Saturday 07 October 2017

Bible Book:
Genesis

“Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do” (v. 6)

Genesis 11:1-11 Saturday 7 October 2017

Psalm: Psalm 98


Background

Genesis is a book of beginnings and in today's passage we haveanother origin story. Following on from the creation of the worldand humans, near destruction through the flood and 'resurrection'as a small group survive, we have the story of language, with chaosthrown into the mix.

People are a puzzle - we all have common origins but we aredivided, yet God created us. If God began everything with twopeople, or through a small group, then we are all connected. Peoplewill then play out those connections, either through familytensions or large scale collaborations. We could say thatcollaboration is a working out of the divine intention, yet here itis a problem, God says about it, "Look, they are one people, andthey have all one language; and this is only the beginning of whatthey will do; nothing that they propose to do will now beimpossible for them" (v. 6).

It is no coincidence that these events take place where they do- 'Shinar' is Babylonia/Mesopotamia and 'Babel' is Babylon. Empireshave a common language, large-scale projects, conformity, whereasin Genesis God's people are a small group of outsiders and God isthe God of outsiders. Genesis is the origin story of God's peoplejust as much as of humans generally, and they are at odds with theworld. Of course the Jews had a problem with Babylon and this isreflected in the accounts. What is really striking is that Godbrings chaos into this story of human cooperation, rendering peopleunable to work together due to language difficulties (verse 7).

Many people have observed that Pentecost (Acts 2:1-12) isthe transformation of 'Babel' (babble, confusion), where multiplelanguages are all understood (Acts2:7-11). But wider, inclusive, multicultural outlooks stand ina different place to the writers of this story who were oppressedby the conformity of huge empires. Britain seemed, in colonialtimes, to want to create a huge empire which lacked full regard forits citizens, perhaps not learning the lesson of Babel. A diverseChurch, relating well to others, living out its discipleship ininteractions with people of different faiths, creates a betterlegacy.


To Ponder

  • To what extent does God bring both order and chaos into theworld?
  • How do Babel and Pentecost challenge you about your place in amulticultural society?
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