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.