drowned the whole world, and we know what it was like. It was wretched and wicked, and God looked and all the imagination of man’s heart was only evil continually – you remember? – and there was nothing good. God couldn’t find anybody righteous but Noah and his little family. The world was wretched, and God said that all that can be done with them is destruction.
Now, the world post-flood, by the time of Babel – and we estimate that the Tower of Babel, in which God scattered the people, would be about a hundred years after the flood – it only took about a hundred years; they were multiplying rapidly. It was beneficial to have a lot of children. They multiplied rather rapidly, certainly into thousands and thousands if not tens of thousands of people. About a hundred years after the flood, by the time you get to Babel, the world of Babel is essentially the same as the world before the flood. And God would have had every right to have destroyed that society in the same way that He did the antediluvian society. But common grace prevailed with God, and God said He would never do that again, and He was patient and merciful and not destroying them in spite of their sin.
But what was the society like in specific? Let me have you turn to Romans 1; I think I can give you a specific answer to that. Now, this is a familiar passage, and I don’t want to beg the issue for you that are familiar with it, but it’s an important component for our understanding in this discussion.
When you come to Romans chapter 1, you have in verse 18 the wrath of God stated. Now, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, and what is it that prompts that, that precipitates that, that initiates that, that motivates that? “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
Now, if there would be any generation who would do that, it would be the generation at Babel. They were only a hundred years from the flood; that’s not very long. The flood family would still be around. They had firsthand witness to what happens to people that disobey the true God. This was not secondhand information passed down thousands and thousands of years by written documents; this is firsthand information, firsthand testimony. And there were plenty of people who had the testimony of those that survived the flood – Noah, his wife, and their sons and wives.
But in spite of the fact that they had this firsthand present testimony to the amazing judgment of God that destroyed the entire planet and literally reshaped it. They could tell the whole story about how a benign climate was turned into an extreme climate; the wonderfully sort of gentle climate of Eden becomes the barren, bleak, searing hot climate of the desert of that same area.
All of the natural disasters that came to pass after the flood as a result of the reshaping of the Earth, making the mountains higher and the valleys deeper and creating an Ice Age and all that goes with that – all of these things could be firsthand testimony from the family who lived in both worlds.
And so, it is really pretty amazing that they suppressed the truth in unrighteous. And it certainly would be true of them. Verse 19, that, “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made so that they are without excuse.
And what the apostle Paul is saying is, “Look, anybody with reason, and anybody who can see the creation around them” – or him or her – “anybody who’s aware of that is culpable before God to understand that there is a Creator, there is a God who is divine and who is eternally powerful.” You have to have some eternal source for this universe.
So, if people, just by reason alone, just by virtue of being able to see the creation, are culpable for turning their back on God, how culpable is that generation at Babel who not only could see the hand of God and the creation - they were pre-evolutionary theory - but who had eyewitness account of the judgment of God. And they are in some serious guilt.
Verse 21 says what happens when people suppress the truth, when they know God but will not honor Him – it says, “Even though they knew God, they didn’t honor Him as God or give thanks; they became futile in their speculations; their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” And this is a description of the breadth of idolatry.
What happens is they reject God; they know God, but they will not glorify Him, they will not honor Him, they will not give Him thanks. He lights all go out in their foolish heart; their minds become futile. They think they’re smart; they’re actually fools. The whole message is garbled; they are at a loss for truth, and they exchanged the glory of the true and incorruptible God for their idols. Whenever man suppresses the knowledge of God’s glory, the whole of life plummets into chaos. Chaos.
John Piper wrote, “The sun of God’s glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our souls. And when it does, all the planets of our life are held in their proper orbit. Otherwise, everything flies apart.” It’s true. This is what they did. We know that because they built this ziggurat, essentially a temple of idolatry. We’ll get back to that in a moment. But what is the chaos into which they plummeted? It’s the same chaos anybody plummets into.
Verse 24 of Romans 1, whenever there is that abandonment of God, “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity that their bodies might be dishonored among them.” There you go. The first thing that happens is their physical bodies plummet into chaos. Impurity – impurity. Wholesome relationships are destroyed in this plummeting chaos.
“For” – verse 25 – “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie; they worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” And so, their physical bodies are plunged into immorality.
