This is the legacy of Nimrod (which means "let us revolt"): a place he called Babilu, called by the Hebrews "Babel." It was a place of revolution. It was the administrative center of his revolution against God, and thus we can see why some interpreters translate that word "before" in Genesis 10:9 as "against." Even though "before" is literally correct, Nimrod was standing before the Lord as an enemy. God's scattering of the builders reveals Nimrod's, and therefore Babylon's, attitude toward God.
From this point Babylon became a worldwide political, military, economic, and religious system bearing the same basic attitudes as its founder. It can be a nation or a system, but its core characteristic that is against the Lord. Babylon became the Bible's code word for what its New Testament writers call "the world." As they used the Greek term cosmos, it is an organized worldwide system opposed to God. Just as surely as Nimrod was opposed to God, Babylon is an organized worldwide system opposed to God. It is a culture that is anti-Christ, anti-God, and it is everywhere!
This is what the context shows in Genesis 11. The people scattered from the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, taking much of the antagonistic-to-God culture with them, and each language group adapted it to some degree to their ethnic traditions. Undoubtedly, each group altered it somewhat, but secular evidence reveals a common strain connecting all civilizations worldwide to the Tigris-Euphrates region. It is the womb of man's civilization.
It took centuries for the people to migrate to and to settle in their new lands, but occur it did. And so the pattern of worldly government after the Flood was established in Genesis 10 and Genesis 11. God even foreshadows in Genesis 6 that it would rise again: "There were giants [Nephilim] on the earth in those days, and also afterward." Nimrod was the greatest of those Nephilim.
Even though this spread worldwide, not everybody migrated. Some people remained in Babylon, and through the centuries, they became the Babylonian nation. The Chaldeans dominated them. Babylon was the name of their capital city. Hammurabi was one of their great early kings, but later, Nebuchadnezzar became Babylon's greatest king. He was given the dream of a great image, and Daniel informed him that he, Nebuchadnezzar, represented the head of gold (Daniel 2:38).
Each of the other portions of that image represented powerful kingdoms that, in terms of time, would follow Babylon in dominating the Western world through the centuries: Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. They did not dominate the entire world—perhaps they could have—but there is no doubt they dominated the part of the world that the Bible is concerned with, the one that the Israelitish descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob live in.
But because the head represented Babylon—and the head directs the entire body—the image in Daniel 2 also shows the continuation of the same general Babylonish system right to its end, represented by the feet and the toes. In other words, that image shows that the pattern established under Nimrod continues right down to today.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 2)
The people were uniting themselves in disagreement against God, led by the arch-criminal and mastermind of this project, Nimrod. This time, instead of wiping them out in death as He had done through the Flood, God permitted them to live, but He segregated them by confusing their means of communication. In the end, they are separated from one another. All their glorious plans of building a great city and tower had to be abandoned because they could not communicate with each other.
Another tragic resulted from what happened in Genesis 11. All of these people who were scattered over the face of the earth were also separated from the holy line—a family through which God almost exclusively worked, that began with Shem. Actually, the line began after the death of Abel with Seth, the son of Adam, and came down through Enoch to Noah and from Noah to Shem. From Shem the descent finally produced Abraham. After Babel, the scattered people were, in fact, not only separated from that holy line, but also from God's Word, which this family preserved and passed down. This was another tragic result of their sin!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility
How technologically developed the people were at this time is sketchy. The Great Pyramid of Giza, whether built before or after the Flood, is evidence of a high degree of technology. Whatever the case, God's statement that "nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them" implies the builders of Babel were at least on the verge of great technological leaps. How much can a person discover and develop in a seventy-year life span? Yet these people lived hundreds of years! Since knowledge accumulates from generation to generation, imagine how it would build in a person over 500 years!
Consider what man has accomplished in the last 150 years. He has learned how to harness the power of mighty rivers by building dams to produce electricity. He has built soaring bridges across great chasms. He has drilled deeply into the earth to tap its stores of oil and gas to transport ourselves from place to place, heat our homes, and fuel our factories. Man has put satellites hundreds of miles into the heavens and placed men on the moon. We can watch the astronauts on television though they are 240,000 miles away!
The list of our technological accomplishments seems endless. Technology, though, is not the answer to mankind's problems. By the time the Millennium begins, the world will have realized that knowledge of physical things cannot solve our problems, especially those of the spirit. Each new technological stride merely titillates us for a while, failing miserably to give a sense of meaning to our lives. Technology cannot rid us of competition and inordinate desire. Instead, it only seems to accelerate the plunge toward oblivion and meaninglessness.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 11:6: