Genesis 11:4 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 11:4, NIV: "Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.'"

Genesis 11:4, ESV: "Then 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.”"

Genesis 11:4, KJV: "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."

Genesis 11:4, NASB: "And they said, 'Come, let’s build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let’s make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of all the earth.'"

Genesis 11:4, NLT: "Then they said, 'Come, let's build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.'"

Genesis 11:4, CSB: "And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered throughout the earth.""

What does Genesis 11:4 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

At this point in the history of the world, all the peoples on earth existed as a single culture with one shared language. The descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth had not yet divided and dispersed into the separate nations, tribes, and languages described in chapter 10. And, for this moment, they wanted to keep it that way. They did not want to disperse and go in different directions (Genesis 9:1).

Most likely, the people recognized that there was power and safety in their unity. If they could remain one people, they would be stronger and safer. If they divided, each group would be weaker and, likely, under threat of war and conflict with other groups. Their motive makes sense to us, but their plan to accomplish their objective was to make themselves great in a way that God found arrogant and dangerous.

The scheme mankind concocts is to build a strong, defensible city with a massive tower that would reach to the heavens. They would "make a name" for themselves. If, as a people, their city was unable to be defeated and they were prosperous and strong, why would any among them want to leave and risk becoming their rivals?

This culture of man believed that self-glorification and self-reliance would achieve their greatest goals. They did not, apparently, acknowledge God in any way or seek His help. The following verses will reveal that though they can accomplish much, God will not allow them to achieve their plan.