And then verse 26, “God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural” – that’s lesbianism. “In the same way also, the men abandoned the natural function of the woman, burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”
So, what happened, they plunged into sexual immorality; they plunged into homosexuality. Now, this passage in Romans chapter 1 is not describing one period of history. It’s describing the inevitable cycle that takes place when men suppress the truth. And they will suppress it because they choose unrighteousness. And when they reject the knowledge of God, they plummet into the chaos. The first area of disaster comes to the physical body, destroys appropriate, good, wholesome relationships in the destructive sexual degradation that takes over every society that turns its back on God.
It doesn’t stop there. The next thing that goes – the mind. Verse 28, “They didn’t see fit to acknowledge God.” They turned their back on the true and living God. “So, God gave them over to a depraved mind.” The body goes, and the mind goes. You can’t think properly. You can’t think clearly. The mind is totally corrupt; so, they do the things that aren’t proper, and they’re just filled with unrighteousness. Here’s a description of the pre-Babel society, “unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death” – let me tell you something, those people living at that time knew that because they knew that the whole world had been drowned in some of their – in proximity to their own lifetime. And some of the people – the people, I should say, who had come through that flood were still alive. They knew this. They knew that people who do those kind of things are worthy of death because there was plenty of testimony that the whole world had been destroyed on this basis. But they do it anyway, and they give hearty approval to those who practice them.
So, if you want to know what the Babel society was like, there it is. There it is. And if it sounds a little bit familiar, it’s what our society’s like, and it’s what the Roman society at the time of Paul was like. And it’s what every other society is like. It’s just the cycle of the way it goes. You reject the knowledge of God, and you turn your back on God; you suppress the truth, which is in your conscience and in your reason, made available through creation, made available through revelation; you reject the truth of God; you plummet into the darkness. You think you’re wise; you’re an absolute fool. And you plunge into the destruction of your body and the destruction of your mind. And this is what they did; this is what our society does.
I’m going to add a footnote here, because I was talking to the kids at the college – they did a series this week in chapel. And, you know, you can paint the picture in America like this. I mean it’s essentially no different: turning your back on God, rejecting the truth that is known and plunging into sexual immorality, homosexuality, perverted reprobate minds, and all the things that are described here.
And I told the kids – I said, “You have to keep something in mind. We hear so much about this, ‘America’s going down the drain; America’s going down the drain. What’s wrong with our nation? We’ve got to call our nation to God. We’ve got to do this.’ And I sometimes turn on these evangelical preachers who want to reclaim America.”
And I said to the kids, and I’ll say this to you, “We have no message for a nation.” You understand that? We have nothing to say to America. We have nothing to say to Congress. We have nothing to say to Senators. We have nothing to say to the governors. We have nothing to say to the authorities. We have no message for a nation; that’s not our calling. Listen to this; we have a message for individuals. We have no message for a nation. Why? Because they are plunged into the chaos of their idolatry. Their minds are reprobate. You can’t expect them to live according to a divine standard. That is not possible. We have no message. I’m not calling America to anything. We have to call sinners to repentance. Right? We have no national message. So, don’t get caught up. And by the way, don’t get sending money to those people who are trying to fix America. You can’t fix it. There’s not going to be any national godliness. They don’t have the capacity for that.
You know, “We’ve got to reform our cities and stop criminality.” You can’t stop that. Unregenerate people are wicked and wretched, and they themselves can’t restrain their sin. “The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Not even the man whose heart it is can know it. We don’t have any message to a nation; that’s why I’m not up here preaching at America. I don’t have any message for them. The gospel is not for a nation; the gospel is for individuals.
Now, I can preach it to a crowd. I can preach it on Grace to You, you know, a thousand times a day across America, but the message is not to a national entity; it’s to an individual soul. I just through that in for nothing. Because I get worked up about that stuff. Thank you – both of you. Now that I have that off my chest, I feel a lot better.
So, you understand the picture here in Romans chapter 1. A people turn their back on God; they become idolatrous. They think they’re wise; they’re fools. They plunge into chaos physically, described as all different forms of sexual immorality and mentally with a depraved and degraded mind and everything that issues out of it. That was exactly the kind of society in Genesis 11. Go back to Genesis 11. And they did that, as nations have through all of history.
