Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 12 2019 - Genesis 9:18-27; 11:1-9 – Same old problems; Babel

The world after the flood was still a fallen world as God's words to Noah made quite clear.  Noah was given laws to control the violent tendencies of men (see Genesis 8:6). The relationship between mankind and animals which seemed so wonderfully perfect in the ark would soon be marked by fear and slaughter (see Genesis 9:2-3).

The fallen nature of this new creation is also made abundantly clear by the events which we read of in Genesis 9. We read of Noah's drunkenness and Ham's shamelessness; Noah's new world is going the same way as the old. In the chapters that follow we read that as men and women again increased in number so also they increased in wickedness.

Genesis 11 records how the development of new technologies was used in rebellion against God. People discovered how to make bricks and how to stick them together with bitumen. They now had the means of building up great structures from small elements. So they built a city, creating a civilisation rather than remaining nomads or subsistence farmers; they have discovered the power of working together. Now they can settle and build and have a history. So they began to build a tower in the centre of their city, "with its top in the heavens". They wanted to make a name for themselves and ensure that they have a permanent future – that they might not be scattered across the face of the whole earth.

I do not think that this is an effort to climb up to God by human effort so much as it is an attempt to displace God. They want to make a name for themselves; to become masters of their own destiny. It is the story of the Fall all over again.

But so puny is their tower that would reach to the heavens that God has to come down to see it. In judgment he confuses their language with the result that they can no longer build their city; they separate from one another and wander off in every direction. The very fate they had feared has become the consequence of their own actions.

And yes, they have secured a lasting name for themselves; that name is Babel – babble, confusion.

In confusing the language of mankind at Babel and scattering them over the face of the earth, God acted both in judgement and in grace. The divisions between mankind, fundamental to so much of the Old Testament story, is evident still in our different linguistic and ethnic groupings. It is a graphic reminder of the divisive nature of sin. It is only through the work of Christ and of his outpoured Spirit that these divisions between humankind will be healed (see Acts 2).

There are those who still think that their science has displaced God – that they can make a name for themselves and become masters of their own destiny. He who sits in the heavens laughs at their folly.

In the chapters to come we will read how God gives a name to a man and to a people, and through them begins to gather a people for himself from all the scattered nations of the earth. He is the one who will build a city for them.

O Lord, you are very great. Keep me from imagining that I can make a name for myself and become master of my own destiny. Help me to see that my hope and my secure future are to be found in the one to whom you have given the name which is above every name. Help me, together with all your people, to build up the city of God, a city that has foundations.

Peter Misselbrook