Genesis 11:1 - 5
Verse 1 – Prior to the flood the earth is repopulated and all humanity stems from the lineage of Noah. Consequently the people lived together and spoke the same language.
Verse 2 – Humanity migrated east (continued moving further east from the Garden of Eden) and came upon the land of Shinar. (The location is probably Babylon – vs. 9).
Verse 3 – 4 – People decided to build a city. “Let us make bricks…” We are told this because in this plain there was no easily accessible stone around to build buildings. If they wanted to use stones they would have had to transport them from many miles and this would have been long hard work. So they made bricks. It is believed that the brick and mortar combination made for waterproofed buildings. This is Interesting to note because these buildings may have been water proofed because they feared God would flood the world again and they wanted to be prepared. It is possible they had complete disregard for God’s promise to never flood the world again with water. It would appear that humanity may not have trusted God.
Let us build a city – Up to this point people did not live in cities. Humanity wanted to stay in one place as they did not want to scatter. They wanted to stay in one place and develop a civilization or city that was built on their own accomplishments. They were attempting to build a city without the help and oversight of God. We see that they were building a city that would promote them and not God. The purpose of the city was not to glorify God but to glorify man.
Let us build a tower – The most common towers in ancient Mesopotamia (which is where Shinar or Babylon are located) were ziggurats. Traditionally a ziggurat resembled a pyramid ranging from 60 feet per side to almost 200 feet per side. It was a religious or sacred tower dedicated to particular deities. People did not use the tower as it was sacred and it was intended for the specific deity. One of the main features was the stairway that led to the top of the tower. At the top was usually a room with a bed and table set for the deity. “The stairway was a visual representation of this which was believed to be used by the gods to travel from one realm to another.”  It was a tower built to a god of their own design. It is believed all false religions can be traced back to Babylon (any even the Tower of Babel).
So, why did they want to build the tower? They wanted to make a name for themselves. The building of tower symbolizes or shows us three things about humanity and their views of God.
1) Pride – They wanted to make a name for themselves and in so doing they were declaring their independence from God. Pride always leads to sinful behavior (Proverbs 16:18 – 19). They essentially were saying “Let us show God or the particular deity they created, how great we are by what we accomplish together.” Or rather let us show God what we can do without him. They wanted to leave a legacy or be remembered for their accomplishments. In making a name for themselves they are declaring they do not need God. They wanted to establish their own city, religion and culture based on their accomplishments and not Gods.
2) Human achievement as a means to God. Humanity was trying to get to God in its own power. This was humanities attempt once again to become like God. If they could reach him they could be like him. In the OT God always came to man not the other way around (John 14:6).
3) Man meeting the needs of God. The tower symbolized or served as a doorway or stairway for the gods. In doing this they were putting their god in a box thus making their god a needy god. They wanted to create a god that they could control and one who is indebted to them. (Acts 17:24 – 29, Romans 11:34 – 36)They no longer needed the true God they wanted a god that was brought down to the level of humanity.
 Walton, John H. (2001). The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis (409). Grand Rapids: Zondervan
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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