They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 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.”
But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. (v.1) The descendants of Noah are those who are populating the earth and at this point in history they’re all of one language.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks…” (v.3) Man builds with bricks. Bricks that flake, chip, and crumble. 1 Kings 6:7 and 1 Peter 2:5 both tell us that God builds with stones. 1 Kings 6:7 says that, In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built. When God had Solomon build His temple all the stone blocks were hammered into shape at the quarry and then transported to the temple site so that the noise of the sculpting of the stones would not have to be heard.
It’s the same in life with you and with me. Here on earth God allows us to be hammered into shape by the people He surrounds us with. It’s part of His plan to have you and your in-law rub against each other — in order to knock off your rough edges. It’s part of His plan to allow that person at work to chip at me — in order to hammer me into the shape that God wants me to take. We can get so emotional over relational friction in life but it’s friction that causes furniture to be sanded smooth and made beautiful. So relax — it’s normal, it’s intentional, it’s part of God’s plan. As long as you’re this side of heaven God will continue to allow people in your life that rub off your rough edges. It’s your job, and it’s my job to pray through it and to show as much love and grace toward these hammers and chisels as we possibly can. Recognize that you and I, we’re in the quarry.
At the temple site, the stones of God’s temple were among the largest and most perfectly fitted in the history of architecture. In fact the stones of the temple fit together so perfectly that no mortar was used whatsoever — it was completely unnecessary. When God allows us to go through difficulties in our relationships He does so, so that when we’re in heaven we’ll fit together perfectly without any of the noise associated with our rubbing against each other so to speak. All the noise from the chipping and sculpting is happening now, down here, in the quarry that we call life on earth.
1 Peter 2:5 tells us directly that you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.
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.” (v.4) It appears that making a name for themselves was one of the purposes of building the great tower. This was a trap for them, and is for you and for me as well. Whenever we set out to make a name for ourselves we’re flirting with the sin of sharing glory with God which is the very same sin that brought Satan down. (Isaiah 14:12-14) We also see in this verse an apparent act of rebellion in that God directed them in Genesis 9:7 to replenish the earth but the idea here in chapter 11, verse 4 is to avoid being scattered over the face of the earth. It’s probably not coincidence that these two sins are found together in the same verse. Watch people in rebellion against God long enough and you’ll often see them attempt to make a name for themselves in some fashion. And watch someone who is trying to make a name for themselves long enough and you’ll often see them turn to rebellion against God. God lead us away from both of these.
But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. (v.5-6) Verse 6 is true. Speaking the same language enables mankind to accomplish amazing things. In a way, today we’re living in an age when once again we all speak the same language, the language of binary code. Using combinations of 1’s and 0’s nearly every computer in the world has the capability of communicating with every other computer in the world. And because of that, what we’re accomplishing today is amazing. But along with that capability comes a cost. The evil imaginations of man are so very readily available to us that it’s causing people to fall into sin at an alarming rate. I have several friends who would never buy a pornographic magazine yet their lives have been damaged by pornography on the internet. Like me, you probably know of someone, or several someones, whose marriage has ended because of a relationship that started on the internet. And I’m not even counting just plain old wasting of time with first person shooter games or RPG’s. Imposed limitation usually carries with it a negative connotation but if you think it through, limitations are often positive. God in His mercy and grace won’t hesitate to limit you or me if He knows that without limitation, what’s to come will be destructive to us. He’s much more concerned with our eternal condition than He is with our short term comfort. I thank God for that. I thank God that He hasn’t given me everything I’ve prayed for over the years.
“Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” (v.7) Notice that the plural us is used here in verse 7. Who is God talking to? I believe this to be another reference to the Trinity. He’s communicating with His Son and His Holy Spirit.
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (v.8-9) The good news is that we see this reversed in Acts chapter 2 when the mixed crowd that included Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Cappadocians, Asians, Phrygians, Egyptians, Libyans, and Romans were amazed because they each heard the disciples speak of Christ in their native tongue. This was made possible by the disciples seeking and receiving the Holy Spirit. Asking God to pour out His Holy Spirit upon you is the key to unity in Jesus Christ. Jesus commanded us to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) But without His Spirit we’re powerless to carry out Jesus’ command — at least I know I am. Without God’s Spirit we’re but dust.
In God’s Spirit is where…
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.