Having considered issues with the Tower of Babel narrative (part 1) and how God is portrayed as human rather than divine (in part 2) we arrive at the last post that offers a more plausible alternative to understanding what actually happened to the people groups involved in the building of the tower at Babel. However, before we go there, a quick reminder of the tower of Babel narrative as it reads in the Bible:
‘Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 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.’ (Genesis 11v1-8, NIV)
Somewhere within my investigations into the Tower of Babel, I remember reading about the different people groups involved in its construction. A plethora of communities who in making their journeys from places such as Persia, Sudan, Ethiopia and the like, found themselves on a route that took them through Babel as they headed out or on their return journey. Among these people groups were a mix of nomads, intellectuals (such as the Magi), farmers, craftsman and visionaries who individually and collectively found themselves enticed by the idea of being part of a collective with the goal to build a very high tower in Babel that would be so high it would seem to be reaching to the heavens* (* If such a thing were possible!).
Initially, there was common consensus among these people groups who believed they were on the brink of achieving something significant. They were engaged in a construction that had never been envisaged or achieved before. However, as the tower grew in height and the years rolled past, dissension grew among the ranks of those involved in its building, For some, their discontent surfaced in their realisation that great as it was to be building this monumental tower, they had set aside their initial objective which was to find an area to live, work and develop or return to their families or whatever. For others, their discord related to the timescale and constant need for resources to complete the building project. Unable to reach agreement, the groups quarrelled with one another as the consensus they once had for the project was replaced with division and discord – which in turn, resulted in a reluctance to persevere with it.
Of course, to those outside of the Babel project community, the groups’ failure to continue with the building of the tower was interpreted as an act of God in which the Divine had come down to disrupt their work. The peoples’ failure to build the tower being attributed to God who confuses them in a way that renders them unable to communicate with one another.
…might it be that the reason why the project failed is not that the people were afflicted with foreign languages that made it hard to communicate BUT RATHER the communities were no longer of one accord in their thinking and (to outsiders) it seemed as if they were now speaking a different language to one another!
Personally, I believe the latter explanation makes more sense and keeps God good. Rather than a Deity who feels threatened and undone by human achievements, God is hands off, allowing humans to do their thing rather than blighting them to speak in unknown foreign languages for fear they might actually achieve something. Moreover, a God who does not fear human endeavours to be creative and do something remarkable with their lives, intellect and cooperation. This is the God that Christ reveals….
Til next time
Anyone want a half completed tower? Going once, going twice…