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A Rethinking of the Tower of Babel Story


A Rethinking of the Tower of Babel

2011© Roy III and Donna Blizzard

In the story of theTower of Babel we have been taught for many years that this story is telling us how come there are so many languages in the earth and where all the races began.

Unfortunately, this semi-historical thinking has no truth in the actual historical spread of the languages on the Earth. In fact it has miss used as a basis for racism against the Hamites, what ever those are. If these so called facts aren’t true, then what is this passage in the Old Testament really trying to tell us?

The Bible is a wonderful book which relates the intimacy between man and God and every story in the Bible needs to be reviewed in this aspect. When we get sidetracked on the languages issue it tends to cloud the real story that God has been trying to communicate to his people for thousands of years.

In Genesis 10:8-10 a man named Nimrod is first mentioned.

8) “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. 9) He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. 10) And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”

In Chapter 11 we get a continuation of the story.

1) “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2) And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in thelandofShinar; and they dwelt there. 3) 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. 4) 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. 5) And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6) 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. 7) Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. 8) So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 9) 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.

The real key here is in the words themselves in Hebrew.

אֶחָת, וּדְבָרִים, אֲחָדִים.וַיְהִי כָל-הָאָרֶץ, שָׂפָה

And all the earth were of “sapha echat and debarim echadim.” This phrase is translated in the King James as one language and one speech. However, the best translation of echad is not one, but unified in purpose. So if we utilize this understanding of echad it would read they were unified for a purpose in language and speech. But this still is a bit of a problem. If we look at the words for speech and language in Hebrew both of these words can easily be translated as simple talking. In other words, these people atBabelwere unified in their daily talking about some purpose that they had. Not that they all had to be speaking the same exact language, but they could have been. But what was important to note was that they were all speaking the same plan or purpose. They were of one accord!

When we look back at chapter 10 we see that old Nimrod –נמרד- was a mighty hunter, but what was he hunting? Not animals. He was a kingdom builder. He was usurping God and man’s authority and claiming for his own. He was setting himself up to be a God. In other words he was running around overtaking other peoples and convincing them either by speech or the sword that they needed to obey him. But what do we see in the text? Does the text support this?

Nimrod is an ancient word. In the Brown Driver Briggs, they have no idea where the word comes from etymologically. They equate it with Kings of Babylon etc, but what if this is just a simple Hebrew word that describes the aspects of an Evil Man. We certainly have examples of that in the text, just look at King Saul. His real name wasn’t Saul. Saul means “asked for” because that’s what the people did was ask for a King! So God gave them King Asked For. Could Nimrod be the same thing?

Hebrew joins words together quite frequently. If we look at Nimrod, it seems to be a compound of two words, Neum –נאםand the word Ruud –רוד .

Neum means utterance, declaration or a revelation, something spoken of by a prophet in an ecstatic state. What is unusual is that this word is usually found only in a construct form!, meaning it usually doesn’t stand alone, it is joined with another word. Ruud means to wander or roam restlessly and in the Ethiopic can mean to attack, invade or run upon and invade. So if we just simply apply linguistic principles to these two words we would easily come up with Nimrod, a man who is a wandering and invading orator, someone who can control the masses because of his power of speech. In other words, a little Hitler. Who says history can’t repeat itself if you don’t properly look at it!

If in fact this is what the word Nimrod means, what does this mean for us in relation to chapter 11 of Genesis? Click on the link below - Babel and Nimrod Part 2 - to go to the conclusion of this study that will prove this story has nothing to do with the creation of the races or in the creation of the languages as commonly taught by the churches.

If you like this article you will love my new book, "The Gospel of John, An Actual Translation"

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Whammo! on June 21, 2011:

"Unfortunately, this semi-historical thinking has no truth in the actual historical spread of the languages on the Earth. If this is so, then what is this passage in the Old Testament really trying to tell us? The Bible is a wonderful book which relates the intimacy between man and God and every story in the Bible needs to be reviewed in this aspect."

It's always good for a laugh when people twist scripture to suit their own silly theories.

Beware the scribes.