Now, at the time of Babel, they were just one people. That’s what verse 1 says, “They used the same language and the same words.” They were just one nation. The separation that’s described in chapter 10 hadn’t been launched until God did it at Babel. And so, as the story of Babel begins, they’re still one world, one language, one nation, one ruler – you remember who the ruler was? Chapter 10, verses 8 to 12 – what was his name? Nimrod. And this results – this one world results in unrestrained wickedness; it results in concentrated, unbridled, unhindered evil. God said, “We can’t allow that.” And I told you last time, and I reiterate it again, that’s what the New Age movement’s trying to create: one world, one world, one world, one world. That is serious trouble. They’ll get their one world, and the one-world ruler will be Antichrist.
And so, Satan wants a one world; it’s so much easier for him to handle. The Lord, in an act of common grace, as well as judgment, takes issue with that effort and shatters their unity.
Verse 2, we’re still looking at the action of man here, “Come, let us...” verse 3; “Come, let us...” verse 4. This is the action of man. They found a place in the land of Shinar, a plain. That would be in the Mesopotamian valley, between the Tigris-Euphrates River near the original garden of Eden. And without regard for God, they said, “Come, let us...” Nobody asks God. There’s not any prayer here; there’s not any deference to God, not any worship of God. “Let’s build for ourselves” – not for the glory of God, but for ourselves – “a city.” This was their social action. Concentrated sinners corrupting each other like a mass of people with infectious, deadly diseases all crammed into one building, infecting each other so that the wretchedness of all is intensified. That’s the picture. And they wanted a city. And we all know that cities tend to be the hotbeds of corruption.
They also wanted a tower. “Let us build a tower.” This is a ziggurat. Archeologists, I think, have found about 30 of these in the Mesopotamian valley area. Ziggurats were common structures in that part of the world in the Babylonian, Akkadian culture. And they were used to symbolize the connection between man and the gods as they reached up into heaven. They weren’t really trying to walk to heaven; they couldn’t build anything that high. But this was a symbol of the connection with the gods.
And these towers, throughout Babylonian culture, were religious ziggurats. Sometimes there was an idol stuck at the highest point of the tower, and generally a temple built around at the base. And it says that it went into the heavens or it touched the heavens. The heavens refers to the heavenly powers or the gods. There is abundant literature - I’ve read it for years and years – on the Babylonian mystery religions, which literally spread all over the Earth and took idolatry all over the face of the Earth that are traceable back to Babylonian and back to Babel.
In later Babylonia, every important city had a ziggurat, a tower. Even Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, a symbol, no doubt, introduced here at the Tower of Babel.
Nimrod apparently knew the people needed religion to overcome their knowledge of God. They needed a false religion to substitute for the true, and in very classic Romans 1 fashion, they denied the true God because of their unrighteousness. They didn’t want to be righteous; they didn’t like His standards. They denied the true God, and they created gods that accommodated their iniquities. The Bible actually traces all false religion back to Babylon. From Babylon, you can trace it back to Babel. They rejected the true God, developed their false gods, and the Babylonian mystery cults come out of that, spreading all over the world.
When you get into the book of Revelation, at the very end of human history, when at the time of the tribulation, just before the return of Jesus Christ, we read in the seventeenth chapter of Revelation, verse 5, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE Earth.” Babylon is seen as the mother of all religious abominations. Abominations.
An illustration, you can even trace the Roman Catholic Mother cult – Mary Mother cult – background to the mother cult of Babylonian mystery religions, not back to the New Testament. And even in the day of Ezekiel, pagan false teachers were worshiping the queen of heaven; that has never been Mary. That is – well, it goes by a number of names: Ashtoreth, Semiramus, Isis – way back in the Babylonian cults.
What kind of religion was this that they had developed with this tower? Well, we don’t know, but there’s some interesting thought about it. My friend Dr. Jim Boice - who preached here a number of occasions is now with the Lord, and we miss him greatly – came to the conclusion that this religion was probably the start of astrology, the zodiac, which has surely been connected with Babylon and may go back to Babel.
