The story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) is well-known. This story relates that a group of people decided to build a city with a tower which would reach into “the heavens”; constructing the city and such a tall tower would unite the people and make them famous. The author tells us that the Lord saw the events, and in order to stop the construction, the Lord “confused their language so that they would not understand one another’s speech.” Since they could not converse with each other, the people stopped the construction of the tower. They also separated into groups and scattered “abroad … over the face of all the earth.” This separation gave rise to multiple communities which developed diverse cultures in addition to having different languages.

The story explains why there are multiple languages instead of all people speaking the same language. However, the story also has a more significant lesson. The author is clear that the multiplication of languages and the dispersion of people into many communities did not occur by accident. It was not something which happened “behind God’s back” – indeed, the author of Genesis tells us that God was the source of the proliferation of languages and cultures.

This brings to mind the first chapter of the book of Genesis, “… God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind ….’ And it was so. … And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ So God created … every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. … And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground …. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:11,20,24,25)

God created a variety of living things; not just one or two kinds of fish but many kinds. There are more than 32,000 known species of fish in addition to the many other animals which live in water. And birds – God didn’t just create a red bird and a blue bird and a yellow bird but instead produced about 10,000 different species from a 2 inch hummingbird to a 9 foot ostrich. The same is true of plants: there are about 200,000 species of trees. Even things which we often consider insignificant occur in great variety, for there are about 12,000 species of algae.

This tells us that God loves diversity. God does not want everything to be alike. The huge amount of variety in living things makes it look as though God wants one of every possible thing. The opening chapter of Genesis tells us that God brought living things into being, and he brought them into being in many forms, shapes, colors and sizes. The story of the Tower of Babel tells us that God also caused people to be not all alike. We speak many languages and cultures as well as different colors of skin, hair and eyes. We are short, tall, fat and skinny; we have different talents and abilities. There is a lot of diversity among humans. This is good, and to God it is beautiful.

God does not want us all to be alike. God has made each of us unique – in the whole history of creation there never has been, and never will be, another person identical to you or to me. We need to recognize and celebrate this uniqueness. We are called by God to find joy in diversity and variety. When we look at a group of people and see the wide range of skin colors, heights, weights, and hair color, we should rejoice. When we talk with people and hear different accents, when we recognize different talents or abilities (or lack thereof), we should rejoice. God created us to be different. God brought this about; it is beautiful. “And God saw that it was good.” May we also see that it is good, and see the beauty in those who are different from us.

copyright by the author, 2014