It’s interesting that in chapter 10, in describing the descendants of Noah and their nations, it also mentions several times, “These are the sons of _____, according to their families, according to their languages, by their lands, according to their nations.”
And yet, in the sequence of the story, we have not gotten to the creation of languages or nations! So, Genesis 11 is almost like a, “let me catch you up on how that happened while we were growing families…”
Thus, the story of the tower of Babel.
I’m not going to tell it again, except to think about the power of language, of communication, of understanding people. When man had a common language, he felt he powerful enough to reach to the heavens. It seemed like the only person he strove against was God, wanting to be a God.
With Babel, there entered a world of confusion. Can you imagine being “on the job” and all of a sudden, the man you handed the brick to doesn’t know where you wanted it placed? And when he asks you about it, you can’t understand him? I don’t know, maybe he gets mad and throws the brick at you?
All we know is that this caused the separation of nations. Evidently, people from one family could still understand each other. And in their confusion, probably got closer to each other because no one else could understand them. And, instead of staying in one place and trying to figure it out, they moved farer from others, forming their own culture.
The issue is that there is still sin, very active in the world. It would be one thing to be your own nation, people group, but when one nation or people group starts to think they are better than another, that spirit of competition that can turn so easily into sin.
Misunderstandings turn into who is right and who is wrong, which turn into who is better or more powerful. Now, we enter into an atmosphere for war, cultures dominating others for their own gain.
It’s still true today. Individuals want to feel good about themselves, so they overpower others. Nations and leaders don’t want to be “less than,” so they assert themselves to be bigger and better. Cultures and languages hinder communication, until we sit in the mess of our own sin.
Maybe this is why God allowed Babel and the creation of nations – so that we could see the devastation that comes out of our choices, our selfish choices, our ambition, to lord over others. It makes me wish for the redemption that will come with Christ, when we will be one nation again, when every tear will be wiped dry.
No more misunderstandings…