Genesis 11: One Nation Under God?

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Devotionals

Do you ever wish you could understand languages that are foreign to you? Wouldn’t that be great. What if everyone on the planet spoke the same language….think of all the problems that that wouldn’t exist if we could all just understand each other….

Genesis 11 begins by telling us that, “the whole earth had one language and the same words”. Verse 1. The story picks up at a point when there was a universally understood language. But anyone who’s paying attention will remember that just in the previous chapter, we read about all these different groups of people who have their own languages and nations and so on. (Genesis 10:5,20,31). Is this is a contradiction? Nope. All this means isthe events described in Genesis 11:1-9 happened at some point during the time that Noah’s sons and their descendants were filling the earth.

It totally makes sense that all of these people who descend from the same family line would initially speak the same language and be one people. The incident with the tower of Babel introduces the confusion of languages which we’ll see in a sec, but for now let’s think back to chapter 10 verse 25. There we read of one of Shem’s descendants named Peleg…and we’re told that “in his days the earth was divided….” It’s very possible that it was during his lifetime that the Tower of Babel incident happened.

It’s as if Genesis 11 gives us a close up explanation of what was briefly mentioned in the previous chapter. Hope that makes sense. Anyway…back to the storyline. So we learn that he people of the earth are filling the earth…they’re moving East. Everything seems good so far….But then…for some reason, they stop. They set up shop in “the land of Shinar” verse 2.

And then they start making bricks and mortar. They’re about to build something….a tower. A really big tower. And the text gives us two reasons why they want to build this tower: 1) They wanted to make a name for themselves and 2) they didn’t want to be dispersed over the face of the earth. In short…they wanted to do their own thing. That’s so like us as human beings. We love independence and feeling like we can take care of ourselves. But the problem is we weren’t created to live that way. We’re created to live with a constant awareness of our need of God. For everything.

But here in Genesis 11, we see a striking example of the exaltation of man over the exaltation of God. These people wanted to build this tower so they could, “make a name for [themselves].” verse 4.  They figured they didn’t need God…that they could manage just fine on their own. Life became all about them and what they wanted. They had big dreams…that didn’t include the LORD. And notice the connection with what comes next….along with the selfish desires of these people….came outright disobedience to God. They didn’t want to be dispersed throughout the earth….They didn’t want to do the very thing that God told them to do.

If you try to live your life without God, as if life’s all about you…you will inevitably find yourself living in outright disobedience to him…

This next part is funny…Here these people are…building this tower that they think is just off the chain. They think it’s soooooooooooooo great and soooooooooooo tall, but notice verse 5,

“And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the children of man built”

It’s as if the LORD says, “let me go down and see this puny little thing they’ve built.” Folks the greatest of all our accomplishments are like tiny specks of dust before God. How foolish is it to brag about our accomplishments. The LORD is not impressed with us….but he is patient and kind and gracious to us. He ends up confusing the language of the people (verse 7), which frustrated their building plans…and verse 8 says,

“So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.”

He breaks up the party. He’d rather mess up their plans rather than watch them ignore his.

“Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of the earth. Genesis 11:9

Remember God’s initial command….Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth….

At the end of this chapter we read once again of the descendants of Shem. And along the way we see the name Abrambeginning in verse 26. From this point on…the book of Genesis zeros in on this one man and his family…

We’ll find out more about him next time.

Grace and peace.


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