Day 8

The Tower of Babel

from the Genesis reading plan

Genesis 11:1-32, Genesis 12:1-9, Psalm 2:1-12, Luke 1:51

BY Bailey Gillespie

My dad is a talented woodworker, and one year he built my brother and me an elaborate treehouse in our backyard. It was the talk of the town. There was a fire escape pole, a sandbox, a gymnastics bar, and a slide. He built it so high it just fit within coding limits established by the California building department. While it may seem like his motivation was a defiance of building permits, it was really an extravagant gesture of love. He wanted our treehouse to be as big and awesome as a treehouse could be.

In Genesis 11, the motivation for building a really tall tower wasn’t quite as pure. After settling in Shinar, the people were afraid of being scattered throughout the earth (Genesis 11:2). Although God’s command to be fruitful and multiply implies expansion into surrounding lands, the people liked it right where they were. They didn’t want to leave and, instead, decided to construct a tower to “make a name” for themselves (v.4). They likely built a ziggurat—a temple that was supposed to bridge the gap between heaven and earth, a place where they believed they could communicate with the gods. This was a way for them to claim the territory as their own and, hopefully, avoid being scattered.

In contrast with this story, when Abram received God’s call of pilgrimage to a new land, he responded by building a stone altar (Genesis 12:1–7). Unlike the tower, this wasn’t a symbol of human achievement or possessiveness. It was an offering to the Lord. Although we find countless biblical characters building things—arks, walls, altars, towers—the inner motivation behind these outward acts is different in each case. Some are born out of self-protection. Others out of worship.

It’s so easy to become possessive, isn’t it? We find something we want, plant a flag in the ground, and we don’t let go. Understandably, we all long for something—a patch of land, a community, a reputation. But our desires can become all-consuming and corrupt when left unchecked. Suddenly, instead of surrendering those desires to God out of obedience, we fight tooth and nail to keep them.

Whatever we’re building, may we work more from a desire to offer it all as worship to God than to protect our own self-interests.

Post Comments (51)

51 thoughts on "The Tower of Babel"

  1. Erin Calvin says:

    I read about the Tower of Babel so many times growing up.
    But I love this bible study because it’s leading me to ask more questions of what I read – “wait, why was the tower so bad that God needed you confuse the language?” – and then have those questions answered. I love to learn things, and learning about the ziggurat and the people’s likely motivation was really interesting. I’m thankful that God led me to this learning moment. ❤️

  2. Chelsea Mitchell says:

    I believe I have many wants and not enough goals. I don’t believe I foresee or believe in myself enough to reach those goals or maybe not just a good plan to reach them. I’ve got to crawl before I walk and prove to the Lord that I am worthy and will be humble enough to handle any goals that I succeed in. But would those be of my possession, never, all God…His works…Because He used my body to succeed and be an example for others and to be a blessing to the them and a head to lead my flock to him. Because in my success I have the ability to care and raise my flock as God had planned for me to do.

    1. Christine Smith says:

      This spoke to me this morning! I don’t plan goals or a plan to get there either! I lack the confidence as well. I try to remember God believes in us and will give us the strength and skills necessary to fulfill his plan for our lives if we just say yes to following him. Also, Chelsea, He alone already knows you ARE worthy in his sight!

  3. Tina says:

    Angie, joining you if I may, in your prayer..
    Here I am Lord, lead me. Guide me. Direct me. Yes!

  4. Tina says:

    Amen, Churchmouse… Amen…

    He is for sure the only and sure tower we need..
    I love you friend. Happy Monday!!!❤

  5. Angie says:

    Every day I love God more. Every day, amazed.
    Almighty, all-powerful, everywhere present, Creator, God,… is my Father.
    Open handed, palms extended, empty before Him, I live.
    Like the people at Babel, though, there have been times when I grasped something in my hand. It was often something considered “good.” And yet, anything withheld, will fester. It means there is something I think I deserve or can do better with, then God – saying/typing those words make me cringe at the ridiculousness of them.
    But God, in His unlimited wisdom, power, and love, doesn’t leave me there. He affords me circumstances and situations to pry open my fingers and release what I hold so tight…safely, into His plan.
    Empty hands are extendable to serve.
    Empty hands may reach out to hug.
    Empty hands lift to praise.
    May the only tower I build, Lord, be one of praise.
    Stone upon stone upon stone, built by the power of Your hand, for the purpose of honor and glorifying You.
    Thank you for the times you have opened my hands, sometimes I easily released, sometimes You had to pry…thank you God for loving me enough to pry from me what would draw me away from You.
    May we live united in You while we dwell here on earth,
    And, some day, some day soon, Lord, we will be united in Your presence.
    Oh, what a day that will be when not only do I feel Your arms of love around me, but I get too look upon Your face.

    1. Nancy Hubbard says:

      Thank you Angie!

  6. Churchmouse says:

    I stake my claim and plant my flag in the promises of God, in the truth of His Word. My physical location is irrelevant. The amount of my possessions is inconsequential. The diplomas on my wall are of little effect. These will all pass away but the Word of God stands firm forever. By acknowledging Jesus as Lord of my life, I can be content. My vow to Him is much like my marriage vow: to be true and faithful for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times or in bad. Let my witness be found solid and sure no matter what, no matter where, no matter when, no matter how. All that matters is that I trust and obey. He alone is my strong tower.

    1. Nancy Singleton says:

      Well said, & I echo your words. Thank you Jesus for being my strong tower.

    2. Susan Richardson says:


  7. Roxanne says:

    From your Podcast: “Abram was just a guy…” and he became the father of a nation. Links to my thought, “David was just a guy…” and the Savior of the World came from his lineage.

    Wow, what God can do with “just a guy/girl”! What He can even do with “just me!!”

  8. Anna Chviedar says:

    Wow, this was the most enlightening and exquisite devotional I’ve read on STR. Thank you so much, Bailey. I’ve never before noticed that people who wanted to built the Babel tower did not want to scatter when God actually commanded them to. I have a lot to think about taking this contrast between the Babel people and Abraham’s buildings…

    1. Laura Cox says:

      I agree! I had never thought about how the story of Babel & the call of Abram are right next to each other, as contrasting responses to God.

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