The tower of Babel in Gen. 11:1-9 is the final scene where Yahweh demonstrates the extent of humanity’s sinfulness and rebellion against Him. Just as in the time of the flood, the sinfulness includes all humanity, but this time the religious element is emphasized through the tower. Here Satan strikes again not just to corrupt them but also to rebel intentionally against Yahweh and build a rival religion and kingdom (government) in opposition to Yahweh’s own kingdom.

The tower of Babel, located in Shinar was not a spiraling tower as it has been depicted in many paintings throughout history, but rather a ziggurat. This is the same structure used by the Incas, Mayans, Aztecs, Babylonians, and Egyptians on pyramids built in the same time period as the tower. It also makes sense that after they were scattered throughout the earth they would take this design with them.

In the Babylonian language the word Babel means “gateway to heaven.” They believed that by ascending to the top of the ziggurat into a holy sanctuary at the top and performing rituals that they would gain god like powers and eventually become gods. (This is the basic belief of many religions today, especially Hinduism, except without the ziggurat.) Thus, the sin of the people was that they refused to fill the earth as Yahweh had commanded them and that they were trying to become gods (make a name for themselves) by ascending to the top of the tower.

The Judgment

It is an example of irony that the author mentions that Yahweh had to stoop down to see the people. Despite all their efforts, they are still so far away from their desired goal. Because of their refusal to fill the earth, He punished them by scattering them across the earth. Then He confused their language so that they could never again unite to gather in a global rebellion against Him.

It is interesting that humanity will constantly try to overcome these two judgments with its desire to build large empires and, ultimately, the one-world government as prophesied in the book of Revelation.

What is interesting here, compared to the previous two judgments, is that Yahweh extends no act of mercy or grace to give them hope in the midst of their sin and judgment—at least, not yet. One would think that the kingdom of Satan has won.

The Table of Nations

Out of the scattering at the tower of Babel came the seventy nations of the world (Gen. 10). Ten is symbolic of nations and seven is symbolic of completeness. Thus seventy communicates the idea that the foundation for the nations of the world is complete. This chapter traces the genealogies of Noah’s three sons to explain the origins of all the nations that Israel encounters throughout the Bible. Yahweh chooses the line of Shem as the chosen seed to unfold His plan of redemption for the world. It is from him that Abraham will come (see Noah to Abraham family chart).

From Ham came mostly the nations that would become Israel’s enemies, like Egypt, Canaan, and Shinar. From Japheth came nations like Gomer and Magog, which would become future enemies. From Shem came mostly nomadic tribes that would be lost in the other nations and the historical records of history. It would be through the line of Shem that Terah, the father of Abraham, would come.

Job

Job existed sometime after the Tower of Babel and before Abraham was chosen by Yahweh to be the father of the chosen line of Jesus Christ. Job is an example of someone who demonstrated covenantal like faith before Yahweh made a covenant with the Jews. This faith is what included him in the Kingdom of Yahweh. Job’s life also speaks to the nature of evil and suffering in the world.

There are two questions that the book of Job addresses:

  • Why do people suffer?
  • How will people react when it seems that Yahweh does not care or is not able to help?

The reader is informed of three things that Job and his friends do not know: that Satan was the cause of the suffering (Job 1:9-12), that Job and his friends believed Yahweh is behind all things, and that Job was a righteous man (Job 1:1, 8).

When Job began to suffer, he denied that Yahweh was just in causing him to suffer because Yahweh and he both knew that he was righteous. In this he denied Yahweh’s goodness and trustworthiness, although he never denied Yahweh. This is hard to understand because this denial of Yahweh’s goodness and justness seems like a denial of Yahweh Himself, yet Yahweh says otherwise (Job 2:3). None of us has a perfect understanding of Yahweh and or a perfectly correct theology, yet we would still consider ourselves to have faith in Him.

Jobs friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, denied that Job was righteous because Yahweh is just and because he causes all things, and so there must have been some secret sin that Job had not confessed. Yet the narrator already made it clear that this was not true. Job’s fourth friend, Elihu the younger, declared both parties to be wrong. He claimed that both Yahweh and Job were righteous and just, but that Yahweh is not the cause of all things. This is the view that the narrator shares.

In the end Yahweh shows up to rebuke Job for his bad theology (Job. 40:8). Here He asks Job two questions:

  • Where were you when I created the world? (Job 38:1-39:30)
  • Can you contend with evil (leviathan) in the world? (Job 40:1-41:34)

Many people believe that the discussion of the leviathan in Job 41 refers to a dinosaur, but there is so much more to it than that. Though it is true that leviathans and dinosaurs existed during the time of Job and after, the leviathan in the ancient Near East and in the Bible was used as a symbol of evil and chaos (Ps. 89:8-13; Isa. 27:1; 74:14-17; Rev. 20:1-2, 10). (See Yahweh’s Conflict with the Leviathan and Sea article.) It is clear that the leviathan here is more than a dinosaur when Yahweh makes it clear that no one can stand against the leviathan except him (Job 41:7-11). This has to be Satan because there is no animal that humanity cannot kill. Yahweh goes on to describe the leviathan as one who is without fear and is king over all that are proud (Job 41:33-34). This is only true of Satan for there is no animal without fear nor who would be considered king over all that are proud. The point of Yahweh’s discussion of the leviathan is that only Yahweh, and no man, is capable of defeating the leviathan (Job 40:14). This is not true of a dinosaur, which could be defeated by man, but it is true of Satan. The book begins with Satan causing suffering and ends with Yahweh addressing with Job the issue of Satan. Job received Yahweh’s rebuke and is humbled (Job 42:1-6).

In the end Yahweh never really answers the question of why there is evil. However, by the fact that Yahweh rebukes Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar for their views but not Elihu shows that Elihu’s view is the one that He agrees with (Job 42:7-9). Yahweh declares that He does not cause evil and that how He deals with evil is way beyond our understanding—we would never be able to contend with it on our own. Yahweh is supreme, good, and just.