“They said to one another, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city,
and a tower whose top will reach into heaven,
and let us make for ourselves a name,
otherwise we will be scattered abroad
over the face of the whole earth.’”
~ Genesis 11:4

The people of Babel wanted to build the first skyscraper, but God wouldn’t give them a building permit. Why not?

God surely didn’t feel threatened that they’d actually build a tower so tall they could sneak into heaven and form some sort of revolt.

So what was the big deal?

What was so wrong about the Tower of Babel that God would come down in person and mix up their language, creating a babbling rabble all over a single tower?

God’s reaction seems extreme – sort of like God’s reaction to Cain and his offering seemed extreme.

(Check out “What Was So Wrong with Cain’s Offering” if you want to know the truth about that situation.)

Fortunately, God’s character never changes. He’s always just, good, and right.

Therefore, we only need to take a closer to see the truth jump out:

Back in Genesis 9 – long before the first brick was laid for the tower – Noah and his family stepped out of the ark into a new world and received this command from God:

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” ~ Genesis 9:1

How wonderful it would’ve been if they’d populated the world with holy and righteous children eager to follow God.

However, as I discussed in The Red Thread in Noah’s Ark — The Man, only Noah was found holy in God’s eyes – and he was only “considered” holy. That’s not the same as actually being holy.

We don’t even make it out of Genesis 9 before Noah’s son Ham reveals himself as a bad seed.

Ham’s seed sprouts a bunch of trouble, and the trouble centers itself in Babel around this particular tower.[1]

At this time, Noah’s descendants are moving around and “the whole earth used the same language and the same words.”[2]

Along the way, they came upon the land of Shinar and “settled there.”[3]

This is what started the problem – or should I say more accurately – revealed the problem.

They said to one another, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth (Genesis 11:4).”


Let’s break this verse down and expose the root of the problem to find out what was so wrong with building the Tower of Babel:


1. Self-Rule

They said to one another, ‘Come’”

The people in Shinar didn’t want to obey God and go out and fill the earth.

God had told everyone, “Go.”

They told everyone, “Come.”

In other words, each said to God in their heart: 

“No. You’re not the boss of me. I do as I please.”

Even from a young age, we want to do what we want to do. When our youngest was three, and we told her it was time to go to sleep, she’d stick out her bottom lip and say, “No! I don’t want to go to fleep.”

Yes, she said, “fleep.” She couldn’t say “sleep.” It’s a lot cuter for a 3-year old to say she doesn’t want to go to fleep than it is to tell God, No. 


2. Self-Indulgence

“Let us build for ourselves a city and a tower
whose top will reach into heaven”

“Just a little bit more.” 

John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men in American history, uttered those words when asked how much money would be “enough.” 

“Just a little bit more.” 

The people of Shinar weren’t content to wait on the Lord to provide. 

We’ll take care of ourselves how we want.

We’ll provide for ourselves what we want.

They looked at God’s command much the same way Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. They saw God’s command as keeping something good from them, not providing the greatest good for them.

Give me! Give me! Give me! I need! I need! I need!


3. Self-Exaltation

 “and let us make for ourselves a name”

Me! Me! Me! It’s all about Me!

They wanted the world to see how amazing they were. They wanted to make their name famous.

Their theme song could have been “The Man” by Aloe Blacc. “I’m the man! I’m the man! I’m the man!”

They couldn’t speak the world into existence or cause a world wide flood and dry the earth up again.

They couldn’t set the sun and moon in place nor create even a blade of grass, but they desired to be worshipped none the less.

Don’t we all, truth be told.

It really is about the attitude of the heart — that deceitfully wicked thing

Their purpose for coming together and building the tower was so they would be exalted on high to the praise of their great name. 

“I’m the man! I’m the man! I’m the man!”


4. Unbelief

“otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’”

We could be tempted to give them the benefit of the doubt that they just didn’t understand God’s command to scatter and fill the earth, except for what we just read:

“otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.

There goes any excuse of ignorance.

These people knew God’s command full well and didn’t like it. They issued their own command in full defiance of God.

Unbelief was at the root of their rebellion.

They didn’t believe the promises of God that He would care for them.

They didn’t believe God’s plan was the best plan for them.

It’s not that they didn’t believe in God or believe that He had any power. We know they did because they state they need to come together or else they’ll “be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”  

Scattered abroad by who? The wind?

They thought if they banded together they could keep God from scattering them. 

They know it’s going to take all of them to defy God, but they felt they were men enough to do it.

“I’m the man! I’m the man! I’m the man!”

They had belief in themselves, but not in God or His promises.

Big mistake.


To sum it up: 

The people of Shinar wanted to
rule themselves,
exalt themselves,
and indulge themselves,
because they didn’t believe in the promises of God.

We haven’t changed much, have we?


In my next post we’ll look at God’s reaction to their plan. It’s curious and astounding.


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[1] One of Ham’s seed was the original Nimrod and the first world ruler. He established a kingdom, which included none other than Babel (Genesis 10:8-10).

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