He writes this, “Turn to any book on astrology, and you will find that it was the Chaldeans, another name for the inhabitants of Babylonian, who first developed the zodiac by dividing the sky into sections and giving meanings to each on the basis of the stars that are found there. A person’s destiny is said to be determined by whatever section or sign he is born under.” You’re aware of that: Taurus, Gemini, whatever.
Boice goes on, “From Babylon, astrology passed to the empire of ancient Egypt, where it mingled with the native animism and polytheism of the Nile. The pyramids were constructed with certain mathematical relationships to the stars. The sphinx has astrological significance. It has the head of a woman, symbolizing Virgo the virgin; and the body of a lion, symbolizing Leo. Virgo is the first sign of the zodiac; Leo is the last. So, the sphinx, which, incidentally, means joining in Greek, is the meeting point of the zodiac – first and last – indicating that the Egyptian priests believed the starting point of the Earth in relation to the zodiac lay in Egypt on the banks of the Nile.”
You can trace all of this fascinating study of the zodiac back to Babylon, through Egypt, and very likely, Boice believes, back to the original Babel. By the time the Jews, after 400 years in Egypt – remember? – left, they had been greatly influenced by astrology. Remember now, astrology was invented by Babylonian God-rejecters, Babylonian pagans. It’s a part of their false system. But when the Israel’s left Egypt, because the tremendous amount of influence had been brought to bear upon them to believe in the stars, there were a series of warnings.
In Leviticus 19:31, “Do not turn to mediums or spiritists” - and that’s pretty general; it would include those who read the stars – “do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.” Don’t go near those deceivers.
Deuteronomy chapter 18. I can’t read all of this, but just a couple of places I think are really helpful. Deuteronomy 18, verse 9, “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the testable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer” – and sometimes that’s translated astrologer – “one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you.”
Verse 14, “Those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.” Again, warning about this.
Later on – and this will be more familiar to you – in the book of Daniel, there are a number of references to this. In Daniel 1:20 it says, “As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them” – this is now in Babylon or Chaldea – “he” – that is the king’s servant – “found Daniel and his friends ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers” – astrologers; some of your Bibles will say astrologers there.
Astrologers are mentioned again with magicians in chapter 2, verse 2. They’re mentioned again in chapter 2, verse 10. They’re mentioned again in chapter 2, verse 27. They’re mentioned again in chapter 4, chapter 5 I think three times.
So, astrology - having its roots perhaps at Babel, finds its way to Babylon, finds its way to Egypt – infects to some degree the people of Israel as it continues its influence around the world.
Boice goes on to say, “The interesting thing about these biblical denunciations of astrology is that astrology is identified with demonism or satanism in the sense that Satan and his hosts were actually being worshiped in the guise of the signs and planets. You have to remember that. This is the reason for the Bible’s stern denunciation of these practices. Are we to think, then, that Satan was entirely absent from the original attempt to build a civilization without God? Was he absent from the formation of this first non-biblical religion? I don’t think so. If he wasn’t, then the religion of the tower was actually a satanic attempt to direct the worship of the human race to himself and those former angels, who having rebelled against God were now already demons.” End quote.
And Dr. Henry Morris writes, “This project was originally presented to the people in the guise of true spirituality. The tower, in its lofty grandeur, would symbolize the might and majesty of the true god of heaven. A great temple at its apex would provide a center and an altar where men could offer their sacrifices and worship God.” And Morris says, “The signs of the zodiac would be emblazoned on the ornate ceiling and walls of that temple, signifying the great story of creation and redemption as told by the antediluvian patriarchs.”
And at that point, Henry Morris leaves me in a serious dilemma. That last line bothers me profoundly. I can stay with you, with the signs of the zodiac, but that they signify the great story of creation and redemption is impossible. And yet, that has been a popular idea – very popular idea, that you can read the gospel in the stars. Have you heard that? There’s a whole book about it written by a prominent evangelical. To me that’s ludicrous. This popular writer says, “The Bible is God’s little book, and the stars are God’s big book.” God never wrote the gospel in the stars. The heavens declare – not the gospel – the heavens declare the glory of God. Why in the world – why would we borrow a pagan concoction and somehow invest it with the gospel? Christian astrology. What a terrible perversion. Finding the gospel in the stars is fantasy. Worse than that, it’s borrowing from paganism. That’s another sermon.
