1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.
3 Then they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly."
They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.
4 And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."
5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.
6 And the LORD said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be witheld from 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 the whole earth, and they ceased building the city.
9 Therefore its name is called Babel, 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.
(Genesis 11: 1-9 - NKJV)
This Scripture has puzzled countless readers of the Book of Genesis for a long time!
Explanations are sometimes received, but so often those explanations don't seem to fully explain all the circumstances which were involved at Babel!
So let us take a really close look at this Scripture.
I think this Scripture is especially fascinating because it allows us a rare glimpse into some of the strategies which God uses to fulfil His master plan for the Human Race.
Prior to Babel (which means 'confusion') all the human race spoke in one language. Today's world of a multiplicity of languages began at Babel. But why did God confuse the world's language there?
Lets start off by looking at the family line involved here. Genesis 10 reveals the names of the sons born to Shem, Ham and Japheth after the Great Flood. Ham, probably best known in Genesis for his act of incest with his own mother, had four sons. They were Phut, Cush, Egypt and Canaan (the last born as a result of his illicit act of sex with his mother). Cush became the father of Nimrod, "a mighty hunter before the Lord" (Gen 10:9). He built a kingdom in order to further his claim for greatness; that kingdom was Babel (later to be called Babylon), it more or less occupied modern day Iraq. It appears as though he extended his kingdom into Assyria (the phrase, 'land of Nimrod' is usually taken to refer to Assyria - Mi 5:6). So this mighty leader and hunter also possibly built Nineveh!
In both rabbinic writings and Islamic tradition, the name of Nimrod is associated with great evil in which Nimrod insists on being worshiped as a god and encourages all kinds of abominations.
Israel and the descendants of Ham (Nimrod was Ham's grandson), would become permanently at loggerheads with each other; for example, the Egyptians, Philistines and Canaanites were all descended from Ham!
Now during the period of the Old Testament, God tended to work through family lines rather than individuals called out of all families, which was to become the New Covenant practise. Moreover, God especially used the line of the children of Shem. Abraham, the Israelites and Jesus were all of the line of Shem.
It is not entirely surprising that the Shemites who God would abundantly use to fulfil His plan for the Human Race, should have had considerable problems from the Hamites, since the Hamites were placed under a curse after Ham's act of incest (Genesis 9:22-27).
The jealousy of the Hamites towards the Shemites is revealed in Genesis 11:4, since,'let us make us a name' is an intriguing statement since the Hebrew for 'name' here is actually 'Shem' - by this time the descendants of Shem were already proving themselves to an able and talented people, and Nimrod also wanted his people to become great and famous! So this city and tower were constructed in opposition to the family line which God was using! Perhaps the reasoning was something like, 'We too can know God if we build a tower to reach into the very heavens!' God was about to go to work by calling the Shemite Abram (later to be called 'Abraham') for a very great purpose. It was around the same time that Satan may very well have been "calling" Nimrod for purposes which - if left unchecked - would have destroyed Abraham's mission!
But there is even more to this! Why was God so concerned at this apparent early attempt at world government?
Because God is the Master Planner and has His own agenda for the alloted timescale of the human race. The expression, 'Nothing that they propose to do will be witheld from them' is very interesting. The inference appears to be that if God had not intervened at that time, the great evil which Satan plans to unleash just before the return of Jesus Christ, would have come too early!
It is also interesting that, whereas God confused the languages of the world in order to thwart and discourage evil planning in Nimrod's day, He granted the Gift of Tongues to the first century Apostles in order to encourage and assist the broadcasting of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! So God reduced the affect of language confusion at the time of the Apostles and 'Tongues' were a sign that the Gospel could now go to people of all races, nations and languages. From now on, God would no longer primarily work with the children of Shem, but would seek believers from all nations.