June 01, 2009

Genesis 11.1-9

Now the whole Earth had one language and the same words.

And as they migrated from the East, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.

Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens. And let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad on the face of the Earth."

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which mortals had built. And the Lord said, "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 purpose to do will now be impossible for them.

"Come, let us go down and confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech." So the Lord scattered them abroad from there, all over the face of the Earth; and they left off building the city.

Therefor it was 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.


At 5:37 p.m., Blogger Diane said...

Several chapters of the bible refer to towers, often with the parable of the vineyard, which seems to represent the temple/church, and which seems to always come to ruin. Perhaps the brick and mortar of the constructed tower becomes too concrete, forms being too rigid. I also read one commentary that said the city signified teachings or doctrine.

Since Babylon means Gateway of God/s, and it seems to me the issue would always come back to how does one communicate with God. When they all spoke one language perhaps this is a way to say that no impediment existed, but by building forms around it, communication became corrupt OR that it was shared (as one language, presuming the real word was language) and now it became more individualized. I have long thought that the entire spiritual evolution was one of becoming more individualized.

At 7:22 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

That vineyard you mention is often a symbol of the nation of Israel itself, at least in the passages I think of first.

But in a story going back as far as this one, that tower is definitely a religious item, an artificial mountain, built in a flat area, where people would intend to build a proper temple to some sky god.

So are these people wanting to talk with God?--or do they have an agenda?--as in, "Now that we've had this little talk, we hope you'll take care of those pesky Egyptians that have been getting so troublesome lately?"

It seems to me like a major building project, with that sort of practical purpose, so the gods can be reminded that these people know where they live, and would resent being "scattered on the face of the Earth!" I keep finding this story interpreted as a matter of control, rather than communication, which would be more like: "Isn't this a nice day, God? Thanks for the rain this morning! How'd you like some nice lamb smoke?"

I don't see any difficulty in communicating with God; it's people who are evidently hard to talk to. But there's something about what you're saying I'll need to think about--more later!

At 11:13 a.m., Blogger forrest said...

Okay, getting down a little closer now to the depth your answer is taking us towards...

Having the city/tower signify teachings or doctrine brings us to a theme we've all heard repeated in one religious tradition or another:

Someone does open up a line of communication with God... but then, being human beings, and adding a bit of static to the conversation, pretty soon we're working to make God conform better to our expectation; we want recipes for communicating; we want to hear the same reassuring messages on and on and we want to get ourselves back down to where we can play in the mud when we want. We don't trust God enough (a bit of projection at work?) so we start writing up precise specifications for how the communications are supposed to go, and sooner or later these develop into such a constricting mess that God just loses interest, so to speak. (Even with the Quaker thing... I am coming increasingly to see.)

At 9:37 a.m., Blogger forrest said...

More, more. First we all were made individualized; God forgot most of what he knew so that all of his incarnations could be different. And thus we are all alike in ignorance, so that we can get more like God and all be "more individualized" by that evolution; it does make my head spin! (But there is this matter of being all too alike when we think we are most individual, of striking common chords when thinking "This is so personal that no-one else will make anything of it." & vice versa.

If you are still around (please!) it seems to me that this is one of those passages that applies strongly to each person's personal endeavors, that God sets up obstacles and makes their intentions hard for others to understand. Though this looks like simple obstruction, it is likely to be an unrecognized form of help!

At 12:08 p.m., Blogger Diane said...

I see your point about the more we differ the more we are alike. I kept thinking all weekend that this we (as a people) continue to try to build walls around things that are physical, and too often trying to make the spiritual fit in them too.

I think how humans communicate with god changes with the evolution of our psychic nature and abilities to know. This diversity is challenging but keeps us from making one language, one image of the Spiritual in us. We should recognize IT whatever form or language it comes in. We have the ability to learn when we get it wrong, too. The Spirit within can lead us to recognize truths.

Today's ...our times... are in a cycle of synthesis, of coming together, of globalization, and I'm strongly committed to the idea that we recognize the universal heritage (including in the bible and other scriptures). But it's a good lesson to remember that diversity keeps us flexible and open to truths and continued growth.

At 1:21 p.m., Blogger Tom Smith said...

My own take on the story is that in fact there were Babylonian pyramids that seemed to be built as platforms used to "reach god."

I interpret the passage to provide a warning that those who think they are closest to god will have disagreements with others who think THEY are closest to god and have a "higher" sense of god's will than others. When this occurs each group tends to develop their own terminology (language) that divides them from others and eventually leads to completely separate languages and cultures.

I am sure I am over simplifying and personalizing the passage too much, but it does remind me of the "schisms" in Religious groups. Eventually the group's specific terminology begins to display more differences than similarities. Practices and cultural differences diverge to the point that it is almost impossible to "talk" with each other.


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