Only One Language!

At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there … Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” —Genesis 11:1,2,4, NLT

Only one language!  Perhaps every immigrant throughout history would have loved to see that human condition continue forever.  Langugaes have always presented one of the most humiliating difficulties for immigrants.  Native citizens have always criticized immigrants, accusing them of not wanting to learn the dominant language of their new home, fearing that the language of the immigrants might even succeed in overwhelming the local language.

Ironically, the first linguistic problem related to migration resulted from resistance to emigration, not immigration—not resentment of those moving in, but those moving out!

The settlers of Babel panicked when they saw the human race scattering. Perhaps some of the most ambitious among them feared they would lose an opportunity to dominate humanity.  In whatever case, their solution to the emigration crisis included the building of the first metropolis. Their magnet city, with its magnificent tower, would attract all of humanity, submitting the human race to their cultural, economic, and governmental domination.  In that way they would stop human obedience to God’s mandate to fill the earth.  Their kingdom would come, not God’s.  Their will would be done on Earth.

As a child, I was taught that the builders of the tower wanted to climb to Heaven on their tower.  The biblical text, however, does not permit that interpretation.  The rebellious project of the men of Babel would make themselves famous, so that they would not be scattered all over the world.  Although they did desire divine prerogatives, they did not seek to migrate into Heaven, but rather to remain in their own place and dominate it.  In that way they would gain control of those who would urbanize to take advantage of the city’s opportunities.

Babel thus became the world’s first empire.  Like all empires that would follow in history, they built a city and a high tower to reflect their greatness.  One city and its governors would establish their hegemony over all the nations of the earth.

But God did not permit it.  Only One has the right to govern all nations, and he will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15).  The Word of God ruined the pretensions of Babel, confusing their language, guaranteeing the migration of humanity, and with it, the fulfillment of the mission of God.

Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry.;

Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington.  He is the author of Your Deepest Dream:  Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net:  Learning to Network Like Jesus.  Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at


Acerca de Joseph Castleberry

A missionary to Latin America for 20 years, I currently serve as president of Northwest University in Kirkland, WA. I am the author of Your Deepest Dream (NavPress, 2012); The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus (Influence Resources, 2013), and The New Pilgrims: How Immigrants are Renewing America's Faith and Values.
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