God Questions His Creation: Genesis 11:5-9 (b)

See:  God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 11:5-9 (a)

Genesis 11:5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. 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, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Ba’bel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

If humans aspired to build a tower to reach the heavens, they have not reached their goal, for the Lord still has to “come down” to see the city and tower which humans are building.  The puny efforts of humankind to reach the heavens by human technology and engineering “miss the mark” which is what the word “sin” actually means.  The leaden literalism of the humans causes them to think of heaven as a location which they can reach by their own physical labors.  A hard lesson is about to be learned – there is more to the cosmos than the physical.   Heaven is not a physical place, nor is it located “somewhere” in the universe.  The concrete thinking of humans has got to be changed so that they can come to understand the reality of the spiritual.   Have the humans totally forgotten that they are spiritual beings, created in God’s image and having a soul where the Spirit of God abides?   In the Genesis account, their theology is completely wrong.  They have forgotten about their own spiritual nature and their anthropomorphic descriptions of God have caused them to think about God completely in human and physical terms.  God comes down to see their city, but they apparently are incapable of seeing God.  God is not communicating directly to any of the humans.  The Lord’s thoughts recorded in this passage of Scripture are His inner thoughts.  He is saying nothing to the men of the city.  Is it possible that not only can they not see God, but they can not hear Him as well?   In Isaiah 44, Isaiah warns the

Osiris: god of the dead

people what is the end result of making false Gods:  “They know not, nor do they discern; for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their minds, so that they cannot understand” (44:18).   The result of making idols and having false ideas about god is that God closes your eyes and mind so that you cannot see or understand the living God.  It is an ominous warning – close your mind to the truth about God and God will help close your mind to Him.  The text however makes no reference to idols; if they are anything, these humans are portrayed as atheists.  They live without belief in God.

“And the LORD said…”   God is not talking to the humans, these are His inner thoughts.  Some Patristic writers saw God’s musing within Himself as yet another sign of the Trinity.  God is not talking to His lonesome self, but rather the Three Persons of the Trinity are communicating.   In Judaism God is talking to the angelic hosts.  Modern non-traditional scholars see in God’s talking ideas being adapted by the biblical writers from pagan sources, in this case the God talking with the gods.  Genesis remains so totally monotheistic, that even if the story is taken from pagan sources, it is completely reworked to keep within the framework of the absolute monotheism of Judaism which knows there is only one God and His Name is YHWH.

God endeavors to stop what He sees as an evil plan.  The confusion of tongues is interpreted by some Patristic writers as the way the merciful God prevented even worse sins from occurring.  But once again, the humans will turn what is done for their own good, and done to help prevent them from committing even more sin, into another tool for further sin.  The many languages on earth will give rise to endless wars and disputes. “So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue–a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so” (James 3:5-10). 

Next:  God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 11:5-9 (c)

God Questions His Creation: Genesis 11:5-9 (a)

See:  God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 11:1-4 (c)

Genesis 11:5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. 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, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Ba’bel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

 “And the LORD came down to see…”  The Lord’s descent to earth at Ba’bel results from His awareness of what the humans were doing.   We (created, physical beings who are “not God”) cannot comprehend how God, a non-physical divine being, knows about His creation or knows anything for that matter.  The story introduces some ideas which really will make us stop and think about the Lord’s way of knowing.  Apparently God is “aware” of what the humans are doing, though the Genesis narrator doesn’t tell us exactly how it is that God becomes aware of such things or how  God “knows” anything about His creation.   God/divinity is not solely transcendent, also being immanent and able to interact with that which is “not God”, namely creation.   The story presents an idea that God had “heard” what the humans were up to but now decides “to see for Himself”  (if we want to put it into human terms).   The text presents an intriguing scenario – apparently God wants a closer view of what the humans are doing. So can God have a vague awareness of His creation without really being able to see or know what is happening on earth?   Is He not able to see so clearly from heaven or are there some things He cannot see clearly from heaven?   Why does the Lord need to come down to see?   Is there some way in which God’s vision is affected by distance?   The anthropomorphic imagery of God provides us a basis for contemplating the mystery we know as God.  We do not know how God who has no eyes “sees”, but these verses would indicate that even God gets a better view of us when He is closer to humanity.  (In Psalm 115:5, the Psalmist mocks idols which have eyes but do not see, whereas God, a totally incorporeal being has no eyes and yet sees perfectly clearly – His vision is not limited to or by eyesight!).  God’s vision – what and how he sees – is not at all like what and how we see, for God has no eyes!  God’s vision is not limited to and by eyesight as our vision is.

The story also gives us some things to think about God as Judge.  God apparently does not rely on hearsay evidence, He sees for Himself before He pronounces judgment.  God is willing to get the full picture of what is happening before coming to a judgment.   God is not capricious, nor does He rush to judgment.  His judgments are fair, measured and reasonable.  God judges not in His transcendent nature; rather, God forms His judgment in his intimate relationship with His “not God” creation, as a personal being.   The Lord does not send “someone else” to look into the affairs and allegations of the humans, but comes Himself in order to know what judgment to render.

Holy Prophet Moses

“And the LORD came down…”    In Exodus 3:7-8 we read, the Lord saying, “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land…”   In Genesis God comes down and scatters the brick makers to prevent them from further sinning against Him.  In Exodus God comes down to the brick makers to save them from their slave masters and promises to lead them to a broad plain, just like where Ba’bel is located!   In both cases God decides to interfere with human brick making, and to end the labor of which he disproves – in Genesis because He disapproves of the goal of these people free to do as they please, and in Exodus because He has heard the cry and suffering of His enslaved people and intends to free them.

Next:  God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 11:5-9 (b)