To reach the clouds
Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves – Genesis 11:4
1 At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words.
2 As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.
3 They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.)
4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”
“To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers” was written in 2002. It was a memoir detailing the exploits of Philippe Petit. He had successfully walked a trapeze between the Twin Towers in New York City. This remarkable feat was done on August 07, 1974. This amazing walk took place across a steel cable suspended 1350 feet above the ground. There is something about the human race that desires to get up into the clouds.
The first recorded effort to do this is found in Genesis 10. These events took place approximately 4200 years ago. The endeavor was led by Nimrod in the plain of Shinar. There he built a great city and a great tower. This tower has come to be known as the Tower of Babel.
After the flood, the Father’s plan for the human race was to spread out and repopulate the post-diluvian world.
Genesis 9:7 Now be fruitful and multiply, and repopulate the earth.
Due to the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil (Genesis 6:5) a global problem had developed on the earth. The Father’s solution was a global flood that destroyed every living creature on the face of the earth, except the eight people aboard the ark. This little matter of the global flood required a redo of the Father’s original instruction.
Genesis 1:28 Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
However, the people had no intention of following his directions. They had an entirely different plan. They wanted to consolidate and stay in one place. Rather than follow His instructions, they decided to build a great city and a great tower.
Now there’s nothing wrong with building cities or towers. The issue was not the people’s construction efforts. The problem was that they had been explicitly told not to stay in one place but rather spread out and repopulate the earth. It was a case of the Father’s plan versus their plan. Such as been the case since the Garden of Eden until now. Actually, the struggle is quite personal. This war of desires runs right through the heart of every child of the King. There is an ongoing battle within between our willingness to follow His plan and our desire to follow our plan.
Nimrod, aptly named, was the epitome of rebellion and autonomy. He also had more than a smidgen of pride and desire to be great and have a lasting legacy on the earth. “Nimrod’s very name is an encapsulation of his lifestyle. His name means, ‘Let us revolt.’” (James E. Smith).
What was the purpose of the tower? Physically it was similar to the ziggurats found in Mesopotamia. A ziggurat is a large pyramidal structure made of brick. They were stair-stepped edifices that were intended to serve as a stairway to heaven. The name Babylon is Babel in Hebrew. Babel means the gate of God. The top of these towers was intended for religious purposes. People built towers to worship their deities at their summit. This theme is found throughout the world. Consider the efforts of the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas in the Western Hemisphere.
Nimrod’s plan and purpose were clear. He built a tower with its top in the heavens. His purpose for the people was to make a name for themselves. His goal was autonomous religious worship. There is a bit of irony embedded in the passage. As high as Nimrod got, it was not high and enough. They never reached heaven, the dwelling place of their gods. How do we know?
Genesis 11:5 But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building.
The takeaway: people can never reach God by their own efforts. The father must come to them. When the Father came down, He was not positively impressed. There sin, defiance, and rebellion made an impression, but not a good one. The people had done what they wanted, not what they were told. They ignored the clear instructions of the Father. They thought themselves wiser than the Father.
REFLECT & PRAY
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death
Father enable me to make Your will and purpose my own. The struggle is ever before me to attempt to do things my way instead of Yours.
Genesis 11:6 And the Lord said “Look! The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!”
“God does not scoff at the building and consider it much ado about nothing. There is no suggestion that he views it as a joke. He does not laugh at them or ridicule them. Rather, he takes the scheme quite seriously. In fact, if something is not done to abort the project, the consequences can be far-reaching. . .. His concern is also that such a hubris-motivated scheme will become a precedent and stimulation for other schemes” (Victor P. Hamilton).
How did the Father thwart their plan? He could have destroyed the tower, oh say with an earthquake. But that solution would only be temporary. What would stop them from doing it again? His solution would go deeper and prevent any further similar building projects for the foreseeable future. The Father did not simply do away with the tower. He did away with their ability to make towers. They shared common goals and aspirations. It was no competition with other people groups. All of them spoke one language. What is the answer to this dilemma? Disrupt their ability to communicate with each other. The Father confuse their language and they were soon divided into small groups. Problem solved.
In Hebrew, there is a play on words that is not observable in English. Almost all Hebrew words are derived from 3-letter consonantal stems without vowels. The English word bricks translates the Hebrew leḇenim. Its consonants are l-b-n. The consonants of the Hebrew verb naḇela, rendered Let us confuse are n-b-l. By confusing the language, and make many languages from one, did the Father reverse their brick building efforts? Did He unbrick their bricks (Victor P. Hamilton).
Behind their project was open rebellion against the Father. Their pride and arrogance triggered exaggerated independence and disobedience. But it would not stop there. There was a greater danger. United, working together with a common language and purpose, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them (Genesis 11:6)!
This is true for all of us. Once we start down an independent, disobedient path, who knows how far astray we can go. Sometimes confusion can be a good thing. It certainly was in the plains of Shinar.