Yitzhaq on June 16, 2011:

For a Hebrew speaker, "Nimrod" simply and lierally means "let's rebel". In early Zionist days this name was very enchanting and was well represented by Danziger's statue by this name.

royblizzard (author) from Austin / Leander, Texas on June 16, 2011:

David, We don't know what was going on in every place in the earth. The Bible is dealing with a very specific group and topic. All people originated from Adam and Eve, but you must remember there were many years for these people to spread out upon the face of the earth, and remember that when the Text says male and female He created He them? Is this just Adam and Eve as one pair or was there more than Two when He created them. There are questions we may never be able to answer, all we can deal with is what we can. I wish I could be more specific than that, but The Bible is not real specific on everything going on in the world at that time.

David on June 16, 2011:

If there were more than one language before the tower of Babel, where did they come from? did not all the inhabitants of the earth originate from Adam and Chawwah? did they teach their children other languages? Also, if there were other languages in the earth before the tower of babel, then why are all the names of the people and places Hebrew names?

ruffridyer from Dayton, ohio on June 15, 2011:

There were two brothers who because of their faith and prayers to God did not have their language confonded. They and their families and their close friend were allow to understand one another and left the lands, built eight barges and sailed to a land that would become part of the american comtinent.

Their story is part of the Book of Mormon. It goes under the heading of The Book of Ether. They were called the Jaredites after one of the brothers Jared.

Kathey Andrus on June 09, 2011:

Very interesting!!!

thindjinn from Lynchburg, Virginia on May 27, 2011:

Great article!! I am an atheist of sorts; however, I do not have the religion of an atheist. I am of the opinion that atheists have a devotion to undermine religion; conversely, I look to find the historical fact in religion and decode the secrets of the past. I am more open to believing in a great person, or persons, that created and ruled early, and perhaps even current, man, than believing in an all powerful God.

Still, your article is of massive interest to me, as I love breaking down the stories of the Bible that have been taken literally for such a long time and discovering what the authors of this book were actually trying to convey. In order to understand these metaphors, we have to think as the authors did. We often find this rather difficult, but you are doing a great job. I may not agree with everything you've postulate, but I really think this is a great article. Thank you!! I love when people of faith have a firm foundation in some sort of logic. I am much more open to learning from people such as yourself.

Sethareal on May 23, 2011:

I heard a drosh once when I was young about this story and the rabbi explained it as a safeguard against corruption. If there was only a single world government, culture, or system of living then if it were to fall to evil it would be almost irrevocable and near impossible for the human race to uplift itself once again, hence all the literature and film on dystopias. Therefore we have different languages so that if one group falls it is not the end forever and hopefully there will still be some good people left somewhere to take care of it.

I think you are on to something, not sure about the Nimrod thing though, it makes sense for the Rod part as vav is an extremely weak letter and would be dropped but in the Nim part it seems less plausible as even though Aleph is silent I thought it was usually stronger than that, but my biblical greek and hebrew are rusty so who knows.

brotheryochanan on May 22, 2011:

Another interesting aspect of this historic recital is that the ziggurat was made to be waterproof. Nimrod was in direct defiance of God, by his actions he was setting himself up to the be the comforter of the people. He wanted the people to rely on him, not God. Nimrod was building a tower high enough avoid a great flood and waterproofed to evade the wrath of God. A false preacher, if you will, as God said flood would not happen again. I think you will find the one language and one purpose to be accurate enough to convey the message of this historic occasion.

royblizzard (author) from Austin / Leander, Texas on May 21, 2011:

Hi Cal, -lone77star-, I appreciate the comments. You may want to read my blog on the Genesis creation account from the Hebrew - I'm not finished with it yet, but it may help you understand the intracacies of the Text. Roy

Rod Martin Jr from Cebu, Philippines on May 21, 2011:

Roy, a delightful, but short read. Some people like short hubs. Well, you got me chomping at the bit for more. I don't agree with everything you say, but remain humble to the possibilities. I look forward to part 2.

There are many things in the Bible that have not yet been revealed. My own lifetime of thought and research has only scratched the surface, but I have found some intriguing clues to a deeper wisdom.

I love the fact that you're making us think. Bravo!

The timeline in Genesis may have a few surprises for us. Archbishop Ussher only gave us the literal take. If he had known what we know in science, today, likely he would not have arrived at the dates he did.

For instance, science (batting close to a thousand on the study of nature and reality) says that humanity has been around for 200,000+ years. Literal Genesis gives us only 6,000 years. Something is off. To believe the literal is to wallow in delusion. Yet some people do it with wild abandon.

