The Pastor's Class

The True Story of Babel

Genesis 11: 1-9

After the Ark came to rest on the mountain Noah and his family set out to repopulate the earth. Noah had three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

From these three tributaries the earth is repopulated. Chapter 10 is sometimes referred to as the "Table of Nations" lists 70 names of Noah's descendants through Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Chapter 10 seems like very boring reading, however, it is an important prelude to chapter 11. In verses 8 - 12 we read of Nimrod the son of Cush. Nimrod is a mighty man who became the first city builder after the flood.

Nimrod the Son of Cush the Son of Ham

by Ray C. Stedman

The four sons of Ham are relatively easy to trace in history. Cush is associated with the peoples of Southern Arabia and Ethiopia. Ethiopians still trace their ancestry back to Cush. Egypt (or Mizraim, in Hebrew-an ancient name for Egypt) became the father of the Egyptian Empire, settling in the Nile Valley. Put is associated with Lydia, on the west of Egypt in North Africa. Canaan centered largely in and around Palestine, though the Canaanites later became much more widespread.

The account zooms in on an individual named Nimrod, who is called a great hunter. He is a rather mysterious figure of great importance in ancient history. He is the founder of both Babylon and Nineveh, the two great cities of antiquity which became, ultimately, enemies of Israel. The prominent thing that is said about him here is that he was a mighty man, a mighty hunter before the Lord. Now, it was the work of kings in those ancient days to be hunters. This was a time when civilization was sparse and wild animals were a constant threat to the people. Kings, having nothing much else to do, organized hunting parties and acted as the protectors of their people by killing wild animals. Nimrod evidently gained a great reputation as such a hunter, but he was more than a hunter of wild animals. The Jewish Talmud helps us here, for it says that he was "a hunter of the souls of men." By the founding of Babylon and Nineveh we have a hint given of the nature of this man. We are told here that he was "the first mighty man on earth," i.e., after the flood. That phrase, "mighty man," takes us back to Genesis 6 where, in that strange story of the invasion of the "sons of God" into the human race, there resulted a race of giants called Nephilim.

We are told that "these were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown." This demonic invasion of the race, with sexual overtones, brought into being a race of giants that were morally degraded. These also appear later on in the Canaanite tribes. We have found this suggestive line of thought running through the Scriptural account up to this point. Nimrod apparently was one of these "mighty men," and therefore introduced a perverted, degraded form of religion into the world. It began at Babylon, spread to Nineveh, and can be traced in history as it subsequently spread throughout the whole of the earth. Thus, in this man Nimrod, we have the seed of idolatry and false religion coming in again after the flood.

If you drop the first consonant of Nimrod's name and take the others M, R, D you will have the basic root of the god of Babylon, whose name was Marduk, and whom most scholars identify with Nimrod. In the Babylonian religion, Nimrod (or Marduk) held a unique place. His wife was Semiramis. (In Cairo, Egypt, the Semiramis Hotel is named after this woman.) Marduk and Semiramis were the ancient god and goddess of Babylon. They had a son whom Semiramis claimed was virgin-born, and they founded the mother and child cult. This was the central character of the religion of ancient Babylon, the worship of a mother and child, supposedly virgin-born. You can see in this a clever attempt on the part of Satan to anticipate the genuine virgin birth and thus to cast disrepute upon the story when the Lord Jesus would later be born into history.

This ancient Babylonian cult of the mother and child spread to other parts of the earth. You will find it in the Egyptian religion as Isis and Osiris. In Greece it is Venus and Adonis, and in the Hindu religion it is Ushas and Vishnu. The same cult prevails in various other localities. It appears in the Old Testament in Jeremiah where the Israelites are warned against offering sacrifices to "the Queen of Heaven." This Queen of Heaven is Semiramis, the wife of Nimrod, the original mother of the Mother and Child cult. The cult has also crept into Christianity and forms the basis for the Mariolatry that has prevailed in the Roman Catholic Church, where the Mother and Child are worshiped as joint redeemers. Alexander Hislop, an authoritative writer in this field, has written a book called "The Two Babylons," which should be of great interest if you desire to pursue this further. This idolatrous religion culminates at last in the Bible in the book of Revelation. There, a "great harlot" appears, whose name is "Mystery Babylon the Great," the originator of all the harlotries and false religions of earth. The essence of Babylonianism, as we understand from Scripture, is the attempt to gain earthly honor by means of religious authority. That is Babylonianism, and it has pervaded Christian churches, Hindu temples, Buddhist shrines, and Mohammedan mosques. Everywhere it is the element that marks falseness in religion-the attempt to gain earthly power and prestige by means of religious authority. That is what Nimrod began and what God will ultimately destroy, as we read in the book of Revelation. (from The Beginnings by Ray C. Stedman, Word Books 1978).


