Babel’s Blessing

Genesis 11:3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 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.”
5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 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. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other

Building, building with bricks, building cities with towers— these are not sin. But the motive is: so that we may make a name for ourselves. Pride and self aggrandisement reveal a deeper rebellion against God.

A unified and coordinated effort in rebellion against God (… otherwise we will be scattered…) also signals danger. The efficacy and capacity of a united humanity is great but when directed only to human ambitions it becomes a threat to humanity itself. Totalitarian regimes can achieve much: trains run on time, technological advancement makes better bombs. But divergent views are outlawed, dissent is crushed.

God’s response of creating diversity through the ‘confusion’ of languages is certainly a judgment against the Babel Project, but it contains grace within. Humanity is not wiped out (as promised by the rainbow after the flood) and difference is protected. Minorities can flourish. Humanity will indeed be diverse and they will fill the earth, carrying out their creation mandate.

Within temporal judgment God’s gracious purpose is very often to be discerned.