The Tower of Babel is a well-known story in the Bible; however, I feel that it is overlooked. There are some important things to note in the story. Here’s some background:
The Tower of Babel was a project widely held to be led by Nimrod, son of Cush and great grandson of Noah. According to legend, he was a mighty hunter and rebellious against Yahweh. Therefore, the tower was a means to rebel; it was a way of erecting a massive idol opposed to Yahweh. If that’s the case, Nimrod and the builders were committing a crime in ignorance because the second commandment had not been given to humans yet.
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward,they found a plain in Shinarand settled there.
“One language and one common speech.” This is important to note. I’ll tell you why shortly.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
I guess their intention is made clear in verse 4: to “make a name for [them]selves,” which would obviously oppose glory-demanding Yahweh. However, my question is whether his reaction was necessary. First, let us see how he reacts or rather, how they react.
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.”
There are a few items of interest in this section. First, look at verse 5: “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.” Why would an omniscient god have to come down to see what they were building? One should assume that he would have already known. Then there’s his reaction. He chooses to “confuse their language”. This is often overlooked by the Christian. If this myth were true—as many Christians believe—they would have to blame god for culture; therefore, they would have to blame him for every other religion—all of which they consider “false”. They would have to accept that their god is directly responsible for the lost and unsaved—directly responsible for the rebellious and the hell bound. Contrary to wanting all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), he himself made that impossible by creating the barrier of language—which leads to the barrier of culture—which leads to the barrier of different religious upbringings. If everyone isn’t saved, it would be his fault!
However, was his reaction necessary? No. An all-knowing god would know that their project would have ended abruptly upon reaching a certain altitude. Many have died trying to climb Mount Everest for instance, which is 29,029 feet high. Upon reaching a certain elevation, the builders would have died of suffocation. Another question: did they have the technological know-how to build such a tower? Absolutely not. Our tallest skyscraper is the Burj Khalifia which is 2,723 feet high! That’s 9.38% the height of Mount Everest! Would they have been able to build a skyscraper just as tall or taller? That is highly doubtful. Bronze Age people used steel on a small scale. They didn’t use steel to erect the beams of a skyscraper for example. That was unknown to them. Point of all this: Yahweh could have let them fail or let them die. Instead, he opted to confuse their language. He chose to divide them being that they shared “one language and one common speech; he chose to sow discord against a united human race and for what? His own glory. This is the god a literalist worships and it doesn’t fair better for Christians who see this an allegory or a myth. A story about a god that would react this way doesn’t help his reputation.
Then there’s the “let us go down” in verse 7. Modern Christians will have you believe that that was the Trinity acting in accord. They couldn’t be more wrong. This verse is the mark of an early Israelite polytheist. The “us” in that verse is Yahweh, El, Baal and Asherah. It is unclear who uttered the “let us go down,” but it isn’t god the father. Other marks of the early polytheist can be found in Genesis 1:26 and Isaiah 6:8. In every other instance, Yahweh refers to himself via singular pronouns; these three verses are curious instances of the contrary.
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
The literalist also ignores this section. If this were true, this event could be easily traced. All of the world’s languages wouldn’t demonstrate a gradual development. Furthermore, all of the world’s cultures wouldn’t show a gradual development. Moreover, languages and cultures would not have existed prior to this event. However, the contrary is true in every case. All of the world’s languages demonstrate gradual development; as do all of the world’s cultures. Languages and cultures existed prior to this event.
Also, verse 8 is quite curious: “they stopped building the city.” Really? Assyria was the land of Nimrod and Babel was a city in that land. Theologians have also made a connection with Babel and Babylon. If any of that holds, the city was indeed built. Ultimately, this is a story of discord; it is a story of a glory-seeking and jealous deity. Whether one takes it literally or not doesn’t change the fact: this story is a useless myth.
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