How Flannelgraphs Gave Me Hints of the One True Story

babel

I’ll confess.

I never understood the Sunday School story of the Tower of Babel. In my mind, I pictured this group of well-meaning folks, just trying to build a tower (sounds cool to me), when God hits them with this metaphorical lightning bolt of language-confusion, and they scatter like ants from a stomped-on anthill.  Oh, yes, I knew what my teacher told me – they were trying to be like God, it was a prideful thing to do, etc. But I never actually saw that in the story. I only saw people making a tower and God getting mad. Was it the bricks and tar they used, instead of stone and mortar? (The biblical account seems to make a point of mentioning the building materials, which made it seem significant to me.) And when God says that the tower building indicates that “nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” and so he’ll make it harder, doesn’t that seem a bit spiteful? As though God is jealous of their accomplishments, and wants to trip them up before they outshine him?

It wasn’t until reading it today, with the One True Story in mind, that the lightbulb flashed. Or perhaps it’s because since those Sunday School days I’ve set three books around the city of Babylon, heavily researching the great city that scholars believe sprung up around this half-completed ancient tower.

The Tower of Babel, if scholars are correct, was eventually finished in some form, and became the ziggurat that formed the central worship of the city of Babylon. It had another name besides the one found at the heading of Genesis 11 in every Bible. It was called The House of the Platform of Heaven and Earth.

Many other ziggurats have been found with similar names. In the city of Larsa, The House of the Link between Heaven and Earth. At Borsippa, The House of the Seven Guides of Heaven and Earth. Do you get a sense of what these towers were? They were not simply big structures meant to show off the engineering skills of the builders, as you may have thought of the Tower of Babel.

They were temples. They were man-made “holy mountains” that created a link for the gods to descend, a platform for them to rest upon when they visited man. In other words, the Tower of Babel was man’s very first attempt to construct an Alternate Story. There would come a day when God would approve of a temple built in his honor. This was not that day.

And from Genesis to Revelation, Babylon becomes for us an enduring symbol. It is the city of exile, set up as the antithesis to Jerusalem, where God’s people are given over to their never-ending proclivity for an Alternate Story, dragged away from their own holy temple and cast at the feet of this first one.

But Babylon is more than this literal city of exile. Through Revelation, it becomes the very symbol of the Alternate Story, a religious spirit of false worship, that rises up in the last days in yet another attempt to build a tower of opposition.

Yes, our God is a jealous God.  But not jealous of man’s trifling accomplishments with bricks and tar – he who flung the stars across the heavens! He is God jealous of hearts, not willing that we should give them to any other story but the One True Story that He has written.

Once again, we see that God’s actions, this “lightning bolt” of language confusion, are more mercy than judgment. God steps in, not as a bully who wants to slow human progress, but as a merciful Father, to slow his children in their race to find themselves in a story that will lead only to destruction.

May each of us examine the towers of our own making, the stories of our own making, and give thanks when God steps in to hinder our plans.

17 comments


  • Cathy

    Tracy thank you so very much for those thoughts. I so appreciate the way you dig deep and show God’s heart to and toward us. May He continue to give you insight to share with us, and bless you!

    Cathy

    September 21, 2012
  • Jan

    Hi Tracy,
    I enjoyed your blog and agree with about everything you’ve said. Like you, I found the Babel story a little incomprehensible as a child. My own light bulb moment came as an adult when I was reading Josephus on this subject. He says that these descendents of Adam had lost trust in God and decided that sooner or later He would send another flood, no matter what He said to the contrary. So they stopped dispersing, gathered together in one place and began to build. Then, when the flood they had imagined would come, they would run up into the tower and be safe. In effect, therefore, they were trying to provide their own salvation (as you said). Now Josephus was two thousand years closer to this event than we are, and possibly he was speculating, but for the first time the story made perfect sense to me. Of course, God had to put a stop to it, and He did so without destroying lives, but only made it impossible for them to continue. It is a little hair-raising to know that the remnants of that tower still exist in Iraq, or so they say. You might know for sure.

    September 21, 2012
  • Candy

    Thanks for the post Tracy.I never understood The Tower of Babel story til now.Like you,I thought God was just mad because they were trying to reach heaven on their own accord and because like you quoted”the tower building indicates that “nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” and so he’ll make it harder.”

    September 21, 2012
  • Lora

    Thank you–that story always perplexed me too (esp. as a child). Wow, the significance of this towerl, as well as God’s grace to draw people to Him instead, is so meaningful to me now. Thank you again for sharing your insight on scriptures & God’s heart. I won’t forget this.

    September 23, 2012
  • Dana McNeely

    Great post. I especially like your insight that God is not jealous of man’s trifling accomplishments, but that we should give our hearts to any other story than the One True Story.

    October 4, 2012
  • You all bless me with your thoughts. Thanks for leaving comments to let me know you’re reading, and thinking along with me.
    Jan – yes, the remnants of the tower still stand today!

    October 6, 2012
  • Lindy Enlow

    Thanks for sharing. I will be checking out the book download asap!!

    October 28, 2012
  • Very interesting! Thanks for sharing. Enjoyed

    November 29, 2012
    • Thanks, Amy, for stopping by and for letting me know you enjoyed the post!

      December 1, 2012
  • Annie Atcheson

    Dear Tracy:
    I have bought one each of your books for this summer’s reading. I wonder if you only wrote two “seven wonders” stories or have I missed the rest?
    I love Biblical fictions. I know that you will be one of my favorite authors. I am so glad that I have found you.
    Best Regards,
    Annie

    March 21, 2013
    • Hi Annie,
      Technically, these five books are part of the Seven Wonders: Shadow of Colossus (re-releases Isle of Shadows), City of the Dead, Guardian of the Flame, Garden of Madness, and So Shines the Night.
      We’re not really pushing the “Seven Wonders” idea at this point, and all those books are stand-alone and can be read in any order. Thanks for asking!

      April 3, 2013
  • Tracey that would be something to write about?

    May 23, 2013
  • People of bablyon are beautifull just like Tracey. Beautifull part of history. They didnt include the maker lead to jealousy.

    May 23, 2013
  • Sharon

    Tracey,
    Thank you for sharing the information about The Tower of Babel and Babylon. Reading your blog was a Bible and history lesson for me. The same is true for me when I read three of your Seven Wonders books. Can’t wait to read the others.

    September 27, 2014
  • Lynne Horne

    Thank you Tracy, this was an awesome blog! I loved your final statement that this was God’s act of mercy to rescue us from inserting ourselves in a story that would only lead to our destruction – powerful!
    I love your books and eagerly anticipate my next opportunity to read!!

    January 4, 2015
  • Terry

    Cool. If humanity is basically good we need only pursue good, and in our own abilities etc. we can create a Heaven on Earth with no need of a divine savior redeemer. All the social justice, humanitarianism, education, and even love cannot change our fallen condition, Humanity is NOT basically good, thus there is hope for claiming the redemption God alone could provide. Very timely message, thank you Tracy. God Bless

    May 13, 2015
  • Thank you for deepening this account for me.
    Keep researching and sharing.

    June 30, 2017

Leave a comment


Name*

Email(will not be published)*

Website

Your comment*

Submit Comment

© Copyright Tracy L. Higley