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In the Genesis account of the tower of Babel a bunch of guys got together to build a really tall tower somewhere in the desert. God gets wind of the affair but it doesn't sit well:

Genesis 11:5-6 (ESV) And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

So what does He do? He scrambles all their language as a punishment and their plans are foiled.

What was the problem with building a tall tower? Are modern skyscrapers a problem for God? Should the guys in the Burj Khalifa be worried?

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They didn't have planning permission? –  Wikis Mar 22 '12 at 11:53

4 Answers 4

The problem was not with the building, but with the intent of the builders, as shown in verse 4:

They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."

This is in direct opposition to what God had just commanded Noah a few years before (Genesis 9:7):

As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.

The people in their journeyings found a place they liked, and decided to quit following God, and rather settle where they were comfortable. On top of this, they displayed the hubris to build a tower to "reach heaven" - ie, to find God on their own, rather than through His intended means.

God's judgement was not upon the tower, per se, but on the people. Nowhere else in scripture can I think of a place where towers are forbidden or condemned (indeed, almost all ancient city states had towers for protection - and Jesus references a tower that collapsed onto some people in Siloam in a neutral fashion).

The "problem at Babel" was pride, arrogance, and an unwillingness to follow God's command to replenish the earth after the flood.

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NIV says "a tower that reaches to the heavens", which sounds more like the building of a simple monument to their own achievement, rather than a spiritual/religious goal of "getting to God." –  Flimzy Aug 30 '11 at 12:44
@Flimzy: I've also heard theories that the goal of the tall tower was to provide shelter in the event of a second Flood, which shows a basic lack of trust in God, who had explicitly said there wouldn't be another one. –  Mason Wheeler Aug 30 '11 at 12:55
@Mason Wheeler: Wouldn't it be easier to build a bunch of boats? :) –  Flimzy Aug 30 '11 at 12:56
@Flimzy: You do that, you end up getting carried off somewhere by the water, and you don't know where you are when it's all over. –  Mason Wheeler Aug 30 '11 at 12:58
I think their intent was pretty obvious: "so that we may make a name for ourselves" It had nothing to do with a fear of flooding... –  Richard Aug 30 '11 at 13:49

The issue was mankind's basic disobedience. Soon after the flood God repeated to Noah and his sons a command he had given mankind in the past.

Genesis 9:1 (ESV) And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

Instead of following that command, mankind decided to settle down.

Genesis 11:4 (ESV) 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, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Instead of worshipping God and seeking his glory, they sought to make a name for themselves. Instead of obeying God by filling the earth, they worked to ensure that they would all stay in one place.

Confusing their language helped ensure that mankind would obey the command to fill the earth.

This episode from the Bible really has nothing to say about modern sky scrapers per se.

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I think they had the same problem as Satan: they wanted to elevate themselves to God's level.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

Genesis 11:4

They wanted to make a name for themselves, i.e. become powerful in their own right, apart from God. And they wanted to reach the heavens. It was man's pride and arrogance, which started in Eden at Satan's prompting.

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Verse 6 gives the answer:

And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. (Genesis 11:6, ESV)

At that point. mankind was not ready to deal with the intricacies of statecraft and the management of cities. It would also have meant that mankind would be concentrated in one spot on earth, establishing a huge central government, and only spread out it drips and drabs to the corners of the earth. Instead, it is clear that God meant for man to first populate the whole earth before establishing borders and rulers, instead of the other way round.

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