From Babel to Babylon: God’s Problem With Centralized Power
Religion & Liberty Online

From Babel to Babylon: God’s Problem With Centralized Power

The Bible does not have a detailed plan for how the government of a modern nation of 300 million people should operate. If you’re looking for specifics on what the United States’ tariff policy with Finland ought to be, you’re plum out of luck.  If you want canonical guidance as to the precise degree of control the filibuster should have over legislative proceedings in the U.S. Senate, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

With plenty of issues in the socio-political and economic realms left unaddressed, the earnest Believer is building upon the certain, clear-cut revelations in Scripture as he or she constructs a cohesive worldview. We must work to avoid the temptation to let emotional responses dictate what policies and practices we will adopt as individuals, families, and as a nation.

The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 is a very important piece of that “What does God have to say about politics/economics?” puzzle that Christians have wrestled with for thousands of years.

Verses 1 and 2:

1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

Up until this point in human history, God had been explicitly clear that humans were supposed to “fill the earth and subdue it.” His plan was for mankind to utilize all of creation for their benefit and His glory. They were to depend on Him and follow His lead. But as soon as sin entered the world, so did death, worry, and anxiety over life’s many trials and tribulations. Human beings naturally feel a sense of comfort and security when we’re in a group, and that isn’t a bad thing. Our Lord himself taught that where two or more Believers are gathered in His name, there He is also. However, there is a flip-side to that coin. When fallen people get together, there rampant sin can be found as well. The very fact that the people referred to in these opening verses were congregating in one central location was a collectively disobedient act. Things immediately went from “bad” to “blasphemous.”

3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

The problem here is that the intention was to flaunt their perceived independence and self-sufficiency apart from their Creator. They specifically challenged God’s “fill the earth” decree, and their challenge emanated from the notion that if they could just collectivize their resources, talents, and intellect, they would be able to cheat the realities of a fallen world. Their technological development and advancements in social engineering seduced them into believing that “the state” could replace The Maker.

5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

There is a lot to unpack there, so for the sake of time, let me simply point out that God thinks so lowly of mankind trying to form itself into one governing body that He is willing to confuse the world with different languages just to prove His point. The same pride that compelled Satan to abandon the glories of heaven for the false and empty hope of “making a name” for himself fueled the hearts of the people who spearheaded the Babel initiative in this passage. God gave these people a chance to obey Him and when they didn’t there was punishment.

9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

God is going to have His way, in spite of our best intentions or worst behavior. The word “Babel” is the same used for the city of Babylon referenced in both the Old and New Testaments. In that context it is always used to depict and/or describe humankind’s longing to dethrone God and establish a heaven-on-earth here without Him. From Babel to Babylon, Genesis to Revelation, the unholy obsession with setting up global, governing entities to supplant God (and his ordained institutions like the family, the local church, etc.) and bring glory to ourselves is simply (and sadly) a reality of life.

Human-created governments and systems of economy have been, and will be, used by God as part of His unfolding plan of salvation, judgment, and renewal. If God is “leery” of centralized power and control in the hands of a handful of people who wish to re-make the world in their own image – an image that rejects God’s authority, undermines His sacred institutions, and corrodes human society – shouldn’t we be leery as well?


R.J. Moeller

R.J. Moeller is a writer and podcast host for the American Enterprise Institute's "Values & Capitalism" project. He's also a regular contributor at and Originally from Chicago, he currently resides in Los Angeles, CA where he serves as a media consultant to nationally syndicated columnist and talk show host, Dennis Prager.