Genesis 11:1-2

11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

How much time has lapsed between Genesis 9 and Genesis 11? It is impossible to know for sure. It is not until the time of Abraham that we can begin to date events with any accuracy. It would take several hundred years before the event of Babel could possibly happen.

The text begins by saying that the whole world had one language and a common speech. That should not surprise us since all mankind now has come from Noah. We would expect the language to be the same.

The text says that they moved eastward. In Genesis, going east is consistently associated with moving away from God. When Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden, the Cherubim stood on the east side to prevent their return. When Cain left the presence of the Lord, he journeyed east. When Lot moved toward Sodom, he went east. etc......


1. Where is the plain in Shinar located?

The Plain of Shinar is another name for Babylon or modern day Iraq.


Genesis 11: 3-4

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

2. What was wrong with the peoples desire to build a city?

Remember that it was God's intention for mankind to fill the earth and subdue it. The goal here was not to fulfill God's command but to defy it. From the beginning, Babylon's goal was to resist any further scattering of the peoples over the earth. Instead they wanted to create a city where their achievements would be highlighted.

3. Is it wrong for people to live in cities? What are some good things about cities? What are some bad things?

4. In the city they wanted to build a tower. What was the purpose of this tower?

The tower would be the center of religious worship. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of certain great towers that were built by early Babylonians. These towers, known as Ziggurats, were built in a circular fashion with an ascending staircase that terminates in a shrine at the top, around which are the signs of the zodaic.

5. Why might God be displeased with a religious center that reaches to the heavens?

As you read of this city and this tower it is easy to see where the people are eager to showcase their talents. They used Bricks baked thoroughly. These were not sun dried bricks rather they were baked in a furnace. They used tar for mortar. This would have been state of the art construction for that day.

Notice that the focus for building the city was not upon God but upon themselves. Building a tower into the heavens would give the indication that they would ascend into heaven and thus into the presence of God.

There has always been in the mind of man that he could somehow build a Utopian (An ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects. ) society. It is the idea that as civilizations continue to progress that we will eventually solve all the problems of mankind and we will, through our own efforts, enter into a state of utopia.

NOTE: Christianity is the only religion where God descends. The gospel writer John states; "and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Christianity is not a religion of works but of grace. There is no way that mankind on his own merit will ever be able to ascend to the place where God is.

Genesis 11: 5-8

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

6. Why was the Lord upset when he saw the city that they had built?

We now see a pattern that will repeat throughout the bible. Mankind begins with a righteous relationship with God then mankind moves away from God. God intervenes and the relationship is restored. Then the process begins all over again.

The flood experience was an opportunity for mankind to start over again. However, God witnesses this city that celebrates his disregard for God and his commands.

This would be a good place to pause and remember that our nation was founded upon Christian principles and ideals. Our founding fathers were Christian. If you go back and study the history of our nation there is no way that we should have survived. It is by the divine grace of God that we are the mightiest nation on this earth. However, we will not remain so if we continue to turn our back on God.

7. How did god intervene in this situation?

God could have done nothing and watched mankind return to a pre-flood state of sinfulness. He was not willing to do that. He said "let us go down,". Just as the people were unified in the building of this city. God, in his triune nature, was unified in his decision to confuse their language.

8. How was God able to halt this construction project?

It is impossible for any society to exist without a common language. We feel a distance from someone whom we cannot understand.

As Murfreesboro become more multi-cultural we are feeling a loss of unity and to a certain degree security.

Can you imagine the confusion at the construction site of this city when the Lord confused the languages? I suspect that they immediately began to huddle in groups where they could understand one another. From there they moved away from the city and became many separate societies.

Genesis 11:9

9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

9. What does the word "Babel" mean?

The word is a combination of two words "baa" meaning "gate" and "el" meaning god. the gate of the Gods. A related word in Hebrew "balal" means "confusion". In English it refers to a confusion of noises or sounds. If someone is talking incoherently we might say that they are babbling.


Babylon becomes, in history, the fountainhead of false religion in the Post-Flood world.

The Ishtar Gate was the northern entry point to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. It was one of 5 or 6 gates each dedicated to a god. Ishtar was not only Mistress of Heaven to the Babylonians, she was also the goddess of love and the protectress of the army. The Ishtar Gate was an outer entrance to the city.

Created with Logos Lesson Builder - http://www.logos.com/llb