Thursday, June 4, 2015


Bell Tower and Minaret, Bethany, Israel
Minaret, Jerusalem, Israel
Bell Tower, Lower Jordan Valley, Jordan

After the great flood Noah’s descendants migrated to the land of Shinar, speaking one language and determined to unite as one. They set out to build a great city between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers with an ancient world wonder at the center in the form of a monumental ziggurat. These Babylonian temples looked like pyramids with ramps leading up the sides to the top. However, it seems that this Tower of Babel was constructed mainly to honor and stroke the egos of the human builders more than facilitating the worship of God. The primary reason that they were well on their way to achieving this unprecedented feat centered on their common language that enabled them to coordinate such a monumental undertaking. But they were creating a monument to themselves in their image. The motivation was not in glory to God, but in place of God. We humans are still creating monuments of self-promotion and self-worth, both on a personal and national scale.

God saw how the human race was once again drifting away to self-absorption, aggrandizement, and personal decline, so he confused their language so that they couldn’t understand one another anymore. He had already promised with the sign of a rainbow to never again completely destroy the earth with floods. The resultant consequence was a scattering of the people over the face of the earth and the subsequent assembly of those speaking common languages. The construction at Babel was abandoned.

After traveling out of my comfort zone to countries speaking different languages, I have to wonder if that event didn’t result in what folks call unintended consequences. When we encounter another human being that speaks another language, communication is stymied at best if not completely shut down. I can’t help but wonder if the world wouldn’t be in a better place today if we all spoke the same language. I suspect many other unique languages simply arose from pockets of humans in isolation from others who created their own means of communication. I’ve heard that Eskimos for instance have a wide variety of words to define snow, given that it is so prevalent in their little corner of the world. I’ve also read that one of the many signs of the end times will be the emergence of a common language for mankind—sort of a return to our beginnings. It’s interesting to note that there are now computer applications that can take one language and immediately translate it into another foreign language. That isn’t necessarily one common language, but it is approaching one common means of directly communicating with anyone in the world today.

We humans still like to construct towers in our cities. This story immediately reminded me of the financial twin towers in New York City and the new Freedom Tower that has replaced them. We passed a multitude of minarets and bell towers in Israel that tower over the local buildings and broadcast a call to prayer through their large speakers and bells. They remind us of our priorities and the divine being that is greater than all of us.

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