Out of all the things that bother me, "clusters" probably bother me most.
People have a habit of forming "clusters" around each other in gathering places (restaurants, bars, even churches), in cities (outside and inside) and even driving in their cars (often because they have no choice, but just as often for no apparent reason). I suppose we most often refer to large gathered groups of people as "crowds," but somehow that just describes the event, and gets nowhere the reason, near the purpose.
But "clusters?" Now that begins to work toward some sort of purpose, whether consciously or not. A "crowd" implies pushing towards something (usually the front of the crowd) but a "cluster" implies a desire to stay put in the group, to even be content there.
Yep, that's a "cluster" of bees alright. I wrote about the bees on our house a few months ago, and--yes--I know the proper term is "swarm," but really, this is another example of a "cluster." The difference between bees and people is that bees form clusters around a queen bee to keep her warm as she lays eggs. I watched a beekeeper grab the queen from our house, put her in his special "bee-box," and then I watched all the rest of the bees fly down to cluster around her. Probably instinct,but--at least--there was a purpose in line with the bees' nature.
But clusters of people? Why? I'm pretty content with the small cluster that forms my family of four people, but when we went to a theater to see "Rogue One" yesterday, I did that in spite of the cluster, not because of it. Frankly, on the rare occasions that I get to a multi-theater complex, I try to go on the least clustered day at the least clustered time.
So let's creep on on the "why" by thinking about the first "cluster" in recorded Biblical history: Babel !
OK, so this picture doesn't look like what we call a "tower," but let's remember that the tower wasn't the real point, but a symbol of something else"
"1 The whole earth was of one language and of one speech. 2 As they traveled from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they lived there. 3 They said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 They said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top reaches to the sky, and let’s make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth.”(Genesis 11:1-4 WEB)
Aha! We always talk about the "tower of Babel," but we see that these folks first built a city, and then a tower. And what was their purpose? Stated plainly: To prevent being "scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth." They all spoke the same language and they just wanted to stay together in one place; they wanted to "cluster."
But here's the kicker: why were they specifically afraid of being scattered?
"And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28)
And of course God repeated the same command to Noah after the flood:
"But you, be fruitful and multiply; spread out over the earth and multiply on it."
So basically "fill the earth" means "make more little humans and spread out over the whole earth!!!" Instead, all of the descendants of the four couples who survived the flood are now directly and knowingly disobeying God by staying in one place, and why? "To make a name for ourselves!" Yikes! They seriously wanted to defy God, "cluster" together their in their babbling city, and--I guess--become "famous." (Although since this is the whole human race at the time, I'm not sure before whom they wanted to become "famous." God, maybe?0
In the meantime, YHWH, who already knows the situation is said to "come down" to see the situation:
"5 Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. 6 Yahweh said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do. 7 Come, let’s go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there on the surface of all the earth. They stopped building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there Yahweh confused the language of all the earth." (Genesis 11:5-9; WEB)
And there they all are, looking confused.....
And here they all go!!!
So all these famous folks never did reach high enough to touch heaven, and God STILL had to come "down" to them! That should tell us already that their efforts are futile. But wait, YHWH doesn't destroy the city nor the tower (contrary to popular mythology), but simply confuses their languages so they can't understand one another, or at least only small groups understood each other, and of course, they stopped building and........"scattered....on the surface of the whole earth." I mean they are outta there!
All in all this is a pretty benevolent "punishment" for this arrogant bunch of flood survivors, but YHWH did promise that He wouldn't bring another flood, and even this bunch still had the rainbow!
Unfortunately, this tendency to "cluster" against the will of God shows up over and over again in Scripture, and in what we call "secular history" (although God is rarely mentioned).
So what unfolds in the Old Testament is that cities are almost always bad, and being in the "fields" farming or raising sheep and cows is almost always good. In fact, there's only one city in the Bible that is ever totally good, and that one is in Revelation and actually made by God, and is, well, clearly large enough to avoid being "clustered."
I didn't realize this would be a multi-part blog, but I'm realizing its complexity more and more as I study it, so "here I stop, I can do no other."
But I'll be back with the next part of this, umm, blog "cluster" soon.
***So for now, here's another artist's conception of the babbling city.....
Buy for now - The Thief.