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
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).