Babel:History Or Not?

Is the tower of Babel rooted in history?Ive seen several claims that they want the tower to be just a Zigurat but is that the case?Whta meaning could the story possibly have? Are there any sources that migh exist ?

I have always taken it to be myth or story telling.

We know how languages diverge, and it does not fit the Tower of Babel story.

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A good article on the Tower of Babel is

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Yes, I think the tower would be similar to a ziggurat.

Some things about Babel I think are interesting - this of course is my own conjecture:

I also recently listened to this podcast - it connects the Tower of Babel and other passages in ways I never thought of before, and ends up explaining a lot about the text of Genesis 11. I definitely recommend their podcast because every one I’ve listened to I’ve learned something new and fascinating about the OT and connecting it to Jesus.

https://youtu.be/wBL4l7FX630

You can google for tower of Babel myths - like flood myths, many cultures have a tower or confusion of language myth. Yes, I do believe it’s history. On a YEC timeline, it also matches the introduction of writing in the ME and lots of languages in that area. Of course, I’m not expecting many here will agree with me. :blush:

Υet that doesnt discredit the story.As i said before some say it was just a Zigurat ,so it might be 50-50 ,meaning that they created a story to explain how languages got diverted but putted that story on a real event

I read it.Very thoughtfull!!! Do you think the story was created for theological purposes or to explain how the language got diverted ,but in a way the people of that time woulkd understand?

Sure it does. The whole point of the story was to explain language diversity. And it’s a false explanation.

Well, sure. But a lot of fiction uses real events as a back drop.

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Yes, and “it was just a Zigurat [that somebody built]” is sufficiently generic and non-specific that it hardly amounts to validation of the story. This would be somewhat akin to taking the existence of some random old and large tree in Scandanavia as validation of the Yggdrasil myth.

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@Witchdoc provided a very good link.Give it a read if you have time .I think it explains it somewhat but i still have some questions

I already did. It was not baldly equating the existence of a Zigurat with the story being historical.

No (if you mean its literally where all languages originated). Your ancestors emerged in Africa, so its likely where the diversification of languages began. Computational analysis of languages done by these researchers lends some support to the hypothesis:

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@nick I like the Jewish Study Bible’s explanation as a polemic against Babylonian culture - which is basically the same explanation given to me in OT bible seminary class

Whereas ch 10 presents post-flood humanity as divided into nations, “each with its language” (v. 5), 11.1– 9 attributes the emergence of linguistic difference to an act of Promethean hubris on the part of a humankind still unwilling to accept subordination to their Creator. 4 : Since the narrative serves as an account of how Babylon got its name, the ambition of the builders to erect a tower with its top in the sky is properly compared with the prideful boast of the king of Babylon, “I will climb to the sky; / Higher than the stars of God / I will set my throne…. I will match the Most High” (Isa. 14.13–14). Our passage, which likely mocks Babylonian culture, reflects both astonishment at the advanced technological level of Babylonian ziggurat-building and a keen sense that technology poses grave dangers when it is not accompanied by reverence for God.

Gordon Wenham, an OT evangelical bible scholar wrote in “Genesis: History, Fiction, Neither?”

According to Enuma Elish (often called the Epic of Creation), a Mesopotamian story that celebrates Marduk’s supremacy over the divine pantheon, the temple in Babylon called Esagila, which means “house whose top is high,” had its top in heaven and its foundation in the underworld.29 Genesis is clearly mocking this notion. Far from the tower reaching heaven, God had to come down to see it. Another claim of Babylon, that it was the religious capital of the known world, is sent up by the etymology of Babel offered by Genesis. In Akkadian bāb-il(im) means “Gate of God,” evidently suggesting that at Babylon, man could get near to the gods. But Genesis connects Babel to the verb bālal “to confuse.” God says, “Let us confuse (nābĕlāh) their language.” In other words, Babylon’s name recalls God’s judgment on human pride when he dispersed the nations and prevented them communicating with each other by making them speak different languages. Further derision of Babylonian pretensions is suggested by another word that sounds similar to nābĕlāh: nābĕlāh means “folly.” So, one should not speak of the Tower of Babel but of the “Folly of Babel.” This animosity towards Babylon’s claims is a recurrent theme in the Old Testament and could have arisen at various times, but the failure to complete the tower suggests a period in which the ziggurat of Babylon was at least in disrepair. A possible setting is the reign of Nebuchadnezzar 1 (1123 – 1101 BC) whose failure to complete his great construction projects became an occasion for jest and legend.

