Genesis 11:1-9

27 Feb

Now the whole world was one community, one big family. There was only one language, and that was enough. Ideas flowed freely, everyone had a chance to be heard, and no one was left out. The people began to migrate East, but their shifting circumstances could not sever ties between them. Some found a good place to settle in the Shinar plains and began to build a new home base there. 

Someone knew how to make bricks, and some others were architects and designers; they pooled their resources, and each person shared whatever specialized knowledge they had cultivated. “Work with us!” said the skilled laborers to the rest. “We’ll build a city for ourselves; its strength and beauty will remind us of how hard we worked to get here and how much potential we have. We’ll build a tower taller than any before and our future will be bright.” The people gladly pitched in together, sharing responsibilities and growing their skill sets. Brick and tar foundations set firmly and promising.

But the war god came down to examine their work, and he found it offensive. And the war god said, “No. These people cooperating and investing in each other are building more than just a city. When people work together this honestly, they are surprisingly powerful! With this much faith in each other, they have no lasting discord and they have no need of me. Let me destroy their togetherness, and then they’ll welcome me. Let me clip the cords of their throats–when they lose all ability to communicate with understanding, we’ll see how fast they turn on each other.”

So the war god punished the people for binding together. Some suddenly found themselves speaking new tongues, the very sounds of which were unfamiliar to their own ears. Some became deaf, and were made to rely on the inventive use of their hands and body language. Some could no longer form words at all, as though their tongues had been severed, and perhaps they had–who can say?

It was just as the war god had hoped: once they felt the bewildering pangs of verbal disconnection, the people could no longer keep a grasp on the close-knit community they had invested so much in. Suddenly split, the newly-formed factions clung tight together for fear of losing even the few they had left, and they began to view the others with suspicion and hard eyes.

The people, now identifying as self-interested tribes rather than a universal family, scattered in all directions–staking private claims for themselves and marking their territories. The dreaming was over, and the city remained unfinished and uninhabited. And the magnificent tower, half-built, came to be known as Babel, because it marked the place where Us-vs.-Them thinking was born.


More to come.

5 Responses to “Genesis 11:1-9”

  1. Carly February 27, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    I wish there was a humanist greeting equivalent to “Namaste” — something that means: “the human I am acknowledges the human you are.”

    What do you think of: “greetings earthling.”? Or do you think that would confuse people…?

    Anyway, I’m glad for a new post to read. Your words make me feel very grounded and clear.

    • Theo February 27, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

      I’m actually okay with “Namaste”–sounds pretty humanist to me. But I’m always interested in and open to new possibilities. (I also like “Greetings earthling,” because it makes me feel like a happy little child.)

      Thank you!

      • Carly February 27, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

        haha – me too! And I agree. I’ve always liked “Namaste” too. It’s one of the good ones, but since it translates to “the spirit (or soul) in me acknowledges the spirit in you” and I’m not really sure I believe in spirits, I guess the above is just what comes to mind for me 🙂

      • Theo February 27, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

        Hmm, I’ve heard it translated before “the divine in me greets the divine in you.” THAT I like (and prefer to “the spirit” or “the soul”), if only because it acknowledges that we’re looking in the wrong places for power (i.e. outside ourselves).


  1. The War God and The Tower | R.L. Stollar - February 27, 2014

    […] I read Theo Darling’s provocative rewrite of a story that always fascinated and mystified me as a child: Genesis 11:1-9, or The Tower of […]

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