Babel On

Today’s Reading: Genesis 11,12

I don’t have a unique insight into the story of the Tower of Babel, so I will just offer some general thoughts.

Today’s passage first takes us through the general genealogies of Noah’s three sons. There are some fun names in there. I propose we bring some of them back.

What’s up, Arpachshad?

Not much, Hazarmaveth, my man.

Have you seen Peleg lately?

Nah, but Sabteca saw him last week…

It would have to be a mass movement though… because being the lone Arpachshad in a sea full of Liam’s, Ethan’s, and Mason’s probably wouldn’t be as much fun.

Chapter 11 then relates an incident from an unspecified time.

People had started to spread from the East (where the ark came to rest) and found a nice, happy shiny valley. There, they decided to settle. They spoke of making a name for themselves and began construction on a great tower of (man)power.

God intervenes and confuses their language (possibly creating the different races and people groups at this point).

The traditional Christian teaching about this passage variously talks about Man being punished for either pride and selfishness (“let us make a name for ourselves”) and/or disobedience (God had instructed Mankind to spread across the Earth and not to gather in a single place like they were trying to do).

One interesting parallel that I found from a quite unorthodox (and mostly heretical) source is the linking of this incident with the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit basically hits the “undo” button on language confusion for a short time so that God might be glorified. I am not convinced those two incidents are meant to be linked, but it was an interesting thought, nonetheless.

The other thing I thought about was what I would call the “Going Halfway” sin.

God instructed Mankind to spread and populate the whole Earth after the flood. And Man said, “OK” and begun to do so. But then decided they had gone far enough and decided to stop short of the goal. Later in Chapter 11, Terah (Abram’s father) starts to bring his family to Cannan from Ur. But then they stop and end up settling in what they call Haran. In the next chapter I will read, God will speak to Abram and command him to finish the original journey.

How often do we simply stop short? Has God revealed a path for us which we start down… and then pause? Going halfway is just as displeasing to God as not even starting. It’s a pattern we see among the people of the Bible…and also one we can easily recognize in our own lives.

My prayer is that you would be encouraged to press on towards the goal. If we lose sight of God’s calling for us, we will be confused, as at Babel, and will become ineffective. If we lose sight of the Cross, we will become distracted, as Peter, and end up falling under the waves of our own folly. Keep striving on the path God has laid out for you. Don’t stop, don’t turn back. Instead of trying to make a name for yourself, follow God’s commands and do everything for His glory.

That, to me, is the lesson of Babel.


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