Gen 11:1-9 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. (2) And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. (3) And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. (4) Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (5) And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. (6) And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. (7) Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (8) So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. (9) Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
I was reading a sermon by John Calvin on this text of Scripture and was impressed how he pointed out that this account clearly demonstrates the depraved condition – totally depraved – of man in his sin. Let me explain.
Notice that the people had been migrating from the east when they came to Shinar (future Babylon). What was in the east? Well, Noah. The point is that the flood had taken place not all that long before this Babel business. The FLOOD! Everyone had been wiped out by the Lord’s righteous judgment – except Noah and his family. So these people who were migrating from the east were descendants of Noah – and due to the proximity in time, they no doubt had second if not first hand knowledge of Noah and the ark. Noah, you remember, lived a long, long time.
What do we know about this territory of Shinar at that time? Here is probably a pretty good description:
Gen 13:10-11 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) (11) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other.
It would seem that the Lord had restored the post-flood world to an Eden-like condition. At least in regard to the physical creation. Still under the curse – briars and all that – but nevertheless “well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord.” This area where Lot settled was (this is my theory anyway) likely a description of Shinar as well.
Alright, so what do we have here? The flood upon the entire earth not all that long before. God’s blessing upon these descendants of Noah. The Lord instructing them to spread out and inhabit the earth and subdue it – Gen 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. In other words, God’s wonderful blessing upon them and fresh in their minds, His holy justice against the wicked.
So, what happens. Did they “multiply and fill the earth” as God commanded them? Nope. Just that quickly they rebelled. They decided they should be God. So they resolve to put down roots, defy the Lord, build this tower to the heavens so that they could “make a name for themselves.” The result? Judgment came again. Eden turned into Sodom and ultimately would become an arid, desolate salt pit.
Which brings us back around to man’s total depravity. Man in his fallen condition, man outside of Christ, is dead in his sins, hostile to God, a child of wrath and of his father the devil. NO amount of blessing from the Lord will lead him to submission, to obedience, to love and thankfulness to God. Every part of his being is corrupted with the poison of sin – in him dwells no good thing. (By the way, mom and dad, if you think that you can just “love” your children to salvation, and that “love” consists of giving them all kinds of stuff, you had better look once more at Babel). Unless the Lord sweeps into our hearts, regenerates us in Christ, making us totally new creations in Him, we would always be destroyers of Eden and Babel tower builders.
Married to an abuser/narcissist? Thinking about just “loving him/her to change”? Not gonna happen. If the world flood and an Eden-like gift didn’t do it for those Babelites so long ago, it isn’t going to happen to the sinner in our day either.