It’s Sunday evening and I’ve forgotten to tell you all a Bible story. When we last interacted, I promised to tell you the story of the Tower of Babel, a watershed moment for Earthlings. The Judeo-Christian god, called God for short, had created the world, set Adam and his second wife Eve up for failure, driven them from Paradise, caused one of their sons to kill the other, and flooded the Earth killing everything except Noah and his family locked in a filthy, putrid ark with two of every unclean animal and seven pairs of the clean ones, including dinosaurs. When Noah and his family stepped off the ark onto dry ground, his children repopulated the world by having sex with close relatives since everyone else was dead. (Which, by the way was not the first case of incest or, sadly, the last.)
Incest appears to be quite popular in the Bible with the tacit approval of the god who, while not troubled that his best boys were schtupping their daughters, flew into a rage about homosexuals in Sodom and Gomorrah. A quick dose of fire from Heaven and God took care of that problem. Lot screwed his daughters who bore his children, another case of incest, and God did nothing about it.
That was only the first nineteen chapters of Genesis, which sounds like a bad Harold Robbins novel, but its allegedly the word of God, not the work of some tawdry fiction writer. That is, if you believe the defenders of the Book.
In my haste, I skipped over the lovely little myth of the Tower of Babel which in some ways may be one of the more important tales in Judeo-Christendom. Let’s take a step back in time before the ugly Sodom-and-Gomorrah/Lot-screws-his-daughters story, but after the Noah-and-the-smelly-ark story. Right there we find the story of Babel.
The whole world over spoke only one language and they all apparently lived in the Middle East. Some bright eyed optimist, who apparently had little knowledge of the angry god, proposed perhaps the first and largest public works project ever undertaken by humankind. “Let us build a city and a tower, whose top may reach into heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
They set to work. God looked down upon the city from the terrace of his heavenly mansion. “What are they doing down there? I best float on down and see.” An odd reaction given that God is omniscient (i.e. all-knowing), but maybe he was having a bad day.
He surveyed the scene. Workmen made bricks. Construction crews built roadways that wrapped around the tower. Judging from their progress, God determined they they would reach Heaven in a few months.
Now, I know what you may be thinking, unless you’re a fundamentalist, Heaven isn’t “up there” or we would have seen it when the astronauts went to the Moon or when the Voyager spacecrafts shot out into the universe. The explanation is simple: God moved. He took Heaven somewhere else after the Tower of Babel incident which made him very unhappy.
But, I’ve gotten ahead of the story. God said, “Behold, the people is one*, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.”
*God did not say, “…the people is one…” He’s God after all. He knows the King’s English, even if he isn’t the King in question. This was a bad translation by an illiterate, but divinely inspired, monk in some dreary monastery during the Dark Ages.
Instead of celebrating the creativity of his creations, he thought about what he should do and told the assembled multitudes in Heaven, “…Let us go down, and there confound their language that they may not understand one another’s speech. How’s everyone feel about that?”
No response. The multitudes in Heaven, having just lived through God’s temper tantrums, smiled, but didn’t say anything. They didn’t want to be on the receiving end of a bolt of lightning or a flamethrower. They glanced around the room to see if anyone would have the courage to question God’s plan of action which seemed a little heavy handed, yet again.
“Okay, hearing no complaints. Time to confound.” With that they headed to the city, where everyone in the world lived, and scattered language dust on the people. Next morning the city awoke to chaos. We’ll check in with Matt and Gwen and their two children, Russell and Brandi on that fateful morning.
Matt awoke to the sun shining through the window. He rolled over and hugged his wife Gwen. “Guten tag.”
She looked over her shoulder at him. “Que?”
They bolted upright. Something was dreadfully wrong. He jabbered away in German. She replied in Spanish.
Russell ran into the bedroom. “Whazzup, homies?” They looked at him in dismay (as do many parents in modern America).
Little Brandi staggered into the room rubbing her eyes. “Esurio. Quid enim prandium.”
That happened city-wide among all the people.
The population spent days finding other folks that spoke their same language. Families broke up as parents found people to take their children, who they would no longer understand. Then groups of shared language speakers decided to move out of the city to places where they could speak to one another without being bothered by others who they couldn’t communicate with. These groups spread all over the world. Behind them, they left the unfinished tower which God, proud of his efforts to destroy human unity, named Babel because he had confounded the language of all the earth.
All was well in Heaven once again.
My question: If the god didn’t want people coming to Heaven, why did he allow the space program to take off? Maybe by that time he’d moved to a gated community in some far part of the universe so he wouldn’t have to worry about his creation moving in next door.
That puts us at the end of Chapter 11 with only 38 more chapters in Genesis to go because I’ve already covered Chapter 19 (Lot’s incest) and we haven’t seen the last of the odd Bible stories. But, for now, I leave you with a famous quote from William Cowper:
“God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.” – from a hymn composed by Mr. Cowper in 1774. This quote has been overused to explain the unexplainable.