Week 1: May 29

Making a Name for Yourself (Babel) by Deb Williams

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We are starting off this series in an unusual place, not with a person but with a tower - the tower of Babel. The biblical account takes up only a tiny portion of the book of Genesis but it greatly influences the geography and demography of the world. 

The setting of the story happens between 2 chapters describing the lineages of Noah’s ancestry. As you recall, God had destroyed all of the earth with a massive flood because of man’s wickedness. Only Noah and his family were spared, they and the animals God had instructed Noah to take onto the ark with them.  After the flood, God gave very specific instructions to Noah and his family. This was God’s plan to replenish mankind, to repopulate the earth. As you read the passage you can hear the similarities between God’s instructions to Adam and Eve.

‘‘Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth. 2 All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power.’ Gen 9:1&2 NLT

According to historians, the building of Babel would have taken place during the time Noah’s grandchildren lived so you can imagine that the memory of the flood was still fresh in their minds.

The word  Babel actually means the gate of the god or as we know it today, a scene of noisy confusion. It was situated in Shinar (modern southern Iraq), which would later become one of the largest civilizations of the day, Babylon. Building towers was not uncommon in this day and age. Other civilizations would build towers or ziggurats to their god. It was seen as a place the god would reside. 

Another interesting tidbit from Easton’s Bible Dictionary.

‘The Birs Nimrud, at ancient Borsippa, about 7 miles south-west of Hillah, the modern town which occupies a part of the site of ancient Babylon, and 6 miles from the Euphrates, is an immense mass of broken and fire-blasted fragments, of about 2,300 feet in circumference, rising suddenly to the height of 235 feet above the desert-plain, and is with probability regarded as the ruins of the tower of Babel. This is "one of the most imposing ruins in the country." 

Now the reasoning behind the building of this tower was different. According to the scripture everyone spoke the same language. They got together and decided to build a tower.

‘Now the whole earth spoke one language and used the same words (vocabulary). 2 And as people journeyed eastward, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and they settled there. 3 They said one to another, “Come, let us make bricks and fire them thoroughly [in a kiln, to harden and strengthen them].” So they used brick for stone [as building material], and they used tar (bitumen, asphalt) for mortar. 4 They said, “Come, let us build a city for ourselves, and a tower whose top will reach into the heavens, and let us make a [famous] name for ourselves, so that we will not be scattered [into separate groups] and be dispersed over the surface of the entire earth [as the Lord instructed].”

Genesis 11:1-4 Amplified Version

This was to be a symbol of human ability. It was to keep them together and to ensure that others noticed their ability and skills. A protective cocoon so to speak. In other words, to guarantee their success. Such a common theme among humanity isn’t it? 

Take some time to read the following scriptures for today. As you read, pay attention to God’s instruction and the people's response. What do you notice? What parallels, if any, have you seen in your own life? Jot them down in your journal, you’ll need to refer to them later.

Genesis 9:1-4

Genesis 11:1-9


We left our reading yesterday with the people planning to build a tower to secure their success, fame and also importantly their security. Let’s take a look at God’s response to their plans.

‘God took one look and said, “One people, one language; why, this is only a first step. No telling what they’ll come up with next—they’ll stop at nothing! Come, we’ll go down and garble their speech so they won’t understand each other.” Then God scattered them from there all over the world. And they had to quit building the city. That’s how it came to be called Babel, because there God turned their language into “babble.” From there God scattered them all over the world.’ Gen 11:6-9 Message

Wow, now that’s intense! To say God wasn’t impressed with their grand scheme is putting it mildly, isn’t it? So He dispersed them. Meaning; to separate and move apart in different directions without order or regularity; to become scattered

Another definition is to be dispelled; scattered out of sight; vanish (like smoke into the sky).

The end result was the polar opposite of what they were planning for themselves. Their plans were not only in direct disobedience to God’s post flood direction, which was to ‘fill the earth and multiply - have lots of children! They were also contrived to provide for their fame and security in their own way and their own time.

Take some time and read the account of the fall of man found in Genesis 3:1-19. What similarities do you see between the actions of Adam and Eve and those involved in the building of Babel?


Genesis 11:1-9

Genesis 3:1-19

The picture above is done by the Dutch artist Pieter Brueghei. It’s rather well known. Spend time looking at it after you have read the scripture passages.

What do you notice about the picture? What does it say about man’s attempts to make a name for themselves? Record them in your journal.

If you are interested in going deeper, listen to the following podcast.


I’m sure the devastation caused by the flood would have still been relatively fresh for Noah’s descendants. According to biblical scholars, Noah was still alive at this time. They actually knew someone, who knew someone. Can you imagine some of the stories that were told around the evening campfires? History was passed down orally so the stories of this particular event would surely have been talked about over and over.