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The Tower of Babel is a good fit with the sudden end of the Uruk expansion about 3,000 BC. It was a time when people “left off” building cities and started scattering. The lobe of expansion from that time and place differs greatly from the one above the caucuses around the same time in that there is much more linguistic diversity.

You might want to look up “Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta” as it applies to the Babel account. It was thought to be lost to history by 2,000 BC, and thus not available to be bent into a polemic, but some lines in that story are very evocative of the Babel account. It speaks of a time when “all men” praised the gods in a single tongue. The “universe” of “all men” it talks about is named and many of them are nations we recognize from the time period as being in Mesopotamia and immediately surrounding areas.

So it isn’t the start of the division of all human language, and indeed the text of Gen. 12 doesn’t use the regular word for language in the account. It says they were of one “lip” while the regular word for language is “tongue.” Maybe Genesis uses that to describe a “lingua franca” breakdown rather than a division of all native languages. Incidentally, if the clans of Noah were all the people in the world, why would they need to build a city to “make a name for themselves”? Who would be there for them to impress? The text only makes sense if it is understood that there were other survivors of the flood, though perhaps not of Adam’s clan. IOW a two-population model for humanity as described by GAE and CCM.

There are several candidate places for the location of the tower. My favorite is right where the 6th century BC ziggurat was, because it was built on the location of one built 1,000 years earlier by Hammurabi. Maybe that site was some kind of special location for the very reason that it was the site of the tower built by that special group that was foiled by heaven. The establishment of such a tower would be a powerful symbol of either heaven’s approval or that this ruler succeeded where the other greats in history failed. IOW perhaps even Hammurabi was building on a prior site- the unfinished tower of Babel. Thus when the Jews of the 6th century BC ID Neb’s ziggurat as the site of the tower, they knew something. Maybe a LOT of people knew something back then, again because the king would want it known that he was the one who did what the others failed to do.

God was not expressing concern about their technical prowess, rather the point of those towers, even before they became ziggurats, was to build a temple on top. It was the establishment of man-made religion merging worship with the state that the LORD was concerned with. So concerned that even in Revelations that city is linked with false religion.

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If he was so concerned with it, and the confusion of lips (?) was intended to deal with it, that sure didn’t work, did it? State religion seems to have been the norm over much of the world since the beginning of civilization, with some survivals up to 1945 at least.

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Scripture and history is a record of God fighting that sin, like other human sin, for ages. We all want to sit in the Big Chair and demote God to a mascot for our cause. But just because the rest of the world is doing it doesn’t mean that it is OK for God’s people to do it. Two-population model where Adam was not first man, as in GAE. And the clans of Noah, all that was left of the clan of Adam, were supposed to be a special people of God, like Israel was supposed to be a light unto the gentiles and the church is now.

How do you get this interpretation from:

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 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. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

This passage makes no mention of an “establishment of man-made religion merging worship with the state”.

This appears to be an impenetrable word salad. It does not explain why a state-established man-made (non-Judaeo-Christian?) religion merited Divine Intervention in Babel, but not today.

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I don’t get it from that alone, but in the context of what is said about it elsewhere in scripture, some other elements used in the account, and secular knowledge about what those structures were used for. All that combined with a model for early Genesis which makes the role of Adam and Eve to BRING MESSIAH rather than be the sole founders of the human race.

Without taking time to get into the details, see how Babylon is described in revelations. Also compare “make bricks for stone” with the stone cut without human hands that will supplant all the great kingdoms spoken of later in scripture. Several streams of evidence come together to show that they were trying to start their own religion, and build up their own name, when God fashioned them to be a people called after HIS name. Like Israel later, and the church today.

Impenetrable to some perhaps. When I wrote it I was thinking of a relative of mine who last year, at age 41, became a Christian and began reading the bible. She recently mentioned to me that it was repetitive, God kept showing people the same thing over and over again in different ways and they still would not get it.

But I am not sure that the premise of your objection is correct for a couple of reasons. Politics is a touchy subject but when the Christian right in America started making an idol of a certain politician my wife declared that this was God judging them. Sure enough, the end was ignominy and confusion, with those Christians pushing hardest making increasing hypocrites out of themselves. I could show how the same has happened on the left once they get to making an idol of their causes and God gets demoted to mascot in their minds. My point is that I don’t agree with your premise. It looks to me like He IS bringing confusion on His people when they do the same thing. It happened enough throughout history that the Founding Fathers made a break with the concept, to good effect.

