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Author Topic:   The Tower of Babel -- NOT about Language
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 12 (427272)
10-10-2007 6:17 PM


NOTE: I'd like to keep this thread about the physical tower itself, and not discuss the language issue of the story. For a discussion on the language issue, I recommend this thread: Language and the Tower of Babel.


Gen 10:1-9 --
(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 the land of Shinar; 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. (KJV)


Now, my question concerning this passage is thus: If God never destroyed this magnificent tower, then shouldn't we expect to see some evidence of it today? Even ancient houses leave behind at least their foundations.

There is an English translation—probably more—that says (emphasis added): "(5) But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building.(NIV)"

I think looking at the original Hebrew, then, is important, because if we cannot be certain that the tower was actually built when God came down and stopped them, then we cannot be certain that the tower was ever anything more than an idea. If the tower was never built, then there would be no reason to expect finding evidence of it.

Three things, then, that I think we need to discuss:
1) In the original Hebrew, what is the tense of the verb 'build' in verse (5)?
Based on that:
2) Where is Shinar?
And based on that:
3) Where, then, is the tower?

Jon

Edited by Jon L., : Removed message to admins.

Edited by Jon, : No reason given.


Love your enemies!

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AdminNem
Inactive Member


Message 2 of 12 (427293)
10-10-2007 10:09 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
jar
Member
Posts: 30935
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004


Message 3 of 12 (427297)
10-10-2007 10:19 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
10-10-2007 6:17 PM


Where's Waldo?
Shinar is both Northern and Southern Babylonia or just about anywhere you want that is between the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
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Hyroglyphx
Member
Posts: 5622
From: Austin, TX
Joined: 05-03-2006


Message 4 of 12 (427298)
10-10-2007 10:29 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
10-10-2007 6:17 PM


The Tower of Babel
1) In the original Hebrew, what is the tense of the verb 'build' in verse (5)?

I'm not at liberty to go look that up right now in my concordance. If no one posts the answer in the next day or two, I'll make the effort.

2) Where is Shinar?

Anytime you see the phrase land of Shinar, its referring to the Mesopotamian valley-- the fertile crescent. This mostly includes Iraq, but it can also include portions of modern-day Syri

Edited by Nemesis Juggernaut, : No reason given.


"It is better to shun the bait, than struggle in the snare." -Ravi Zacharias
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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 85 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 5 of 12 (427302)
10-10-2007 11:03 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
10-10-2007 6:17 PM


Now, my question concerning this passage is thus: If God never destroyed this magnificent tower, then shouldn't we expect to see some evidence of it today? Even ancient houses leave behind at least their foundations.

yes, no, and maybe. presuming the text is a literal history (it's not), we should. presuming the text is merely a story told to teach a lesson, no. presuming somewhere in between -- that it was based on a real place, albeit very loosely -- we might find a ziggurat that somewhat matches the description.

i've proposed a couple of time a conceptual link between this story and a famous verse from isaiah, the "lucifer" verse:

quote:
How art thou fallen from heaven,
O day-star, son of the morning!
How art thou cut down to the ground,
that didst cast lots over the nations!
And thou saidst in thy heart:
'I will ascend into heaven,
above the stars of God will I exalt my throne,
and I will sit upon the mount of meeting,
in the uttermost parts of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will be like the Most High.'

Isaiah 14:12-14


conceptually, it's very similar. a man (in this case, king nebuchadnezzar) tries to build a very high tower to place himself in the heavens, and is cut down by god. the great nebuchadnezzar was known for building ziggurats -- it's possible the tower that inspired babel was the same tower here. i'm aware that the dates wouldn't match at all, but we're talking inspiration and not a factual account.

There is an English translation—probably more—that says (emphasis added): "(5) But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building.(NIV)"

1) In the original Hebrew, what is the tense of the verb 'build' in verse (5)?

quote:
וַיֵּרֶד יְהוָה, לִרְאֹת אֶת-הָעִיר וְאֶת-הַמִּגְדָּל, אֲשֶׁר בָּנוּ, בְּנֵי הָאָדָם

v'yared yahueh l'reot et-ha-ir v'et-ha-migdal asher banu beni-ha-adam

and-came-down [the lord] to-see (d.o.)-the-city and-(d.o.)-the-tower that built sons-of-the-man

"and the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of man built."


not sure where the NIV gets the past-perfect from. it's probably to make it seem like the tower was incomplete (as is the tradition). but the hebrew verb is simple past tense, (hem) banu, "(they) built." which makes it seem like the tower was completed.

2) Where is Shinar?

babylon. really anything in that general area.


אָרַח

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Doddy
Member (Idle past 4016 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 6 of 12 (427321)
10-11-2007 2:35 AM


Nobody believes in the literal truth of the NIV. KJV is where the literalists live:

quote:
Genesis 11

1And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3And 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.

