Genesis 11:1-7 - "If as one people speaking the same language ...."

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 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 and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." (Genesis 11:1-7)

The tower of Babel

We can thus understand that this comes from the story of the tower of Babel.

And here is the text after the statement attributed to the Supreme Being above:
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel--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)

What is this text describing?

If we follow the text from Noah, and the lineage presented by Genesis, then the "men" being described are in fact, Noah's family and Noah's direct descendants. And as Genesis 10 describes, these various descendants moved into various places - though ecclesiastical interpretations explain these to be regions within Judea, and moving "eastward" is interpreted as moving east of Judea.

Furthermore, ecclesiastical interpretations - taken from the literal application of Genesis - state that this event of Babel occurred merely four thousand years ago.

Yet this conflicts greatly with archaeological digs throughout the world that have established mankind living in various cultures around the world - and speaking different languages as evidenced by wall paintings and other records - tens and even hundreds of thousands of years ago.

That archaeological evidence paints a picture of a humanity that arose out of Africa and spread through the world through nomad-ship.

This leaves the reader of this part of scripture with the choice of believing the scientific studies of archaeologists who confirm their findings of bones, tools and other evidence using carbon dating; or the words handed down from ecclesiastical religious organizations that at times became political and wielded their power using brutality.

Who are we to believe then?

The question is often posed as: Do we trust in scripture handed down through antiquity or modern science? Given this choice, many choose science simply because it provides a more logical timeline.

Yet must Truth contradict science? This would be a contradiction in the very use of the term "Truth."

In fact, many modern scientists will say that to believe in a Supreme Being means to "suspend reality" because a person will have to dismiss science and accept the historical timeline presented in the Old Testament - more specifically Genesis.

Yet this assumes that Genesis is a historical timeline, and was meant to be a historical timeline.

The reality is that the original manuscripts assembled into Genesis did not lay out a true historical timeline. They were only pieced together to appear as a historical timeline by those who sought to control the populations of Judea, as well as exert a premise that the Israelites are the chosen people and have the authority to control the lands of ancient Judea.

The reality of Genesis

In reality, Genesis is not a single book written by Moses as some have alluded to. Genesis is a collection of separate manuscripts - some historians say 16 - that were pieced together to appear as though it were a single book. And as the different manuscripts were pieced together, they were threaded with interpretative transcription that renders the appearance of a single historical timeline. Why?

The struggle for possession of lands has been the foremost driver for many of the rulers of ancient Judea, who were perpetually battling for ownership rights. And some of these later emperors also controlled the assembly of the early Torah.

Not only did a single historical timeline implying special status for the Israelites provide the rationale for controlling certain lands, but it served to motivate warriors who needed to believe in the cause of their warfare.

And this struggle to control land is continuing to this day, as Arabs and Jews squabble over the ownership of certain lands of the middle east. Each side says that they are the rightful owners of these lands, because of some special recognition by the Supreme Being.

Yet neither side is right. The fact is, humans own nothing. The human body is a temporary vehicle that will only last a few decades. Each of us will leave our physical bodies behind to decompose.

How then, could any human - or human race or culture - possibly claim ownership of lands that we must leave behind at the time of death?

The irony of this attempt to control the timeline is this very text, where the Supreme Being is clearly issuing the directive that He is ultimately in charge, with full ownership. And humanity's attempts to own and control the assets of this planet are futile.

We own nothing

In reality, we own nothing in the physical world. Everything is on loan to us. We possess nothing. There is only one owner: The Supreme Being.

Since the Supreme Being owns everything, and we own nothing; there is no use struggling to own and control land.

While such a conclusion might produce peaceful societies, it does not help further the power-hungry appetites of those rulers who have desired to control lands and peoples.

The bottom line is that while the Old Testament provides spiritual insight into the lives of those who dedicated their lives to the Supreme Being and their relationships with the Supreme Being, it's later transcriptions were manipulated by those in power for the purpose of political control.

We only have to see through those manipulations to understand the lessons being taught in the text. We have to accept that some of the events being discussed in the Old Testament are historical while some are allegory, and others are historical events blended with allegory to illustrate the lessons they teach.

Ultimately, each event in the Old Testament - whether historically accurate, allegory, or a combination of the two - have been passed down orally for thousands of years by those who dedicated their lives to teaching their students spiritual lessons and events that provide spiritual insight.

