The Dispensations are God’s contrastive way of proving that His plan for humanity is right. Each dispensation allows man the opportunity to choose righteousness (God) on his own; outside of God’s plan.
In the First Dispensation, innocence did not lead to man choosing God. In the Second Dispensation, an abundance of knowledge and experience gained through extremely long lives did not lead to man choosing God.
The people in the second dispensation lacked a sense of urgency. They were used to living a long time and relying on the knowledge they amassed to answer “What’s the point?”
What if man’s lifespan was significantly reduced? Would their impending mortality and increased sense of urgency lead them to seek God? These were the contrastive questions asked in the Third Dispensation.
How did God curtail lifespans?
I supposed He could have just decreed it (He’s God after all), and the actions of the people in the Second Dispensation justified it.
Some creation scientists who’ve studied this period speculate that the pre-flood earth was covered by a “vapor canopy” (based on Genesis 1: 6-8), which would have produced an ecosystem conducive to extended longevity by blocking UV radiation and increasing air pressure and oxygen content. It would also have been one of the sources of water for the Great Flood. Once the canopy was destroyed, the new climate would make repair more difficult and cells would age at a much faster rate. However there are many problems with this theory and it has become progressively less popular
Its also possible that the limited post-flood gene pool anteceded from Noah’s three son’s magnified genetic deficiencies, and increased susceptibility to disease and cellular degeneration, resulting in shortened lifespans. To be honest, I haven’t yet found an explanation that I’m fully satisfied with. Of course that doesn’t mean there isn’t a comprehensive explanation, just that I haven’t found one yet.
Whatever the process, the Bible shows that after the flood, lifespans gradually decreased to about 120 years as promised. What was the result? Did impending mortality motivate the people of the Third Dispensation to become more focused and purposeful in their pursuit of the answer to “What’s the Point?”
Once the flood waters subsided, Noah’s sons and their wives started cranking out kids and grand-kids. Within a few generations, there was a pretty significant population building. But these folks didn’t idly pursue knowledge and debauchery like their forefathers; they were organized, focused, and active. They had a singleness of purpose, communication, and a common mindset.
And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there…And they said, Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven, and let us make a name for ourselves; lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And Jehovah came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. And Jehovah said, Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do: and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do. Genesis 11:1-2, 4-6
God Himself stated that under these conditions, man can do anything he set his mind to. If the Second Dispensation was like the Age of Enlightenment, the Third Dispensation was the Dot Com boom.
A community with a singular focus had the ability to rule over creation. They had found a way to reclaim what Adam lost! The interesting thing is that this kind of community represents what God ultimately wants for humanity (to rule over creation), but not how or why He wants man to rule. God’s plan is for man to be co-rulers with Him, in a community that continually grows, repairs, and lives forever, (we’ve already seen that eternal life is the ability to constantly repair) and this can only be done by a community that thinks contrastively.
Did the People of the Third Dispensation think contrastively? Did they use their extraordinary productiveness to focus on God and His plan for righteousness?
Nope, they started jonesing for Eden! When they saw what their collectivist community was capable of, they began to think comparatively. If nothing they set their minds to do was impossible for them, what did they need God for? So they focused on re-creating Eden without God. Actually, they attempted to create a facsimile of the meaning of life, complete with their own version of God’s plan! (More on this in the next post).
The whole population gathered together in an area called Shinar (present day southern Iraq) and built a city called Babylon and a tower to the heavens called “Babel” (which means “Gate of God”).
But what’s so inherently bad about building a city and a tower? Does God hate skyscrapers?
Like the section of Genesis 6 we examined in the last post, there is a lot of subtext in Gen 11 that requires a deeper examination. The implications of what this tower was and why building it was “bad” is not made denotatively clear in the short passage. The full story and the implications are only gleaned when looking at later commentary on Babylon.
In the book of Revelation, Babylon is called the “Mother of Harlots”, and the nations and kings of the earth are accused of “fornication” with her. The references to harlotry and fornication do not literally mean that the Babylon was the Mesopotamian version of Reno. The passage is speaking of spiritual fornication and prostitution – being intimate with a spirituality that is not of God (and sacrificing something of yourself for the pleasure). Babel was where systematic alternatives to God’s plan (organized religion) began. Babylon is used throughout the Bible as an idiom for idolatry and false religions.
With this knowledge of what Babylon was, we can better understand the key phrases of the passage:
Come (organization). Let us build a city (kingdom). And tower to the heavens (religion). Let us make a name for ourselves (an identity independent of God). Lest we be scattered throughout the earth (in defiance of God’s command to replenish the earth).
In essence – “Let’s unite and build a kingdom and a religion on our terms, not God’s”
It’s possible that the Tower may have began as a monument to God, (which God never asked for), but as the people began to take pride in its construction, it became a monument to man.
It’s interesting that God stated that He had to “come down” to see the tower. It may be an derisive play on words to convey the idea that this “great” monument of man is so comparative miniscule from the perspective of God’s glory, that He had to intentionally “lower Himself” to take notice of it.The people of the Third Dispensation were of one mind, and they made a collective choice. They chose to try to create the Kingdom of God, without God. They chose to pledge their devotion to a religion of their own creation instead of God. So this dispensation ended the way the first two ended – in justified judgment:
Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So Jehovah scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off building the city. Genesis 11:7-8
Because the people took pride in their unity and collectivism in defiance of God, He confused their languages. Without the ability to universally communicate, the community dispersed. Those groups who spoke the same language banded together and went on to form new societies, and nations – with ethnic and national enmity replacing the unity of Babylon.
Legacy of evil
Even though they were no longer united, the societies and nations that formed in the aftermath of the Third Dispensation still took much of the form and spirit of Babel with them – and what began at Babylon is quite significant.
Babel was the root of organized religion, human government, idol worship, priesthoods, totalitarianism, hereditary monarchies, imperialism, secret societies, political intrigue, global conspiracy theories, and social engineering – all the things that make our world the fun filled place that it is.
It all started with Noah’s ambitious grandson Nimrod, Nimrod’s equally ambitious (and skanky) wife Semiramis, their “son” Tammuz . . . and the Zodiac. Seriously. We’ll begin examining all this in the next post.
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