Bricks for Stones
Part 2: Let the Religions Begin!
by Brad Scott
Before diving into the text of Bere'shiyt (Genesis), I spent some time addressing some of the background of the context in the lives of Noah and his sons after the flood. It is my opinion that our Father has already taught us a principle concerning those who are in His house and those whom He desperately desires to bring into His house. In the same way that people separate through the stubborness of their own hearts, they also cause the lands and the languages to divide, as well. These will be the forerunner for the separation of man's religious systems. Bere'shiyt chapter eleven begins rather matter of factly:
Bere'shiyt 11:1-2And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
The chapter begins with kal ha'aretz (כל־הארץ), the whole earth. Perhaps it is only common sense, combined with the Scriptural record, that not much of the earth was inhabited at this point. But whatever part they occupied, they were all of one language (saphah) and one speech (dabar). To some, this may seem like a classic example of contradictions in the Scriptures, for we were just told that they are divided into their tongues. However, Hebrew employs two different words here, just as they are in English. In chapter ten we are told that these descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth are divided according to their tongues. The word used here is lashon. This is indeed the Hebrew word for tongue. In Hebrew grammar the tongue is used to teach the various articulations of the Hebrew consonants. These twenty-two letters are divided into various groups involving various positions of the tongue in the mouth. Some are sibilants, some are dentals, some are labials and some are fricatives. These are all dialects of the same language (saphah). The Hebrew word saphah is the word for lip or that sound that comes out of the mouth. In chapter eleven we are reminded that all are speaking the same language or lip and using the same words (davar).
In verse two we are now informed that they set out miqedem (מקדם) or out of the east. We have discussed this word east in great detail in past studies. This word is not necessarily a particular direction. It is a word that is also used to express that which is ancient, everlasting or old. It is used to express where all things began in the creation, in the east where God placed the garden. Although the ark of the covenant is in the west end of the temple, the temple, Jerusalem, the garden of Eden and the ancient of days are in the east. This word is not meant to express a direction so much as it is to express those who walk away from their Creator. I believe it is a heart word. One can walk away from God and face the sun rising from the east i.e. east of Jerusalem. When Cain went to the land of Shinar he went east and away from the garden. From the beginning this has been a word used to express where the ancient paths come from. See Melakhiym Bet (2 Kings) 19:25; Yesha'yahu (Isaiah) 46:10; Devariym (Deuteronomy) 33:27; Mizemor (Psalm) 74:12; Mishlei (Proverbs) 8:22; Miykah (Micah) 5:2 and Mattityahu (Matthew) 24:27.
It is this writer's opinion that sin always begins in the heart. The first revelation we get of the sad events concerning the tower of Babel is that the people began to journey from the east. Not a direction but rather away from the ancient ways of our Father. This was a picture of the heart and the first hint of the prodigal son preparing to go out and do his own thing. Their hearts started the journey first, for they were all still in one place.
Bere'shiyt 11:3And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
We first notice that no one felt it necessary to consult YHVH on this matter. No one pleads to God for understanding, guidance or discernment. No one feels it necessary to find out what the Creator thinks about building towers reaching unto heaven or if He cares whether it is made of bricks or stones. Maybe, just maybe, they thought that the days of stone towers were done away with and fulfilled. Perhaps they felt they were no longer under the law. I can just imagine Noah kneeling in the dry desert sand praying to YHVH and hearing back from the Creator those precious words, "Noah, you have found grace in my eyes, now make me an ark of gopher wood and pitch it within and without with pitch.". Quickly, Noah consults with his wife and sons and gleefully replies "Oh hallelujah Father Godeth, I pray thee, command the Jews to build the ark, for I and my house have foundeth grace and are free from the law. Glorieth to God!" Okay, perhaps he didn't say that. I just find it interesting that the text revealed that to us. Either way, apparantly they decided among themselves what to build and the materials thereof.
Our text goes on to reveal that they chose to make this structure of halevenah le'aven (הלבנה לאבן), or bricks for stone. What could this little phrase possibly reveal to us? I suggest that our Father is telling us that bricks are manmade and stones are God made. First they made a decision in their heart to journey away from the ancient paths and now they are saying to one another "let us make a tower of bricks rather than stone." Perhaps one of them could have actually said, "Did God really say?" As a result of listening to the adversary (religion) the result is mixing. Adam and Chavah were exiled from the garden and quickly told that Adam was to work by the sweat of his face to eat bread. Had they stayed in the garden their sustenance would have continued to grow on trees. Bread does not grow on trees. Man would now have to mix ingredients in order to survive, and so it is in the days after the flood. Man strays away from His Creator once again and the result will be mixing. Bricks are made by mixing clay, mortar and water. Stones however, are created by God. When man is finished with bricks, every brick looks pretty much the same. Stones come in all colors, sizes and shapes, but yet they are all still stones. We recall that Kefa (Peter) also reminded us of this in one of his epistles.
