Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Through the Bible
Lesson 5: The Tower of Babel
Author’s Notes: From Adam and Eve, to Cain, and then the people of Noah’s day, there was one sin that kept creeping in again and again. It’s pride. We learned last week that things had gotten so bad on earth, in Noah’s day, that God chose to wipe the earth clean, and begin again with only Noah and his family. But in just a few generations, men began again to be consumed with pride. And in today’s lesson, we’re going to find that pride leads directly to destruction, especially for the builders of the Tower of Babel.
In our last lesson, it was encouraging to see that even though the earth, in Noah’s day, had become full of wicked people, at least Noah had remained faithful to the Lord. And because he did, the Lord spared Noah and his family from the judgment. What sort of judgment did God use? He sent a world-wide flood. And how was Noah saved? God told him to build an ark.
The flood destroyed every person and animal that was not in the ark. So once the water went back down, and Noah and his family came back off the ark, they were the only people left on the whole face of the earth. God planned to use that godly family to start the human race all over again.
The only problem was that human race was still affected by something passed down to them from their ancestor, Adam. Do you know what that was? It was a sin nature. For the most part, Noah and his family lived godly lives. They worshipped the Lord, and obeyed the instructions He gave them. But before many years had passed, evidence of that stubborn sin nature was evident, once again; especially the sin of pride.
Pride had led Adam and Eve to want something better than what God had offered them. It had caused Cain to bring an offering to the Lord that was not acceptable to Him. And when given the chance to ask God for forgiveness, pride kept Cain from repenting and turning to the Lord. He still wanted to do things his own way.
Pride also kept the people of Noah’s day from repenting of their evil ways. As we learned last week, God had warned them that their days were numbered. They had one hundred twenty years to turn back to Him. And during that time, they could see God at work, through Noah, preparing to judge the earth. But they refused to repent.
It would be nice to be able to say that once Noah’s family stepped off the ark, pride had been washed away right along with all of the wicked people. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. By the time Noah’s great-grandson came along, pride was already rearing its ugly head again.
In a few moments, we’re going to see what happened when pride took hold of an ancient city called Babel, how it led to destruction, and ultimately to another new beginning for men. But before we do, let’s make sure we have a clear understanding of what pride really is. Why do we need to know? Because God’s Word gives us many warnings concerning pride, including today’s memory verse. God takes pride seriously, so we should too. Let’s learn our verse together; then take a close look at pride, and how it was the downfall of Babel.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You, and Your plans and new beginnings for us. Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)
Can anyone explain what pride is? We’ve talked about it already. But I want to be sure we really understand it before we go on. (allow the students to first try to explain pride in their own words) The dictionary* has several definitions that all fit in well with today’s lesson. Let’s talk about these definitions, then see how well they describe what happened in the city of Babel.
First of all, pride can be putting yourself first, or thinking you’re the most important person around. Have you ever known someone who seems to think they’re better than everybody else? That person is probably full of pride. Now, it’s not wrong to have a good self-image. God made us in His likeness, and He loves us; and that makes us pretty special. But when we start looking at others as being less important than us, that’s when pride is getting in the way. And if we should ever think of ourselves and our own wants above God… that’s very dangerous ground!
Another part of pride involves thinking that we are so great that we deserve more than what we have, or more than what others have. This, too, is dangerous thinking where God is concerned. Who has given us all that we have? God has. So when we begin to feel like we deserve more, we are complaining that God isn’t giving us what we deserve; that He is somehow falling behind in His responsibilities toward us. Do you think God likes to hear that attitude in us? No way! He wants us to always be content and thankful for whatever He chooses to give us. This was part of what Satan led Adam and Eve to believe in the Garden of Eden. It’s why they ate the forbidden fruit, because they felt like they deserved to have what the fruit could offer, and God was holding it back from them.
And one last part of pride that we’ll see in today’s lesson involves taking full credit for our success and accomplishments. For instance, if you were to win first place in a Bible memory competition, and felt that you and you alone deserved every bit of praise and credit for that win, that would be pride. Chances are there are other people who have helped you along the way. And you certainly would not have the ability to memorize all those verses if God had not given it to you. So again, pride is a direct offense to God Himself. Everything we have the ability to do is a gift from God.
