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Echoes of Eden at the Tower of Babel

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Tamarajo is an avid Bible scholar who loves nothing more than seeking out the treasures in God's Word and sharing them with others.

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The Importance of the Early Genesis Narratives

The "Beginning" narratives of Genesis contain the genetic code that finds its expression and fruitful development in the rest of Scripture and throughout the history of human experience.

These early chapters of the Bible are the template for the subsequent events detailing God's relational advancement with fallen humankind. Every chronicle will echo these beginning accounts and reveal applicable facets drawn from each episode. Every scene will also contain Messianic themes pointing to Jesus the Messiah—Savior of the world. The following quote from the book "Reading Moses Seeing Jesus," by Seth D Postell, Eithan Bar, and Erez Soref, summarizes this thought.

. . . from beginning to end a singular story is told in the Torah (first five books of the Bible). not just in the smattering of verses but woven into its very fabric. Perhaps examining the narrative structure of the Torah with its many parallel story lines and recurring themes we may see signposts pointing consistently and undeniably toward the Messiah and our need for Him2

From beginning to end, it's a messy story, to say the least, but that's just the backside of the tapestry view. As we follow the common threads through the fabric of these Biblical accounts, a much bigger picture comes into view. We shall see how the genius of God beautifully weaves His eternal plan through the warp of rebellious humanity who resists Him at every turn.

This article will flesh out the details connecting Babylon and the Garden in Eden narratives. The Tower of Babel records the ancient account of humanity's collaborative attempt at creating its own Eden separate from God, much like Adam and Eve did when they acted independently of God by partaking from a forbidden tree.

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Nimrod

The post-flood genealogies in Genesis chapter ten read pretty redundantly until we get to Nimod and the details concerning him.

The sons of Ham were Cush Mizraim, Put, and Canaan . . . Cush begot Nimrod (rebellious); he began to be a mighty one (military tyrant) on the earth. He was a mighty hunter (snarer/trapper) before the Lord (towards the face of Yahweh); therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter (snarer/trapper) before the Lord (towards the face of Yahweh) .”

— Genesis 10:8-12

The Hebrew word for "mighty" in the above verse includes the definition of " proud tyrant." Nimrod is probably not just an average strong man but a chief military leader. He is noted for his hunting. The Hebrew word for "hunt," in this case, includes the idea of chasing and capturing prey by snare or trap. It has been suggested that Nimrod's prey wasn't necessarily animals but people. His hunt aimed at snaring the populations into his kingdom to establish his united world system under his governance and not Gods.

Nimrod's motives were the same motive the serpent had at the forbidden tree. The sinister snake in the forbidden tree of the garden scene is replaced by a tyrant named Nimrod in the Babylon story.

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Nimrod's Urban Developments Versus Eden

Nimrod's godless kingdom-building and expansion begin with the familiar phrase "the beginning."

And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).

— Genesis 10:10-12

The phraseology is not coincidental. By linking this phrase "the beginning" with its first occurrence in Genesis chapter one, it is evident that Nimrod is "creating" his own space with which to rule his world. Instead of a garden, Nimrod designs urban developments.

City building connected with a departure from the Lord also links back to the first city-builder, Cain.

Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch.

— Genesis 4:16-17

Cain's descendants advanced corporate farming, cultural developments, and metal technologies, shedding light on potentially what Nimrod's projects also most likely consisted of.

To Enoch (Cain's son) was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech.

Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock (corporate farming). His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute (cultural developments). And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron (metal technologies) . . .

— Genesis 4:18-22

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The theme of captivity and Nimrod's mission is established with the record of future events involving the territories of Babylon and Shinar. These two nations were both key players in the remainder of Old Testament history. Assyria would take the northern tribes of Israel captive, and Babylon would later take the southern tribes captive.

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The Tower—It Was About Worship

Now the whole earth had one language and 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.

