I read the Tower of Babel history from Genesis 11 in my devotional Bible reading yesterday. When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why building a tower was so bad, that God had to confuse the languages and scatter the people in judgment. I have since learned a few things about the Babel-builders.
The first clue is found in verse 4, where the people give as a reason for building the tower to “make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Wait a minute, didn’t God command the people to be dispersed over the face of the whole earth? Yes, He did, in Genesis 9:7: “And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”
Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews (book I chapter 4), further states that the people were in direct disobedience to God in this point, “for when they flourished with a numerous youth, God admonished them again to send out colonies; but they, imagining the prosperity they enjoyed was not derived from the favor of God, but supposing that their own power was the proper cause of the plentiful condition they were in, did not obey Him.”
Josephus again provides the second clue. He names Nimrod as the instigator of the tower project: “He [Nimrod] also said he would be revenged on God, if He should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers!” Genesis 11:3 confirms this defiance of judgment theory, in that the tower was made of burned bricks mortared with bitumen, a waterproofing agent. Mortar was not normally used in the buildings of ancient Sumeria.
This defiance of God’s judgment, and denial of His right to judgment, implies the third clue: that men, rather than repenting of the wickedness which brought judgment in the first place, were determined to persist in it. And so it would seem, as Nimrod, besides instigating the first tyrannical government in the new world, also established the pagan system of false gods derived from nature. The pagan system was spread abroad when the peoples were dispersed from Babel, which is why the Greek mythology so closely resembles the Babylonian, or why the names of pagan deities have the same root in diverse ancient cultures.
For example, Isis (Egyptian), Ishtar (Babylonian), Ashtoreth (Hebrew), Astarte (Phoenician), Ostara (Norse), and Eastre (Saxon) all refer to the “queen of heaven.”
In essence, Nimrod denied God as Creator, in order to then defy Him as Lawgiver and Judge, for the creator of any thing has the right to determine the proper use of that thing. Well, have things changed so much in roughly four millennia? We are still denying God as creator in order to defy Him as Lawgiver and Judge.
These three factors combined: disobedience of God’s command; defiance of God’s judgment; and denial of God as Creator, thus Lawgiver and Judge, earn for the Tower of Babel history its common appellation of The Great Rebellion.