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Sunday, February 6, 2011

The lessons of the Tower of Babel

One of the more interesting stories in the Bible both a religious, philosophical and historical perspective is that of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11: 1-9). It provides a moral that even those of us who roam the earth today can learn from.

Whether you believe in the stories of the Bible or not, the moral is the same. In an attempt to start mankind over and end the experiment that seemed to have gone wrong, God flooded the earth to destroy all the sinners. He only provided a safe haven for Noah, his family, and two of each animals.

Yet after the Great Flood it became evident that the temptation was too great for people to revert to evil ways, or to give into temptations, or to resort to materialism, and to lack values.  Before the deluge the temptation was too great for people to get priorities in the wrong order, to fall in love with material things, to listen to false gods.  Giving in to such temptations was easier than being good and respecting the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joshua. It was easier to be evil than to be humble and noble. It was hard to keep priorities in the right order.

And the attempt then to build a tower in Babylon that would reach up to Heaven to prove that it does not exist was the point where God, and society, realized that man is not perfect, and any attempt to create a perfect society was not possible. It's creation was the ultimate rebellion of God, and the worshiping of pagan gods or Satan.

Historical evidence also suggests people within these structures also encouraged the worship of snakes, similar to the serpent mentioned in the Garden of Eden that tempted Adam and Eve. And this is symbolic that mankind quickly reverted to the same type of pagan worship after Noah's flood as it participated in before the flood.

At this time in history it was believed that all mankind was united in this attempt, and they all spoke the same language. They were all the same.

Thus, in the land of Shinar they resolved to build this tower "with its top to the Heaven." Hence, "Come, let us make a city and a tower, the top whereof may reach to heaven; and let us make our name famous before we be scattered abroad into all lands."

The ultimate symbolism here is that the people were trying to build a structure with steps that would reach to Heaven. They believed they could get to Heaven without God and without following the virtues that he recommended. They could get there by putting their stuff and their false beliefs before God.

It was a new kind of structure, as "they had brick instead of stones, and slime (asphalt) instead of mortar." Many historians believe it was the first major structure ever built by man.

Structures before this were build of stone, which is symbolic of a oneness with God. What was mine was yours. If I had an extra apple I did not sell it to gain material items, I gave it to the person who could use an apple. The stones (the individual) were connected by mortar, which is symbolic of virtues.

That this new tower was built of brick may have been symbolic of separateness. That these individual bricks were connected by asphalt is representative of materialism and selfishness, and pride and arrogance.

Instead of men being individuals and thinking for themselves and being responsible for their own actions, people became equal and lived together in a more socialistic world. They yearned for perfection by creating a world order. They equally divided their resources. God knew that a socialistic society only resulted in laziness, and this may be one of the reasons the tower was never finished.

Even Stalin later said that he believed in God yet in order to create a world of social justice, to create a perfect society (whether you call it communism, socialism, Naziism, or progressivism, or a caliphate doesn't matter) you must get rid of the Bible and God and religion, because these cause people to worship their God instead of their government (a thing). This is significant, because God wants us to put Him before all else.

God wants us to put God first, our spouses second, our children third, other people next, then our country, then other things (your motor cycle and your house and your gold watch) last.

If you worshiped your "possessions" or your "stuff" before your God, your world will be confounded, and that is exactly what happened to the people who tried to build a temple leading to Heaven.

If you spend all your time with your possessions instead of spending it with your wife, your marriage will become confounded.  If you put your selfish needs before your kids, you will have an estranged relationship with them (A good example of this is Ben Franklin, who put his selfish pride before his relationship with his son and his wife).

The mortar was symbolic of what held the bricks (the people) together. And in this day and age the mortar represented materialism. Instead of following the virtues of God, instead of virtue and humility holding society together, materialism was. And it was this materialism that lead to its destruction, as mortar made of materialism is doomed to fail.

Or, when the fabric of society is built on materialism, it is doomed to fail.

The ultimate moral here is that man should keep his place in life and not aspire to Godlike activity. Man should not strive to make the world perfect, he should strive to make himself perfect.

He may not achieve this, and God knows man is not perfect (as he Himself is not perfect), yet we should strive for perfection in order to get to Heaven. We should have our priorities straight, try hard, and seek to get to Heaven.

The story of the Tower of Babel is to symbolize that man is the challenger and the discoverer, and that as man learns more he seeks to prove God to be wrong. He seeks a new way to get to Heaven, or Euphoria. And pride goes before the fall.

People wanted to be rich. People wanted more animals than they needed, and they wanted gold and silver that they did not need to survive. And many people who had two coats and two pairs of shoes did not share the extra coat and pair of shoes with the man who did not. The people were not humble; they did not give of themselves. They were greedy. People were arrogance. I could write another post about how arrogance is the root of all evil.