That’s why God never has, nor will He ever take pride lightly. It is an offense to Him, personally. And that’s where our memory verse for this week comes in. Let’s say it again, together: “Pride goeth before destruction. And an haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18 God wants us to clearly understand that pride is a serious matter, in His eyes. And that it will not go unpunished, because it’s putting ourselves, our desires, and our plans ahead of God’s own will.
So let’s open our Bibles, now, and see who the people of Babel were, and how their pride ultimately led to destruction.
1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
There are two things we should notice in these first two verses. The first is this: how many languages were spoken in the world at that time? Only one. Every one, at that time, had descended from the same man, Noah. So they all spoke the same language.
The second thing we need to be aware of is a command the people had been given by God. God had told both Adam and Noah that they were to multiply and fill the earth. And after the flood, Noah’s sons did spread out in different directions: Shem’s descendants stayed primarily in the Middle East, Japheth’s descendants headed north and west toward modern Europe, and most of Ham’s descendants headed south into Africa and east into what is now China.**
But some of Ham’s descendants only went as far as modern-day Iraq, and stopped there, building the city of Babel. Why did they stop? We’re about to find out. Let’s listen in on their conversation as God recorded it in the book of Genesis.
3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
Did you notice the number of times the people said, “Let us?” I’ll read it again, and listen for each one. (read verses 3 and 4 again)
Do you remember in our definition of pride how one of the dangers is putting ourselves ahead of God? God had instructed the people to fill the earth. The people of Babel started out to obey God. But when they got as far as Babel, for some reason they decided they had gone far enough. And when they stopped and began making plans for their new city, they left someone very important out of their plans. Who was not included? The people did not include God in their plans for Babel. In fact, they intentionally left Him out. They didn’t say, “Let us ask God what we should do.” They must have concluded that their plans were better than God’s. What’s that called, when we think we’re more important, even to the point of our plans being more important than God’s? Yes, that’s pride!
And they weren’t planning to build just any old city. What was their special plan? They were going to make a name for themselves by building a tower that would reach up to Heaven.
There are two more things we should notice in these verses. Who was going to get all the credit for the magnificent tower they planned to build? The people hoped that they would. They wanted to make a name for themselves. There was no credit given to God for giving them safety in reaching the city. Nor did they give Him credit for the skills they had for creating such a tower. The people wanted full credit for their tower.
The second thing we must take note of is what they wanted the tower to do. Now there are some differing opinions about what was meant by a tower “whose top may reach unto heaven.” Some think they intended to build an altar at the top, hoping to attract God’s favor for their magnificent structure. If that’s the case, how do you think God would look on their plans? Do you think He was impressed? After all, that would mean they were coming up with their own means of reaching God, rather than using the sacrificial system. Does that remind you of someone else we studied not long ago? Who else wanted to come to God on his own terms? Cain did. And how did God feel about that? He rejected Cain’s effort.
Other scholars believe they were literally hoping to reach heaven on their own; that they were showing their superiority to everyone else by building a structure that would take them all the way to heaven. But how does God feel about anyone trying to get to heaven their own way? Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Those are pretty strong words! Remember, God does not take pride lightly. And people who think they can reach Heaven on their own are doing so in pride.
So what did God do? Let’s find out.
5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
We’re going to stop right here and take note of one little detail. The people thought they were so great by building this super high tower. But what does the scripture say God did in order to see it? It says He “came down.” No matter how great we think we are, God is still greater. No matter how high the people thought they were getting, God was still higher.
Couldn’t God see them from right where He was in Heaven? Of course He could. The Bible tells us over and over again that God is omnipresent and omniscient. That means He is everywhere and knows everything. God didn’t have to come down in order to see the city. He knew exactly what they were doing as He sat on His throne in Heaven. But God wanted to make a point that no matter how puffed up the people were with pride, they were still far beneath the God of the universe.
And once the God of the universe got a good look at the tower, and the prideful hearts of its builders, He knew it was time to take drastic action.
