Tower of Babel: What is the Biblical Account?
The biblical account of the Tower of Babel is found in Genesis 11. To summarize, the tower was built by some of the descendants of Noah’s sons who survived the Great Flood. They had eventually traveled eastward and began to settle in a plains area called Shinar (Babylonia) in Mesopotamia, and of course shared the one common language.
Having developed an ungodly character, they began the planning of a great tower out of their egotism, pride, and rebellion. This group 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” (Genesis 11:4).
The Tower of Babel was a great human, physical achievement and took a great deal of cooperation with each other. This lofty structure was to be tall enough to “reach heaven.” However, it was out of their arrogance that they built the tower because it was a monument to themselves, and pompously, by their own achievements rather than to honor God.
When God saw their intentions and the purpose of their efforts, His judgment on man was once again brought forth. He scattered them across the earth confounding or confusing their language so that they could no longer communicate with each other. “So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:8-9).
Sometimes called the “stairway to heaven,” the tower represented the people’s prideful desire to place themselves above God and was what eventually brought about their worldwide dispersion and birthed the multiplicity of languages in the world today.
Tower of Babel: Is There Evidence of the Tower?
Archeological evidence points to the Tower of Babel being built in the fashion of a ziggurat.1 The physical description is as a pyramid-shaped tower that decreases in size as its stories progress upward with a temple at the pinnacle. Ziggurats commonly had steps or terraces spiral around the structure that led to a temple at the top.
It is clear that Genesis 11 takes place in the southern part of Mesopotamia. This is supported by the records of history and culture of this region.2 The description of a ziggurat is in keeping with the discovery of 30 similar towers that were common in the empire of that era. In addition, these towers were most often built to honor their false gods or places of sacrifice and not used as military watchtowers.
Since the style and term ziggurat was not known to the Hebrews at that time, it is reasonable to deduct that the adaptation of its form was due to the influence of the Babylonian location. The ungodly influence of the region included worshipping false gods, sacrificial practices, and the delusion of the gods using these ‘stairways’ to travel from one spiritual realm to another. It is easy to see how these things coupled with the people’s pride, arrogance, and rebellion could lead to their lofty goal of building the Tower of Babel into heaven.
Tower of Babel: What Is Today’s Sequel?
The Tower of Babel was (uncommonly) built with man-made materials. Genesis 11:3 says “They said to each other, ‘Come let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly’. They used brick instead of stone and tar for mortar.” Why is this point important?
Symbolically speaking, the use of man-made brick instead of natural (God-made) stones, further illustrates their idea that their way was better. These people were arrogantly denying all the Almighty God had done for them and wanted to take charge of their own destiny.
Today, many people are obsessed with big homes, expensive cars, an abundance of money, etc. to show off financial successes. These can be monuments of our self-affirming accomplishments. Having these material items are not wrong, but placing their importance over relationship and honor for what God does is wrong.
Are there Towers of Babel in your life? Pride and arrogance can be the corner stone (foundational block) of your earthly towers. Scriptures say in Genesis 11:5-9 that the Lord scattered the group and they stopped building. Even the greatest of man’s misdirected efforts cannot defy God.
In time, all who reject God will suffer His wrath and their ill-gotten works will be destroyed. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). We do not need to build physical “stairways to heaven.” Jesus is the only possible stairway to the Heavenly Kingdom of God. It is only through Him that we are provided a connection to God the Father. Matthew 11:27 states “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
If you do not know the Son, Jesus Christ, He stands at the door of your heart waiting for you to answer. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you; let Him into your life today.