What Does the Bible Have to Say
To a Society Preoccupied with Ethnicity
by Keith Graham
What do the Scriptures teach about racism, comparative cultures, and the origins of the diverse families of mankind?
The account of early human history given in Genesis,the Bible's book of beginnings, is crucial to understanding ourselves and our world. God has not given us all the details of that history. But He has given us an accurate summary of it. Please read Genesis 11: 1 - 9 before we go further.
The passage mentions a place called Shinar. This is Mesopotamia in the Middle East, where the earliest human archaelogical artifacts have been found, giving evidence of the truth of the Bible's inspired record, which sets forth this very place as the one where human society began anew after the Great Flood of Noah's time. It is so important to recognize that the Biblical accounts of mankind's Creation, the Fall into sin, the Great Flood, and the Tower of Babel are not fables, myths, or fictional stories, but are foundational historical truths that allow us to understand our world and ourselves.
After the Flood, Noah's descendants began to repopulate the earth. In Genesis 10, we find a table of ancient nations. In verse 32 we read: "These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the Flood." The account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 explains why the families of the descendants of Noah were divided.
So what actually happened among these post-Flood humans in Mesopotamia? As Genesis 11 opens, we find them unified, speaking one language, and apparently engaged in a great construction project.
They were literally building a structure, to be sure - probably similar in purpose and architecture to the Assyrian and Babylonian ziggurats. But they didn't imagine anymore than we would today that this structure would actually reach an imagined Divine throne in the upper atmosphere. As verse 4 of Genesis 11 says, what they sought was to make for themselves a name, instead of worshiping God's name. In Genesis 9:1, we read: "And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, `Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.'" This was a repeat of the mandate God gave to Adam and Eve. The rebels didn't obey. Instead these tower builders also began building a city - a place where they could find strength in numbers, and have a headquarters for their own agenda, instead of spreading out into, filling, and subduing the earth as God commanded.
The project is actually a vain and foolish rebellion against God. What we see is men trying to reach heaven by human power instead of depending on Heaven, that is God, to come down to them in mercy and grace.
What we see here is nothing less than an ancient form of godless HUMANISM. We see man exalting himself to the highest place, man putting God out of the picture, man thinking he can despise God and set Him at naught.
The words of Psalm 2, written against God's enemies of centuries later, admirably describe the Tower of Babel situation and God's reaction to it: "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, `Let us break their bonds in pieces, and cast away their cords from us!' He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the LORD shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure..."
God responds to the rebellion by coming down in judgment, as He had already done at Flood, as he did later in history in the case of Sodom & Gomorrah, and again against Pharaoh and the ancient Egyptians at the Exodus of the Israelites, and as He will do one final time when Christ returns! God breaks onto the scene in Shinar in a miraculous and powerful way. Suddenly, the single human language is supernaturally shattered into an unknown number of tongues, each unintelligible to the others. This causes the division between the earliest humans. So we find that nations originated on account of language. The world's first borders were linguistic, not geographic!
It should be noted here that the modern concept of race is foreign to the Bible. The Bible speaks of nations, tribes, clans, families - but not races. As it is commonly used today - that is to distinguish broad people groups of similar physical appearance - race is an evolutionary term. Both evolutionary dogma and Biblical truth conceive of all humans as sharing a common ancestry; in other words, there is essentially only one race, the human race!
The evolutionist conceives of that one humanity as a tree that slowly grows several main branches called races, as human history unfolds over long ages. In the evolutionary view, different languages are simply phenomena like different skin colors and facial features.
According to the Bible on the other hand, the division of the originally unified human race may be compared to the breaking of an earthenware vessel, such as a bowl or pitcher. As when such a vessel meets with an accident that dashes it into pieces, so God suddenly and miraculously breaks the back of that primeval rebellion against His rightful sovereignty over human beings. He shatters the first Humanist empire to smithereens. God's instrument to accomplish this is the faculty of speech with which He had endowed human beings.
Although languages since the Tower of Babel have surely developed, overlapped, become extinct and arisen, this original confusion of tongues is what caused humanity to segregate into sub-groups. It may be inferred that the resultant inbreeding among smaller populations began the formation of the variation in appearance, temperament, etc. which we see among the tribes and nations of mankind to this day.
But there is good news! Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, God is REVERSING the judgment of Babel! He is creating one new, redeemed humanity again! In Christ, God came down not to judge, but to bless the world! This was powerfully demonstrated at Pentecost, when the earliest Christians, all Judean Jews, were miraculously given the ability to speak the languages of people groups from all around the Graeco/Roman world, as recorded in Acts chapter 2. In this way, God demonstrated that a Way of salvation was now opened, and is freely offered to all the wayward nations of mankind.
This is where we are today in human history. And those who refuse to embrace Christ, Who is Himself this Way of salvation, remain under the true, historical curse of Babel, namely division and hostility among nations.
Thus the unbelieving world can only try with exceedingly little success to educate, cajole, legislate and force into existence the international and so called inter-racial peace of which it dreams. However, those who come to God by this living Way of salvation experience the blessed reality! It is effected by the supernatural power of the unifying Spirit of Christ, Who makes men of every shade and descent to become members of one great family of the heavenly Father.
No wonder that, in that glimpse into heavenly worship in the book of Revelation, chapters 4 & 5, God's holy people sing a new song to the Lord Jesus Christ, saying, "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation."
Keith Graham, July 1996