The masters who wrote and compiled the Bible wanted us to work for the Bible's hidden wisdom. But it takes humility, and too many are not willing to give up their own ideas. My own ideas keep changing and refining. When I read the articles of others, I learn new things and some old wisdoms become apparent. I'm not smart enough to figure it all out by myself, but I think we can each contribute some insights. And some more than others.

I await your part 2.

Holly Mackenzie Cupp from United States on May 20, 2011:

interesting hub. I always thought that maybe the "tower of babel" was a rocket-ship but never thought about the whole one language aspect as everyone having the same idea or working together towards a common goal. I guess it could make sense. Isn't that what we say now in modern times when someone agrees with us or shares the same ideas "you and I, we're speaking the same language."

royblizzard (author) from Austin / Leander, Texas on May 20, 2011:

Hey Mark, While the Rabbis did mention that they felt Nimrod meant "let us rebel" The linguistical basis for the word doesn't fit their definition. WE know he hunted people to build his kingdom so he probably did kill quite a few. What I think is funny is the term Nimrod to mean a good hunter, remember the Lone Star Sportsman's Show, lol?

MARK BERRIER on May 20, 2011:

Comments: 1) Nimrod probably means "let us rebel"--at least that's what the rabbis say. 2) They also say that he hunted and killed people. 3)He built the two cities that destroyed God's people Israel--Nineveh (Northern Kingdom) and Babylon (Southern Kingdom). 4) The "city of man" is a rebellion against God. Read Jacques Ellul's _The Meaning of the City_. The first city builder was Cain; then Nimrod, then the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. That's man's city. But God's city is first mentioned in Psalm 46--then 4 times in Hebrews and then Revelation. Galatians says "the Jerusalem that is above is our mother"--not earthly Jerusalem, which is another city of man.... Sorry about the rambling....

royblizzard (author) from Austin / Leander, Texas on May 20, 2011:

Hi Lea, I'm working on the second half of the article now. Roy

Lea Smith on May 20, 2011:

Where is the second part?

GregG on May 20, 2011:

Excellent me thinking...

royblizzard (author) from Austin / Leander, Texas on May 20, 2011:

From Ahvram Zagoren: Also, I was under the thought that all the different tribes on the earth had their own language and through nimrod they developed a common language so that they could communicate with each other. It's like the Jews of Europe developing yiddish....

royblizzard (author) from Austin / Leander, Texas on May 20, 2011:

Hi Dave, I will deal with those issues in the second part

Katharella from Lost in America on May 20, 2011:

Yes Bob Baker you did. (or your alter ego did) Anyway hello Roy, as a girl being raised in all religions in private school and in various churches (we switched, mom and dad thought it best to give more than one opinion) I've come to the realization that there are many misconceptions. Especially after the book of Matthew. It set in. It is an abomination for a woman to be seen in man's clothing. Um, I thought.. what do I know if God's word is supposed to be right! But in thinking and pondering and questioning and re-questioning.. I have come to believe this means the woman should not be the bread winner in a family "wearing pants" As clothing has little to nothing to do with it. Just my short input, much is always lost in translations. My friend who moved back to Switzerland actually instilled my belief that I was right. He was good at English, but not fluent in slang. As the young kids we were if we said "you are the $heye+" (lack of a swear word on your page out of respect if you are offended, no harm intent please) but he would be so kind as to show you the way to the powder room! Ah, he proved much can be lost in words from other language. Not just that instance but many, with my Spanish friend who said watch your dialect as you might mean to tell my Grandma the cat got out and be saying something you wish you hadn't when she chases you out with a broom! :) Yes I believe it's been to literate, when no one took translations as a consideration. And especially, with religion aside, the greatest history book ever, should not be mistaken. :)

Bob Baker on May 20, 2011:

kinda sounds like our churches today, under the control of a sociopath leader with spires reaching to heaven. Oh, sorry, did I say that!

Dave Mathews from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA on May 20, 2011:

I cannot buy into your theory here I believe the Hebrew people here under Nimrod, were all of one language and one purpose. I believe that God was displeased with them so he confounded their speech and scattered them thus creating language differences.

ruffridyer from Dayton, ohio on May 20, 2011:

like Adam and Eve Noah's family were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. Gensis 9 ver I. Nimrod was apparently trying to build an empire with all people whorshiping him. Maybe you will cover that in your next hub. Good work

Raymond on May 20, 2011:

I've also heard Nimrod described as one of the Nephilim although nothing in the text gives evidence of that.

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