The Tower of Babel; Abram and his family moves around the Middle East, with Lot eventually settling in Sodom, only to lose everything in a raid, which is then recovered by Abram in a counterattack: Genesis 11–14
Babylon has always been significant in Israel’s and world history; and it usually hasn’t been positive.
It is the site of the first recorded attempts by man to make his own name after the Flood:
Genesis 11:4 Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.
Nimrod was credited with building the first city of Babylon and its tower (Genesis 10:10), and the scattering happened not long after Peleg was born some 101 years after the Flood (Genesis 10:21-25; 11:18).
So what was the problem with building a tower?
In itself, nothing. We build towers all the time, and God doesn’t scatter us and throw us into confusion. The issue here was the intent behind the building, and the pride and arrogance that it showed people had within about 100 years of the Flood:
- the refusal to obey God and spread out to ‘fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1)
- the efforts to make a great city and a name for themselves, rather than glorifying God’s name
- the fear of another great Flood, disregarding God’s promise to never do that again.
In this time, Noah and his wife was still alive, as were his sons and their wives. Everyone in the world at that time could ask any of those eight people what had happened and why.
On that basis, Babylon wasn’t just a tower (or city) built for fun. Nimrod and his fellow inhabitants knew exactly what they were doing (or, to use a legal phrase, ought to have known), and God’s intervention should have been expected, even though it would have been frustrating when it finally came.
It’s even more unlikely that the tower was built in innocence given Babylon’s role as the source of some major false religions, its later role in the oppression of Israel (and other cultures), and its symbolic role as evil itself in the book of Revelation.
The original goal, for people to reach the sky and make a name for themselves, sounds like a claim attributed to a later King of Babylon:
Isaiah 14:13-14I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. … I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.
Just imagine what could have been had the works continued: there would have been no end to what they could achieve in their sin, which is exactly what God said about the tower and city:
Genesis 11:6 After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!