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Bible Q

Why was the harmony described during the construction of the Tower of Babel destroyed by God via confusion of language?

Although no people are named specifically in account of the building of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, we can deduce from Genesis 10 that Nimrod was the king of the city of Babel (he is described as having a kingdom). He is therefore quite probably the main influence in building the tower. Can we learn anything from Nimrod that might help us understand why God ended this endeavour?

8…Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. Genesis 10

Nimrod is the first recorded man to exercise his might over others to form a kingdom. Babel could be described as the capital city in Nimrod’s growing empire. Although on the surface we might not see anything wrong with him being described as a mighty hunter – in essence Nimrod’s renown is in his power and in his ability to kill. This is in stark contrast to God’s request that we walk humbly and love our enemies. The harmony that existed in Babel to build the tower was fuelled by an unhealthy love of power.

1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth. Genesis 11

The general mindset of Babel was pride in human power. There is nothing wrong with making bricks. Yet God has revealed in Psalm 127:1

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.

They failed to recognise God and include him in their project. In fact, their desire to build a tower with it’s top in the heavens has been considered by some as a desire for them to be equal or in place of God (who is symbolically associated with the heavens).

There is in Babel a focus on establishing a name (“let us make a name for ourselves”), in contrast to calling upon the name of the LORD (Genesis 4:26). This fits in with Genesis 10:9, where it would appear Nimrod is the first person recorded who people are likened to. He did make a name for himself, he was a man that people referred and compared people to.

There is nothing wrong with towers. So God does not destroy the tower. There was something wrong with the mindset, the ideas that were fostered and communicated in Nimrod’s kingdom starting in Babel. So God brings confusion and an end to this growing empire by removing the universal language.

We must always remember to whom the kingdom, the power and the glory belong. God.

The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6, KJV) Nimrod (Genesis 10 and 11)
For thine is the kingdom, The beginning of his kingdom
and the power, …the first on earth to be a mighty man.
and the glory, for ever. Amen. let us make a name for ourselves


2 Replies to “Why was the harmony described during the construction of the Tower of Babel destroyed by God via confusion of language?”

  1. It didn’t work though, did it? All it did was schism humanity into nationalities that compete to better themselves against other countries.

    • When God confused the language at Babel it achieved what it was intended to do. The people no longer understood each other and were dispersed over the earth. What really causes people to compete, to try and better themselves against others? It is a selfish attitude that drives people to please themselves at the expense of others. God has never approved of this. He sent Jesus to show us how to be selfless.

      “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:3-5

      Although God did schism humanity, we trust that God knows best. He did stop them being “one people” (Genesis 11:6). Although it had terrible consequences this must have been better than a united people who had the wrong mindset. There is a time to disperse and a time to bring back together. God does both. Humanity will be a united nation once more, not under the authority and menace of someone like Nimrod but liberated by the leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. Philippians 2:9-10

      Unity has been God’s ultimate goal from the beginning. Paul wrote to the Ephesians of God’s will and purpose (1:9-10):

      …his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”