|Volume 20 Number 10 October 2018||
Gary C. Hampton
The last thing most people think of when asked about Babel is success. A close examination, however, reveals three key principles of success in this otherwise sad story.
The Lord observed, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language” (Genesis 11:6a). Jesus told the scribes, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:24-26). Paul urged the Philippian saints to fulfill his “joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2). He instructed members of the church of God at Corinth to “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). The Savior saw unity as a great first step in evangelism (John 17:20-23).
The people at Babel were not all talk and planning, but they began to act (Genesis 11:6b). Luke summarized his Gospel record as an account “of all that Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). The scattered Christians “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Paul instructed the churches of Galatia to seize every opportunity to do good (Galatians 6:10). Paul told Timothy to command rich Christians to “be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
The Lord said of the people at Babel, “Now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them,” underscoring the power of a vision (Genesis 11:6c). Paul’s single-minded goal of receiving the upward call from the Lord drove him to ceaseless preaching, even in the face of adversity (Philippians 3:13-14). People of faith were driven to act as directed by God because they sought “a homeland” built by God (Hebrews 11:13-16). We, too, should persevere to the end and keep our focus on Jesus, Who is now seated on the throne in Heaven (Hebrews 12:1-2).
The Flood of Genesis
There seems to be a constant barrage of articles touting discoveries that supposedly debunk the Bible, pointing to its origin as being somewhere other than inspiration by God. A current Associated Press article refers to a recently translated 4,000-year-old tablet from ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), which has its own account of the flood. On display at the British Museum, it speaks of building a round vessel to survive a flood, along with the instructions to collect animals “two by two.” Irving Finkel, who translated the tablet, is quoted as saying, “I’m sure the story of the flood and a boat to rescue life is a Babylonian invention,” and he believes the tale was likely passed on to the Jews during their exile in Babylon in the 6th century B.C. Finkel also believes the story of some type of a flood in antiquity generated many flood stories in other cultures, including Israel.
It is true there are accounts of a flood found in many different ancient cultures, with some estimates of over 500 such stories. Every continent has its own variation of a catastrophic flood having occurred. The flood is not the only event that other cultures have recorded, similar to what is found in Genesis; the confusion of languages at the tower of Babel is also widely referenced. The number of such stories being recorded, even with all the different variations of details, attests to the reality of the event itself. The variations in details can easily be attributed to the process of storytelling in the different cultures, with additions and subtractions being made based on local customs and legends. This explains the round vessel in the Mesopotamian account, as such boats were used by that civilization.
Does the antiquity of this text, however, predate the biblical account found in Genesis? Does it explain the flood narrative as being learned by the Jews while in Babylonian captivity, rather than it being recorded by Moses as described in the Old Testament? Does the earlier date of this Mesopotamian manuscript over any Hebrew manuscript demand it to be the original account? Hardly.
There are various reasons why the original manuscripts of the Old Testament, and its ancient copies, are not extant. This does not mean the copies we have are flawed, as the Hebrew scribes were obsessive in ensuring the accuracy of the text, which speaks of the validity of the events recorded in the Old Testament manuscripts we have today. The event of the flood, then, predates the oldest manuscript in Hebrew, as well as the Mesopotamian tablet being touted by Mr. Finkel. Which of these accounts, then, is more than myth? Scripture has, time and time again, been verified as being historically accurate in what it records. For example, in the past, critics scoffed at the Bible’s mention of a group called the Hittites, until archaeologists discovered tablets chronicling their existence. More recently, critics said there could not have been a king named David as recorded in Scripture because the name was too modern in origin. Again, evidence has been discovered that attests to its being known in ancient times. Scripture has been corroborated many times over.
There can be no legitimate claim made against the inspiration of the Bible based on its accuracy historically, geographically or in other such details. The flood account in Genesis is the accurate account of the event that transpired so long ago, due to the pervasiveness of sin. Noah did build the ark as God commanded (Genesis 6:22), took his family along with the animals (Genesis 6:20) and preserved life. The event so impressed Noah’s descendants that it was related in the various cultures which came from them. It should impress us as well that the God who judged the world for sin then, will one day judge the world for sin again. “If he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly… then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:5, 9).