Thursday, August 19, 2010


When I was a young girl, I learned to interlace the fingers of both hands with my palms together and joyfully recite, “Here’s the church!” Then, with my little index fingers pinched together and pointing way up to the sky, I would imitate, “Here’s the steeple!” Finally, with my palms turned upward and the tightly interlaced fingers visible, I proudly proclaimed, “Open the doors and see all the people!”

Having accepted what I was taught, it never dawned on me to question the idea of a steeple. Not only are they littered across the skylines of the country-side and cities, they are commonly the focal point of famous paintings, hymns and poems. As a budding Christian, I simply accepted steeples as part of the “church” structure and marveled over their beauty along with most everyone else. In more recent years, however, I’ve questioned the history and purpose of these prominent formations.

The first biblical mention of such a structure is noted in Gen. 11:3-9,
“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

In determining to “make a name for ourselves,” the Babylonians were demonstrating their aspiration for independence. They didn’t want their selfish desires stifled by their Creator’s sovereign plans. The notion to build a city communicated their determination for permanence so as “not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” They were aware that living cooperatively would accomplish their desire for human achievement and power; “nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

But, why an obelisk (steeple)? The first century Jewish historian, Josephus explains the construction of the tower as a prideful act of defiance against God ordered by the arrogant tyrant Nimrod, the “father” of the Babylonian fertility cult. The phallus came to represent his religion and phallic-appearing towers were built on high places visible from far distances in honor of the fertility gods (1 Kings 14:23). In fact, The Encyclopedia Of Religions (Vol. 3, p. 264) states that Queen Semiramis in Babylon erected an obelisk one hundred thirty feet high in memory of Nimrod!

When God scattered the people of Babylon they obviously didn’t leave their pagan beliefs behind!
“Sacred” buildings of all religions of the world have obelisk-like
pillars, spires and towers appearing to reach heaven as part of their construction.

Have the people of God simply followed tradition without realizing its meaning or relationship to the religion of Babylon? Nowhere in Scripture does God ask His people to erect such a structure. In fact, He condemns it!

As followers of Jesus, we are called to “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:2). “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He removed the foreign altars and high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles [phallic symbols]” (2 Chron. 14:2-3). What about us? Will we choose to be obedient to God’s command, “You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces” (Ex 23:24)?

( has a helpful, extensive bibliography for those interested in researching this topic for themselves.)


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