The biblical story of the Tower of Babel is fascinating to me, in part because I sense that the story is replaying itself as we speak. Here are several passages from chapter 11 of the Book of Genesis:
The whole earth was of one language and of common purpose…
…They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them in fire…”
…And they said, “Come, let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed across the whole earth.”
God descended to look at the city and tower which the sons of man built, and God said, “Behold, they are one people with one language for all, and this they begin to do! And now, should it not be withheld from them all they propose to do? Come, let us descend and there confuse their language, that they should not understand one another’s language.”
And God dispersed them from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because it was there that God confused the language of the whole earth, and from there God scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Let me ask you this, “Do you think we’ve somehow gone back to building a Tower of Babel? For some 2,000,000 years, our prehistoric ancestors lived as cavemen, hunting and gathering, and eking out an existence any way they could. It was a short, brutish life they had, but it was a life, nonetheless. It could easily be said of that period in history that: “The whole earth was of one language and of common purpose.” To survive yet another day, no small accomplishment at that time, we had no choice but to use our common sense, and to help each other out. And indeed, anthropologic research bears out the fact that for the most part, cavemen were good to one another, as depicted in the film The Rise of Man on the Discovery Channel.
And then, some 10,000 years ago, we decided to become “civilized,” and in the last 200 years, with the advent of the industrial age, to become truly modern. True, we’re not exactly building “…a tower with its top in the heavens…,” although we do have some tall buildings out there, but in many other ways, we are taking God on, in an all out attempt to create our world as we see fit.
Let’s face it; we do seek to “…make a name for ourselves…” No? Look at what we’ve wrought as part and parcel of our creation: towering cities, cutting edge technologies, scientific discoveries, top notch universities, thriving multinational companies, and the laundry list goes on and on, ad infinitum. Our many accomplishments, in this, the modern age, do not amount to a “Tower of Babel,” in the strict sense, but they do constitute an edifice of sorts, an edifice which, in many ways, reaches for the heavens.
If God is indeed a Creator, and if He created us in His image, then we too are creators, and we have chosen to create a world in our image. Our prehistoric ancestors were of “…one language and of common purpose.” Can we say the same of ourselves? Or is it rather the case that with all our maneuverings toward modernity, and in our attempt “…to make a name for ourselves…,” we may have lost our “common purpose,” and no longer “…understand one another’s language?”
A small example, if you allow me. We have used our ingenuity to create the internet, a remarkable tool for which I am personally grateful, which enables the free flow of information, and which allows each of us to talk to whomever we wish. And so, now that we are technologically able to talk to one another in such a state of the art manner, and with virtually no interference of any kind, the question arises: What do we really have to say to each other?
Doesn’t it seem, at times, as with the story of Babel, that while we are certainly talking to each other, very few of us actually connect? Our technology seems to have taken us to a place where there is a disconnect between the tools at our disposal, and our ability to put them to good use.
In the story of Babel; before man tried to reach for the heavens: “The whole earth was of one language and of common purpose.” Is it just me, or do you also sense that we must somehow find a way to come back to that—“one language and of common purpose.” Only then, it seems, will we have a chance to reclaim our rightful place in the infinite vastness of God’s creation.