Many men did not have honor and integrity. They chose to accumulate things for the sake of accumulating them instead of for the sake of need.

They did not share. The taxpayer took money by deceit. He was not honest. Men were sleeping with another's wife. And, in this way, they had become as evil as they were before the Great Flood.

Man was looking for euphoria by building the Tower of Babel, and He did not find it. He failed. He was punished by God because God alone knew that the only way to get to Heaven was not by false gods and materialism, was not by creating a united world, but by following His Virtues.

God came down and saw what was going on, and he realized the failures of a socialistic world. And he confounded the tongues of mankind so that different groups of people could not understand other groups, and it would therefore be less likely man would group together to worship other gods and conspire in such a way.

Basically God saw greed and materialism and he wanted to see honesty and integrity. This was actually Gods second attempt (following the Great flood) to perfect the world, and his third attempt (if we include the banishment from Eden) to punish men for following evil Satan instead of worshiping Him. He, in this sense, was becoming wiser.

This was the Biblical explanation of why people are split up into different continents, different nationalities, different races and spoke different and "confusing" languages. God wanted to retard the ability of mankind to gang up and produce technological advancements that encouraged man to believe in "science" over "Him". This also might explain why it took so long for the modern world to develop.

In this sense, if you put your stuff before your values and virtues you likewise will have a confused life. If you put your friends and socializing before your wife, your marriage will be confused. If you put your children before your God, you will be doomed to have a messed up life. You must have your priorities straight. You must be virtuous first, and once you have everything else in order, then you can buy material items.

As a result of this all this, the tower was never finished. Communication between different groups of people was confused. Even in today's world with all our advancements, we see the same thing occurring. We have a partisan divide. We have nations with unique and selfish goals that hold back society instead of advancing it.

One really neat thing is that throughout time many structures have been build around the world, the Egyptian pyramids, ziggurats, Mexican Pyramids, and they all have essential the same design (stepped pyramids as noted here). Many historians believe it's because they all learned this type of structure at the same point in history, and perhaps this is proof the story of the Tower of Babel is true. It's also proof that God has no more ability to perfect His people as I have to perfect my children (I'm reminded of how imperfect I am every day by my children).

Likewise, the historical significance of these step pyramids is they are built for the purposes of worshiping false gods, were often built with altars to worship false gods, and to make sacrifices to false gods. In the case of the Aztecs, to sacrifice humans to false gods.

So there is some historical significance here.

The moral here is that it is easy for man to revert to bad habits. It's easy to do bad things. It's easy to worship other gods. And it's easier for man to gang up and revert to non virtuous events. It's therefore a challenge to be good. To be good one has to work hard. To keep your priorities in the right order is arduous. Hence, God never intended for life to be easy.

Thus, if there is one thing the Bible teaches over and over again, and beginning with the Tower of Babel, is it's not easy being noble. It's not easy being good and faithful and hopeful. The essential elements of the Tower of Babel are repeated over and over in the Bible. God sees man has reverted to evil ways, gets mad to punish man, and man reverts back to evil ways.

It's almost a lesson about how people have short memories. It's a lesson about how people forget to study history and to learn from the lessons of the past. It's a lesson about how people forget to read the Bible and therefore lose sight of the overall purpose of life.

Consider the formerly reformed alcoholic giving in to the old habit, or the person who has quit smoking for 10 years taking up the habit again, or the person who worked hard to lose 20 pounds reverting back to old eating habits again.

Or the law maker making a law to add more taxes and more spending programs and making the rich pay for all these programs, and not learning from the lessons of the past that show that such a system has never succeeded in the history of mankind. No country has ever taxed itself into prosperity. In fact, too much taxation destroys nations. A good example here is Ancient Rome.

In a sense, the Tower of Babel can help us understand why we are taking care of so many people who never took care of themselves, are overweight because they never exercised and ate poorly despite education on how to stay healthy. It's easier for men and women to mistreat their bodies than to work hard and stay healthy.

It's easier to destroy societies like America than it is to build them up. The founding fathers worked hard to create the U.S., and by taking it for granted (the easy route) some people around the world, and even from within our own country, propose to make the U.S. no better than any other nation of the world.

It's easy to go to work and sit around with the gossipers and complainers and participate in useless activities. It's easier to take the low road. Yet while the high road is far more challenging, the rewards are also far greater. The greatest reward being Heaven.

Hence, we must be careful. God came to that realization when he found the people united and building that tower. He learned that he has no more control over His people than you do over your own children, or your own cells for that matter.

He made it His job to show us the way to Heaven.  Still, some people among society believe they can get to Heaven by another route.  

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