3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.”
We are in the eleventh chapter of Genesis. This means this story of Babel happens after the flood.
Humanity is not changed by the crises that, but for the grace of God, would have utterly destroyed them. Humanity had not only turned from God and lost the garden; they committed fratricide, violence, and transgressed every boundary – even with heaven, having children with the beings of the heavenly realms. The Genesis account gives the brutal judgment: “Every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.”
We are not a people who honor limits. We build ever bigger and more deadly weapons. We “join house to house and field to field.” We consume in a day what the earth took a millennium to create. We have trouble respecting sexual boundaries, family boundaries, ethical boundaries.
And we are not changed by the flood. God is changed, God hangs up his weapons of war, but Noah gets drunk and his children transgress him. God blesses humanity again, but yields the right to kill and eat God’s other creatures – just not the blood. But it doesn’t take us long to ignore even that.
And then humanity discovers how to bake bricks – and they are off again, building a tower to the heavens, ready to dethrone God forever.
We will not “fill the earth”; we will stay and build a city. We will not acclaim God as God; we will “make a name for ourselves.”
But we do not play together well. And we are left with a profoundly divided world. Our aspirations are sabotaged by our passions. ‘Me’ and ‘mine’ triumph over ‘us’ and ‘ours’. The tower goes unfinished and the rupture of one from another descends even to our most basic ability to communicate. We don’t understand each other even when we speak the same language. We misread tone. We misread body language. Even at our best we mishear.
But then comes the child of Mary. Then comes the word made flesh. Then comes Easter and the empty tomb. Then comes Pentecost…a miracle of speaking and hearing.
Every people, every language, every heart – the whole world hears. The world is gathered. The Spirit is poured out. The new day dawns.
We are children of the earth, yes. But we are more. We are children of the empty tomb. And we are children of Pentecost.
So come, let us make bricks – to build bridges rather than walls, and highways rather than towers.