Unity at Babel

This entry is part of 374 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Peter H from Pixabay

Why was God so disturbed by the unity of mankind in Genesis 11:1-9? Can God be scared?

God was not afraid of humanity, his own creation. But what they were doing with their unity was a very dangerous thing. Unity can be used either for Gofd’s glory and purpose or against it. In this passage, humans were working against God and he had to deal with it.

We’re already past the point where he re-created the earth through the great flood. He promised not to do that again. So he had to find a way to deal with the wickedness of humanity that was beginning once again to become quite prominent on the earth.

They had the blocks in place for unity through the same language in the same vocabulary. This allowed them to collaborate in unity. God is not against unity unless it is against his purposes. In the New Testament, he unites the church in unity under Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16).

One of the commands God gave to human beings was to fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). Instead, the people gathered together all in one place in one city, Babel (Genesis 11:2). This was the first violation of God’s command.

As we continue to read, the people decide to make bricks so that they can build a giant city, the chief feature of their city being a tower that goes the whole way to heaven where God dwells (Genesis 11:3-5).

They firmly state their goal that they want this tower to go the whole way into heaven. This is not only a prideful venture but an attempt to reach the place where God dwells on their own. The idea is that people want to either usurp God’s throne or be God.

It’s the oldest trick in the devils book. The serpent told Adam and Eve that they would be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). This is also an attempt to be like God, to dwell where he is. God recognizes what they want to do with the unity they have.

The language he uses does not mean that he is afraid of what the people can do with their unity. He only states the fact that unity among humans can achieve a great deal (Genesis 11:6). But because the people desire to be God or like him, trying to take his place in heaven, God must do something. He won’t cause another flood, but he must act to keep them from using their unity for another evil purpose.

Language is a unifying force for humanity at the time. So God goes down and confuses their languages so they cannot communicate with one another and be as unified in this particular purpose (Genesis 11:7).

Confusing the language of the people makes them do what they were originally commanded to do, to disperse throughout all the earth (Genesis 11:8-9). Now they can fill the earth as God had commanded them to do from the beginning. This is the reason he confuses their languages. It stops them from fulfilling their evil desire to be God.

Later in the New Testament, God will use language to unite people groups under a godly and good purpose, to praise him and declare his greatness (Acts 2:1-11). Unity is a good thing, and a very powerful engine that humans can use for good or evil.

But in this section of Scripture, they use it for evil and God acts to keep them from becoming as evil as their ancestors. The passage does not focus on God being scared of unity. It focuses on how the power of unity can be used both ways.

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