That said, your objection specified that this was a “non-Judaeo-Christian” religion. This brings me to my second objection to your premises. Like GAE, the Christ-centered-model for early Genesis has the clan of Adam formed separately from the rest of the Adamic race (humanity). In this case, they were to bring Messiah into the world and bear the Word of God. So they were God’s special people. Israel was actually a REDO of the concept, selected out from among them. The church is the final iteration of this concept. So it was NOT OK for the clans of Noah to build their own man-made religion even if other people were doing it because they had a special status and a special mission. They were supposed to be a PROTO-Judaic-Christian religion.

Doesn’t it seem odd that God loses most of his fights? And fails to punish almost all instances of that particular sin, and then only in the far-distant and possibly mythical past?

If the clans of Noah are all that’s left of Adam, then doesn’t GAE fail to reach everyone in the world by 1 AD? And given that Ham is supposed to be ancestral to Egypt and all of North Africa, how is it possible that Egypt was a going concern before the supposed date of this mythical flood? Same point for Shem and Japheth, though less obviously.

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@anon46279830:

  1. Given that you cannot be bothered to document with any meaningful specificity the basis for your “interpretation”, I have no way of following the reasoning underlying it, so have no reason to accept it.

  2. When you jump around from your relative to politics to the clan of Adam, you offer the same sort of “word salad” that I was objecting to before. It appears to an outside observer as just a stream of unrelated non sequitors. You may intend meaning by this ‘stream of consciousness’, but it does not substitute for a reasoned argument citing evidence.

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“There’s a lone soldier on the cross, smoke pourin’ out of a boxcar door
You didn’t know it, you didn’t think it could be done, in the final end he won the wars
After losin’ every battle” - Bob Dylan in Idiot Wind

There is genius in every stanza of that song IMHO but this bit stirs up such strong emotions with its imagery. The human soul is drawn to this warrior who somehow won at the end despite losing all the battles. He is MORE of a hero for this and not less somehow.

Bob Dylan is god-like in his artistic powers to write moving lyrics, but surely God Himself is the consummate artist. The depressing repetition of sin bringing destruction, of people refusing to hear to their own disaster, is in the end broken by a single act of sacrifice. Some versions of this song, Dylan says “with the final shot he won the war”. I like that even better. In the case of Christ, He took the bullet for the rest of us and thus won the war.
Just ask yourself if God is more utilitarian or artist? I think the answer becomes obvious on consideration. So while a utilitarian might not see the sense of it, an artist can see the beauty of God doing it just the way that He did.

re “only in the far-distant and possibly mythical past?” part…Perhaps you didn’t see my comment above to Tim who raised a similar question. I don’t think the premise of your question is correct.

I will let our host defend GAE aspects that are outside the two-pop model. The Eastern Orthodox church doesn’t even hold to the idea of “Original Sin”, making the genealogical permutations of the hypothesis unnecessary. The Jews don’t either, though one might understand their motives if some of them figured out the basics of the two-population model- they become Pandora and they have already taken a lot of grief even without that. While I believe in Original Sin in a sense, I don’t see Romans chapter five the way Augustine did. Physical descent from Jesus isn’t necessary to undo the fall and physical descent from Adam is not necessary for us to have a fallen nature.

That said, our host does have a couple of loopholes regarding the date of the flood, and the status of the daughters of Adam which were given to the "Sons of God(s)"IF they were a neighboring people rather than “fallen angels” as described from the so-called “Book of Enoch”. Again it isn’t necessary for Adam’s blood to mix with all in the Christ Centered Model, though I think there is a good chance that it was based on the work of our host.

Scripture doesn’t really say that Ham’s clan constituted ALL of the population of Egypt. They “divided the land” might be a better translation of what the clans of Noah did. If you will think back to the patriarchs they often managed to gather a large household retinue with them, only some of which were their offspring. These could form the core of nations and Abraham had to make a special effort to pare down his household - resulting in more than one nation springing from him.

The Canaanites were another branch of Ham’s line. I notice from this study that they were just what I expected them to be from the model. A mixture of indigenous inhabitants of the region mixed with a people from the east (NW Iran) around 5K ago. https://www.cell.com/ajhg/fulltext/S0002-9297(17)30276-8

I figure a study of Egypt would show the same result, particularly in the North.