The first 11 chapters of Genesis may be stories that were finally written in order to describe the culture and how it got to be the way it was. The story of Babel may be interpreted in several ways. One is that God was upset that the people were trying to rival God by building the tower. In particular, verse 4 says that the people said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches heaven. Let’s make ourselves famous so we won’t be scattered here and there across the earth.” (The Message Interpretation) This would suggest that God was upset about the pride of the people and their attempt to rival God with this fabulous tower and City. Here is a link to the model of the Tower of Babel in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Pergamon Museum – Tower of Babel Model
Another interpretation is of an angry God who was going to punish His people by separating them via language. This has created problems for all of us even to this day. There is an interesting counterpoint of reading this text about God making it more difficult to understand each other by confusing the languages and Pentecost where people seemingly are able to understand Paul no matter what language they spoke. Does this say something about the movement from the Old Testament Covenants God established with His people to the covenant that Jesus brought to all of us in the New Testament.
You can also see this chapter as a bridge chapter which provides a story to explain how there were so many different languages that divided the people from the time of Noah and then the genealogy which linked Noah through Shem to Abraham with the covenant that God was to make with Abram, or Abraham for the future. This would then allow us to follow the path of the people of God all the way to Jesus.
We also had a discussion about how this chapter can be seen as part of the inspired word of God. Is it a cultural story with a point that relies on our interpretation in order to find meaning for our lives? Bill asked, “Has God changed over time, or is our interpretation that has changed?” How is this explained by the concept of the inspired Word of God? Steve suggested that the Bible is a way for us to find a guide of how we as a people of God can interact and treat other people but then also as a way to personally connect with God through a devotional reading of the Word.
On to the book of Acts next week!!!