Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Tower of Babel, Who Else Talks ABout It?

The Bible discusses the Tower of Babel at the end of this week's parsha:

א  וַיְהִי כָל-הָאָרֶץ, שָׂפָה אֶחָת, וּדְבָרִים, אֲחָדִים.1 And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.
ב  וַיְהִי, בְּנָסְעָם מִקֶּדֶם; וַיִּמְצְאוּ בִקְעָה בְּאֶרֶץ שִׁנְעָר, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם.2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
ג  וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל-רֵעֵהוּ, הָבָה נִלְבְּנָה לְבֵנִים, וְנִשְׂרְפָה, לִשְׂרֵפָה; וַתְּהִי לָהֶם הַלְּבֵנָה, לְאָבֶן, וְהַחֵמָר, הָיָה לָהֶם לַחֹמֶר.3 And they said one to another: 'Come, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.' And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
ד  וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָבָה נִבְנֶה-לָּנוּ עִיר, וּמִגְדָּל וְרֹאשׁוֹ בַשָּׁמַיִם, וְנַעֲשֶׂה-לָּנוּ, שֵׁם:  פֶּן-נָפוּץ, עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ.4 And they said: 'Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, with its top in heaven, and let us make us a name; lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'
ה  וַיֵּרֶד יְהוָה, לִרְאֹת אֶת-הָעִיר וְאֶת-הַמִּגְדָּל, אֲשֶׁר בָּנוּ, בְּנֵי הָאָדָם.5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built.
ו  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, הֵן עַם אֶחָד וְשָׂפָה אַחַת לְכֻלָּם, וְזֶה, הַחִלָּם לַעֲשׂוֹת; וְעַתָּה לֹא-יִבָּצֵר מֵהֶם, כֹּל אֲשֶׁר יָזְמוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת.6 And the LORD said: 'Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do; and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do.
ז  הָבָה, נֵרְדָה, וְנָבְלָה שָׁם, שְׂפָתָם--אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ, אִישׁ שְׂפַת רֵעֵהוּ.7 Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.'
ח  וַיָּפֶץ יְהוָה אֹתָם מִשָּׁם, עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ; וַיַּחְדְּלוּ, לִבְנֹת הָעִיר.8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city.
Did this event actually take place? Well according to historians and archaeologists it did. For instance, Abydenus (a Greek historian of the mid-fourth century B.C.), as quoted by Eusebius, spoke of a great tower in Babylon which was destroyed. The record notes: “[U]ntil this time all men had used the same speech, but now there was sent upon them a confusion of many and diverse tongues” (quoted in Rawlinson 1873, 28). However, since he did not live at the time when the tower of Babel would have stood maybe he was wrong.

In his book, Chaldean Account of Genesis (1880), George Smith of the British Museum—the scholar who translated the Babylonian flood account—published a fragment which is certainly reminiscent of the Bibles record. The inscription tells of an ancient tower. “The building of this temple offended the gods. In a night they threw down what had been built. They scattered them abroad, and made strange their speech. The progress they impeded” (1880, 29).

From an archaeological standpoint the precise site of the ancient tower of Babel is a matter of uncertainty, for there are possibilities among the remnants of several ruins in the region. Many, following Jewish and Arab traditions, locate the tower ruins at Borsippa (the “Tongue Tower”), about eleven miles southwest of the northern portion of Babylon. Others identify the site with Etemen-an-ki (“the temple of the foundation of heaven and earth”), which is located in the southern sector of the city near the right bank of the Euphrates river.

It is my opinion that the Tower of babel did in fact exist. However, if one reads the text closely it was not only a tower that they were building, but an entire city. Babel is one of the most ancient of all cities and it stands to reason that, just like the ancient Egyptians had pyramids, that the babylonians built towers as well. In fact, most ancient civilizations built towers. The Egyptians built their pyramids, the Incas and the Aztecs built their pyramids and the Chinese and Hindus had their temples of worship on top of mountains. Therefore, I would say, whether you think they believed in G-D or not it seems logical that a tower was built.

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