Monday, October 1, 2018

Genesis 11:1-9


In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve desired to be like God (cf. Gen. 3:5-6). As a result of their disobedience, they were cast out (cf. Gen. 3:23).

After sin entered the world, civilization increasingly lived as if it did not need God and evil spread rampantly (cf. Gen. 6:5). As a result of their wickedness, God judged the earth through an all-encompassing flood (cf. Gen. 6:17).

At the Tower of Babel, humanity sought to create a political and religious system apart from God (cf. Gen. 11:4). As a result of their hubris, God confused and scattered the people (cf. Gen. 11:8-9).

The first 11 chapters of Scripture accentuate the great desire of sinners to live outside the rule of God and to glorify self. Consequently, the pre-history of Israel ends by showing us that such a desire never bodes well.

The people sought to build a tower "topped by the heavens" (11:4). In other words, they began to establish a false religion with the marks of the zodiac. "Turn to any book on astrology and you will find that it was the Chaldeans (another name for the inhabitants of Babylon) who first developed the zodiac" (James Montgomery Boice). They wanted a system of life that excluded God and exalted self.

Life at the exclusion of God would have simply resulted in the profuseness of wickedness that the world knew before the Great Flood (11:6). The Lord would not let such horror reign again, so He confuses and scatters the people in order to stymie their godless political and religious aspirations (11:7-9). I think this interpretation correct, for the same type of ziggurat structures or stepped pyramids began to pop up across the world after Babel - a sign that even a divided people still maintain the inclination to exalt self and their idols.

The attempt to exalt a political and religious system at Babel is merely a precursor to Babylon and its symbolic representation of Satan's effort to lead the nations against God (see Rev. 17). Only God has control of Satan, and the wicked one will never triumph. The Lord confounds all the Babels throughout history so that truth, mercy, grace, and love will prevail over falsehood, misery, viciousness, and hatred.

While the great desire of sinners revealed at the Tower of Babel leads to separation, death, and destruction, the great grace of God manifest at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2) leads to togetherness, life, and renewal through Christ.

Even in the light of this truth, the world around us continually attempts to exalt systems that exclude the necessity of God. The great desire of sinners flourishes because the father of lies continues to deceive. We assume that we can do it ourselves through hard work, that we can find the cures we need through science, that we can overcome injustices through altruism, and so on.

Who would ever deter someone from working hard? Who doesn't want to find a cure for various forms of cancer? Who would not want to see an end to starvation, brutality, and so forth?

All those things are good until we exalt our own efforts above God, and we view ourselves as so self-important that we have no need for Him. Plus, examine reality for a moment:
1. No matter how hard we work, sometimes our labors do not yield the results we desire.
2. No matter how much science discovers, people will continue to die.
3. No matter how widespread our altruistic efforts extend, suffering and injustice will still exist.

Too often our great desire is to exalt ourselves, but the overwhelming truth is that we desperately need the grace of God. Do you notice in the Tower of Babel account that no matter how elaborate the people might have built their city, God had to "come down" to see it? (11:5) No matter how much we think we can achieve, God stands above it all.

Therefore, the lesson for us to heed in studying the Tower of Babel is quite plain: Our great desire for self-exaltation must be replaced with our great need for Christ's sufficiency.


I recognize how "the great desire of sinners" can materialize in my life whenever:



from Best Devotional Commentary - James Montgomery Boice brilliantly breaks down this text by addressing three uses of "Come." The first important come involves sinful humanity's desire to construct a city for their own glory (Gen. 11:3-4). The second important come involves God's immensity as contrasted with human inadequacy, and the Lord's confusing human language (Gen. 11:7).
     He then concludes, "It would not be right to end without noting that the Bible also knows a third use of the word 'come' in which an invitation is extended by God to man for man's benefit. God says, 'Come now, let us reason together. ... Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool' (Isa. 1:18). Jesus says, 'Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest' (Matt. 11:28). 'The Spirit and the bride say, Come! And let him who hears say, Come! Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life' (Rev. 22:17).
     What is the result when we who hear God's invitation come to Him? It is just as He says! Our sins are washed away. Our burdens are lifted. Our spiritual thirst is quenched. Moreover, the effects of the curse are overturned and the proper desires of the human heart are provided for, not by man in rebellion against God, to be sure, but by the gracious and forgiving God Himself from whom all truly good gifts come" (Boice).

from Best Academic Commentary - "With heavy irony we now see the tower through God's eyes. This tower which man thought reached to heaven, God can hardly see! From the height of heaven it seems insignificant, so the Lord must come down to look at it! 'He sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers' (Isa. 40:22). God's descent to earth to view the tower is no more proof of the author's primitive anthropomorphic view of God than is God's asking Adam and Eve where they were hiding in the garden an indication of His ignorance. It is simply a brilliant and dramatic way of expressing the puniness of man's greatest achievements when set alongside the Creator's omnipotence. ...
     But though man's highest achievement was pathetic in God's eyes, the motives that prompted his efforts were horrific. The desire to displace God from heaven, to make a name for oneself rather than allow God to do this, and to scheme without reference to His declared will, prompts one final judgment that will hobble man's attempts at cooperation once and for all. The confusion of languages prevents community living and technological cooperation: people cannot trust or work with those they do not understand" (Wenham).

from runner-up to Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - "The new beginning after the flood was soon spoiled by human power grabbing: Nimrod, a descendent of Ham, 'was the first on earth to become a mighty warrior. ... The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shiner' (10:8,10). By reversing the chronological order from the confusion of language of Babel (Gen. 11) followed by various nations with different languages (10:5,20,31), the narrator concludes this toledot with the major power grab at Babel and God's judgment. For some reason, he wished to end Israel's prehistory on a note of judgment. Left to themselves, there is no hope for humanity" (Greidanus).

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