What led people after the flood to build the tower of Babel is the same reason that led Cain to build his first city (Genesis 4:17). God’s original plan for men was to spread over the face of the earth and to cultivate the soil (Genesis 1:28). The building of cities, and congregating in just one location, was in opposition to His plan. The concentration of people in cities has always encouraged sin. Cities have been known for crime and immorality. In contrast was the life around nature and God’s creation.
God instructed Noah to replenish, or fill, the earth (Genesis 9:1). Unfortunately, the rapidly increasing descendants of Noah departed very soon from the worship of the true God. In the fear that their evil ways would again invite catastrophe, they sought protection in the work of their own hands. They thought that a tower or citadel would help them escape another flood. They forgot that God had promised that He would not send another flood (Genesis 9:11).
This fear was probably prompted by the fact that they were worshiping other gods. Archaeological excavations reveal that the earliest inhabitants of Lower Mesopotamia erected many towers like temples dedicated to the worship of various idol deities. Although they were worshiping other gods, they still acknowledged that the God of Heaven was supreme and wanted to protect themselves from whatever He would do. Instead of serving Him, the conspired to outsmart Him. The flood had covered the highest mountains of the antediluvian world, but had not reached “unto heaven.” So, they reasoned that if a structure higher than the mountains could be erected, they would be safe from whatever God might do.
In addition to serving as protection, the Tower of Babel was to be a monument to glorify the wisdom and talent of its builders. The people wanted to make a “name” for themselves (Genesis 11:4) and to leave a mark of their excellence for future generations. We can therefore see that the ultimate motive was pride. 1 John 2:16 tells us, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” Let us therefore keep our eyes focused on God and not on the worldly attainments and accomplishments that can distract us from Him.
In His service,