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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Gen. 11:1–9]

THE descendants of Noe soon multiplied, and again became as wicked as men had been before the Deluge. Now they were unable to live together any longer, and they said: “Come, let us make a city and a tower, the top whereof may reach to heaven; and let us make our name famous, before we be scattered abroad in all lands.” But God frustrated their foolish design. He said: “Let Us confound their tongue that they may not understand one another’s speech.” Till then there had been but one language spoken amongst men. So the Lord scattered them from that place into all the lands, and they ceased to build the city. Therefore, the city was called Babel, which signifies confusion, because there the language of the whole earth was confounded.

The children of Sem remained in Asia, and from them descended the Israelites, the chosen people of God, Most of the descendants of Cham settled in Africa, while those of Japhet took up their abode in Europe. Thus were different nations founded. The more men multiplied on the earth, the more wicked they became. Their sins darkened their heart and mind, and thus they lost the true knowledge of God, and fell into idolatry. They began to adore a multitude of false gods. Some worshipped the sun, moon and stars, others worshipped men and beasts, and even the works of their own hands. To these false divinities even human victims were offered, and sometimes innocent children, who were made to endure the most cruel torments. God left them to go their own way.

 

Fig. 4. Birs Nimrud (Tower of Confusion). (After Oppert)

Idolatry is a grievous sin against the first Commandment. It is, moreover, unreasonable and foolish, and is a sad proof of the evil effects on man of original sin.

Necessity of grace. God gave the idolaters over to their own evil desires and inclinations. As evil inclinations are rife in man, in consequence of original sin, it is only by God’s grace that he is able to keep the commandments. As God withdrew His grace from these men who had rejected Him, they gave themselves over to the desires of their hearts, and were led by their unbridled passions into the most horrible sins.

Pride. This story shows us how man’s apostasy from God began by pride. At the time that Noe’s descendants built the Tower of Babel, they had increased to some millions in number. They began to build in defiance of God, relying on their own strength and numbers. They did not give glory to God, by acknowledging that they had received all things from Him, and could do nothing without Him. On the contrary, they intended to build a tower which would reach to heaven and make their name famous in all ages. Thus it was pride that prompted this sinful undertaking.

God’s Blessing the one thing necessary. This story of the Tower of Babel shows us the truth of the Psalmist’s words: “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Ps. 126:1).

Necessity of supernatural or revealed religion. The majority of men fell into idolatry about 2000 years after the creation. However, there were always a few just men who, with their families, preserved the faith in the true God, and His revelation; such, for instance, were Abram, Melchisedech, Job &c. But the true faith would have been lost even in those families, unless God had revealed Himself anew, as you will learn He did in the stories which follow. Divine revelation was necessary, or else even man’s natural knowledge of God would have been lost The men of the time of the Tower of Babel possessed a revealed religion, for Noe had faithfully delivered to his descendants the revelation of God handed down by Adam. But as men followed their evil inclinations more and more, their faith became weak. They believed, indeed, but their faith was not living: they lived as if there were no God, until at last they lost the supernatural gift of faith. But, you will say, they could still know God by the light of their natural reason; “for the invisible things of Him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made: His eternal power also and divinity, so that they (i. e. the heathens) are inexcusable” (Rom. 1:20). But they lost even the natural knowledge of God, because their hearts and wills were so corrupt that they were no longer capable of knowing Him. They spoke thus, as it were, to God: “Depart from us: we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways” (Job 21:14). When they turned their hearts from God, their reason became more and more blinded by their evil passions, and they fell into the utmost spiritual ignorance, and into the most foolish idolatry. Pride and vice still lead many men to unbelief.

The punishment of dispersion was at the same time a benefit to mankind. If all men had remained together much longer, they would have destroyed each other by civil war and fighting among themselves. (See the strife between the shepherds of Abram and Lot. Old Test. X.)

The re-union of mankind in the Church. People of all tongues are gathered together in unity of faith in the Catholic Church; for all Catholics over the whole face of the earth are joined together in one faith, one hope, one love. This unity of spirit is expressed by the unity of faith and partly also by the unity of language (Latin), used by the Church. In the Catholic Church, therefore, which is governed by the Holy Ghost, the very opposite has taken place to that which took place in the City of Confusion. There, the speech of men was confounded, and they were scattered: in the Church, men of every land and every tongue are gathered together, in unity of faith and speech, by the Holy Ghost whom Jesus Christ sent on Whitsunday. On that day there were collected together many men of different countries, and yet they all understood the speech of the apostles, and 3000 of them became Christians. On that day was built a city which rests upon earth and reaches to heaven; in which men speak one tongue, and have one faith, and with which God is well pleased. That city is the Holy Catholic Church.

APPLICATION. There are still on this earth 800,000,000 heathens who do not know God and His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Pray earnestly for the conversion of the heathens.

Your forefathers, too, were heathens, and were converted by missionaries sent by the Holy See. Thank God for your holy faith, and confess it by word and deed. Pray fervently to the Holy Ghost to keep you and yours firm in the light of the faith.

HISTORY OF THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL

I. EPOCH

THE TIME OF THE PATRIARCHS

(About 2100–1500 B. C.)








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