Human Arrogance

Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. -Genesis 11:6

Dear members and friends,

In Hebrew, the word babel means “confusion by mixing”. The root word of babel is balal, which means “to mix, mingle, confuse, or confound.” Also, the Hebrew word babel is translated as Babylon, which was the kingdom that destroyed the kingdom of Judah and took its leaders captive. Another interesting biblical fact is that in Genesis 10, Babel is listed as one of the cities that was built by Nimrod, who was a grandson of Ham, who was also the father of Canaan. In Genesis 9, we read that Noah cursed Ham for seeing his nakedness while he was sleeping naked due to his drunkenness. In addition, Genesis 4 tells us that the developers of tools and instruments were the descendants of Cain, while the third son of Adam and Even supposedly lived as a shepherd just like Abel, and later Abraham. If we were to connect Genesis 4, 9, 10, and 11, the story of the tower at Babel could be understood in quite differently then how it has commonly been explained.

What is obvious in stories of Genesis 1-11 is that Creator God is not in favor of the advancement of technology among humans. This is clear in Genesis 4, where the inventors of the lyre and pipe and of bronze and iron tools were listed as descendants of Cain. Genesis 11 begins with an emphasis on yet another advancement in technology – bricks – which was no small invention for the ancient farmers. Bricks enabled them to build strong-walled cities where there were no stones, thus they were able to build prosperous cities in areas where they could also cultivate farms in fertile fields. In a way, we could argue that irrigation and bricks gave birth to the first human civilization in the ancient Mesopotamia: Sumer and Akkad. This is also the time when human kings became arrogant enough to claim to be a partner or even a spouse of a deity, and some even claimed divinity to themselves.

What was being built at Babel was not a physical tower, but a tower of human arrogance and belief in their own intelligence and ability. Thus, what was confused was not the language, but their own inner spirituality. This warning in the Bible is older than 5,000 years: if a human being achieves something extraordinary, his/her mind could become so drunk on self-achievement as to claim oneself higher than the rest of humanity. However, the consequence of such spiritual drunkenness is a total confusion within one’s spirituality, which causes the scattering of one’s inner integrity. Humility and arrogance have been two opposite spiritual directions that are foundational cores of humanity. One leads humans to unity with their Creator, while the other leads them toward eternal separation from Creator.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee