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10/22/2010 What is the Tower of Babel?

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What is the Tower of Babel?

The Tower of Babel is a fascinating story which helped the ancients understand

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Along with the c rossing of the Red Sea and Jonah and the Whale, the Tower of Babel is an inc redible story
that has grabbed imaginations throughout history. Atheists point with glee to this tall tale from the anc ient
past as an example of another preposterous explanation for the world as we find it. How c an you take
seriously a book that explains the existence of many languages with a fairy tale like this? Of course, that
depends on the purpose of the book and the purpose of the story.

The story of the Tower of Babel doesn't take place in a vac uum. It falls in between Noah's flood and the
call of Abraham. In the c ase of the flood, God has initially given up on the whole human race. Mankind had
become wicked and his thoughts and inc linations were always evil. God finds in Noah hope for a new
beginning, and so we get another shot at it. The rainbow is God's promise to all of the earth that a flood
will never again be the tool of judgement.

The c all of Abraham c omes about as God decides to form a people of his own…/babeltowergod_rqp… 1/3
10/22/2010 What is the Tower of Babel?
The c all of Abraham c omes about as God decides to form a people of his own Ads by Google
to carry the knowledge and worship of Him into the world. The Flood did not Air Tower
stem man's evil ways and the ac tivities around the Tower of Babel showed that Cooling Tower
man loves himself more than any God. The glory of man is what was sought
Tray Tower
with that tower, not the glory of God. So, in Abraham, God forms a people who
Tower Cranes
will glorify Him.

The story of Babel comes at a point after the flood where everyone is seen as a descendant of Noah.
Genesis 10 and 11 is a genealogy from Noah to Abraham and an attempt to classify everyone in the known
world as a desc endant. I say "known" world because as far as these early Hebrews were concerned the
world was flat and rested on pillars. The sky was a shell with stars fastened to it. Ethiopia was as far
south as they c ould identify, Iran to the east, Armenia to the north and Greec e to the west. They had
heard of a place c alled Tarshish (Spain) but weren't sure. Jonah had tried to go there bec ause it was as
far as he c ould imagine going.

The whole story of Babel lasts for only nine verses, Genesis 11: 1-9. Its fame has far exc eeded the space
that the c ompilers of Genesis have given it in the Holy Sc riptures. Just before we are given the names of
the desc endants of Shem (Shemites or Semites) whose line brings us to Abraham, the story of the Tower
of Babel is inserted. What c ould be the signific ance of this little parable at this point in Bible history?

Of course, the anc ients wanted to know why and how we all c ame to be speaking different languages. If
Noah and his sons repopulated the world shouldn't we all speak their language? Verses ten to twenty six
bring us from Shem to Abraham. The story of Babel is there to explain to a primitive society how we get
from Noah to Abraham with so many different languages having developed in so short a time. What c ould
be the c ause of this impediment to human c ooperation and understanding?

The c hoice of the name "Babel" is not an ac cident. The reference to Babylon reflects the way that Babylon
was abhorred by Hebrew society. Babylon represented everything that was wrong with humanity. As a
city, Babylon was both envied and loathed. The city was beautiful and grac ed with streets and palaces.
The hanging gardens of Babylon are one of the seven wonders of the anc ient world. Writing and scienc e
were developing there. In the meantime, the Hebrews were a nomadic society conc erned with day to day
survival. Babylon represented oppression, c ruelty and violence by whic h it remained powerful.

So Babel (Babylon) is portrayed as a soc iety where everyone speaks with the same language and through
human c ooperation attempt to c limb to heaven on a tower. This is not a God c entered society but a
fellowship of men dedicated to elevating man to his proper position as God of this world. This is a theme
often repeated in the Bible. The ziggurats stand as evidenc e against them. So Babylon gets the blame for
confusion bec ause they try to get up to God's level. The disdain that anc ient Israel felt for Babylon is
reflec ted in the Tower story.

So, is this sc ience or theology? There is no sc ience in the Bible. There is no point looking for it there. The
Bible is a theologic al manuscript. It is the story of God's dealings with humans from the viewpoint of an
ancient society. Is Babel the reason for all of the various languages in the world? Of c ourse it isn't. Is
Babel a parable? The story of the Tower of Babel is a parable about mankind, where his heart is and how
God feels about it.

The acc ount of Babel's tower is lousy history and terrible sc ience. It is terrific theology. The final
judgement against any soc iety is its willingness to press forward in the name of progress without referenc e
to or respect for God. The parable tells us that the road without God is doomed to disaster. The c itizens of
Babel thought that they were able, technologically, to c hallenge God's leadership. Man's pride, vanity and
lust for power need to c ome under God's authority. That is the theologic al lesson of this sec tion of
sc ripture. They are the only kinds of lessons the Bible gives.

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