The heart of the people in Shinar is not about having a heart for God. Instead they say, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves;…” They fear being scattered over the face of the earth.
The story gives an explanation for the diversity of languages and of the spread of the peoples over the whole earth. The building project, “make a name for ourselves” is about pride and self-sufficiency rather than depending and trusting God. It represents humanity in conflict with God; it’s about being independent from God and possibly resisting God in filling the whole earth (Gen. 1:28, 9:1,7). God’s “Come, let us” (vs. 7) stands in stark contrast to, “Come, let us build ourselves” of the people. The solution of the language confusion will await the birth of the church when the effects of Babel will be reversed (Acts 2:5-11).
This tower is possibly a Mesopotamian ziggurat tower built as a descending stairway for the gods. But God comes down in judgment on this tower of human pride, arrogance, self-assertion, and challenge to God’s will. There’s a sense in which God’s judgment was an act of grace. Dispersed and in some isolation the peoples were more likely to turn to God.
Over and over again as we explore Genesis we see people choosing to assert their own will and way; choosing to be self-directed rather than God-directed, faith-directed. We certainly can do that ourselves in life. All too often we believe that we know better, we understand the way we should go, we will act as we see fit;…we choose a self-directed lifestyle. And all the while God wants to guide us in the way of life, the way of Jesus; the faith directed lifestyle.
May we live in faith and trust God this day.