The Tower of Babel
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.
2 And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in
the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another,
"Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly."
And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they
said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with
its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves;
otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole
earth." 5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower,
which mortals had built. 6 And the LORD said, "Look, they
are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only
the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose
to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down,
and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand
one another's speech." 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad
from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building
the city. 9 Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD
confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD
scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
There Goes the Neighborhood
How did all of the different nations and languages arise? Genesis,
again, preserves two traditions attempting to explain it. First,
in chapter 10, all the nations come from Noah's sons as they disburse
across the land. A second account is given here with the story
of Babel. Here "the whole earth" is still together.
They attempt to preserve this unity by building a city and a very
tall tower to make a name for themselves. This name or identity
would keep them together. However, their plan is not God's plan.
God confuses their language and scatters them abroad, and that's
the end of their unity (or the beginning of their diversity).
Notice the emphasis (underlines added) on the word "one"
and "scattered" in this passage. Repetition is often
a clue as to what is being stressed in the text.
In verse 7 God uses "us" while speaking about the
mortals as is also done within the first creation story (1:26).
In both cases most scholars think this is a use of the "royal
we" (aka majestic plural) or an address to a heavenly court.
It's hard to imagine that God feels threatened by people working
and staying together, but whatever the reason, God doesn't allow
it. Viva la difference!
< Previous | Next >
Genesis - Creation - Noah - Babel - Abraham - Isaac - Jacob - Joseph
Exodus - Egypt - Wandering - 10 Commandments
Front | Part 1 | Part
2 | Part 3 | Part
4 | Back