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Tower of Babel

Genesis 11: 1 - 9

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
Babylon was one of a number of cities built by a succession of peoples that lived on the plain starting around 5,500 years ago. There developed a tradition in each city of building a temple in the shape of a stepped pyramid. These temples, or ziggurats, most likely honored a particular god. The people of Mesopotamia believed in many gods and often a city might have several ziggurats. Over time Babylon became the most influential city on the plain and its ziggurat, honoring the god Marduk, was built, destroyed and rebuilt until it was the tallest tower.

Moses, in the tenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, relates that Nimrod, one of the grandsons of Noah, was a mighty hunter, and the heginning of his kingdom was Bahel, in the land of Shinar. There is no doubt that this first postdiluvian city of which there is record, was the original of that great city on the Euphrates, which afterward acquired such fame as the capital of the Babylonian empire. The name of Nimrod signifies a rebel, and according to Armenian and European accounts, the land where he erected his kingdom was in the allotment to the sons of Shem; and his revolt and violent encroachment upon the territories of others form the basis on which we with good reason affix to him the evil character he bears. Whatever consequence this first city had acquired, there is no doubt it was lost after the confusion of tongues.

The Tower of Babel (Heb.Bbhel, from Assyro-Babylonian bb-ili, "gate of God"), was, according to the Old Testament (see Gen. 11:1-9), a tower erected on the plain of Shinar in Babylonia by descendants of Noah. Nimrod's name is from the verb "let us revolt." He is said to be a mighty hunter (gibbor tsayidh) in the sight of the Lord, but the language has a dark meaning. He becomes a tyrant or despot leading an organized rebellion against the rule of Yahweh. He hunts not animals, but rather the souls of men. The same sacred volume informs us, that the people began the building of "a mighty tower whose top may reach unto heaven." Whether there was any or what bad intention in this erection, has afforded much matter for discussion, into which it is not necessary here to enter. The builders intended the tower to reach to heaven; their presumption, however, angered Jehovah, who interrupted construction by causing among them a previously unknown confusion of languages. He then scattered these people, speaking different languages, over the face of the earth.

There is no statement that this great work sustained any damage at the confusion; it is simply said that the building of the city, and doubtless of the tower also, was discontinued. It is generally admitted that the fabric was in a considerable state of forwardness at the confusion, and it is highly probable it could have sustained no great damage at the time when v the building of Babylon was commenced.

The story possibly was inspired by the fall of the famous temple-tower of Etemenanki, later restored by King Nabopolassar (r. 626-605 BC) and his son Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia. The Genesis account appears to play on the Babylonian word b b-ili ("gate of God") and on the Hebrew words B bhel ("Babylon") and b ll ("to confuse"). The English words babel and babble are derived from the story.

The ruins of an immense Babylonian ziggurat, or stepped pyramid, have been found near this fabled location and the romantic notion is that these remains are all that is left of the Tower Of Babel. Archaeologists examining the remains of the city of Babylon have found what appears to be the foundation of the tower: a square of earthen embankments some 300 feet on each side. The tower's most splendid incarnation was probably under King Nebuchadnezzar II who lived from 605-562 BC. The King rebuilt the tower, some claim to stand 295 feet high. According to an inscription made by the King the tower was constructed of "baked brick enameled in brilliant blue." The terraces of the tower may have also been planted with flowers and trees.

Constructing ziggurats on the Mesopotamian plain was not easy. The area lacks the stone deposits the Egyptians used effectively for their timeless monuments. The wood available is mostly palm, not the best for construction, so the people used what they had in abundance: mud and straw. The bulk of the towers were constructed of crude bricks made by mixing chopped straw with clay and pouring the results into molds. After the bricks were allowed to bake in the sun they were joined in construction by using bitumen, a slimy material imported from the Iranian plateau.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:47:33 ZULU