I have spent the last few weeks in Genesis 11 reading about what might have been one of the greatest construction projects in world history. Out of the blue one day I was overwhelmed with the need to go back (or forward - since most of my time is spent in Genesis 1) to the account of Babel.
I wasn't really sure what I would find or even whether there was anything new to be found in this familiar account. As always, there is some pretty great stuff there, there is some pretty challenging stuff, and then there is just some stuff that needs to be worked out theologically. So, who knows where this is going.
Also, this will have to be a series because I have absolutely no idea when or how it will all play out, and it probably won't be continuous - for those that know me, you know that Part XII may appear sometime next year. For now, this first post is just a quick look at the ancient Hebrew pictographs that make up the word "Babel."
In Hebrew, Babel is spelled BET, BET, LAMED. The Hebrew letter BET is the equivalent of our letter B, and it is pictured in the ancient Hebrew pictographs as a house or a tent. The letter BET also symbolically represents a house or lineage, as in "the house of David." The letter LAMED is the equivalent of our letter L, and is pictured as a shepherd's staff or ox goad. LAMED symbolically means to shepherd, lead, teach and/or prod.
What does that give us? Something quite remarkable really. The story of the Tower of Babel is of a unified, homogeneous group, perhaps an extremely large family, the descendants of Noah, sharing one language and coming together for one purpose: to make a name for themselves by building a great city with a tower that reached to the heavens. God puts a halt to this by confusing their language and scattering the people, presumably into different tribes or people groups with different languages (one "house" being transformed into multiple "houses"). So, the picture painted by Babel is of God, the great shepherd, taking His staff and scattering His flock into different families or houses over the earth.
Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. Gen. 11:9.
More of the theological stuff later, but, for now, yet one more example of the divine nature of the language of God.