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Genesis 11:1-9

The clans descended from Noah’s sons become great nations.

Lost in Translation


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 11:4)


The tower the people built was most likely a ziggurat, a common structure in Babylonia at this time. Most often built as temples, ziggurats looked like pyramids with steps or ramps leading up the sides. Ziggurats stood as high as 300 feet and were often just as wide; thus they were the focal point of the city. The people in this story built their tower as a monument to their own greatness, something for the whole world to see.

The people of the world were acting together, but they were united in doing something that displeased God. Note the comment, “This will make us famous.” The tower of Babel was a great human achievement, but it was a monument to people rather than to God. Unity can be a worthy goal, if people are doing what is right together. The pressure to go along with the group can be helpful in that case, but following God will sometimes mean breaking from the group.

We may build monuments to ourselves to call attention to our achievements: expensive clothes, big houses, fancy cars, important jobs. These may not be wrong in themselves, but when we use them to give us identity and self-worth, they take God’s place. We are free to develop in many areas, but we are not free to replace God in our lives.


Ask God to point out the “towers” you have built in your life. And ask for strength to stand alone, if you must, to do what is right in the world.

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