Genesis 11:5-9 - A Review
(Again, a brief reminder that this video review of today's passage was originally broadcast in 2019. Today's session is the last in preparation to begin our look at Genesis 12 starting Monday. Blessings to you in Christ!)
Greetings, everyone! God’s joy and peace to you on this Friday in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and welcome to another edition of EDiBS. On this last day of our week together we find ourselves beginning to come down the homestretch of our time in the book of Genesis, drawing close now to the end of chapter 11 where we’ll break for a period of time before picking up the next portion of the book in a future series. That said, we’re steadily making progress as we zero in on the entrance of Abram onto the scene… the man whose life not only occupies almost a third of the entire book of Genesis, but whose family line will eventually bring to us the promised Messiah. It’s great to have you along today; would you pray with me as we get things going?
Lord Jesus, we are weak but you are strong, and we take great comfort in the fact that we belong to you, having been redeemed by all that you’ve done for us in your life, your death, and your resurrection. Grant us the blessing of growth in our faith today as we open your Word. In your holy and precious name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, Though the people on the plain of Shinar have given themselves over to the task of building their great city and their tower to the heavens, God — in His mercy — has other plans. Our focus this session: And God came down.
And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
I’ve alluded to this before, but my neighbor, Richard, and I had a problem. We had dogs who were best friends…dogs who when by themselves were well-behaved, but when together tended to wreak havoc across the countryside. Separately, our canine companions were lap-occupying, sleepy-eyed models of domesticated animal bliss, content to spend their days sleeping next to the fireplace — visions straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. When they got together and went gamboling through the fields and forests of southwest Missouri, however, they were more like Bonnie and Clyde. Sometimes Max and Robin would be gone for days at a time. More than once they were accused by neighboring farms of high crimes and misdemeanors. Their reputation grew to the point that it preceded them, which was an unfortunate development that put them in jeopardy with our kind but increasingly concerned neighbors who had livestock and food-stores to protect. What did Richard and I end up having to do? We ended up coming down on our dogs. We put the kibosh on their antics. We permanently separated them…something we didn’t want to do and something the dogs definitely didn’t want us to do, but something that was necessary to do in order to save their lives. In the end it worked, even if the measures we took were rather drastic. Was it worth it? Yes!
As we come to God’s Word today and continue our look into the midst of all that is brash, havoc-wreaking, and distinctly un-Norman Rockwell-like about humanity as the people on the plain of Shinar go about erecting a monument to a life and a way of living life absent the presence and influence of a loving God, I’ve got Robin and Max and Richard and I on the brain for obvious reasons. God so loves His people. He wants the best for them. But grouped together as they are, one people with one language and possessing a reckless, Bonnie and Clyde-like mindset that will only lead to their destruction, God must act against their growing rebellion and hardness of heart. What does He end up having to do? He ends up, both literally figuratively, coming down…coming down on His people. He puts the kibosh on their antics. And yes, He permanently separates them. Is it something He wants to do? No. Is it something the people want Him to do? Definitely not. It’s something, however, that is necessary to do in order to save their lives.
God knows His creation. He knows that the intention of man's heart because of sin, even in the post-Flood world, is evil from his youth. He knows that if He allows this mindset, manifested as it is in this present initiative, to go unchecked, the outcome will be terribly powerful and powerfully terrible. As God Himself observes in the text, this folly in Shinar is “only the beginning of what they will do.” Does this mean that He fears their abilities? Of course not. What it means is that He knows the human race to be so corrupt that if left to itself, it will ultimately self-destruct.
That’s why the Lord comes down. That’s why He scatters His people abroad. This forced separation is not malevolence on His part; it’s mercy. God, in dividing man both linguistically and geographically, acts to put a check on the power of humanity’s fallen nature. It will also set the stage for the next part of His plan of salvation to come into being; something we’ll talk more about when we gather together on Monday.
As we wrap things up for the day, this passage and this account ends, as we all know, with the naming of the place where all of this happened: “Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth.” There’s actually an irony in that name. Etymologically, Babel is derived from the Hebrew word meaning “confuse.” But to the Babylonians, Babel meant “gate of god.” The late Dr. R.C. Sproul summed up this account very well when He offered two observations about this portion of Genesis 11. First, he noted that ironically, instead of attaining significance and immortality (or godhood, to be more specific) as they desired and intended, the people on the plain of Shinar achieved only alienation and dispersal. Just as expulsion was the earlier fate of Adam and Eve and of Cain, so it would be with them. But Sproul also asserted that this judgment was also, ultimately, an act of grace. In isolation, the peoples would be less likely to believe in their own strength and more likely to turn to God. And though it would be a lesson needing to be learned over and over and over again…a lesson that we, in fact, continue to learn over and over and over again ourselves…so it would be.
When we come together again next week, we’ll be exploring the wonderful reality of that grace in a special way as we conclude this part of our series in Genesis, so I hope you'll come along to be part of it all. God bless you richly in Christ, have a fantastic weekend, and I’ll see you again soon. Until then, take care!