|The Last Days Duncan Heaster|
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CHAPTER 2: THE TOWER OF BABEL
The 'coming down' of Yahweh to destroy man's
evil intentions at Babel, points forward to His future intervention to
judge the wickedness of men. The record of this in Gen. 11
is set against the background of Gen. 10. " As they journeyed
from the east...they found a plain..." (Gen. 11:2) is in the
context of the record of the growth and rapid expansion of the Arab tribes
in Gen. 10. That chapter spotlights particularly the greatness of Nimrod
" the mighty hunter against the Lord" (Gen. 10:9, Hebrew).
The Hebrew for 'Nimrod' is related to 'Gibbor', the title of Christ used
in Is. 9:6. Nimrod appears to be a prototype anti-God and
anti-Christ, and for this he was well known even then (Gen. 10:9).
Gen. 10:10,11 shows his characteristic of building cities in the Babylon/Assyria
area. Seeing that " the beginning of his kingdom was
Babel" (Gen. 10:10), it is not unreasonable to assume that when "
a man said to his neighbour, Go to, let us make brick" to build the
At this time,
" the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech" (Gen.
11:1). The Hebrew for " speech" here is not the
same word used for " speech" later on in this record - this
word more suggests a purpose/desire, often a wrong one. The
implication is that this one desire was to build the
" Go to"
Three times in this record (Gen. 11:3,4 and 7) we read the phrase, " Go to" in the contexts of the men 'going to' in the building, and of God 'going to' in His dramatic intervention. It cannot be coincidence that this rare idiom occurs twice close together in James ; 5:1. The context there is of warning believers not to build their own 'Babels' of wealth and monuments to human achievement, seeing that they would be suddenly destroyed by the Lord's coming. This in itself points to a latter-day application of this Genesis record - indicating that weak believers will get caught up in the latter day Nimrod's unity movement, and will benefit from it materially?
" Let us make brick" is literally 'let us make ourselves Laban'. 'Laban' meaning 'white' came to be associated with 'brick' because the bricks were presumably made from white clay. This created the picture of a dazzling white tower, gloriously reflecting the desert sun - which suggests that the tower was a piece of religious symbolism, perhaps a mock temple.
This impression receives Biblical confirmation
in Zech. 5. This chapter describes the corruptions of the
Jewish and Christian apostasies; chapter 4 speaks of the building
of the true temple in Jerusalem, whilst chapter 5 matches this with a
description of a false temple being built " in the
The religious associations of the tower
are strengthened by the similarity of this tower built by the first king
of Babylon on a plain and the statue built by Nebuchadnezzar on the plain
of Dura, also in Babylon. It may be that the locations are
identical. And there is a continuity of theme to be found
in Arab leaders (kings of Babylon) showing a distinct liking for large
monuments and religious imagery expressed in big building projects.
Saddam Hussein, claiming to be the latter day Nebuchadnezzar, tried to
rebuild Babylon and fill the area with quasi-religious towers and obelisks
glorifying himself. " Let us make ourselves Laban"
(v. 3) continues the Arab connections, seeing that Laban's persecution
of Jacob typifies that of
There are other references to the persecution
These echoes of
Colossus of clay
This colossus being built of baked clay and mortar and being effectively destroyed by the Lord's 'coming down' inevitably connects with the feet of the statue which Daniel interpreted, also seen in Babylon. The feet were made of " miry clay" , " mixed" (Heb. 'Arab'). Isa 41:25 also springs to mind, speaking of the second coming, " He shall come...he shall come upon princes as upon mortar, and as the potter treadeth clay." It has been suggested that the image of Daniel 2 can be interpreted in a primarily Arab context, and we have shown that the Babel-builders are also primarily Arab. " They journeyed from the east...they said...they builded" in Gen. 11 may refer in large part to the Arab peoples listed in Gen. ch. 10.
Their desire was to build " a city
and a tower" (Gen. 11:4). Our Lord appears to refer to
the temple as " a tower" in Matt. 21:33, supporting the previous
suggestion that there was a religious aspect to this tower.
It is hard to avoid emphasizing that in our last days Arab leaders are
eager to rebuild Babylon and other historic cities, seeing them as a token
of their unity and common connection with a glorious Babylon of old which
" Whose top may reach unto heaven" (Gen. 11:4) is a poor translation - the A.V. putting " may reach" in italics indicates that these words are not in the original. The Hebrew for " top" is 'Rosh', familiar to students of Ez. 38:2, which correctly translates it as " chief prince" . The chief leader of this tower was to reach unto and into heaven. Every Bible-minded student will race to Isa. 14, where another king of Babylon says the same: " Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also in the mount of the congregation (i.e. the temple mount), in the sides of the north (Jerusalem, Ps. 48:2)...yet thou shalt be brought down...that (his children) do not possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities" (Isa. 14:13,14,15,21).
This last phrase is definitely alluding
to the record of Nimrod's city building programme as detailed in Gen.
10:9-11. This " king of Babylon" of Isa. 14 can
refer with equal relevance to either Nebuchadnezzar or Sennacherib (1)
, both of whose invasions of
The connection with Is. 14 confirms that this tower had religious symbolism, and that with the image of Dan. 2 suggests that the chief prince ('rosh') of the image is based on Nimrod, the first king of Babylon. Daniel, of course, also made it clear that the head of the image was the king of Babylon, who was then Nebuchadnezzar.