1 Kefa 2:1-5Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that YHVH is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Yeshua' the Messiah.
We are living stones because He is the stone. So Brad, are you saying that believers in the God of Israel can have unity and fellowship and yet not look like a flock of penguins or a mass of lemmings? One of the fundamental differences in Hebrew (Scriptural) thinking and Greek (western) thinking is the difference between function and form. I submit to you that our Father's commanmdments are to be understood through the perspective of function rather than form. Hebrew thinking is functional and Greek thinking is form. The teaching and instructions of our Master are based on their design and purpose and not what it all looks like. Mankind, however, overwhelming focuses on what things look like. Built within our Adamic nature is the separating of ourselves based upon skin color. When looking for a mate we look for the pretty or handsome ones, the nicest clothes, the most attractive hairdo or someone in the best physical shape. It is particularly so in modern western countries that as soon as a new style of shoes, pants, shirts or hairstyle comes out, large groups of particularly young people, all begin to look and dress the same. As soon as one popular personality chooses to wear his underwear outside his pants then you can be sure everyone will follow. The more we struggle to look the same, the more divided we become.
I propose to you that religious systems are no different. Stop and focus just for a moment on the following religions and see what first comes to mind. Hare Krishna. Buddhism. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Chasidism. Mormon missionaries. Islamic clerics. Bricks, bricks, bricks. I propose to you that you know you are in a religious system when they try to wrestle you into conforming to manmade images and appearance. We are told to conform to the image of Messiah, and so we are not told what He looked like. We know He wore tzitziot but are not told whether His were blue and white, tied with knots of 10-5-6-5 or whether they were four inches long or four feet long. What we do know about our Redeemer is His function and purpose.
As one carefully peruses the commandments, ordinances and statutes revealed in the Torah, it soon becomes evident that our Father is not always explicit in every detail. We know we are to keep the Passover, but we are not told all the minutia of this feast. We are instructed that there was the lamb roasted with the blood applied to the doorposts, there was unleavend bread, and bitter herbs. We are not told to place them on a special plate or to add charoseth and parsley in salt water. I am submitting the following possibility: could it be that because we are designed to be stones and not bricks that our Father can accept each one of His children's unique responses to this feast? Is it possible that in some sense it is alright that we are not all marching lockstep? It seems to me that our Father knew from the beginning exactly what we are like. He knew that we would read His words, mix them with our various interpretations and then, primarily through guilt and ecclesiastical cohesion, make everyone else conform to our interpretation. According to Yochanan (John), it is the commandments of our Father that are not grievous.
1 Yochanan 5:2-3By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
I propose to you that it is our interpretation of the commandments of God that are grievous and burdensome and not the commandments themselves. All religious systems are about the business of conforming you to "the system" and not the Messiah. This is primarily accomplished by convincing the masses to conform to form and not conforming to function and purpose.
I found it less than happenstance that the next time we hear about bricks is when the children of Israel are in bondage in Egypt. This great nation, a long journey west from the garden, has absorbed the exiled children of Israel and placed them into bondage making bricks of straw and mud. When the leader of this greatest nation on earth senses that the hard working producers of this nation are becoming too many in number, he puts them to task producing the same amount of bricks while at the same time taking away the straw. The producers and builders of this great nation have to come up with their own straw. This provocative tale of the bricks is spoken of in Shemot:
Shemot (Exodus) 5:16-19There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people. But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to YHVH. Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks. And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task.
The children are slaves to the system (religious systems or political systems) and are told they are to deliver the tale of the bricks, for a certain amount of bricks was needed to build the great structures of the system. What an interesting choice of words. The English word tale not only means to tally up numbers, which is our context here, but it also means a falsehood, a lie and even to gossip or spread rumors. The Hebrew word is token (pun intended) from the root takan. This is a Hebrew word for measurement, arrangement, design and even recipe. Some of you may be familiar with the takenot of the Pharisees, or the Pharisaic interpretations of the commandments. This is what Yeshua' and Paul were condemning the Jewish leadership of. It was the religious measurements of the Torah that Yeshua' stood against and not the Torah itself. In part three I will tie the tower of Babel with the pre-tribulation rapture.
Shalom Alecheim! ◊