Search the internet for “paintings of the Tower of Babel” and take a close look at the results, especially the people in the paintings. They tend to be small, because the Tower dominates. But often there is one larger figure portrayed as a king or the leader of the construction project. That’s Nimrod, whom Scripture calls a “mighty hunter” (Gen. 10:8–10). He apparently ruled over Babel or Babylon at this time. Not surprisingly, his name means “we will rebel.” Genesis 11 doesn’t directly mention Nimrod, but the people building the Tower of Babel definitely lived up, or down, to the meaning of his name!
In this part of our study, we’ll explore the surprising differences between our perspective on failure (and success) and God’s perspective. The Tower of Babel, for instance, was certainly a success by human standards. People collaborated on this impressive construction project. The bricks they used were the best, most up-to-date technology (v. 3). Their ambitious dream was to make a name for themselves (v. 4). This sounds like “best practice” from current leadership books!
By God’s standards, the enterprise was a sinful failure. The people’s determination not to be scattered (v. 4) disobeyed God’s command to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 9:1). Their motives were prideful and their actions attempted to usurp God’s place. God didn’t wait for this evil to ripen: He intervened at a practical level to put a stop to it (11:5–7). He confused the people’s languages, and since they could no longer communicate with one another, the project died (vv. 8–9). Babel, which originally meant “gateway to a god,” instead came to signify “confused” and has even led to our English word “babble.”
>> Babel or Babylon is a powerful picture of failure throughout Scripture. If you have time, we encourage you today to “skip ahead” and read Revelation, chapters 17–18. There you’ll see the fate God has in store for all pride and rebellion.
Join us as we prayerfully consider the lessons in today’s story of the Tower of Babel. What a huge failure! And what an encouragement that in the end, God is always in control and His will always prevails!