They also wanted a name, back to Genesis 11. They also wanted a name. Their social goal is a city; their religious goal was a tower; their psychological goal was a name. “Let us make a name for ourselves.” Instead of God, let’s dethrone Him. There you are, Romans 1. Let’s rip God down off the throne. We have to get so powerful and so consolidated, make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole Earth.” Guess what? Why would they say that? Why would they even think that was going to happen? Because that was a command from God. They knew that.
Genesis 9:1, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth.” I don’t know how many times Noah had preached that. He was a preacher of righteousness not only before, but certainly after the flood. How many times had Noah said, “My text is be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth. Get out of here, folks; start spreading around the globe.”
They said, “We’ve got to get real strong. We’ve got to build a strong social base. We’ve got to build a strong religious base to hold onto these people. We’ve got to build a strong psychological base; we’ll boost up our self-esteem; we’ll really be something so that we don’t get scattered abroad over the face of the whole Earth. We’ve got to grip things tightly so that God can’t move us.” This is defiant. There’s no other explanation for it. The rebellion is motivated by the fact that they know what God wants, and they refuse to do it. So, they’re in flagrant rebellion and concocting their bizarre religion which may have included the zodiac, sectioning off what of the stars they could see, creating gods out of the sections and living by the mystical movement of the stars and determining destinies in that devilish, satanic fashion. Don’t you ever get near any of that astrology.
That was man’s action. Let’s look quickly at God’s action. But not much commentary is needed. Verse 5 – I love this – “And the Lord came down” – no matter how high they built their tower, He had to come down to get to it. Way down; they didn’t get close. “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.” Ironic anthropomorphism. And they’re so far from heaven, God had to come down - way down. It isn’t that He didn’t know; He just – it’s anthropomorphic to say, “He came down and took a look at the whole thing. God moved into action.” Verse 6, “And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language.’” Nobody’s gone anywhere. They’re not obeying Me; they’re defying Me. They’re digging in, fortifying themselves so they don’t have to go anywhere so that they can have this unilateral commitment to wickedness. It’s not good. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. They’re all agreed; they’re all in one accord. There aren’t any checks and balances here.
Ultimate power corrupts ultimately, and God’s not going to allow it. At least not for millennia, not until the end of human history, when there will be one world government, one people, one ruler. And the Antichrist, empowered by Satan, who will be destroyed by the returning Christ – you can read about the Antichrist in Revelation 13, first eight verses; you can read more about him in Revelation 17, Revelation 18. And then Christ comes in Revelation 19 and destroys this world empire; He becomes the Ruler, establishes His glorious thousand-year millennial kingdom, and then there is one world, one people, one Ruler, but it’s the right one, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, God mocks them. There’s a sarcasm in His words, verse 7, “Come, let Us go down” – He uses their very words, mimicking man – “let Us go down.” He has to stoop to see this puny extravagance. “Let’s go down and confuse their language” – this again is an indication that God is more than one, right? He’s a trinity. “We’ll confuse their language that they may not understand one another’s speech.” A very effective way to create chaos, by the way – very effective. All of a sudden - you’re having conversations; you’re interacting, buzzing around town – bang – nobody universe anybody. It wasn’t a hearing thing; it was a speech thing. All of a sudden, out of your mouth came words you’ve never said before. And you would really panic, try to find somebody who could understand you. And as you went to the enclave in which you lived, in your little family, and you found that they could speak the way you could speak, but nobody else could, you’d begin to understand you had to pull away. Anger would be everywhere. Fear would be everywhere. Panic would be everywhere. It would be a fascinating thing to dramatize. The immediate cacophony of unintelligible speech erupting all over the place would drive people crazy. And they would just congeal into units of common language. The power of the one world was shattered like that. The city was fragmented, and the false religion was splintered to bits.
And then the Lord did something else in verse 8, “He scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole Earth.” Now, how did He do that? I don’t know how He did that; it doesn’t say how He did that. But I only bring it up because some of you will ask me. You will say, “How did He do that?”
You can read that verse; I don’t know how He did it. I remember when I preached on the fact that when we get to heaven, we’ll have a name that no man knows. And a lady came up and said, “What is that name?” I gave her several suggestions. But we don’t know.
