Many are aware that the Tower of Babel is the Bible’s conception of where languages came from, but many are unaware that there’s another important Biblical narrative going on in this passage; for it’s at this point in the story that God divides the people of Babel up in the most peculiar way. Yes, He divides them by their languages, but that’s not all. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 relays to us some deeper insight.
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
But the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.
Apparently God’s division was not done willy-nilly. The nations were turned over by language to upper-level spiritual beings God had created known as “the sons of God” (for an example of these beings, see the Prince of Greece and Prince of Persia in Daniel 10:12-21) while God, on the other hand, took Jacob (Israel) as His portion.
God begins raising up his own nation by first revealing Himself to Abraham as something similar to what the people of His time would have called “a personal God,” which was a role typically played by minor deities. Little did the world yet know that Abraham’s personal God was truly the one true Creator God of all. As John Walton explains,
The way in which Abraham and his God interact would certainly suit the paradigm of relationship with a personal god in Mesopotamia. Yahweh provides for Abraham and protects him, while obedience and loyalty are given in return…. it is not impossible, and may even be likely that Abraham’s understanding of his relationship to Yahweh, in the beginning at least, was similar to the Mesopotamian idea of the personal god. In Mesopotamian language, Abraham would have been described as having “acquired a god.” (Walton, John H., Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament. Ch 6, “Comparative Exploration: Religion of Abraham,” ¶ 7.)
Of course, with the entire Bible in our perspective, we know that God is just getting started and that His promise to Abraham is of monumental importance:
“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:2-3)
God repeats this promise to Abraham later, restating that “in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 22:18). And as time goes on, God will make this promise clear. But first, the personal God of Abraham will reveal Himself as the national God of Israel and then as the “God of gods and Lord of lords” (Deut 10:17). The nation He has chosen as His own inheritance will fulfill His promise to bless all the nations of the earth; for while God may have disinherited the nations and gave them over to other spiritual entities that He had created, He will one day inherit them back through Christ. As Paul points out, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19). And so reconciling the world with God and bringing the Gentiles out of the grip of the “sons of God” and into God’s family, is a crucial component to Christian mission.