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Click here to read Genesis 11 on BibleGateway.com

babel2As you may have gathered from various other points throughout this site, Everyday Devotions is a little bit a stickler when it comes to what the Bible actually says (*coughretentivecough*).  Nothing gets a burr under the saddle quite like people misrepresenting the Bible text.  And before you get on your high llama about the pot calling the kettle black, we can all agree that today’s passage is one of the most misquoted in the entire Bible.  Put on your hip waders, my fellow Bible travelers, we’re going in.


The tower of Babel is one of the most famous of all stories in Genesis. Let’s sum up the popular conception.  Some naughty people were living in some place, and they decide to build a big ole honking tower to reach God. God apparently doesn’t like people dropping by unannounced, so instead of helping them with their lincoln-log project, He decides to punish their insolence by mixing up their languages so that they can’t understand each other. Satisfied with another fine day of divine wrath bringing, God watches the poor jabbering masses wander off into the sunset to become the languages that we know and love today. Or manana, if you’re Spanish. And it’s tomorrow.

Here comes the burr: that’s almost a complete fabrication of the story. If this story were in pants form, it would be completely aflame. However, rather than rant and jump about in frustration at the injustice of this interpretation, let’s look at what the text actually says so at least we’ll be in the right, even if everybody else is wrong.


Point numero uno: the Babel-ites do not build the tower to reach God; there were plenty of higher mountains around if they wanted to gain elevation. They build the tower so that a) they will be famous (“make a name for ourselves”) and b) to not be scattered over the whole earth. In other words, they want to be well known and to be in charge of everybody, instead of letting all those servants of theirs go wandering off all over the world.

Point numbero two-o:  nowhere in the text does it say that God cursed them. In fact, later on in Revelation we see that there are many languages in Heaven, therefore languages cannot be a symptom of sin or they would not be in heaven.

Point numero three-o: the point of confusing the languages was to get the people to fulfill God’s command from Genesis 1:28 to cover the whole earth. The people at Babel were purposely trying to avoid fulfilling God’s commands, and God merely gave them a little boost to help them get back on the right track. The point of the languages was not to punish, but rather to help people receive the full blessing (i.e. the whole world) that God had for them.

While there maybe Sunday School teachers rolling over in their blue-haired graves, it is very hard to sustain the traditional understanding of this passage. For one more confirmation, look at Acts 2; when the disciples are baptized in the Holy Spirit, they speak with “other tongues,” confirming that other languages are a gift from God, not a curse or punishment.

So celebrate those foreign languages. Eat some nachos and soy sauce whilst you drive around in your volkswagon on your way to the chateau. You’ll have all eternity to enjoy the blessing of Babel.

One Response to “January 10, 2013 – Genesis 11”

  1. ~Joshua Says:

    I think the idea that they were building a tower to reach God comes from a misquote of the book of Jasher though I’m not certain. The idea is that they (or the person they were slaving for) could reach a god-like state. I won’t go any further because it’s extraneous to your post.

    But the idea of making a name for themselves goes back to the giants in Gen 6.4 (men of renown). In other words, humanity was regressing to it former corrupt state and we can’t have that. At least not until Jesus is ready to return ;).

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