As the generations of man came and went in the unfolding story of God and His creation, the more they fell into sin. When we come to the 6th chapter of Genesis God is distressed with the sinfulness of man and purposes to deal with them.
The 5th chapter gives the generations from Adam to Noah. One thing notable about these ancient ones is their longevity. The shortest lifespan of any of them was Enoch who “only” lived 365 years because God took him from the earth because of his godly life. The reason for this longevity apparently had to do with the presence of the Spirit of God within men. The first thing He purposes to do is withdraw His Spirit from man and reduce his life span to 120 years. God said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” (v.3). Other versions say “My Spirit shall not always contend with man.” This is very significant – the connection between God’s Spirit dwelling in man and life. Paul makes the connection between the Spirit and life this way in Romans 8:11:
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
With the Spirit now withdrawn from man, God passes sentence on the sinful race.
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:5 ESV).
The only exception to this sweeping destruction was Noah and his family – eight people who were to be saved from this cleansing of the earth. He was “a righteous man, blameless in his generation” Genesis 6:8, who “…found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” In obedience to God’s command Noah built an ark in which “eight persons, were brought safely through water” (1 Peter 3:20).
When the waters of the flood had abated, Noah and his family exited the ark and began life anew on a cleansed earth. God made this promise to them… “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done” (Genesis 8:21).
Again as the human population began to increase it wasn’t long until it became evident that mankind was not going to seek after God. The descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s three sons, became three major branches of the human family. One of the grandsons of Ham, Nimrod, illustrates the fact that things were not going to be any better than before the flood.
“Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” (Genesis 10:8-9).
The name, Nimrod, means “we shall rebel.” Later Jewish tradition identifies him as the builder of the Tower of Babel (11:1–9). This hunter and warrior is an archetype of Mesopotamian ideals of kingship. There is also a tradition that says he is the “Gilgamesh” of the Mesopotamian epic. Clearly Nimrod is not a heroic figure!
The expression that he was a “mighty hunter before the Lord” probably did not refer to him being a sportsman who enjoyed hunting game animals. What he was doing he did not do just in the presence of God, but as a rebel, in opposition and defiance of God – or as we might say, “in the face” of God. See: (Keil and Delitzsch 1975: 165).
In light of the Biblical account, as the originator of the early kingdom of Shinar, he probably hunted men to be his servants/slaves to enable him to build his kingdom. The Biblical record tells us that he built the cities of Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh and later the city of Nineveh and some others. Just the mention of cities like Babel and Nineveh surely tells us that his was not a righteous kingdom where God was honored.
The final evidence of the continuing depravity of man is seen in the tower of Babel. It is known that in the area of the Mesopotamian basin people built numerous towers called “ziggurats.” The gigantic one in Genesis 11:1-9 was built with the express purpose of keeping people together in one place. In defiance of God’s command to Noah to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (9:1), they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
These towers represented the false religion of that day. The superstitious beliefs were reinforced by astrology, the supposed science of the study of the movements of the heavenly bodies and how they influenced the actions of men on earth. The ziggurats were actually rudimentary astronomical observatories where the priest-kings of the city-states of that time divined the “signs” that supposedly enabled them to know what was going to happen in the future.
It is really ironic that when you would have expected that people would have abandoned the so-called science of astrology it is so popular in our culture. God has always opposed man taking up the ways of the nations around them. Jeremiah, in preparing the people of his day for their captivity in Babylon among idolaters cautions them to…
“Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
for the customs of the peoples are vanity. (Jeremiah 10:2-3).
So God comes down and confused their language and dispersed them over the face of all the earth. God will not be defied. He has a purpose and no man nor any group of men can frustrate Him from doing whatever He wills to do. Man can either get with God’s program, or he will be left behind to suffer the consequences of his foolishness.