— Genesis 11:1

According to Britannica Encylopedia, mountains were typically places of worship in the ancient world and were considered the "abodes of the gods."

The psychological roots of the cults of high places lie in the belief that mountains are close to the sky (as heavenly ladders) . . . Mountains, therefore, serve as the abodes of the gods . . . mountains are the first land to emerge from the primeval water . . . They frequently become the cosmic mountain (i.e., the world conceived as a mountain) that is symbolically represented by a small hill on which a king stands at the inauguration.1

Eden was presumed to be a mountain, evidenced by the river flowing from it. Tim Mackie from the Bible Project clarifies this thought in a series of Twitter posts relating to this topic.

Eden is the source of the rivers of the earth, and water flows downhill, which means clearly that Eden is atop a high place . . . In the prophets, Mount Zion (meaning Jerusalem / the Temple) is consistently described in analogy with Eden . . . Ezekiel 28:13-14 recalls “Eden, the garden of God” as “the holy mountain of God.”2

Therefore, it is notable that the "plain of Shinar" is the selected worship center of the globalized populations united in language and purpose to build a tower that reaches the heavens to make a name for themselves.

Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks (human made stones) and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

— Genesis 11:3-4

The "plains" provided the perfect platform for a human-made mountain, otherwise known as a ziggurat. There is no doubt that the tower mentioned in Genesis chapter eleven is none other than a ziggurat.

According to the website Daily History, in an article titled What Was the Importance of Ziggurats in Ancient Mesopotamia, Ziggurats were mountain-shaped stepped temples that united people groups politically and religiously.

. . . they served as a way for the people to connect to their most important gods, they provided a focal point for the secular community, and they also acted as a visible and tangible sign of a king’s power. Any king worth his salt in ancient Mesopotamia had to build a ziggurat that could be seen for miles around, which would ultimately serve to immortalize him for posterity . . .

. . . Ziggurats were also vital in the early urbanization of Mesopotamia as communities formed around the important religious buildings. Perhaps just as important as the religious aspects, and possibly even more so, was the political legitimacy and gravitas a king or a dynasty could gain by building a ziggurat.3

The garden theme of Eden is not entirely eliminated from these artificial worship structures. In mimicry of God's design, many of them included garden elements in their construction, such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

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The Eternal Ramifications of Both Scenes

Much like God came looking for Adam in the garden, God came down to see what the sons of men had built.

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.

— Genesis 1:5-8

Adam's great commission was to subdue the earth and fill it with God's goodness, order, and functionality. In the scene at Babel, quite the opposite occurred. Rather than filling the earth, human's congregated to develop self-serving, self-saving projects that eliminated God from the equation. Just as Eve desired autonomous wisdom, prosperity, and success, the tower congregants want a name and fame for themselves.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.

— Genesis 3:6

The potential eternal ramifications both lead to scattering and exile. God would not abandon His humans to an eternal state of separation from Him, in either case, until they had an opportunity for salvation through His coming Messiah.

Adam and Eve were driven from the garden God made for them "lest they eat from the tree of life" and live forever" without Him. At Babel, humanity was scattered from their self-made project lest "nothing would be impossible (living forever) to them."

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The Messianic Plot

The Babel scene is preparatory for the development of the nations, one of which will produce a Messiah. Everything God does in these beginning narratives is protective of human development with a particular eye toward bringing forth a Messiah. Anything that thwarted His salvation plan had to be interrupted. If He didn't intervene, there would have been nothing left to save.

This messianic message still speaks today.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

— Titus 2:11

The Messiah has come and continues to invite humankind to dwell with Him. This time it's a city that God has built for eternity.

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

— Revelation 21:3

Sources

1https://www.britannica.com/topic/nature-worship/Mountains

2https://twitter.com/bibleproject/status/1097997555030360064?lang=en

3https://dailyhistory.org/What_Was_the_Importance_of_Ziggurats_in_Ancient_Mesopotamia

© 2022 Tamarajo

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