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?

  • 2
    They didn't have planning permission? Mar 22, 2012 at 11:53
  • another Interesting thing is in the verse 4 they said "otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."they knew it before what will happen to them.
    – shakAttack
    Sep 30, 2014 at 18:18

6 Answers 6


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.

  • 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, 2011 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, 2011 at 12:55
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    @Mason Wheeler: Wouldn't it be easier to build a bunch of boats? :)
    – Flimzy
    Aug 30, 2011 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, 2011 at 12:58
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    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, 2011 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.


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.


It was humanity united under man's terms as a platform of opposition against YHWH. Shem, son of Noah was alive at that time and was most likely driven from the area west to Canaan. He died during Jacob's lifetime. Nimrod was most likely running the situation. There is not much detail in the Genesis narrative. However, Jewish literature has much to say about the details of the Babel event. Humanity was united in communication and purpose and therefore unstoppable. Shem may have been the only living witness of YHWH. The Babel crowd may have been demonically impressed to search him out to kill him and sanitize the world of any knowledge of YHWH. With the visual replacing the propositional today using social media and other tools to overcome language barriers, is it any different?

  • 1
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    – ThaddeusB
    Dec 8, 2015 at 3:19

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.


Babel was the Hebrew name for Babylon which means "gate of god." But It was similar to the Hebrew word balal which meant to confound or confuse.

8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11:8-9 NIV

If everyone works together to accomplish something it would obviously work, according to the Lord. In this case it wasn't to his glory but to theirs. The people of Babel thought they didn't need the Lord to get to heaven and since God knows their intentions, he caused a confusion among them by changing their language. What would then happen is for all work to be stopped and for all to go their own way. The fear from not understanding anything anyone says would then cause all to flee and to know that it is a sign from God.

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

To me this also proves that God is against Universalism. For all to be united as a whole for a purpose that does not serve God but man's system and ideas would be sin. A parallel of this would be mystery Babylon in revelation. A system built as a blasphemy against God and is destroyed.

The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come Revelation 17:8 NIV


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