Summary: The sin of pride, self-glory, provoked the building of the tower, and the sin of distrust led these people away. God can take our confusion and replace it with clarity.
(The actual title of the sermon is: ""Wir steigen hinab und vewirren ihre Sprache")
When you scanned the bulletin this morning you may have been a bit confused about my sermon title…"What in the world is this about?" And you’d have some idea of how the world felt at Babel. "Wir steigen hinab un vewirren ihre Sprache" is verse 7 of Genesis 11: “We will go down and confuse their language,” in German.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many languages in the world? For those of you who’ve lived overseas, you’ve likely wished we all spoke the same language...like when you ordered a steak and ended up with curried eel!
In 1887 an artificial language called Esperanto was developed, in the hope that it would become an international language spoken by the entire planet; although it is still spoken by some today, it never caught on--and confusion continues.
We live in a confusing world. When did the confusion begin? It began at Babel. The diverse languages of the world are not monuments to cultural ingenuity but to human sin.
The incident of Genesis 11 occurred approximately 100-150 years after the Flood. Any engineer would be impressed with this construction project. This building event was monumental--it involved the entire human race, estimated at around 30,000 people.
The city of Shinar (vs. 2) lies southeast of Ararat, where the ark of Noah landed, and northwest of the Persian Gulf. This region is a flat, broad plain, an inviting place to settle. The tower was a rallying point, tall enough so all could see it. It was likely a ziggurat, according to archeologists, a staged tower common in ancient Babylon, a sort of man-made mountain. I didn’t get to see one when I was in Iraq, but many soldiers did, and they’re impressive.
Two towers have been uncovered by archeologists in the vicinity of Babylon, and 2 dozen have been located in the Mesopotamian region. There’ve been a number of claims made, but there’s no certainty as to whether the actual Tower of Babel has been located. These towers/ziggurats, were used as shrines dedicated to pagan gods. Towers like the one at Babel became symbols of idolatry and monuments to rebellion against the One true God.
Today we say people are “babbling” when they talk on and on, saying little of substance or clarity. I saw a t-shirt that said, “Help--I’m talking and I can’t shut up.” I’ve known some preachers and politicians guilty of babbling. The word Babel means "to confound", so we could call this structure “the Tower of Confusion.”
God wanted people to spread out, but they wanted to stay in one place, and so He confused human speech, but He never forced anyone at Shinar to separate. The sin of pride provoked the building of the tower, and the sin of distrust led these people away.
The sin of Adam and Eve resulted in alienation of humankind from God; sin separates. It also causes people to be alienated from each other. Sin is the ultimate cause of every relationship breakdown.
In verse 4 we see these people had an unhealthy desire for self-glory, to “make a name” for themselves. Their pride led them to rebel against God. They stubbornly stayed in place; their plan was defy God and build a civilization without Him, apart from Him. Rebellion against God is the root cause of all international unrest.
God told Noah, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). These people acted in defiance of God's decree. They chose to live independent of God, to eliminate Him from their lives. We all know people who claim they believe in God but live as if there is no God. Such a concentrated spirit of opposition to God is sufficiently serious to call for divine intervention.
The inhabitants of Babel wanted to construct a secular city for their own glory. Today we talk of statism, which is elevating human achievement above devotion to God, and trusting in what people can do, ignoring God’s will. We saw this in the Third Reich, and we see it today in North Korea.
The fact that the Tower of Babel reached to the heavens has led scholars to conclude that the people were substituting astrology for the worship of the One True God. Anyone who rejects God will turn to falsehood, to substitutes. And so the tower became a place of false worship. They were worshipping the stars instead of the One who made them. The Zodiac has been traced to ancient Babylon. They were the ones who first divided the sky into sections and gave meanings to each constellation. It is likely the signs of the Zodiac were inscribed on the Tower. We’re on dangerous ground when we look to the stars. Our source of authority is the Bible, not the horoscope.