Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis tells a story of a new generation of man who was different then the generation before the flood; in that they were supposed to be “good”.  They all spoke one language, confined themselves to the group, and achieved many great things.   

The tower “reaching to heaven” is meant to symbolize their desire to be God, or perhaps an attempt to see God (this at a time when we stayed on the ground).  He sees they are unrestrained, achieving the impossible, and yet comes down to scatter them throughout Earth.  The way it’s interpreted into our language doesn’t exactly make sense- if this group of humans were achieving the impossible, why would God scatter them just so they develop different languages?  Other interpretations may be their desire to be God, went directly against God, as this happens later in the bible as well.  Although later, he no longer simply disperses them, but goes to extremes. This story in particular lacks the Godly wrath in other stories (ie they almost always oppress the poor, God comes after them).

The Tower of Babel is usually interpreted to be explaining why humans have different languages, or rather a naive attempt to do so, but like most things in the Bible can carry a different meaning due to the evolution of Biblical Hebrew and authors themselves.  If the cause of scatter is interpreted as different languages, it would also be inconsistent with the Biblical description of the post-Noahic world described in Genesis 10:5.

We also assume it to be symbolic due to how visions are translated through prophets.  When the Bible says “Different languages” it may actually mean “different thinking”, or even “different people”, keeping in mind this was a time when people rarely met others from outside their own city.  It could also be the prophets themselves didn’t understand why, so they could only explain the result.

In Deuteronomy, God had raised Israel to be blessed, only to be repaid with evil.  He orders a group “you have stayed on this mountain long enough.  Break camp..”   But they chose not to: “but you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God.  You grumbled in your tents and said The Lord hates us”.  

He assures them he will be with them, as he was when he led and blessed the previous generation.  Then “in spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and a cloud by day””When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to your ancestors”.

Later in Deuteronomy 32, when God declares vengeance on Israel he hints back to the Tower of Babel:

“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples, according to the number of the sons of Israel…”  “

Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, they became heavy and sleek.  They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior. 

“I will hide my face from them,” he said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful.  They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols.  I will make them envious by those who are not a people;  I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.

There is a lesson of vengeance there, but the first phrase points back to the Tower of Babel, and the word “inheritance” points to giving mankind a reward by dividing them. This makes more sense, because the Tower seems to be the moment God realizes humans have the potential to do impossible things.  The way it was translated through the prophet, doesn’t make it sound like a negative event.  It’s only through the human’s understanding (the city stops building) that gives any feel of negativity:

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.

From our understanding, this sounds more like here good humans are collaborating and shit building a tower, God comes and knocks it down.

But God is interpreting mankind’s destiny: The first empire after the flood was good, God saw it, so he sacrificed that city, divided them, and set up boundaries; so they will all multiply and achieve impossible things, each as one.  This is why they refer to “different languages”- it’s a symbol of the boundaries.

Throughout our history, it is this that has advanced our innovation, and brought us closer to heaven.  A day when we will eliminate death:    “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”   And throughout all of history as we advance, most of them become greedy…begin oppressing others (as with Israel when we learn of God’s wrath) and God comes to return with vengeance.  First by seeking others to uphold the boundaries, but usually finding no man:

“The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice. 30“And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31“Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads,” declares the Lord God,” (Ezek. 22:29-31).

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