What Was the Real Sin of Babel?

Where was Babel? What was the real sin of Babel? When did all this happen? Call me strange, but I get excited about the fact that the Bible is a historical book. I love the way that archaeologists are discovering more and more to verify what the Bible says is true. I also get excited about sharing these things with kids. I only hope they get half as jazzed about it as I am. In Sunday school lately, we've been walking through the opening chapters of Genesis. Once again, I am fascinated buy what happened in Babel.

Where was Babel?

When we introduced this lesson in class, one sharp cookie observed, "Babel sounds a lot like Babylon." Absolutely right! In fact, Babel was most likely in the kingdom of Babylon, though it may not have been where the city of Babylon was built. The valley of Shiner was located in Mesopotamia, the same region as the Garden of Eden between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Read more and see a map in the article "Where in the World is the Tower of Babel?" by Answers in Genesis.

When did God scatter the people of Babel?

Genealogy lists are a bunch of names. This person was the father of this person, and so on. They can be boring to read sometimes, but hidden in some of these genealogy lists are some really interesting bits of information. Check this one out for example. Before you start reading it to find the interesting bit of information, remember that Ham, Shem, and Japheth were Noah's sons. (See Genesis 6-9 for more information about Noah).
Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber.

The sons of Shem:

Elam, Ashur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram.

The sons of Aram:

Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshek.

Arphaxad was the father of Shelah,

and Shelah the father of Eber.

Two sons were born to Eber:

One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan."

Genesis 10:21-25 (NIV)

Did you catch it? What happened during the lifetime of Peleg?

The chapter immediately following this genealogy list tells what happened to Babel. It is a common literary structure (way of writing) in the Bible to give a summary statement and then follow it with the more extended story of what happened. This is what happens with Peleg.

This complete genealogy list (all of Genesis 10) ends with the words, "These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood."

The following chapter (Genesis 11) begins, "Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there." Does that sound like the people spread out over the whole earth? No. This tells us that we are about to learn how the people were spread out over the whole earth, how the earth was divided.

Therefore, the note that the earth was divided in the time of Peleg tells us that the events at the tower of Babel happened during the lifetime of Peleg (probably about the time he was born and got his name since his name means "division").

Read more in the article "In what way was the earth divided in Peleg's time?" by GotQuestions.org.

What was the real sin of Babel?

I've read and taught Genesis 11:1-9 many times. Here is something new that jumped out at me this time around. (Hebrews 4:12; Don't you love how God does that?) What was the great sin of the people of Babel? Was it building a tall tower or was it trying to prove they were equal with God? Look at this passage again and take a guess. Keep in mind that God had told the people after the Great Flood to scatter all over the world and have children so there will be people all over the earth (Genesis 9:1).

"The whole world had only one language, and everyone spoke it. They moved to the east and found a broad valley in Babylon. There they made their home.

They said to one another, 'Come on! Let’s make bricks and bake them well.' They used bricks instead of stones. They used tar to hold the bricks together. Then they said, 'Come on! Let’s build a city for ourselves. Let’s build a tower that reaches to the sky. We’ll make a name for ourselves. Then we won’t be scattered over the whole earth.' But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. He said, 'All these people are united and speak the same language. That is why they can do all this. Now they will be able to do anything they plan. Come on! Let us go down and mix up their language. Then they will not be able to understand one other.' So the Lord scattered them from there over the whole earth. And they stopped building the city. There the Lord mixed up the language of the whole world. That’s why the city was called Babel. From there the Lord scattered them over the whole earth." Genesis 11:1-9 (NIRV)
So, what do you think? What was the real sin of Babel? Building a tall tower or trying to be equal with God? (HINT: Why did they build the tower?) Here's another hint. What does the fall of Lucifer and the people of Babel have in common?
"How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. Isaiah 14:12-15 (NIV)
Do you see the thing that was said by both Lucifer and the people of Babel? They both wanted to ascend or go up where? The second passage makes clear what this means: "I will make myself like the Most High," like God. Both Lucifer (Satan) and the people of Babel wanted to be like God. The problem is that there is only one perfect, most holy, and most high God. No one and nothing else even comes close (Exodus 15:11). The truth is that we are all sinners. We all make bad decisions, mess up, and become less than perfect (Romans 3:23). One way we mess up is by trying to be in charge of our life and trying to control everything around us. That is not our job. That is God's job and He does it so much better than we ever could. When we let God take control of our lives, some things are not going to go the way we would prefer, but it will always be a better way. God doesn't give us rules to follow just because He can. He loves us. He wants to protect us and give us what is best for us. Sometimes following God is not easy, but if we keep God as the one in charge, we will receive great blessings. (See more in this blog post.)

What does all this mean today?

Who is in charge of your life? Are you calling all the shots, doing things your own way, or have you given your life to Jesus? Do you just say He's Lord (the one in charge, your boss) or do you actually try to live that way? If you need to make a change, simply pray and tell God what you are thinking and what is on your heart. He knows it already, but He still wants to hear it from you. Then ask Him to take charge of your life. Ask Him to help you walk in His ways, letting God take charge of your life every day. Not sure what all this means, check out this video.

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