And this is precisely what this story of Babel communicates. The key to this event - the spiritual lesson - is derived from the statement by the Babelites:
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 and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
We must understand that this is an allegorical statement. It was not as if thousands of people - maybe even millions - actually chanted this statement in unison. When a story says "Then they said", the discussion has turned allegorical. The story is paraphrasing a common consciousness within the people, and communicating that consciousness within a paraphrased statement.

This means that we must understand the consciousness from which such a statement arose.

What is that consciousness?

It is the consciousness of greed, power and self-centeredness. The statement symbolically illustrates a consciousness of wanting to own and control the resources of the physical world, and accomplish a 'heaven on earth' without the Supreme Being. (And ironically the same reasons this very text was manipulated.)

This meaning is illustrated in the Hebrew. The Hebrew root word שמים (shamayim) is being translated to "reaches to the heavens" and עשה (`asah) and שם (shem) are being translated to "we may make a name for ourselves."

These Hebrew words, however, explain a consciousness of personal greed, and trying to control resources while not being interested in maintaining a relationship with the Supreme Being. They communicate an interest to dominate the landscape and dominate others.

But was this necessarily the mood of all the workers who built the city? Not necessarily. But it was the mood of those who ruled that society. The ruling class imagined themselves mighty enough to control the world's population and create a heaven on earth.

This was the purpose for them not wanting to be "scattered over the face of the whole earth." This is for the benefit of the rulers of Babel, not the people. Speaking the same language and not being "scattered" benefits those who rule over the people: Their power is consolidated.

This quest for power is common among man through the ages. Even to this day we find rulers of various governments exerting their own desires for control by dominating their populace and/or corporate interests trying to expand their profits through market dominance. These attempts by humans continue this same consciousness as described in this text: Trying to own and control the resources of the physical world and trying to establish a 'heaven on earth' without the Supreme Being.

These quests, as we can see from this text, are not pleasing to the Supreme Being.

Why? Because this is not our nature, and this will not make us happy. We are not owners or controllers by nature. We are all subjects of the Supreme Being. We are caregivers by nature. This is why giving makes us happier than taking. And if we were owners or controllers by nature, we would be able to retain our property eternally. If we were owners by nature, all those people who own large properties or control populations would be happy - but they are not. They are not satisfied, even with all their power.

It is like the childhood game, 'king of the hill.' In this game, someone gets up on the hill and fights others off by pushing them off the hill. But inevitably, each kid gets pushed off and another takes their place. This means that none of the kids are truly the "king" of that hill. And those who are "king" for a moment are not happy - they are too busy keeping others off the hill.

We will each leave this place

It is futile to say we own something that we have to struggle to possess and keep, only to leave it behind at the time of death, if not earlier.

Our nature is spiritual, not physical. We belong in the spiritual realm, and the Supreme Being is our Lord and we are His loving subjects. Our happiness is thus related to loving Him and pleasing Him. Here we are exercising our desire to be away from Him and try to imitate Him. But just as a kid plays 'king of the hill' for awhile before having to come in for dinner and homework, we each will have to leave behind our games and learn who we really are - eternal loving servants of the Supreme Being.

The text above, and the Supreme Being's paraphrased, symbolic statement (yes, this is a paraphrased, allegorical statement - evidenced by "nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them") illustrates that the Supreme Being has set up the physical world for us to eventually learn that it is futile to try to pretend to be Him. We are not God, and we cannot rule the world. We cannot control others. We cannot control property, or the weather, or even our physical bodies. We are subjects and caregivers, and the earlier we realize this the better our opportunity will be for true happiness.

This is illustrated by the Supreme Being scattering the people even though the rulers didn't want the people scattered. The Supreme Being didn't allow their power to be consolidated. In other words, the Supreme Being does not easily accommodate the greedy desires of His children. He gives us the freedom to seek these, and does allow some desires to be accomplished, but there are always costs for achieving those. There are always challenges, and sacrifices to be made to achieve our desires. We have to, one way or another, in this or a previous lifetime, earn those accomplishments, at a cost.

This proves that we are God's subjects, and not owners by nature. We must earn our accomplishments because the physical world is a place of learning. It is not a place where we get to enjoy all this stuff, and own all this stuff. We are here temporarily, and we are hear to learn. And every seeming pleasure of the physical world is balanced by pain.

The principle of humankind having various languages and cultures was programmed by the Supreme Being into the physical world because this is a place of learning: A place of challenges. A place of consequences. All of these features were programmed into the physical world to teach each us lessons that help us evolve and grow, so that we can evolve towards one day realizing our true nature.

That true nature was emphasized by all the great spiritual teachers, and crystallized into a clear command by Moses and Jesus:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'" (Deut. 6:5 and Luke 10:27)