The Tower of Babel
December 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
It’s after the flood. Noah has built an altar in praise for God’s mercy. God has just erected a rainbow in the sky and formed a covenant with us humans: never again would He destroy the Earth by flood. He then gives Noah and his family a charge to “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1 NIV).
Now, also be reminded that this family was the remnant, the few who stayed faithful to God. But notice how quickly sin entered the remnant family. At some point after the flood, Noah planted a vineyard, became drunk off of its produce (which in itself is a bit of a problem), and as a result was lying naked in his tent. Then comes his son, Ham, who disrespects his father looking at his naked father and then telling his brothers about it. Shem and Japheth, out of respect for their father, walk into the tent backwards and then cover him with a sheet. Once Noah is sobered up and is told what had happened, he curses Ham and blesses Shem and Japheth. However, note that “the prophecy of Noah was no arbitrary denunciation of wrath or declaration of favor. It did not fix the character and destiny of his sons. But it showed what would be the result of the course of life they had severally chosen and the character they had developed.” (PP ch. 9). Here are revealed the true characters of Noah’s sons. Through their lineages, you can see the effects of the respective curse and blessings.
Eventually, Abraham (and Jesus for that matter), the remnant of his generation, descended from Shem, while Babylon and Assyria and Nineveh and Canaan (cities that turned away from God) came from Ham. Early on, the distinction is made between those who follow God and those who don’t. This distinction is the same as that of Cain and Abel.
And now to the Tower of Babel.
Here we have a group of people settling down in one place and of one accord. But instead of being unified in obedience to God, they are unified in their dissension; “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’” (Genesis 11:4 NIV). This tower showed the character of the inhabitants; they didn’t believe that God wouldn’t flood the Earth again, they sought to find their own path to salvation, and they exhibited excessive pride. They also went completely against God’s command to be fruitful and fill the Earth. Their goal was to build this towering city and stay there and not be scattered.
Now sin had entered into the lives of these people in the same way it had entered into the lives of their descendants. And in the same way as in the past, we see God’s mercy; He gave them time to reveal their true character, this time through confounding their language. As the people gathered in groups according to language, they finally did what they we’re supposed to do, “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1 NIV) (I told you to remember that).
From here, the world begins to diversify, and Genesis lists the many people that inhabited the Earth. The distinction between good and evil is still apparent, and another remnant family soon comes, Abraham.