How God instructed Noah to build an ark, how the animals came, the rain - oh, the rain - the likes of which they had never seen before. Imagine as they finally got off of the ark after all those days. Can you envision the devastation they witnessed? Then there was the rebuilding that they knew would be necessary, certainly a daunting task. Fast forward 100 years later.

Do you suppose people woke up one morning and decided to build a tower? What were they thinking? What do you think motivated them?

Why am I spending so much time on these details? Because I believe it provides the backdrop for some of the ‘why’ of Babel.

Notice the wording in the beginning of chapter 11 - man said,

‘Let us make bricks and fire them…’

‘Let us build a city…’

‘Let us make a name for ourselves…’

Sounds a bit reminiscent of the creation account when God said, ‘Let us make man in our image’

Our plans versus God’s plans - we see this borne out in so many places within scripture. Adam and Eve desired to be like God. The people of the day desired to make a name for themselves, build a city - in essence stay together. I can’t help but wonder if they felt more secure as a group. Safety in numbers. The idea of ‘filling the earth’ might have sounded overwhelming to them.

Remember the notes you jotted down about Adam and Eve? What are some parallels? The serpent knew just how to tempt both Eve and then Adam, didn’t he? What same sins do we see in Genesis 11? How are they similar?

Reread Genesis 11:1-9

As you read your Bible, ask God to open your eyes to any of these same issues in your life.


For our devotional today let’s look at several common themes seen in the account of Babel.


Scripture tells us -

So God created human beings in his own image.

In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

- Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

Imago Dei is the latin translation here for “image of God”... we are set apart from the rest of creation, because we are created in God’s image.

We see this again when David writes in Psalm 139,

‘I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.’

Psalms 139:14

Think of this for a few moments. Allow the truth to sink into your soul so as David said, your soul knows it well. We were created to reveal His greatness - to be a beautiful reflection of God.

Unfortunately this gift is often not enough for us. We want to be seen in other ways - the smartest, most athletic, richest, most powerful, the prettiest, most successful. You fill in the blank with more. Often these beliefs about ourselves come from our family of origin and we aren’t even aware we operate within them. In the case of Babel - the people wanted to be seen as famous.

Have you ever considered how you want to be seen? What’s a high value for you? The answer can often give us insight into what image we want to project. Imagine that you knew, really knew that you ‘were enough’ simply because of who made you, simply because of whose image you were made in.

Self Sufficiency

How many times have you heard a toddler say ‘do it myself’. Cute isn’t it? Maybe when you’re 2! Not so much when you are an adult. Yet how often do we say this to God? Thanks, Lord but I’ve got this! I’m good! Don’t need the help. The people trying to build the tower were saying just that. ‘We want to do this our way. We don’t want to follow your instructions. We want to do it ourselves! We want to be in charge and god of our own lives.’

Where are the places in your life where you tell God you don’t need Him? You don’t want to follow His guidance? His instructions? His commands for you? Take a moment to confess anything the Holy Spirit brings to your mind.

Self Protection

How much was this behind the desire to build this tower - to create a path forward that supposedly made sure there wouldn’t be a repeat of earlier events? How often do we see this today? Especially after a time of suffering or hardship. A determination to make sure it does not happen again! Has this been your response to hardship and suffering? Are you determined to make sure it ‘doesn’t happen’ again like it did?

We cannot address these key themes in our lives without a heart of surrender. It’s difficult to experience the life of abundance and freedom God has for us when we are determined to do things our way and for our reasons. As we take time to reflect and consider the places in our lives and our relationships where our image, our self protection and our self sufficiency are at work God is faithful and will show us a different path. Surrender though is key. Our willingness to lay down our false beliefs, coping strategies, determination and will.

Day 5

The truth of the story of Babel is just as sure as it was back then. God’s plan will prevail. In spite of the people’s efforts to ‘do their own thing’, God’s design for humanity unfolded according to His will.

God’s ultimate plan is better than ours. Sometimes He shows us this without our surrender like He did at Babel. However when we do surrender, He becomes our anchor in turbulent times, our rock in seasons of uncertainty. This is our hope.

The beauty of the story of Babel is this - God’s sufficiency is the same today, just as it was so many years ago. This is the truth that we place our trust in. Circumstances may rock our world but we are not alone, on our own, left to our own defenses. He is sufficient! Praise Him!

As you take time to listen to the song today may it be a worship experience, a time to affirm your trust in Him, your surrender to His will no matter what. God bless you!

Sufficient For Today - Maverick City Music