And they said one to another, Come, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
And they said, Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven, and let us make us a name; lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.Genesis 11:3-4 ASV
It would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of this chapter, since it recounts the Second Hardening of mankind, in which, on the plains of Shinar there flowered the second general rebellion of humanity against the Creator.
In this second instance of the Hardening of mankind, it also began with the shameful wickedness of Canaan: but the eventual exaltation of man against his God became general in the events associated with the Tower of Babel and once more became so serious that the situation demanded God’s direct interference with it.
This came immediately in the form of the confusion of tongues and the introduction of the device of the Chosen People, through whom God would yet provide a Saviour and Redeemer for men.
Therein lies the significance of the presentation of the family line of Shem, the Messianic line, here recorded in close connection with the events of Babel, and which stand here as an explanatory introduction to the call of Abraham.
The story is basically the same in both cases: man’s defiance of God.
The setting, however, is different. The first Fall occurred among the flowers and fruits of Eden; the second one came in the bricks and asphalt of the city.
Therefore, we see nothing less in this event than the Second Judicial Hardening of Adam’s race, the first resulting in the Flood, this one resulting in the call of Abraham and the commissioning of a “Chosen People,” by means of whom God’s purpose of Redemption would still be achieved.
This account here is authentic beyond all expectation, and it has, the utmost significance.
The extremely abbreviated nature of the sacred record here, however, has obscured the importance of it for some.
This was a different substance from that used in preparing the ark for Moses, or that Noah used to caulk the ark.
How innocent all this seemed, how practical, and commendable!
Despite the innocuous appearance, however, wicked forces of the greatest magnitude were behind these proceedings. Man wanted to be God.
A true son of Adam, man wants to be God Himself.
He wants to run the world in his own way.
He wants to put himself at the center of his civilization on a pedestal inscribed with his own name:
Glory to MAN in the highest!
“Whose top may reach unto heaven …” This expression is viewed by many as merely a rhetorical way of expressing great height, or as a device by which they might avoid disaster of another flood, or as some kind of a fortification, but we cannot accept any understanding of this that leaves out of sight the religious and theological aspect of it.
In the light of the nature and use of such towers as subsequently revealed, there can hardly be any doubt that paganism and idolatry were intimately associated with the tower mentioned in this passage, despite the fact of there not being a word in the text concerning it. Many have discerned this.
The construction of the tower of Babel was actually the dethronement of God and establishment of paganism as their system of worship.
There were extensive collateral developments in connection with the tower.
That tower (ziggurat) mentioned above has been described as follows: The most conspicuous feature was a huge pyramidal tower, in seven terraces from the temple area.
The seven stories represented the seven planetary deities …. The ascent of the tower was a meritorious approach to the gods; and the summit was regarded as the entrance to heaven.
That the tower of Genesis 11 is a Babylonian ziggurat is obvious on every ground.
We may inquire as to “Who did all this?” But the Scriptures record none of the names of the perpetrators.
The traditional account handed down by Josephus carries the stamp of truth in the simplicity that says, “It was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God; he was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah.”
Josephus also affirmed that Nimrod had taught that it was cowardice to submit to God, and wrong to praise God for benefits, because it was through the courage and daring of MEN themselves that all blessings and benefits came! Such a doctrine as this has been the bible of evil world rulers in all generations.
“Let us build a city … let us … make us a name … lest we be scattered …”
Their rebellion against God is inherent in their stated purpose of avoiding their being “scattered,” a scattering that God had commanded in the original great commission to “multiply and replenish the earth.”
Their self-centeredness and anti-God determination reveal with surgical accuracy the fundamental aspects of paganism.
That the Second Judicial Hardening of the human family had not merely begun in this episode but that it had reached a crisis stage is revealed emphatically in Paul’s great essay on it in Romans 1.
Of those pre-Christian Gentiles, Paul declared three times that, “God gave them up” (Romans 1:24,26,28).
The rapid increase and degeneration of paganism were also recounted by Paul.
Thus, we understand the events of Babel as man’s SUBSTITUTION of himself for God as the object of worship and devotion.
In all probability the ancient tradition that Nimrod himself was deified and worshiped as Merodach or Marduk in Babylon, and that his wife Semaramis received divine honors would appear to be founded in fact.
The deification of Roman emperors in the Christian era and their hatred of God were only the eventual developments of the tragedy at Babel.