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6. Behold , the people is one. Some thus expound the words, that God complains of a wickedness in men so refractory, that he excites himself by righteous grief to execute vengeance; not that he is swayed by any passions,329329 “Non quod in ipsum cadant ulli affectua.” but to teach us that he is not negligent of human affairs, and that, as he watches for the salvation of the faithful, so he is intent on observing the wickedness of the ungodly; as it is said in Psalm 34:16,
“The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.”
Others think there is a comparison between the less and the greater, no if it had been said, ‘They are hitherto few and only use one language; what will they not dare, if, on account of their multitude, they should become separated into various nations?’ But there rather seems to me to be a suppressed irony, as if God would propose to himself a difficult work in subduing their audacity: so that the sense may be, ‘This people is compacted together in a firm conspiracy, they communicate with each other in the same language, by what method therefore can they be broken?’ Nevertheless, he ironically smiles at their foolish and hasty confidence; because, while men are calculating upon their own strength, there is nothing which they do not arrogate to themselves.
This they begin to do. In saying that they begin, he intimates that they make a diligent attempts accompanied with violent fervor, in carrying on the work. Thus in the way of concession, God declares, that supposing matters to be so arranged, there would be no interruption of the building.
7. Go to , let us go down. We have said that Moses has represented the case to us by the figure hypotyposis,330330 Hypotyposis, in rhetoric, a figure whereby a thing is described, or painted in such vivid colouring, that it seems to stand before the eyes, and to be visible or tangible, rather than the subject of writing, or of discourse. — Ed. that the judgments of God may be the more clearly illustrated. For which reason, he now introduces God as the speaker, who declares that the work which they supposed could not be retarded, shall, without any difficulty, be destroyed. The meaning of the words is of this kind, ‘I will not use many instruments, I will only blow upon them, and they, through the confusion of tongues, shall be contemptibly scattered. And as they, having collected a numerous band, were contriving how they might reach the clouds; so on the other hand, God summons his troops, by whose interposition he may ward off their fury. It is, however, asked, what troops he intends? The Jews think that he addresses himself to the angels. But since no mention is made of the angels, and God places those to whom he speaks in the same rank with himself, this exposition is harsh, and deservedly rejected. This passage rather answers to the former, which occurs in the account of man’s creation, when the Lord said, “Let us make man after our image.” For God aptly and wisely opposes his own eternal wisdom and power to this great multitude; as if he had said, that he had no need of foreign auxiliaries, but possessed within himself what would suffice for their destruction. Wherefore, this passage is not improperly adduced in proof that Three Persons subsist in One Essence of Deity. Moreover, this example of Divine vengeance belongs to all ages: for men are always inflamed with the desire of daring to attempt what is unlawful. And this history shows that God will ever be adverse to such counsels and designs; so that we here behold, depicted before our eyes what Solomon says:
‘There is no counsel, nor prudence, nor strength against the Lord,’ (Proverbs 21:30.)
Unless the blessing of God be present, from which alone we may expect a prosperous issue, all that we attempt will necessarily perish. Since, then, God declares that he is at perpetual war with the unmeasured audacity of men; anything we undertake without his approval will end miserably, even though all creatures above and beneath should earnestly offer us their assistance. Now, although the world bears this curse to the present day; yet, in the midst of punishment, and of the most dreadful proofs of Divine anger against the pride of men, the admirable goodness of God is rendered conspicuous, because the nations hold mutual communication among themselves, though in different languages; but especially because He has proclaimed one gospel, in all languages, through the whole world, and has endued the Apostles with the gift of tongues. Whence it has come to pass, that they who before were miserably divided, have coalesced in the unity of the faith. In this sense Isaiah says, that the language of Canaan should be common to all under the reign of Christ, (Isaiah 19:18;) because, although their language may differ in sound, they all speak the same thing, while they cry, Abba, Father.