Lent 2022 Day 7
Wed 9 Mar
Gen11:1-9 Getting above ourselves
11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel – because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
I suppose it is inevitable in the variety of human groupings and their geographical locations that language would develop in relation to its environment. I have trouble understanding some English regional dialects, and the UK and USA are sometimes described as two peoples separated by a common language.
Have you wondered how languages have developed so differently, how difficult it is to learn new languages? It would be facile of me to suggest we look at the tower of Babel (it is not a root of the word babble, but it would be great if it were!), but it does form a good story to explain how peoples moved, separated and settled.
People had started to develop settled skills, such as brickmaking. They wanted to build a city, which is fine, but with a tower that reaches into the heavens – not so good. We know that there is no tower that will reach into God’s heaven, but God is more concerned with the attitude of the people. Perhaps they’d learnt about pride. God decides to act, not to stop them building a tower, but to spread them out into language groups, and by extension, races and ethnic groups.
Once the gang masters could not make their workers understand, or the architect explain to the site manager how this city was to be built, things came to a standstill. The work was abandoned, and a city lay incomplete in the sands of the plain in Shinar, not far from, or perhaps under, modern Baghdad.
What do you understand by God taking in the plural – v7: come, let us go down…?
Was God worried that people could achieve more than he’d intended?
Is this story true?
Is English spoken in heaven?
Father God, I look forward to eternity with you, where, surrounded by brothers and sisters of many ages and countless tongues, I will praise your name and understand the words that come from the lips of those I stand amongst. Until that time, Lord, I’ll struggle. Amen.
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