I was digging through an old souvenir box the other day sifting through artifacts of past accomplishments trying to find relics to substantiate my academic acumen from my collegiate days for a project I was working on. It had been years since I had dug through the old box, and it was fun to see antique ribbons, medals and trophies commemorating successes from a bygone era. I was struck by my attachment to these momentos of my own achievement. And I realized that I’m probably not alone in that. Every season, every sport my boys receive trophies as a testimony of their participation with the team. We hang diplomas, certificates, etc. on walls so that others will see our credentials. We build buildings, erect statues, and establish foundations to celebrate the lives of the influential, wealthy, important and famous among us. So it’s not surprising that this tendency toward self promotion reaches back to hoary antiquity.
Genesis 9, Noah and company exit the ark into a brave new world, de-created and re-created by the flood. The instructions that God gives to Noah mirror those given to Adam with a few important distinctions. Now animals are food. Instead of a benevolent rule, the fear of man now dictates the relationship between man and the animal kingdom. Murder receives capital punishment. But the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth remains the same. Moses uses garden imagery to describe the shortcoming of Noah and the subsequent curse of his grandson.
Then in chapter 10, Moses includes another genealogy to delineate the prodigy of the sons of Noah. Three sons who will propagate the nations of the world. Many of the people groups will be familiar (or will become familiar) to the Israelites as they exit Egypt and enter the promised land. And in this chapter, Moses highlights one man…Nimrod, who is described as a mighty hunter and also as the founder of some famous old world cities including Nineveh and Babel (Babylon) in the plains of Shinar. This is a man highly esteemed from an earthy perspective. Power. Prestige. Aggressiveness. Ingenuity. Quite possibly the man with the plan for the capital projects mentioned in 11.1-9.
Chapter 11. Moses tells us that the whole world had one language and one speech. Great opportunity for collaboration. Folks heading to Shinar say, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Lots of irony in the passage…bricks for stone, tar for mortar (man’s self-sufficiency), the LORD came down (apparently the tower didn’t succeed in reaching heaven), name for ourselves…its name was Babel (confusion). God’s assessment of their building project: “Behold they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” This verdict isn’t a resounding “at-a-boy”. It’s confirmation of what He said in both chapter 6 and 8, “the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Whether or not the tower that was built was a ziggurat (most likely) designed to worship a pagan deity, pride and rebellion are wrapped up in this building project. It’s another way of giving into the lie of the serpent, “…you can be like God.” And if the genealogy in 11 is with out gaps, this happens within 100-200 years of the flood.
So God pronounces judgment. Third worldwide judgment to-date if you are keeping track. He confuses their language and scatters them abroad. His directive is accomplished through judgment. And the name they sought for themselves becomes confusion. At this point in the story it’s easy to lose sight of the Genesis 3.15 Seed of the woman. It appears that humankind is hopelessly scattered. But then Moses includes the genealogy of Shem, and we see the blessing of Shem that will pass down to successive generations all the way to Abram. And so the search for the Seed continues.
But back to my old trophy box. Just like Genesis 11, it reminds me of my own tendency to build towers, to architect monuments for myself, for my own glory. And each time I’m reminded, I say, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner” because He died for every tower that I, that we build. As the tower pictured man’s pride and rebellion, so Jesus, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, became that tower. He became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And not only that, but now He is truly the only tower that reaches into heaven and bridges the gap between us and God the Father. What an amazing truth! I hope you know that today.
Until next time…stay salty.