There is an association between the head
of the image and its feet; the clay used for the feet in Dan. 2
is used for the whole
When we read that the summit of Babel was to touch the heavens (Gen. 11:4), we find that the Hebrew phrase refers usually to persons, elevating their head. There are many uninspired parallel accounts of the building of Babel in contemporary literature- the Enuma Elish speaks of how the builders “raised high the head of Esagila toward the Heaven”. Clearly the tower was seen as headed up by a person, just as was the image of Dan. 2 and also that built by Nebuchadnezzar. These all indicate that the Lord Jesus will return to destroy a human system headed up by a specific, antiChrist individual.
The Canaanite tribes were noted for the very high walls of their cities - " unto heaven" (Gen. 11:4 cp. Dt. ). This shows a continuity of theme between Babel and the tribes of Canaan (i.e. the Arabs). Significantly, God decided that nothing would be " restrained" from these people if their tower were completed - using the same Hebrew word translated " walled up" in Dt. 1:28 concerning the cities of Canaan.
" Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (Gen. 11:4) sounds as if they recognized Divine judgments might be imminent. This is one of many implications in the prophetic word that Christ may be back, or the sign of his presence be visible, so that the nations in the very last days will act with an awareness of the possibility of impending Divine judgment.
The memory of the Flood would still have been reasonably fresh with the generation of Babel. After the Flood the nations were " divided in the earth" (Gen. 10:25,32); so perhaps the Canaanites building the city and tower so that they would not " be scattered abroad upon the earth" was a conscious effort to resist the judgments brought about by the Flood and its effects.
We have shown that the Flood particularly represents the judgments of the last days, and in the typology of Gen. 11 it is these which the builders of Babel consciously try to avoid. This raises the question of how they will be so convinced that these judgments really are imminent. A display of the cherubim over Jerusalem (or a similar " sign of the son of man in heaven" ), or, of course, the actual second coming of the Lord, seem the only feasible explanations of their convictions.
The image of Dan. 2 is fundamentally concerning
the domination of
There is a definite similarity between the account of God's intervention at Babel and that of His 'coming down' to Sodom. " The Lord came down to see the city and the tower (and 'noticed' how evil their aims were)...Let us go down..." (Gen. 11:5-7). This is matched by, " I will go down now, and see whether they (Sodom) have done altogether according to the cry of it...and there came two angels to Sodom" (Gen. 18:21; 19:1).
We have our Lord's authority for seeing this 'coming down' of the Lord to Sodom as typical of the second coming; the designed similarity with His 'coming down' to Babel indicates that we can read that incident likewise.
" This they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do" (Gen. 11:6) slots into the Arab/Israeli context exactly. With the world supporting them, and with a unity of mind never before experienced, the Arab Babel-builders will be able to gleefully relish the prospect of completely destroying the Jews. The Hebrew for " begin" here is also translated " to profane" , again showing the distinctly religious aspect of their actions in building the tower.
Dan. 12:1 describes this period as "
a time of trouble (for
How God 'came down' to destroy their plans is revealing as to His methods in the last days. There is no indication in Gen. 11 that the tower was actually destroyed, indeed, " Therefore is the name of it called Babel" (Gen. 11:9) implies that at least part of the building was still standing when the record was written. It was the very action of confounding their language that resulted in their scattering, " so (i.e. because of the confounding of their language) the Lord scattered them abroad" (Gen. 11:7,8).
" They left off" building (Gen. 11:8) uses a Hebrew word meaning strictly 'to grow flabby', implying a gradual cessation rather than a momentous destruction. Likewise the persecutors of angel-protected Lot in Sodom (a certain type of the last days) " wearied themselves" in their efforts as a result of the Lord's 'coming down'. One of the 'plagues' that God threatens the Arab invaders of Israel with is that " a great tumult from the Lord shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour" (Zech. 14:12,13).
This is how previous Arab invasions had been overcome (Jud. 7:22; 2 Chron. 20:23). Ps. 83 perfectly describes the Arab unity as they attack Jerusalem in the last days (vs. 3-5, 12), but concludes with the Psalmist praying that God would destroy them as He did Oreb and Zeeb (v. 11) - who were defeated as a result of God making their troops turn on each other (Jud. -25).
It will largely be through this means that the image will be broken up and scattered worldwide, as the Babel builders were. In its continuous historic fulfilment, the different parts of the image subdued each other; for them to stand together in the last days shows that a unity must be placed upon them by their head and also the feet upon which they stand; only for this unity to be destroyed by the Lord's coming. We have given reasons for believing that the head and feet are representatives of Arab powers, and especially a latter-day 'king of Babylon'.
In broad outline only, the following chapters of Genesis appear to have some possible chronological similarities with events of the last days:-
ch. 10 Arab growth and expansion
11 Babel/Shinar judged by God with confusion.
12 Abram leaves Babylon, creating the basis of " come out of her, my people" in the last days (Rev. 18:4).
15 Covenant confirmed
16 Hagar (Arabs) flee from Sarah
17 Covenant renewed
18/19 Judgment on Sodom, deliverance of Jewish remnant, snatching away, representing the second coming.
This can only be a very broad outline, since the events of chs. 11 and 19 both have clear reference to the second coming.
(1) See In Search of Satan (London: Pioneer, 1990).