He scattered them. I don’t think that this – I don’t think they scattered themselves. I think He scattered them. I think, again, you have a miraculous phenomena here. You have a miraculous phenomena in linguistics, and then you immediately have a miraculous phenomena in scattering. The Lord scattered them. They didn’t scatter themselves. These language groups moved away or were moved away. They were relocated. And that’s not a problem for the Lord, who could pick up Philip and move him; He could take His prophet to heaven in a chariot, or Enoch who could walk right into the presence of God from Earth. If God wants to move people around, He can move them around; that’s not a problem. They began to move into their language groups all over the world. And Japheth’s family were moved into the Indo-European area, across Russia, over the Bering Sea in North America, down into South America, and native peoples of the western hemisphere. Ham’s family went into Africa and Asia, the Far East, and some parts of Canaan. Shem’s family went north and east and included the Semitic people of the Middle East.
And when they went, they took their sin with them. They took their idolatry with them. They took their false religion, their human pride, their ambition. They took all of the wretchedness of their souls. They also took their human ingenuity, which was formidable. They took the skills that they had been given as people created in the image of God.
And populations began to grow and expand. And people became industrious and clever. Even before the flood they knew how to work with animals – animal husbandry. They knew how to plant grain and work the fields. They knew how to work with metal. They knew how to write poems. Arts, crafts sprung up everywhere. And the more industrious and the more intelligent groups held the more favorable positions as time went on. They became more powerful; they became the greater nations. They conquered the weaker nations or overpowered and absorbed the weaker nations.
And eventually, nations began to develop alongside tribes in isolated places. It didn’t take millions of years for this to happen; it just took a few hundred years for it to happen, a few generations. The world was essentially inhabited. And they developed distinctive patterns of life and social customs and even biological features.
I don’t know if you happened to be watching a program yesterday on – I think it was – it was on one of the learning channels, and I was interesting. It was a tribe of people who all have clawed feet, and it looks like the foot of an ostrich without the middle toe. The whole tribe has that. And they just keep having babies that have them. And they were saying that the reason for that is because it’s so embedded in the genetics of the tribe, and the tribe is so committed to never marrying outside the tribe that this is a dominant feature in the gene pool. And it shows up in every single one of the people.
And that is sort of a strange and bizarre illustration of what would happen when you had a little language group popping over here and they would begin to intermarry. I don’t think the effect of the curse had taken place so they would all be idiots; not at all. There’s not that that – there’s not enough time yet for that degeneration to take place. But rather whatever the characteristics of that small group were, an intermarriage would be profoundly and deeply embedded in the gene pool. And as they continued, they would continue to manifest as characteristics. Hence, you have varying racial characteristics. And we’ve gone over that in some of our past studies. And they would even develop their languages as languages tend to develop.
The result of all this is actually indicated in chapter 10, verse 31. They became families and languages and lands and nations. And God stopped the rebellion, broke their power, and scattered them all over the Earth. And you know something? Even – please understand me – even war, as terrible as it is – even war is a corrective; even war is a restraint. A nation with other nations on its borders can’t live any way it wants to live, because as soon as it impinges upon the righteous and freedoms of the next-door people, there’s going to be a problem. A tribe of people, in an isolated place, can’t live any way it wants to live and do anything it wants to do, because as soon as it impinges upon what other tribes believe is their territory or their right, there will be a constraint placed upon them by some kind of an attack. So that even those kinds of things, through the ages, have acted, in some measure, as a restraint, as God has kept things divided.
But there will come a time - and I want to show you this; I’ll close with this – there will come a time when there will be one nation, and Christ will be the great King. Turn to Isaiah chapter 2; this is very, very wonderful. In Isaiah chapter 2, verses 1 to 4, “The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem” – he’s looking into the kingdom of Messiah; he says, “‘It’ll come about in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains and be raised the hills; all nations will stream to it.
“‘Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, that we may walk in His paths.” For the Law will go forth from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge by the way the nations, render decisions for many peoples; they will hammer their swords into plowshares, their spears into hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.’”
