The story of Babel is a commentary on man. There was nothing unique about the original “Babelonians” or that sets them apart from the rest of their race other than that their work is noted in the Bible for its gravity and symbolism.
Right along with the spirit of the world, the story is typically grandiose. Men excitedly describe the project to one another as if it is the ultimate achievement (not unlike the buzz that occurs today at the latest and greatest electronic gadget, or an architectural wonder). At the same time their insecurity is betrayed as they crowd together to preserve identity and control their fortunes. (Derek Kidner notes that pride and fear would be an apt motto for modern nationalists.)
There is a sense of foreboding in God’s words: “this is only the beginning…nothing that they propose…will now be impossible for them.” History has shown us how true this is. Whether man proposes trips to the moon, cities of skyscrapers, the systematic slaughter of fellow humans, or the killing of millions of babies, it is done. Man’s abilities may attest to literally be heavenly, in the sense that they are extraordinarily high or great, but our wills are pathetically selfish, and wicked. A sorry combination.
While God does not take the issue lightly, he approaches it as a concerned Creator and Father, not as a rival. His statement here is similar to our Lord’s in Luke 12:31 (“If they do these things when the wood is green…”). Peace and unity, are not ultimate goods (though our politicians and earth worshippers may tell us otherwise). For God it is better to have division than collective apostasy.
Let us, instead of looking to the work of our own hands and glorifying fellow humans in doing so, look to God. Millennia later He chose people from all over the face of the earth, gathered them into Jerusalem, and then gave them different languages to proclaim His name in all the earth. The world and it’s creations will continue to dazzle, but only so long as one ignores the knowledge of God and the grace he extends to all mankind.