Following the flood, Noah and his sons were well acquainted with God’s will. The One who became Jesus Christ spoke to them (Genesis 9:8) and told them, “…Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). As we will see in other places, God works with His people to make a name for Himself.
However, by the third generation from Ham, there was a substantial change in direction. Ham’s son Cush had a son named Nimrod. Scripture simply records his nature as being a mighty hunter against the Lord.
Nimrod’s family settled in the land of Shinar, a fertile area between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Micah refers to it as the “land of Nimrod.” The major city appears to have been Babel. We know it as Babylon today.
The Bible informs us that the people, who were all descended from Noah, were of one language and one speech. This unified mass of people settled in the land of Shinar, so clearly all must have been under the influence of the anti-God ruler – Nimrod.
One feature of Nimrod’s rule was to encourage the people to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). This was reflected in the building of a city and tower. This became a central reference point to maintain their unity in the face of God’s intent for the whole earth to be populated.
As we see with Cain, after he went out from the presence of the Lord, the first thing he did was to build a city. Josephus records that it was a walled city and that he compelled his family to come together into it. By grouping people together, the leader can exercise more control.
The city and tower of Babel were built to enhance human life, self-sufficiency, and independence from God. This is the attitude behind the desire to make a name for themselves.
Up to this point, the verb “to make” had been referring to God. Names are important to God, as we see with His naming of Adam and Eve. God makes a name to bring man’s attention to what He is doing.
The essence of making a name is to make something that requires a name. It implies making one’s life such that it deserves a new name. We see this sense in the case of the Church in Philadelphia. God promises to those who overcome that He will provide them a new name.
Man has followed the course of Babel. The desire to make a name for themselves is to remake man into an image opposed to God – to change the meaning and character of human life based on pride. They wanted a name that replaced God. The gathering of a united population into a city provided the perfect situation for that new name.
God has called us out of Babylon and He leads us by His Holy Spirit. God works with His people to make a new name. “…so You lead Your people, to make Yourself a glorious name” (Isaiah 63:14). “You have set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, to this day, and in Israel among other men; and You have made Yourself a name, as it is this day” (Jeremiah 32:20).
God wants to give us a new name. Our responsibility is to submit to His lead – to be people of godly character who deserve a new name – God’s name.