So, here is going to come world peace. It’s coming – world peace – and that the kingdom of Messiah, they’ll all come to hear the word of the Lord. They will all recognize the Lord is the ruler; Jerusalem is the place of His throne. It is the mountain that is above all other mountains; that is the promise of the great messianic kingdom. The kingdom will be a theocracy. God in Christ will be the Ruler, and everyone will come and submit to Him.
And in that kingdom, a city will come. A city not built by men, but a city built by God. In Revelation 21 it’s called the New Jerusalem, and it comes down out of heaven and suspends over the millennial Earth and is the capital city of the kingdom. And in that city will be the glorified saints. It’s the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21 and 22. It’ll be the city of God.
So, there will be that one world, that one Ruler, that one language in the millennial kingdom of Christ. The false one world precedes it in the kingdom of Antichrist.
Back, then, to Genesis 11 for a closing word from the author Moses. After giving the history of Babel, Moses adds a summary comment. We have the action of man in the first four verses. We have the action of God in the next four verses. And then we have a summary comment from the author Moses, verse 9. “Therefore, the name of that city” - already identified, by the way, back in chapter 10, verse 10 as Babel; but here the summary – “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.”
“Babel” is a term for confusion – even in English. And later on, the Akkadian name for Babylon was Babel Babylone, which they said meant the gate of God. Well, Babylon became the gate of the false gods. Babylon became the son of confusion, the gate of false gods, the home of all false religions that were spawned out of that.
And that’s why Revelation 17 and 18 describes the last stand of false religion in Antichrist’s kingdom as Babylon. Babylon is the most all-encompassing word to embrace false religion. It was launched there, and it sort of ends there. The Babylonian pantheon was the birthplace of paganism. Still evident in the world, even in, as I said, Roman Catholicism. And in the end, it will be Babylon that identifies the false system of Antichrist.
Moses said, “It’s called Babel” – or confusion – “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.” And Moses, remember now, is reading Genesis to the Jews long after these events. They’re ready to go into the land of Canaan; they’re ready to take that land. And He is reading them the story of origins. And this explained to the Jews how all these nations came to be. They were all, from the very beginning, under the judgment of God so that Israel need not feel they were acting in an unjust way by going in and conquering the Canaanites who were made up of many different tribes because they were, in fact, already under divine judgment.
The world was filled with pride; the world was filled with ambition; the world was filled with false religion. And now it was Israel’s turn to go in and act in judgment on behalf of God, establish itself as a witness nation to spread the message that the Lord is one God, and to tell them about the true and living God.
They wanted a city, they wanted a religion, a relationship with God, and they wanted a name, and they didn’t get it. Those of us who are believers, we receive it. Revelation 3:12, “He who overcomes, I’ll make him a pillar in the temple of My God; he will not go out from it anymore. I’ll write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem.”
They wanted a city; they wanted a tower signifying their connection with the gods; they wanted a name, and they didn’t get it. But we who overcome by faith are made a pillar in the temple of our God. We have written on us the name of our God and the name of the city of our God, the New Jerusalem, which is our eternal habitation. All that they wanted we receive, the promise of Revelation 3:12 and 13.
Father, we thank You tonight for the amazing, amazing revelation of Your word. We would add a little bit to what was stated in Genesis 11, where man said, “Come, let us,” and You said, “Come, let Us,” and Isaiah said, “Come, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as white as snow.”
They had a plan, and You have a plan, and now it’s up to us to realize that You have provided for us the forgiveness of sins through Christ. That’s the message You gave to Israel to spread to the world. That’s the message You gave to the church, and we are still responsible to spread that to the world. That’s the message in the future that a restored and converted Israel will again preach during the time of the tribulation and throughout the kingdom. But for now, it’s for us to preach the message of the true and living God to a pagan world.
We have no message to nations; we just have a message to the people in those nations. May we understand that our responsibility is the same as Israel of old and of the church through all its history, and that is to proclaim that You are the true and living God, and You provide cleansing from sin to those who believe in Your Son and embrace Him as Savior and Lord.
May we be faithful to proclaim this message. Israel, we know, was not faithful. Most of the quote-unquote church is not faithful. May You keep us faithful to discharge this high and holy and joyous responsibility that You may be glorified, we pray in Your Son’s name, amen.
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