If God is sovereign (and He is) then He knew the people of Shinar were going to build a tower to their great name before they laid the first brick.
Why didn’t He change their languages earlier, before they could gang up in Babel?
Why did He even let them begin?
Since there’s no verse in the Bible that says, “I, the Lord, chose not to confuse the language of Babel earlier because . . .” then all we can do is look at what we see and what we know about God in the Bible for possible answers.
We’ll have to be content to wait until heaven to find the actual reason — not that it will matter then.
Why does it matter to me now?
Because every day we wake up to news of another person or group who did something somewhere to someone because they wanted what they wanted and didn’t care what it cost anyone else — and God let them.
If we can understand why God may have let the people of Shinar have their way for awhile, we’ll have a better understanding of why He lets bad things happen today — and why we don’t need to freak when He does.
Among the many possibilities, four stand out to me:
1. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” ~ 2 Peter 3:9
This verse refers to God’s unbelievable patience in waiting for Christ to return again so that more can humble themselves in repentance for their sins, and trust in Christ for salvation.
I feel God’s letting the people of Shinar continue in the path they chose is another example of God’s amazing patience.
God gave the people of Shinar plenty of time to humble themselves and choose to exalt the name of God, not their own.
His act of grace in choosing to confuse their language, instead of annihilating them, also emphasizes His great patience.
In letting them live, God gave them yet another opportunity to turn away from their self-serving pride and begin exalting the name of God in their brand new languages.
2. “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” ~ Hebrews 4:2
This verse isn’t referring to the people who built the Tower of Babel, but rather the Israelites who stood on the edge of the Promised Land.
They heard the reports of giants in the land and didn’t unite what they heard with faith in God to overcome those giants and give them the Land. Therefore, the whole group had to hang out in the wilderness for forty long years before God allowed them to enter the land. (Numbers 13-14)
This verse may not be speaking about the people of Shinar, but the principle remains the same:
Unbelief will get you somewhere, but not a place you want to be.
Unbelief didn’t get them where they wanted to be, but in the end, God got them where He wanted them to be.
Had they just believed God and obeyed Him, there’s no telling the challenges they could have avoided and the blessings they would’ve received.
They needed to understand that. I believe they got the message — but I don’t know if they chose to believe it.
3. “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” ~ Job 42:2
The people of Shinar weren’t getting away with anything, no matter what they thought.
God allowed them go their own way until He deemed the time was right for Him to step in.
God will often let us do what we’ve determined in our hearts to do up to a point so that He can let us know that we have no power apart from what He has allowed.
“when I [God] said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?” ~ Job 38:11 [The brackets are mine for clarification]
Jesus made this truth clear to Pontius Pilate when Pilate declared to Jesus that he had the power to crucify Him or set Him free. I wonder if Jesus had to stifle a laugh as He set Pilate straight.
(Click this link to read Jesus’ response and many amazing circumstances surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion that prove God is more in control than we often realize: If God Weren’t In Control.)
In the end, God will have His way – and His way is perfect and always for our good and His glory.
They needed to know that, and so do we — which brings me to my fourth possible reason God let them even begin the tower.
4. “These things happened to them [the Israelites in the wilderness after having been brought out of Egypt] as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.” ~ I Corinthians 10:11 [The brackets are mine for clarification]
The tower is long gone, but their testimony of foolishness persists even today.
They wanted to create a name for themselves that would be known across the earth and be praised.
Instead, God gave them the name Babel, which has become known across the earth and means “foolish talk.”
This was not exactly the legacy they were going for. Oops.
The testimony of their legacy serves to warn us about what kind of legacy we’re leaving.
In medieval San Gimignano, Italy, 72 towers stood proud across the hill city for all to see. Today 13 of those spectacular towers remain.
(In case you’re interested, each post in The Tower of Babel series features pictures I took while I visited San Gimignano.)
The towers symbolized the family’s wealth and prestige, thus each family wanted his tower to stand above all the others.
The tall tower competition only ground to a halt when the government stepped in and declared that no tower could be taller than their own city tower.
Apparently it didn’t take long before the law was ignored — the desire of the wealthiest to display their prominence was just too great.
We haven’t changed much since the 1200’s.
The story is told that one citizen actually claimed his tower was made taller by the devil while he was away on a trip. I’m sure he would never have intentionally tried to break the law. Right!
His tower is called Torre del Diavolo, or “Tower of the Devil.”
I wonder if that was really the name he or his family wanted to have as their legacy?
(See a photo of the Torre del Diavolo in What Was So Wrong With the Tower of Babel (Part Two) — God’s Response.)
We may not understand all God calls us to do, but we can trust Him.
He knows how to get us where we need to be, and He cares more about us and our good than anyone — even us.
The people of Babel could tell us that in, oh, so many languages.
I have one more post left in The Tower of Babel series. We’ll take a look at The Red Thread in The Tower of Babel. God gave us a Red Thread Clue in The Tower of Babel of what Jesus would do. Stay tuned!
If you missed the first two parts in this series, check them out below:
- What Was So Wrong With the Tower of Babel? (Part One) — I’m the Man!
- What Was So Wrong With the Tower of Babel? (Part Two) — God’s Response