Genesis 11:6 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.
When I was a child we used to have a small stove in the bottom level of our house, the kind that had large metal eyes. One day after playing outside in the snow my mittens had gotten really wet so I (in my childish wisdom) decided to set them on top of one of the eyes and turn the stove on so it would dry faster. Thankfully my mother saw what I was doing, and went to great lengths making sure I NEVER played with the stove again.
Now her response to my using the stove was much harsher than when I stole a cookie, or didn’t clean up my room. Because there was a serious danger involved with that event
- The house could have burned down
- Someone could have been injured
- Or worst case scenario someone could have died
My mother took drastic action to protect me from the disaster that was approaching.
The same way in Genesis 11:8 God acts in a very drastic way because mankind was heading towards a terrible disaster.
Following the Genesis Flood (Genesis 6) God commanded Noah and his family to fill the earth with their descendants (Genesis 9:1, 9:7) like He had with Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:28). This wasn’t only about having children because God wanted His glory to be known throughout the whole world.
For the first generations Noah’s family did this faithfully, but in Genesis nine we see a dramatic change.
Gen. 11:1 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.” (emphasis added)
Notice that they were doing the right thing (migrating towards the east) but came to a place called Shinar and decided to stay there. This led to the creation of a tower that would “reach to Heaven” so they wouldn’t be forgotten.
Obviously this isn’t a literal tower to Heaven. Instead the descendants of Noah decided to stay in that one place instead of being scattered. Basically they didn’t want to obey the command of God
God’s response to this is changing their speech (9:7) so that it wouldn’t be possible to continue building that city (nobody would understand each other).
It’s interesting to see that the word for “dispersed” in Genesis 9:8 is the same as in Genesis 9:4, but has a very different definition. The people didn’t want to be “scattered to other nations” (9:4) so God scattered them in a violent way (9:11) with the idea of shattering something .
So we see because they refused to move into other areas on their own God forced them to move
Because this was only the beginning of their rebellion
See God knows that each one of us have rebellious hearts that desire to do things our own way. At first those rebellions are incredibly small and seemingly unimportant, but they grow very quickly. And the more of those rebellions we get away with, the more (and bigger) we will attempt.
The thing is even as a child I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be using the stove to dry out my wet gloves. But part of just wanted to see if it would work. If I was successful (and hadn’t burned the house down) my curiosity doubtless would have led me to try something bigger.
I personally believe Genesis 11:4 wasn’t the first rebellion of Noah’s children against God…they started with something much smaller . It’s not as if they woke up one morning and said, “hey lets build a tower to Heaven!”
God knew it was just going get bigger…
And with each rebellion the consequences will get harsher
So He puts an end to it
Could God have allowed mankind to continue rebelling till something really bad happened? Yes, but the price to pay would have been much greater.
Just like my mother didn’t wait till I actually did start a massive fire before disciplining me, God doesn’t wait till our whole life is in shambles before convicting us of our sins.
And there is Grace in that because our Heavenly Father is actually PROTECTING US from the stronger consequences of our foolish choices. And in those moments instead of confusion or anger, the correct response is thankfulness to the one who protected us from a greater evil.
- X…wÚp puwts, poots; a primitive root; to dash in pieces, literally or figuratively (especially to disperse):—break (dash, shake) in (to) pieces, cast (abroad), disperse (selves), drive, retire, scatter (abroad), spread abroad.
- God said this was the beginning since this was the first thing the first rebellion as a unified group ↩