Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the Lord (Gen. 10:8-11). He was a mighty one in the earth, a person who was absolutely independent of God. He built a kingdom for himself, and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel. Although many Christians know that mankind constructed the tower and city of Babel, few realize that the kingdom of Babel was formed by Nimrod. The first kingdom in human history was probably the kingdom of Babel formed by Nimrod, who also built the great city of Nineveh in Assyria. His building was a sign that mankind was completely independent of God. Abraham, on the contrary, did not build anything but a little altar. He dwelt in a tent. Noah likewise did not build anything except the ark and an altar. The people who put their trust in God do not engage in much building activity. The more we place our confidence in God, the less independent building we will have. Only the giant workers—those who are independent of God—will construct their high towers.
III. THE PEOPLE AT BABEL
The people at Babel held a council (Gen. 11:3). They did not pray nor ask the Lord what they should do or where they should go. Human history is a history of councils. After World War I the League of Nations was formed, and this league was actually a council. After the end of World War II the League of Nations was changed into the United Nations, which has a huge building in New York where council is held nearly every day. Such human councils are utterly independent of God. The result of the council at Babel was the construction of a high tower for man’s name and the formation of a city for his possession (Gen. 11:4).
Although Lot was a saved person, he drifted away from the line of life by making a choice according to his own sight (Gen. 13:10-11; cf. vv. 14-15). When Lot separated himself from Abraham, he lifted up his eyes, looked at the plain of the Jordan, and made a decision according to his own sight. He did not pray, "Lord, I do not know what I should do. What should I do? Lord have mercy on me. Take Your choice. I want to take Your choice." Lot did not pray in this way, but made a choice according to the sight of his eyes. As a result, he moved toward the evil city of Sodom (Gen. 13:12-13; cf. v. 18). Whenever you take a course in independence of God, be assured that your way will be downward. Your way will be in the direction of the sinful city of Sodom.
If we read the history of Esau, we find that, ethically speaking, he did nothing wrong. Jacob seemed to have been much worse. Esau, however, was a hunter, hunting for his own satisfaction (Gen. 25:27, 29). Esau hunted independently of God. Eventually, for the purpose of satisfying his appetite, he sold his birthright (Gen. 25:30-34). All the people who are independent of God have sold their human birthright, the enjoyment of God. Since God created man in His own image to be His expression, it means that, by birth, man has the right to express God. Thus, every human being has a birthright, the right by birth to express God. However, nearly everyone has sold his birthright because of his independence. What does it mean to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus? Repentance means to have a change in our thinking, in our mentality. Formerly, I was moving in a certain direction with my back turned toward God. After I heard the gospel I turned around. This is the meaning of repentance. To believe in the Lord Jesus means to come back to our human birthright, to come back to the enjoyment of God and to the expression of God. This is the meaning of repentance and belief in the Lord Jesus. Esau did not do this, but moved in the opposite direction.
(Life-Study of Genesis, Chapter 16, by Witness Lee)