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 (53)

53 thoughts on "The Tower of Babel"

  1. Kelly Johnson says:

    I sent an email to the orders email because I have not received my January shipment and was charged. What is January’s shipment? I need to report this as no reply.

    1. Katelyn Jenkins says:

      I was charged the same. The Genesis devotional is December’s charge. I was thinking January’s charge would be for the Philippians study coming next, but I haven’t received it yet, either. I’m enjoying the subscription, just unsure of when study books are released.

  2. Jackie Mars says:

    It can be easy as a mother and wife to want to “build” a perfect family. To be in control of all of the little details of life. But in some of those moments am I really serving God? This year I’m trying to make sure I spend more quality time in God’s word with my kids. And on nights when I’m tired I pray for strength from God to have the patience needed to build up my family in a way that’s honoring to him, not me.

    1. Charlie Mcfarlane says:

      Love this.

  3. Shawna Bartimoccia says:

    Our church is expanding and under construction. It’s frustrating and expensive. But it’s also exciting. It seems a little selfish and self promoting at times to spend money this way. But without change, our parish is stagnant and could die out. So this growth is self protecting. But with change, we may attract new members. Hopefully build an active lively parish. We can grow and worship together. This is ultimately the goal.

  4. Tahryah Wheeler says:


  5. Lourdes Nunez says:


  6. Autumn Baker says:

    We are getting ready to sell our beautiful home and move into a smaller, older house so my husband can finish raising support to work full time in missions. I’m struggling. I know that by giving up my house, people will be saved. I know that my time here is just a blink of an eye compared to my time in heaven. But it’s still so hard to let go and trust that God will see us through. This was a beautiful reminder that I needed today.

    1. Paige Frost says:

      I’m in a similar situation and this was an eye opening way to read the Tower of Babel. It’s hard but god has always provided so why will he stop now? I keep telling myself that.

  7. Sarah K says:

    I really struggle sometimes when, I’m Genesis, God seems so surprised by things. He is omniscient, but these chapters read like he isn’t. It’s confusing.

    1. Rochelle Boote says:

      I agree with you. I believe it’s written this way to make it more understandable to us – written from a human perspective instead of God’s true knowledge/omniscience but it does get confusing. I’d be interested in others thoughts too!

    2. Jackie Mars says:

      I think sometimes God is trying to give us a chance to turn from our sin and look to him for help. He asked Adam if he ate of the forbidden fruit not because He didn’t know the answer but because he wanted Adam to admit what happened and see his need for God and ask for forgiveness instead of blaming Eve.

  8. Ashley Thomas says:

    At my church we just started a book study called Autopsy of a Deceased Church. We are only a couple of chapters in, but being comfortable in our surroundings was a big point made. You tend to not see the slow deterioration around you when you are comfortable with the way things are. I certainly hope if God calls me to be elsewhere that I will hear Him and obey,

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