The story of the tower of Babel takes place about 130 years after the flood. It is a brief story but one which raises some interesting questions. Here's the entire story, followed by my analysis.
Genesis 11:1-9 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
Babel - "Gate of God"
Before we get into this story, it's worth mentioning something about the origin of the word Babel. Merriam Webster's dictionary gives the following etymology of the word Babel:
Middle English, from Hebrew BAbhel, from Akkadian bAb-ilu gate of god
Read the full definition...
Akkadian: bab-ilu, from bab "gate" + ilu "god"
Hebrew: bab-el, from bab "gate" + el "god"
Is it called gate of God
because they had hoped to create a bridge between the gods of heaven and earth? What gave them this idea? We're left to guess. When we look up Babel
in Strong's Concordance, it says "confusion (by mixing)", so there's no help there. It seems to me that we are missing quite a bit of back-story on this event, but I'll leave it at that, because I'd like to get on with what happened and speculate on why it was done.
Why did he do it?
Why did the LORD scatter the people? Many seem to think it was some sort of punishment, but I've come to believe that it was primarily to produce diversity in the human race. He used the people as seeds, scattering them across the whole earth. Another reason might be found in the adage: don't keep all your eggs in one basket. But why did he confound their language? I believe this was to prevent the tribes of the earth from mixing back together before their time. With their original language destroyed, each tribe must have developed their own distinct language.
Had the LORD not intervened at Babel, the human race may not have survived, and surely would not have attained the rich diversity we have today. So, far from being some kind of punishment for building the tower, it seems to me this was a strategic move made by someone who knew what he was doing.
Babel in reverse
One has to marvel at what kind of technology could garble the speech recognition of humans. But where this story gets even more interesting is that thousands of years later, in the New Testament, we have an event which is virtually the antithesis of Babel: after having received the Holy Spirit, the apostles speak, and men of diverse languages all hear the words in their own languages:
Acts 2:1-11 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
Interestingly, this narrative begins by declaring that they were all in one place and of one accord, just like the story of Babel starts out. Also, as in the story of Babel, the word confounded
is used here, but this time they were confounded for the opposite reason: men of diverse languages were all hearing the words in their own language. The vision which the apostles saw of the cloven
(split in two) tounges
was clearly meant to denote that they were being given the ability to speak in multiple tounges, possibly even at once, somehow.
The reintegration of the tribes
If, back in days of Babel, the plan was to separate the people, today we're seeing the opposite: a great reintegration. We are today approaching a "new world order" which, when fully realized, will bring us back under one government and one language. The book of Revelation foretells of this coming state of affairs, and describes how the whole world will fall under the spell of the "beast" governing them, and then the end will come. It would appear that everything is going according to plan. The seeds were scattered, the tribes have flourished and matured, and now they're coming back together, for one last grand play on the stage we call earth, one last lesson
, if you will, before finally moving on, together as one richly diverse family of man, to our next phase of existence: life in the heavens; and we won't need to build a tower to get there.