Genesis 11:1-5: Inspection time!

“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’ But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.” NIV

Recently, in our church Bible Studies, we’ve been looking at the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. I seem to remember someone saying that the image of Christ among the churches is one of Him patrolling them. You might say, He is ‘managing by walking around.’ You can’t hide from the ‘x-ray vision’ (David Pawson) of Jesus. He sees and knows everything. We are accountable to Him. Here we have a similar picture. We may build big, impressive, splendid things, but will they pass God’s inspection? He’s going to carefully examine our building materials (1 Corinthians 3:10-17).  It’s been pointed out that the reason for placing the Babel story here may be more literary than chronological. Wiersbe argues, persuasively in my view, that it’s likely that the events of chapter 11 belong prior to those in chapter 10. So the scattering described in chapter 10 was the consequence of God’s judgment at Babel. He suggests that perhaps the story was placed here so that it could lead into the genealogy of Shem, which leads into the genealogy of Abraham, who was the father of the Hebrew race.

So God commanded the peoples to be fruitful and multiply and scatter across the earth, but they decided to move to Babel and settle there. However they were in flagrant disobedience to God’s clear command (9:1 and 7). Perhaps they were motivated by fear as well as pride – huddling together for warmth as it were. But whatever other motivations they had apart from pride, they were in disobedience to God, and He could not approve of their work.