So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Some people feel that the Lord God is a dictator. They say he dictates how humans are to live; he sets limits to what people can do, and he was not elected to his position. There is no court of appeal for his decisions. He overpowers any attempt to challenge his authority.
They feel the incident at a place called Babel gives evidence of his dictatorial ways.
Following a devastating flood by which he ended the lives of probably millions of people and changed the landscape of the entire planet, he commanded the descendants of the survivors to spread out to repopulate the earth.
They had their own plan. They decided they should stick together. They started to build a tower high enough to serve as a landmark that could be seen from far off. By staying in sight of the tower, they would stay close to one another. What could God do about it?
He could do whatever he wanted to do. He could dictate what would happen.
He could have sent a hurricane-force wind to blow that tower over. But they probably would have rebuilt it.
He could have wiped these people out with a Noah-type flood. But he had promised never to do that again.
Instead, he chose a plan that kept everyone alive, yet carried out his will. There would be no regrouping, no resurgence, no rebellion. The tower would just never be finished.
He would scatter them by turning their language into gibberish.
Sometimes deployed troops learn what that is like. In a marketplace, or even in a meeting, when people are speaking a language we cannot understand, it sounds like nonsense. Body motions may help us find a direction or show that we are hungry, but little else. We would need an interpreter.
No interpreter was at Babel. It was mass confusion. So, there could be no joint effort. The tower had to be abandoned. The Lord God forced them to carry out his plan. Was this being a dictator?
The label doesn’t seem to fit. His power is never used in disregard of his subjects.
He stopped the building of the tower for the good of the human race. It was a case of tough love.
That unlimited power of his brings his people confidence and joy. Blessings flow from that power. He can control weather. He can control disease. He can control the Powers of Darkness. He has power over death and hell. Under his control, we are protected.
On the Pentecost following the ascension of Jesus to heaven, the confusion at Babel was reversed. Everyone there heard the good news of salvation in their native language.
And now, we have heard it in our native language.
Has he dictated that those who believe in him will live with him in glory? We love him for that.
Let others call their Creator a dictator. We won’t.
We call him Father.
Prayer: Good and gracious God, you have given the human race the gift of language. We praise and thank you that you have used your powerful gift to tell us of your undying love for us. Enable us to use clear language to tell others of this love. Instead of that tower of old, allow us to “Lift high the cross” that others may gather with us to scatter your Word far and wide. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.