The Tower

At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.

They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “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.”

But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world. (Genesis 11:1-9)

Who is like God? Humanity is like God. The Hebrew word used for the tower in the Tower of Babel story was used of watch towers. Such towers were placed on city walls so that guards could watch for approaching enemies. That it “reaches into the sky” simply meant that it was tall—not that the people were attempting to reach heaven. The goal of the people in Babel was not to reach heaven: their goal was to make a name for themselves and to stay together in one place. Pride and a fear of isolation was the motivation for building the city of Babel.

God made a remarkable statement regarding human capability during the tower of Babel incident: nothing was impossible for people to accomplish. This story of Babel is one of only two places in the Bible where God used the plural pronoun “we” or “us” in reference to himself. The other place was in the creation account when God created people in his image and likeness. Humanity in all its many parts reflects who and what God is: humanity is like God. The Tower of Babel story demonstrates that only God can limit us.

Therefore, as human beings, our potential is limitless if we choose to work with God rather than against him. Anything we collectively set our minds to accomplish, we will achieve.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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