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Friday, January 24, 2014


I will continue to look at Genesis 11.
The Tower of Babel is interesting to me on many levels. It seems that the ‘Babel’ is connected to Babylon. The Babylonians were famous for building ziggurats (from the Akkadian word zaqaru which means “to build high”). In ancient religions, mountains were seen as places to encounter gods. The Jews were no different (think of Moses and Elijah for two examples). I remember being on a mountain in Spain and sitting on the side overlooking a city below. I recall how “loud” the silence was in my ears (I was 26 and my ears were sharper then). It was a spiritual high, literally and figuratively, as I prayed there. The expressions “mountain top experience” is named for a reason.
The Baylonians created their own “mountains” by constructing the ziggurat. So earth reaches heaven in this human construction. The most famous was in Babylon and it was called “The House of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth” (Sound like Genesis?) Babylon is a biblical code word for wickedness (Zechariah, later in Book of Revelation) and it was the place of exile for the Jews. [Remember, when the Bible books were being composed and edited/redacted.] The building is done in Genesis so people can make a name for themselves and not be scattered. It is a human centered activity which is “seeking our own hearts and will” (something condemned regularly in the Jewish Bible).
The great culture of Babylon is under scrutiny here. It is, in part, a veiled attack on (pagan) human hubris, and a focused attack on one of Israel’s greatest enemies at that. Man cannot make a name for himself--as we will see soon, God gives that honor to Abram (I will make your name great) and God blesses those who obey Him (Abraham, contrasted to sinful human endeavors which seek to self glory and not God's glory)

In the New Covenant, we see this story echoed in Acts 2. There God comes down from heaven on the apostles (like a WIND- creation again!) and they begin to “speak in other languages” (just like Babel).  “Every nation…under heaven” is present, and in Genesis five times we read ‘the whole world’ is present at Babel. The people in Genesis are scattered over the face of the earth, even as the apostles receive a commission to take the Gospel to the whole earth. So, the typology at work is easy to see.

God is at work among us. Wrath on sinful humanity. Grace and blessing on those who trust Him and love, serve and obey Him. That, to me, is the much more interesting part of the Babel story.

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