6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
God is saying, here, that if the people are allowed to continue building and believing they can reach God, then they’ll believe that nothing can stop them; that they can do anything they choose to do. And God could not allow them to go on believing such things. It was as if they were shaking their fists at God, telling Him they could do what they want. So God decided it was time to put a stop to their prideful actions.
Would you like to guess what He did to stop them? He could have sent an earthquake to shake the tower to pieces. He could have sent a plague to kill them all, even while they were building. But for the past two weeks, we have learned this about God: He is merciful. He could have chosen to end their lives then and there. But instead, He had another plan…one that would cause them to do what He told them to in the first place. And this is what He did.
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
What did God do to the people? He instantly made them start speaking different languages, so they couldn’t understand one another. Have you ever tried to talk with someone who speaks another language? It can be very frustrating, not being able to understand what they’re saying to you, and you not being able to communicate well with them.
So what was the reaction of the people, once they realized what had happened? They stopped building the tower, and they scattered in different directions, just as God had wanted them to do in the first place. The prideful plans of the people of Babel and their tower were destroyed, just as our memory verse says. Their pride led to the destruction of their society.
God will always make sure His will is done, whether we cooperate or not. When we don’t obey, it’s because pride makes us think that God doesn’t really know what’s best, and that our ideas are better than Gods; or that we’re too important to bother with God’s plans for our lives.
But the fact is God is the only one who can see the future. He is the only one who knows what’s best for everyone. And so His plan is always best. His plan for Noah’s descendants was to fill the earth. So He did what was needed to make sure that happened.
And for mankind, it was another new beginning. It was a time of learning to adjust to a world where people were no longer able to communicate like they were before. It was a time of spreading out and finding new borders. But it was also a time of recognizing God’s sovereign control over every one and every thing. Any time a traveler would pass by the abandoned Tower of Babel, they were sure to remember the stories they’d heard of God coming down to stop man’s disobedient, prideful ways.
And what about today? Is God still concerned with prideful disobedience? Yes, He is. When He sees us living in prideful ways, not doing what He wants, but choosing to go our own way, He won’t let us keep going like that forever. God will step in and make sure that we eventually do what He’s asked us to do.
So as a child, what has God, through His Word, asked you to do? Are you obeying Him? Or have you decided that His instructions really aren’t that important for you to follow? Or maybe you think His rules just don’t apply to you. Do you know what that’s called? If you said “pride,” you’re absolutely right.
God has said that children are to obey their parents. He has also said to honor them (or show them respect). How have you done with those instructions this week?
God has also said to love your neighbor (meaning everyone around you), to be kind, and to not complain. How has that gone this week? Chances are if you’re having trouble obeying any of these Biblical instructions, that you’re struggling with pride. And if that’s the case, God wants very much to help you get rid of it before it leads to destruction or a fall in your life.
You can ask Him right now to help you with your pride. And He will gladly do it! He loves to answer prayers that are in His will. And getting rid of pride certainly is what God wants for all of us. Let’s try to be extra careful not to let pride creep into our hearts this week. We can ask Him right now to do that!
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your holy Word, the Bible. And for all it teaches us about the sin of pride. Help us, Lord, to recognize when pride is creeping into our lives. And help us to remember to confess it to You, so You can help take it out of our hearts. Thank You, Lord, for loving us enough to take our sin away. And for Your grace and mercy to keep on loving us, even in those times when we don’t obey. Give us hearts that only want to love and obey You. For we ask in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
1. God told both Adam and Noah to multiply and fill the earth.
2. Noah’s sons spread out in different directions.
3. Some of Ham’s family stopped when they reached the area of modern day Iraq.
4. Ham’s descendants decided to build a city with a great tower.
5. The people wanted the Tower of Babel to reach to heaven.
True or False
1. Noah’s descendants disobeyed God when they stopped at Babel. (true)
2. The people of Babel showed their sinful pride when they decided to build a great tower, so they could stay together and make a name for themselves. (true)
3. God didn’t notice the people of Babel building the tower. (false – He came down to see what they were doing)
4. God congratulated the people of Babel for their magnificent tower. (false – He punished them by confusing their language, so they could no longer understand each other.)
5. God’s will (to have men fill the earth) was ultimately accomplished when the people left the city and tower of Babel because they couldn’t understand each other anymore. (true)