Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Tower Of Babel: A Political Message For Today?

The Tower Of Babel

Genesis 11:1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2 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. 3 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 mortar. 4 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. 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. 6 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. 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 9 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.

The story of the Tower of Babel is one of the more striking ones in the Old Testament. Theologians today are divided as whether to see it as a fable that teaches a profound truth or an actual event. One of the basic standards of Bible study is that when the literal sense of something in Scripture makes sense that is then the sense of it to take. In other words, if the Bible says it happened, it happened. This being said, the story of the Tower of Babel ought not to be taken as a fable, with moral lessons for today, but as an actual event recorded for us by the God of Scripture who has important Truth for us to learn from this event in history. The story of the Tower of Babel is not an allegorical lesson on human political ideals (i.e. a condemnation of Socialism and Communism) as some are saying today, but rather a true story that points out the basic nature of man and his need for a mediator to bring him to God.

In the story of the Tower of Babel, we see man’s separation from God and his attempt to reach heaven without Him. Of this Matthew Henry had the following to say: “In contempt of the Divine will, and against the counsel of Noah, the bulk of mankind united to build a city and a tower to prevent their separating. Idolatry was begun, and Babel became one of its chief seats. They made one another more daring and resolute.” The Tower of Babel was the beginning of organized religion to which end would be to reach heaven without God. The Tower of Babel illustrates the presumptuousness of man. God was not needed. They would build a great civilization without Him and a great religion as well.

The Tower itself has been described over the ages as on tremendous in height—as much as twelve miles and being forty years in construction. The truth of this will never be known until Christ’s return when all things are revealed. However, it is clear that this was some tremendous project never seen before its time, and required the cooperative efforts of the bulk of the people. Another thing that is clear is that it was religious in nature. It was the effort of the men of that day to reach into heaven. It may well have been the prototype of the heathen temples down through the ages where pagan rituals including human sacrifices were performed. It was an effort that if it succeeded would take mankind down an irreversible path of destruction, but God intervened. The people were confounded. Their speech was divided into different languages. They separated.

God intervened as He always does sooner or later. The people were divided on the basis of different languages, but there came a day when these languages were put aside when on the Day of Pentecost the Apostles of Jesus Christ proclaimed the Gospel and every man heard in his own tongue. The message of the Tower of Babel is that man’s sin put a division between him and God. The message of Pentecost is that God sent a Mediator between man and God. This Mediator is Jesus Christ.

The story off the Tower of Babel is not meant to be one with a political message, but rather the message that man has sinned and desperately needs a Savior Who is Jesus Christ—God the Son (not a son)—God Himself who became a man and took on the sins of all mankind at Calvary. Man tried to reach up to God through the Tower of Babel, but God reached down to man through an Old Rugged Cross. So sweet are the words of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And again: John 1:12 "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:" God found a way to reach down to man, but we must receive His Son.


  1. Notes on Glen Beck’s version on the Tower of Babel (you can Google Glen Beck as I did):
    Genesis 11:1-One language and one speech (KJV). Beck takes the word translated language and says it to mean customs the things that make people the same. One has to wonder where Beck gets his understanding of Hebrew. Strong’s Concordance assures us the word is properly translated “language” with no more meaning than that. In fact, verse one is saying the people had the same language and were using the same words. There is no reason then to take the mention of language in verse 7 to mean anything different than what is is-language with the same words.
    Beck builds much of his thesis on the mention of bricks saying that these represented people being made the same by the oppressive totalitarian leader, Nimrod. Once again we are left to wonder upon what does he base his conclusion. He goes on. The mortar that held the bricks together he says is materialism. Once again a Hebrew lexicon does not support this. The Bible tells us that tar was used for mortar. Tar means bitumen or asphalt and mortar means cement, mortar or clay. To read more into this is to go outside the literal meaning of the Bible. In other words Beck is departing from a literal understanding of Scripture looking for figurative meaning instead.
    But where is Beck getting all this from. In an article on this subject on his website November 17, 2010, Beck gives us a clue. He mentions a Rabbi Lapin who he has had on his TV program. And who could question the interpretations of a genuine Hebrew rabbi. Beck also talks about the oral traditions in the ancient Hebrew that support his hypothesis (again presumably from Rabbi Lapin). Who can question that these would help us to get a right perspective concerning the meaning of the book of Genesis. But then, Jesus did just that when he denounced the traditions of the Pharisees in the New Testament.
    The important thing to remember is that the Word of God (the Bible, including the book of Genesis) was “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:) And For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1;21). Traditions well honored, ancient or otherwise, were not God-breathed. They must be measured by Scripture. Should they add to subtract from or change the meaning of Scripture they ought to be discarded as being authoritative.
    In considering what Beck says, we might have little argument with his politics and stand on morality. However, it would be wise to question what he says when it comes to Scripture. Beck is indeed a religious person. However, his religion (Mormanism) is not the same as historical Christianity. Beck sounds at times like an Evangelical born-again Bible believing Christian. Nevertheless, when he states the things he does concerning the Tower of Babel, he is demonstrating how willing he is to let sources outside of God’s Word influence his interpretation of that Word. One has to question whether the words he uses to sound like a main-stream Evangelical have the same meaning to him as they do to true Evangelicals.

  2. Good post. Glenn Beck has demonstrated his willingness to say whatever he can to get people to watch his show. That's why he tries to stir panic whenever he can. Logical discourse just isn't entertaining, I guess. This makes the fact that he tries to speak like an Evangelical authority all the more unsettling. Thanks for keeping the focus where it needs to be.