Summary: How God divided man through Babel and reunites them through the Holy Spirit and Christ
May 30, 2004 Genesis 11:1-9
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 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 and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 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. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
On the eastern plains of Shinar, some twenty-two hundred years before Christ, men had a meeting of their minds. They talked about the plains that they had inhabited - a nice piece of land - and what they were going to do there. It was over this piece of land that they made decisions which were not pleasing to God - which caused God to change their languages and separate man from himself - giving us the story of the Tower of Babel.
Shinar literally means “country of two rivers”. It’s the ancient name for Babylonia, which is now known as our modern day Iraq. I find it somewhat incredible that four thousand years later we have another meeting of minds on what to do with the same plot of land. Do we build or do we destroy? Do we get involved or do we get out? This argument is leading to not only leading to a division of countries, but a division of people within countries. We are dealing with a modern day tower of Babel.
Yet God is in charge. He was in charge four thousand years ago, and He’s still in charge today. No matter how many plans we make, in the end, His will will be done - whether we like it or not. Today we’ll see that as we build our towers,
The Holy Spirit Builds a Tower that Will Never Fall
I. The gathering
Genesis 11 begins by telling us that “As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.” This was right after the Flood, where God had told man to specifically “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Ge 9:1) Genesis 10 tells how Ham’s descendants did this -
Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD.” The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in SHINAR.
However, Genesis 10 also tells us where Shem’s descendants lived -
The region where they lived stretched from Mesha toward Sephar, in the eastern hill country.
Here we have two groups of people going the same way - to the East. Moreover, Shem was a forerunner of the Savior, whereas Ham’s descendant - Nimrod - was more known for his hunting and killing. Is it, then, coincidence that Nimrod’s first kingdom happened to be in the middle of where Shem’s descendants were supposed to be living? Or was he in fact encroaching on the territory of the forerunners of Christ - where they were not supposed to be? These are all things to think about when Genesis 11 just gives us a blanket statement that “men moved eastward to the plain in Shinar.” There may be more here to this situation than meets the eye.
These “men” liked the land of Shinar. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Using their God given brains, it appears that these men came up with a new invention - a new type of brick that had never been used before - and a new type of glue to hold them together. When they put their minds together - they were able to build enormous buildings. The LORD even said of them, “nothing will be impossible for them.” That’s quite a statement to the ability of man, isn’t it? Ancient man wasn’t just a caveman. He was a very capable creature - one who was able to do some incredible things. Think about what we’ve been able to invent just in the last century. Atomic bombs, airplanes, space ships that can take men to the moon and send pods to Mars. It’s incredible. Another interesting fact about this text is that the word in Hebrew for “moved” in vs. 2 is literally NASA. Men were moving then, and men are still moving now.