Main menu

Peter Jelleyman: Babel




The story of Babel is about a business which God ends with confusion!!  At first glance, the Babel story seems to portray a mean-spirited God.  But a larger picture may be about working with God, not apart from him.  It is a view framed by accounts of two men (Noah and Abraham) who pleased God by trusting him completely.  And the contrast of such a bright frame only deepens the shades of the picture itself.

In its time Babel used the most advanced technology to build an impressive tower:

Genesis 11 - ‘[The builders] said to each other, “Let’s build a city and a tower for ourselves, whose top will reach high into the sky.  We will become famous.”’

Their speech indicated their great self-reliance as they grasped at the benefits of city-living.  And the final crunch came, when God was pushed out to the margins.

Pieter Bruegel’s painting, of an unfinished Babel, shows large gaps in its architecture; gaps which might well symbolise an imperfect society, or else, unfinished business.  The Hebrew word Babel suggests confusion – over-inflated plans that begin well but end in chaos.

And over the centuries too, the Alexanders, Napoleons, and Stalins seem to have come nearest to completing Babel-type unity – but at enormous human cost.  

…What if this Babel story in fact pointed, to good government, and one which originates not in a perfect ideology but in people co‑operating with a good God?