First, while their unity enabled an ambitious project, it was this very partnership that ultimately brought about their dissolution. What they most feared, namely, the loss of security and power by “scattering” (v. 4), came to pass as a result of their own doing (vv. 8–9).
Second, their architectural goal of reaching the “heavens” (v. 4), symbolizing their grasp for autonomous power, was frustrated by God, who “came down” to earth (v. 5); yet they themselves stopped building because of their own incompetence (v. 8). What appeared to be an unstoppable plan proved to be a dismal failure.
Third, though they sought a “name” (v. 4), they received the humiliating name “Babel” (= “babble,” v. 9). This is all the more derisive when we recall that the Akkadian name for the colossal city “Babylon” meant “gate of the god(s)” (Akk. bāb-ili, bāb-ilāni).
Finally, it was this very onus of dispersal that enabled them to fulfill the divine dictate to “fill the earth” (9:1, 7; 1:28), which chap. 10 shows occurred (vv. 5, 18, 20, 30–32).
K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 469.