The Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel is pretty well known. It’s a curious tale that appears after the flood story. Here’s the text from Genesis 11.
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.
2 And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
3 And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
4 Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’
5 The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built.
6 And the Lord said, ‘Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.
7 Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’
8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
9 Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
The motivation for building the tower seems to be twofold:
a desire to be known as the best, and to do the impossible.
coupled with a fear that without power and fame, the people (whoever they were, we don’t know), would be dispersed, and thus lose their influence.
Walter Brueggemann puts it like this: ‘the story … is an early account of globalisation, a strategy of universal control by powerful people who aim to control all the money and to impose uniformity on all parts of the world population.’
The force behind such attempts for domination is so powerful that it is all consuming, stopping at nothing to be at the top. The consequence of this kind of behaviour, althought not explicitly stated in the Genesis account, is that the poor and the powerless are overlooked.
Walter Brueggemann again … ‘The scattering and confusion wrought by God is to assure that no assertive power can gain ultimate control and emerge as a single superpower.’
Fast forward to the 21st century. Where are the parallels today for empire building to achieve complete control.
The super companies – Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook etc (and probably some others that have the same degree of power but work behind the scenes).
The super powers – at this time notably China, while the USA decreases in its influence.
And where would we look to see God’s hand in all of this ? Is there a move of God today that will assure that no assertive power can gain ultimate control ?
Grace and Peace.