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    The power seekers of Babel – No’ach

    Tower of Babel, by Pieter Brueghel, 1563

    Ibn Ezra believes that people read the Tower of Babel story quite wrongly.

    Their misinterpretation is already indicated by the fact that they talk so much about the tower and think the story is an attempt of brazen people to storm heaven and displace the Almighty.

    Yet the text speaks of the conspirators building a city with a tower – the city is what is important, not the tower, and when the scheme is frustrated it is the city that they cease building, not merely the tower.

    What then were the conspirators trying to do?

    They were not such fools as to imagine that they really could get up to heaven, no matter how high their tower might be.

    No: what they intended was to create such a magnificent city that it would eclipse every other human settlement.

    What a mighty metropolis it would be! Nothing else would ever rival it. It would be the greatest centre of habitation anywhere. Its founders and builders would be the most famous people on earth.

    A magnificent ambition – but fatally flawed.

    Eaten up by ambition, crazed by the dream of power, the builders would let nothing stand in their way. Opponents and sceptics would be liquidated.

    Power corrupts, says the adage, and Lord Acton added, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

    This is not something that God could allow to happen. The world had to be safe for ordinary people and for contrary opinions.

    How the 20th century bears testimony to the danger of crazed power-seekers and totalitarian dictators!

    Fortunately we have seen the breakup of evil empires and philosophies because the human spirit of independence and freedom finally won through – but at what a cost!

    And the victory is not yet fully assured…

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