A few brief thoughts from my reading today of Genesis 10-18:
The people of the earth acquired a new technology: the brick. The technology of the brick empowered them to do things they previously could not do. They could build predictable and uniform structures, and they could do it quickly. Those structures were stronger and more heavily fortified, and could therefore be larger than previous structures.
And they felt the power that their new technology offered. They said among themselves, “we could be gods! We could build our way to heaven, and rule over the earth!” So they got to work, building a structure that would, they believed, elevate them to the status of a god. This is the story we know as the Tower of Babel.
In 2016, we don’t think much about bricks. Our technology has improved, and at this point, bricks are not even the technology of choice for building skyscrapers and towers.
But that doesn’t mean that we are not prone to using technology to elevate us to the status of gods. Now, rather than building towers, we count social media followers, influence, Klout scores, LinkedIn connections, and so on. We treat our words as if they should hold a special significance to others. We post as if we are important enough to read. Everyone has an opinion (self-evaluation: guilty), and a blog to post it on (guilty), and a perceived following to hear it. Just the people of Babel laid brick after brick, we compile post after post in an effort for what? Internet glory? The validation of our own self-importance? It seems that in this way and many others, technology often carries with it the temptation to make gods of ourselves.
On the other end of self-importance is the neglect and dismissal of others. Hagar knew that feeling, as she fled from Sarai, who mistreated her after the birth of Ishmael. But God sought her out. She becomes the first person in scripture to receive an angelic messenger, the first person to “name” God (Elroi, “God sees”), and the recipient of a promise from God, who promised to multiply her offspring.
It is not unusual in scripture to see the failed plots of the great, while blessings are poured upon the weak, the least, and those mistreated or forgotten. I’m reminded that at the beginning of the book of Exodus, we hear of the actions of a Pharaoh, who scripture doesn’t care to name, and we hear of two powerless, otherwise obscure midwives to the Hebrews, who scripture remembers by name: Shiphrah and Puah.