Posted by: Heather | August 19, 2009

My Ramblings

Last Sunday we had a guest speaker who spoke on Genesis 11 and the story of Babel. Interestingly, he is a translator for Wycliffe. He was discussing how he was bemoaning the fact to a colleague that the language he was attempting to learn in country was so difficult. His friend said that it came from Babel and was part of the curse. This caused him to go back to Genesis 11 and revisit the text. The results of this were in part his sermon.

Here is the text:

Genesis 11:1-9
(1) And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.
(2) And it happened, as they traveled from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar. And they lived there.
(3) And they said to one another, Come, let us make brick and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.
(4) And they said, Come, let us build us a city and a tower, and its top in the heavens. And let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered upon the face of the whole earth.
(5) And Jehovah came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of Adam had built.
(6) And Jehovah said, Behold! The people is one and they all have one language. And this they begin to do. And now nothing which they have imagined to do will be restrained from them.
(7) Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they cannot understand one another’s speech.
(8) So Jehovah scattered them abroad from that place upon the face of all the earth. And they quit building the city.
(9) Therefore the name of it is called Babel; because Jehovah confused the language of all the earth there. And from there Jehovah scattered them abroad on the face of all the earth.

First, he noted that this text occurs in the original Hebrew in a very unique format. He told us the name of this format, but I don’t remember what it was called. He said the story is brilliantly written in a special story-telling form that the Hebrews would use. There was a rhythm to the story, also alliteration. In this particular type of story, the exact center of the story is the focal point. Incidentally, the center of the story is in verse 5 where it says and Jehovah came down. That is the point.

He said the story is full of irony, too. They were instructed to scatter and fill the earth, instead they decided to stay together. They were intending to build a tower to reach the heavens without God. God came down to them and scattered them.

He spoke of their threefold purpose. They had one language, they wanted to build a tower, and they wanted to make a name for themselves.

One language: This does not emphasize as much the single language as it does having one single purpose. This is an enforced single purpose. A forced group-think. Forced uniformity. Our speaker mused about how God loves diversity, but man wants conformity. Very interesting thought that I must consider for a while. God created trees, but not just one kind, multitudes of kinds. What if there was only one kind of bird? But we are always categorizing things and then trying to make them the same.

Building a tower involves building a citadel or an acropolis. A monument to themselves. Our speaker stopped and discussed what those monuments could be in our culture. He also talked of what the mud bricks and tar mortar would have meant to the first people to read this account. (written by Moses) The children of Israel would have remembered mud bricks and mortar . . .

Making a name for themselves – then God gave the place a name. Babel. Confusion. Failure.

You see, according to our speaker, the various languages were inevitable had mankind obeyed and dispersed.

Finally, he talked of how Pentecost was the fulfillment of Babel. When the Holy Spirit came, He could have made everyone understand one language again, but instead He made everyone hear in their own language. The languages He created (or their current forms). This still goes on today! Our speaker spoke of instances on the field where God has gifted people with linguistic understanding that is miraculous. He expressed to me afterword that in his opinion this is what the gift of tongues is. He said he has seen it. He said that in all but one passage in the new testament the giving of tongues bridges a gap where people did not understand each other’s languages. He said that this still happens on the front lines today, and then God’s word is given so that people will know where the power came from. Otherwise you wind up with them worshiping the person with the gift. (as they briefly did Paul and Barnabas in Lystra)

So to sum it up, in our speaker’s opinion, the languages in Babel were not a curse, but in essence a lock. God gave the key to the lock at Pentecost. The purpose of the languages was to slow down man’s rebellion and pride while God’s plan took place. Then when the time was right, he began enabling his people to bridge that gap. Very interesting. . .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: