Community Group Study “Genesis: Tower of Babel”

Before your community group meets:

Read Genesis 10:1-11:26 list out 10-15 observations you have from the text.

Many scholars think that Genesis 10 actually happens before the tower of Babel since there is reference to these different people’s having separate languages and since we get a fuller picture of Shem’s descendants in Genesis 11:10-32. Often Hebrew writers will do stuff like this and put their focus in the middle (instead of the end like Americans are used to). What do we learn about the people after the flood from Genesis 11:1-2, why is it significant that the genealogy emphasizes they all had separate languages, nations and cultures? Where did that come from?

Look at Genesis 11:3-4. The people using the language “let us” is an intentional reference back to Genesis 1:26. The people here are assuming a god-like stance… they desire to make a name for themselves showing their desire for freedom from God. How does God respond in the text and what was their overall goal?

If we are honest, many of us try and assume the place of God in our life which is a form of pride. Spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal those areas to you and offer repentance and confession to God.

Study Information:

The Tower of Babel is a story that highlights the power of human pride to separate us from God. In Genesis 11:1-9 we see humanity, sometime shortly after the flood, has been repopulated and is moving together to an area called Shinar, which will be at or near Ancient Babylon. They are working together with one language and in unity (text will emphasize this with words like “same words” in verse 1 and the repetition of their use of “let us”). God gave Noah and his sons a reaffirmation of the Genesis 1 blessing to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it”. Here we see the people of Babel purposefully ignoring the command to “fill the earth”.

Their desire to stay together is motivated by both fear and pride. Verse 4 highlights their fear of being separated and their pride to “make a name for themselves”.

The plan is to build a tower that would reach up into the sky to be a place of proclamation of their greatness and self-sufficiency. They use a new technology, the brick, to do this and likely construct what the ancient world called a Ziggurat, which was a step tower like temple for the gods to “come down” to the people. The people of Babel don’t want the gods to come down, they desire to instead “go up”. The irony in the story is that God indeed does “come down” but he does so to confuse their language and stop their efforts to live out their prideful desire for freedom from God.

God’s judgement is separation and division. We know that he does this to prevent the world from reaching the place it was in Genesis 6 where every thought of the human heart was evil all the time. He has promised not to bring about a world wide destruction again via a flood, so the judgement here is to restrain human sinfulness and the end result is that humanity is scattered into the 70 nations that are listed out in Genesis 10:1-32.

Chapter 11 ends with some sense of hopefulness though because it follows the righteous line of Shem and introduces us to God’s mission of redemption through the blessing of one man and his family line to bring a savior into the world… Abram.

But, it is curious that in God’s judgement of humanity in Chapter 11 that there is no mention of grace specifically. It is almost as if the text is showing us that the result of being left to ourselves is that humanity has no hope.

Praise God that he intervenes and will begin to show us in Genesis his plan to redeem all the peoples of the world through blessing one man, Abram and using his family line to bring the promised Savior of Genesis 3:15, Jesus. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?

Scripture and Discussion Questions:

How does pride show itself in the tower of Babel story and how is it dangerous to the spiritual life?

God mercifully intervenes in their sin, why does God intervene and does God do similar things today?

We see God respond to redeem the nations both in the story of Abram, the calling of Israel to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6) and in the New Testament in passages like Galatians 3:29, Acts 2:5-21 and Ephesians 2:11-22. How is our love for one another and community in the church different than other forms of “community” in the world?

Looking Ahead:

Read Genesis 11:27-12:4, write out 7-10 observations you see from the text including things like ages, places and even how many times God says “I will”)

Where is Abram from and how does this relate to the story of the tower of Babel?

What promises did God make to Abram and has God given up on his project to bless all of humanity? How is God’s plan to accomplish that shown here?

Abram shows us what it looks like to live in dependence and trust in God, even though things are not seen clearly. How does Abram display trust and dependence? Think about and try to write down a few thoughts about “What does trust and dependence on God look like in the life of a follower of Jesus?”

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