The Fading Tower of Babel

“The Fading Tower of Babel”
A reflection on Genesis 11:1-9, Isaiah 2:2, Revelation, Psalm 87
©️2022 by Gloria M. Chang

The city of monolithic brick
Recedes before the mountain mystic.

The whole world had the same language and the same words. When they were migrating from the east, they came to a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.” They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built. Then the Lord said: If now, while they are one people and all have the same language, they have started to do this, nothing they presume to do will be out of their reach. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that no one will understand the speech of another. So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the speech of all the world. From there the Lord scattered them over all the earth.  

Genesis 11:1-9

In days to come,
The mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it.

Isaiah 2:2

The word “mystic” is a postpositive adjective in this couplet. Thus the “mountain mystic” or “mystic mountain” refers to the new Jerusalem, the city of God, and Zion—symbols of the Church, the bride of Christ. The kingdom of heaven “already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him, until its full eschatological manifestation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 865). 

The builders of the brick city boast that their tower will have its “top” in the sky, from the Hebrew word for “head” (rosh), but Isaiah prophesies that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the “head” (rosh) of the mountains. 

He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

Revelation 21:10

Unlike the spiritless uniformity of the monolithic city, on the mountain of the Lord, saints of “every nation, race, people, and tongue” sing together in praise: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).

His foundation is on holy mountains,
The Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than any dwelling in Jacob.

Glorious things are said of you,
O city of God!

Rahab and Babylon I count
among those who know me.
See, Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia,
“This one was born there.”

And of Zion it will be said:
“Each one was born in it.”
The Most High will establish it;

the Lord notes in the register of the peoples:
“This one was born there.”

So singers and dancers:
“All my springs are in you.”

Psalm 87

2 Replies to “The Fading Tower of Babel”

  1. Dear GMC, Thank you for your thought- provoking reflection. Isn’t it wonderful that we may be of different tongues, but when we sing praise to God our voices are raised as one? I think of a congregation or a choir singing hymns to God. It reminds me that God wants unity, not uniformity or conformity. Praise be the name of Jesus now and forever.

    1. “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.”
      -John 17:11b

      May the Holy Spirit guide the Church!

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