As time passes the family of Noah grows in unity, instead of spreading across the face of the earth as God required them to do as part of his covenant with them. Migrating to a plain in the land of Shinar (Mesopotamia, look it up) where they build the first city. As part of this city they plan to build a monument to themselves, a testament to their name. They did this so that all mankind would have a common heritage, being united under the name of the builders forever.

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 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. 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.”(Genesis 11:1-4 ESV)

In the Name of the King
To be unified under a name is to say that the possessor of that name is the head of the union. In creation all things were united in the name and image of God. Subsequently God unified mankind in Adam (man), who received his name from his head (God). When mankind declares that it will be united under their own name (that God didn’t give them) they are declaring their unity to be apart from God.

Since the flood mankind had been united in Noah, however this unity is only a shadow of its original glory. The descendants of Noah realised that their union was weak and could not be maintained if they scattered over the earth. To overcome this they decide to construct a city with a tower that reached to the heavens, so that their name would be great for all generations to come (a common heritage). The city and its monument would bear the name of the founders, which would be the name that mankind would unite under (not God’s name). Once established this common heritage would unite mankind (all humans) no matter how far they spread across the earth. Therefore all people would be able to point to this city and its tower and know that mankind is one. So it becomes clear that the desire to be united is strong even in fallen humanity.

However the founders of the first human city would die and rot. This means that their name and therefore their union would be one of death, whereas unity in God is life. Creation was his city, bearing his likeness and name, a true living unity in his image. To be united under any name other than God’s is not true unity, i.e. it won’t reflect the image of God. Therefore the union of humanity at Babel once again represents a united rebellion against God, just as it did in the fall (Adam and Eve’s united rebellion).

So their name became Babel
God foresees that if mankind were to unite at babel under their own name it would be impossible for them to be saved (nothing will be impossible for them). Mankind has progressed from unity under God to disunity to unity apart from God. It is not fear that motivates God to act against this union; rather God knows that if this union were to grow stronger mankind’s rebellion would be complete. A united rebellion against God, no evil would be impossible for them making God’s rescue plan from mankind impossible (without the formation of the nations).

God was not caught off guard at Babel, for he was the one that set in motion the events that would create it. God caused the great flood that reduced the human race to a single family under a single head once again. It is this family that stands united against him. Also this does not mean that God is at fault, the responsibility still rests with Adam and every member of his race since for their rebellion (for their own actions).

And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 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. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
(Genesis 11:5-9 ESV)

As judgement for this abomination God confuses the language of mankind into many languages, so that they could not understand one another, shattering their fledgling union. Instead of making a name for themselves that would unify all mankind forever, God makes their name Babel/confusion so that it would become a testament to their disunity.

The story of Babel proves that returning mankind to unity (good relationship) with God cannot be done by taking the most faithful (Noah) and removing the rest. Nor can it be achieved by merely gathering all people together under a common human name, figurehead, cause, ideal, etc. The sin of Adam has spread to all his children (every member of his race is born into disunity), without exception. The flesh of Adam is so utterly corrupted that there is no future in it.

Therefore any unity that is not based on a restored relationship with God will only serve to perpetuate and enhance the evil of man (Adam).

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