Bricks vs Stones

I once heard a sermon about the tower of Babel and how in recent times, several major companies decided that they were going to make for themselves a trademark structure a tower that would signify the power and strength that they had amassed and that the building would be a lasting legacy to them.  In every presented case, shortly after that decision was made, the company fell into ruin.  It was as if a curse was connected to the pride of the company.

Case in point, The Sears tower was envisioned by a very successful Sears & Roebuck company in 1969.  The Sears Company started in 1893 and started operating stores in 1925. It was America’s largest retailer until 1989. The tower was completed in 1973 to the tune of $150 million. By the mid 1970’s Sears has seen its fortune decline and it has lost a lot of market share. The building was mostly vacant for a decade.

It was bought and sold several time until it was surrendered to its’ lender in 2003. It is currently held by a group of investors, and a lessee has obtained the naming rights. It was renamed Willis Tower on July 16, 2009.  Is it a coincidence that they go to build themselves a tower, and the company is no longer able to do well?

What lessons can we learn from the story of the Tower of Babel?  Let’s turn to verse 1 of chapter 11:

Gen 11:1  And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

Gen 11:2  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.

So we have a framework of seeing the world as fairly uniform.  The people are only a few generations from the flood, and they are living in the same area, speaking the same language and probably enjoying the same customs and culture.  Interesting note, in Hebrew, the direction East is set to mean a spiritual closeness with God.  So when it states that they journeyed FROM the east, it means that they left that closeness and when out on their own.

Referencing chapter 10, we find that:

Gen 10:6  And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan.

Gen 10:7  And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtecha: and the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan.

Gen 10:8  And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.

Gen 10:9  He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.

Gen 10:10  And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

Now, it mentions that Nimrod was a mighty hunter, but at that time, there were really on two ways to eat and feed a family, to hunt or to farm, so it is slightly odd that it would mention that he was a hunter.  There is speculation that Nimrod was not a hunter of game, but of men.  He was what we would think of today as a headhunter.  Someone who will seek out talent for use; only, in his case, he would seek out people to be subservient to him.

A lot of this thought is reinforced by the first few verses of chapter 11. 

Gen 11:3  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 mortar.

Gen 11:4  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.


Look at the order which occurs in how they identify the plan.  Let’s start by building bricks, and then after they have an abundance of them, they will use them to build a tower.  Now wouldn’t most people think of what they wanted to accomplish first, and then the method in which they wanted to achieve it?

I want to build a house.  I would probably sit down with an Architect or designer and work to establish a plan.  I would figure how the spaces would interact, and the overall look of the house.  This would help to establish how it would need to be constructed, and what materials to use.  I would be able to use a variety of different building materials, wood, stone, or masonry.  I would create a plan, and then acquire the materials the plan called to use.

In the story, we see the exact opposite.  They are first going to make the bricks, and when they have enough, and then they move on to building the tower.

Why would they choose to work in that order?

Now the interesting thing about bricks is that they are all uniform.  Each brick can do one job, and each brick in interchangeable in doing that job.  Each brick is set within a mortar matrix.  There is a popular belief that mortar holds the bricks together.  This is not entirely true.  Bricks are weight bearing building units and can be used to form a wall with or without mortar.  However, when a brick sets against another brick, it can grind into it and wear it down.  So the mortar acts as a separator to keep the bricks from touching each other.

So Nimrod is looking to have an abundance of bricks made, so that any type of structure can be built from them.  But in the same light, he is also working to have the people shaped into bricks as well.  They are not working to complete the design of a grand structure, they are all making bricks, doing the same interchangeable job.

Gen 11:5  And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

Gen 11:6  And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

Gen 11:7  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech."

Gen 11:8  So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

Gen 11:9  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.


God was displeased because they sought to make a name for their own glory and because they were working to enslave the people at the same time.  They people were being turned into slaves, and they might not have even known about it.  All they could see was the result of their work.

So what does God use as a building material?  Well in:

Exo 20:25  If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.

hewn - cut or shaped with hard blows of a heavy cutting instrument like an ax or chisel.

So the Lord says when you make for me an altar, use stones that are undressed, not altered in any way.  They must be carefully fitted together to form the altar.  Pretty much the exact opposite of what a brick is.  One is a very uniform building material and the other is very unique, it has character that requires careful planning.

I find it very interesting that all through the bible, there are scriptures that talk about how in the church, everyone has a different gift to use.  We see the parable of the talents, and how not everyone is given the same amount.  Some are given more than others, and some utilize their talents to a greater degree.

So the question is, are we aware of the special uniqueness that we contain?  I am reminded of a song that is currently playing on the radio currently that asks a related question:

“Who will love me for me, not for what I have done or what I will become.”  That is the chorus of the song as it sets up several scenarios where the person does not feel loved, and they want someone who will take them as they are.

The song continues, and at the end, addresses it by having God state that he will show them the love they are searching for.

Then a thought came to me, what if God is also asking this same question, “Who will love me for me?”

All throughout history, churches have taken great strides to place God into a box, to define him by a characteristic that would help them push their message the best.  I am reminded of the fire and brimstone sermons of the 90’s.  God tells us that he is Jealous God, but also a loving God, an everlasting father.  We know that some churches dwell in the New Testament, that God is just love.  Others stay in the Old Testament and how strict God was.  But does not Jesus spend a great deal of effort in telling us that if you have seen him, you have seen the Father?  Is Jesus a one-dimensional figure?

We have to realize that God is not just one trait.  He is all of them, strict, jealous, loving. He is all of them at the same time, and he displays them for a variety of different reasons.

Joh 14:6  Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

He came upon his earth, to live a perfect life in the temptations of this sinful world.  And yet we see a man who shows a great variety of emotion.  He took the Pharisees to task for their hypocrisy.  He asked the one returning leper, were they not 10 of you that were healed?  He sought out the blind man, when he heard that he was kicked out the church.  He was joyful at the little children wanting to come and be close to him.

He says to Philip.

Joh 14:9  Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?


And yet, we hear that god is love, just love. Nothing more.

I feel that Ezekiel 37:27 says it well:

Eze 37:27  My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

He has created us with a unique set of abilities.  I feel that he contains a lot of that same uniqueness that he has given to us.  We must embrace that, not to put others in a box, and not to put God into a box.  He has great things planned for us.