Early in human history, the Bible describes humanity as being united in culture and language. And when they put their minds together to achieve great things for themselves, they seem to step over the line and irritate God. What was the big deal? What was going on with humanity that God felt it necessary to step in and interfere?
In those early days, the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as humans journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly. Let’s build a city for ourselves, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and we will make a name for ourselves. If we don’t, we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” And they used brick for stone, and tar for mortar, and began their massive project.
The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And he said, “Look, they are one people, and they all have the same language. Look at what they have begun to do. Now nothing they decide to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”
So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.
That is why the place was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Discussion & Life Lessons
The people decided to build the tower as a monument to themselves. Was there anything wrong with this, or with their motives?
Do we do other things to “build monuments” of ourselves so others will notice us or make an impression? (Expensive clothes, a big house, fancy car, important job, important titles?) Do we use them / need them to establish our sense of self-worth? How do you think God views these efforts?
The people wanted to reach up to the heavens (or sky). What do you think they were thinking? Were they trying perhaps to reach God, or perhaps to become like God? Does this remind you of the Serpent in Eden (Gen 3:1-5), or Lucifer wanting to ascend above God (Isaiah 14:12-15)?
The text makes specific reference to brink and tar as opposed to stone and mortar. This might suggest trying to reach God by “their own efforts” — or even doing things differently than naturally (stone and mortar). Do you think this is significant?
God had commanded mankind to fill the earth (Adam & Noah). Do you think God saw their attempt to build one centralized city as defiance of that command? What was so offensive about their project?
God affirmed the power / abilities of humans, especially when they work together. Compare this idea with God’s reason for expelling Adam & Eve from the Garden and access to the tree of life (Gen 3:22-24). Also compare with “the power of unity” and the “prayer of agreement” in the New Testament (Mt 18:18-20) – and why unity in the Body of Christ is so important. We can unleash great power – for good and for evil. Is this why God needed to “scatter and confuse” them? (See the double statements in the story of Noah about the human inclination toward evil even since childhood.)