“So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth... That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world.”
~Genesis 11:8a, 9a (NIV).
Since almost the dawn of time, and certainly since the fall, humankind has always sought to try and outstrip God, waking “earlier” to get dominion over him (if indeed that were even possible).
And still, the Lord laughs—not deridingly, but at our motive. The Giver of Life is short-changed and then abjectly rejected. If that’s not contemptible I don’t know what is.
The broad “Babel” lesson of life is this:
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”
~1 Corinthians 1:20b (NIV)
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
~Isaiah 55:9 (NIV).
Why is it that we try and outdo God at his own game? We usurp the Almighty because we ‘know better’ and then we whinge and complain when things go pear-shaped.
Our grandiose constructions whether physical or spiritual—or any form between—are destined to doom when pitted against God’s will. Some idolaters, though, are equally destined to always push those barriers in their rank foolishness.
Two things happened when the people of Babylonia (or Shinar) were confused by language. They were swept hard against the rocks of both social and industrial harmony—commerce was made impossible in one foul swoop. Both the critical issues of community and industrialisation were rendered totally non-viable with the people unable to communicate. We can’t trust or work with people we can’t communicate with. Interestingly, the Babylonians understood “Babel” to mean ‘gate of the god,’ whereas others deciphered it to mean, “confusion” and similar in sound to “folly” and “flood.” Were the Babylonians fooled in trying to surpass God?
In their wisdom they built monuments to their own ingenuity and left God completely out of the picture. That wouldn’t have been a problem so much as the fact that when God’s left out of the frame vast injustices and wrongs eventually permeate every civilisation in question. So is the history of the world (and certainly in the Bible) a majestic testimony to this. We need God more than anything else. But it seems we fail to abide to this again and again.
This is, of course, untenable to God. Judgment must come! And it does.
Sometimes when we as humankind get the slightest inkling of advantage our dark motives are found central, long after we’ve strayed, tempted gorgeously into the Tempter’s nest—a forsaking of our God.
And yet, God knows us—better than we in fact know ourselves.
Let’s not try and outwit God at his very own game—we will find we’ll come off second best very quickly and very consistently! God has a way of turning our “feats” into gondolas of divine judgment just like he did with the tower of Babel—useless to men but powerful for God.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
 Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15 – Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas, Texas: Word, Inc., 2002), S. 245.