1 ¶ And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2 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. 3 And 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. 4 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.
This entire clan of likely brown-skinned, brown-eyed people spoke one language, which is defined in context as speech. We are now back to their departure from the ark and the early movement of their families. But, they were resisting the command given in Genesis 9:1 to repopulate the earth empty of people. Disobedience to God is a dependable character flaw of all mankind.
Just like after Acts 1:8 the early Jewish Christians did not leave Jerusalem after the Holy Ghost was received as they were told to do and had to suffer persecution to get the impulse to obey Christ’s command and go out, these people are afraid of being divided up. They decide to embark on a building project and establish roots where they are in the land of Shinar. The power to name is a power indeed as we saw by Adam’s authority to name the beasts of the earth. It establishes political authority and if you don’t believe that just tell a citizen of Belfast that he lives in Ulster if he’s an Irish Nationalist or Northern Ireland if he’s a Unionist. Depending on the political sentiments of the hearer you might get a bloody nose or worse.
Their goal is, primarily, either to actually reach the abode of God, which may have been understood as a possibility, although that implies a level of stupidity on their part that is not likely, or that may have been a metaphor for just an incredibly tall building as an emblem of their unity. They will also build a city. We have already been told that Nimrod was in charge of building Babel, which is named in the next passage. So, Nimrod, of Ham’s family, is the first great empire builder whose ambitious plans come to God’s attention.
Note here how the metaphor is used in other Scripture.
Deuteronomy 9:1 ¶ Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven,
Daniel 4:22 It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.
Jeremiah 51:53 Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet from me shall spoilers come unto her, saith the LORD.
Keep in mind that the word, heaven, refers to the atmosphere above us and what we call Outer Space, as per the first chapter of Genesis, and not only the abode of God.
It is possible then that this reference is the majesty of the building project they decided to work on to keep them together. The Inca Empire of South America, for instance, used great government funded road and building projects to assert their authority and keep people occupied under that authority, even building roads to nowhere or multiple roads to the same remote village.
Go to is used three times in a very short space here as an idiom meaning, “let’s go,” which is evident in the context of verse 7 coming next. It states a call for group action, a group being two or more. In 7 it will refer to the three parts of God; the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. In Genesis 38:16 it will refer to Judah speaking to Tamar, thinking that his daughter-in-law is a prostitute.