4And 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.

5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6And 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.

7Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

8So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9Therefore 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.



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iceage 
Suspended Member (Idle past 4022 days)
Posts: 1024
From: Pacific Northwest
Joined: 09-08-2003


Message 7 of 12 (427767)
10-12-2007 8:00 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
10-10-2007 6:17 PM


Towering Problems
Jon writes:

3) Where, then, is the tower?

You do not see the YECist focusing on the reality or existence of the tower. You see well funded expeditions mounted to look for shards of the Ark, but few go looking for the foundations of the tower. Why is that?

The tower story I believe is somewhat of an embarrassment to the fundamental literalist because the literal reading presents several problems:

1) God evidently does not exhaustively know the future (omnipotent). In the story God is found to be surprised during an inspection to earth of the industrialness and achievements of his subjects. Interesting, considering that these subjects are beings of his own creation that were created in his own image.

2) The story reveals a primitive notion of cosmology. We read the story today and we immediately start looking for metaphors since it is obvious to us that you cannot build a tower to heaven. Reading the story several thousand years ago and the reader might the accept the story as plausible.

3) God apparently is threatened by man's capabilities - this is again a smallish view of God that was prevalent at the time. I know some try to twist the words to convey that God was upset because of man's arrogance but that is not what the story literally says and such inspired readings are extrapolations.

4) Contradicts the latter scripture "God is not the author of confusion". Here God is portrayed as the direct divine inventor of languages that create confusion and disharmony between all members of humanity.

5) God is referred to as plural. Perhaps revealing the original source of the story?

Edited by iceage, : No reason given.


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subconscious
Junior Member (Idle past 4107 days)
Posts: 8
Joined: 10-22-2007


Message 8 of 12 (430216)
10-23-2007 9:25 PM


although there are references to shinar as the dwelling place for a physical tower, i do not beleive there is a physical tower to be found.

when going back to the hebrew translations we see differences in the english translation.

when we insert the hebrew we find many metaphorical values.

IMO the language spoken of is that of the science and magic of kabbalah, the tower being built was an attempt of the sharing of this divine language(kabbalah) to build a formation to reach the upper worlds or heavens as described in abrahams sefer yetzirah- book of formation, through the ten sefirot were emanation down to the physical plain (earth)that defined the pathway from GOd to man, if men during the time of the story of the tower of babel were sharing the language and science/ and or magic of kabbalah, they were trying to build a tower in reverse through this language to reach back up to the upper worlds or heavens where they believed God to reside as to make a name for themselves in the signature of creation.
so metaphorically speaking the tower was a series of incantation using the diagram of the hebrew alef bet and the principles of either kabbalah or sefer yetzirah to make a signature in the code of creation to extend back to His throne so as to make a name for themselves in the heavens.


    
jar
Member
Posts: 30935
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004


Message 9 of 12 (430220)
10-23-2007 9:42 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
10-10-2007 6:17 PM


currently known ziggurats
TTBOMK, there are 30 or so known ziggurats, spread out over Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan and parts of Turkey. Any of those could actually be the fabled tower, or it could be one yet to be rediscovered.

The point is that the ziggurat was not an unusual structure and any city-state with the wealth required might have had one.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
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bluescat48
Member (Idle past 2296 days)
Posts: 2347
From: United States
Joined: 10-06-2007


Message 10 of 12 (430315)
10-24-2007 2:17 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by jar
10-23-2007 9:42 PM


Re: currently known ziggurats
TTBOMK, there are 30 or so known ziggurats, spread out over Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan and parts of Turkey. Any of those could actually be the fabled tower, or it could be one yet to be rediscovered.

The point is that the ziggurat was not an unusual structure and any city-state with the wealth required might have had one.

true and how would any one know which was the correct one given that the area where ziggurats were built is quite large encompassing a lot more than mesapotamia.


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jaywill
Member (Idle past 48 days)
Posts: 4519
From: VA USA
Joined: 12-05-2005


Message 11 of 12 (451090)
01-26-2008 4:58 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by iceage
10-12-2007 8:00 PM


Re: Towering Problems
1) God evidently does not exhaustively know the future (omnipotent). In the story God is found to be surprised during an inspection to earth of the industrialness and achievements of his subjects. Interesting, considering that these subjects are beings of his own creation that were created in his own image.

It is not typical that any one passage of the Bible would have in it all that we can know about God. Whereas in the particular passage under discussion we see God reacting as if something unexpected has happened other passages highlight the omniscience of God.

If we're dealing with a Being of infinite power and personality how could just one biblical passage completely discribe His abilitites?

But strictly speaking, what I see in the passage is simply God reacting. It really doesn't say that He didn't know that the race of men would attempt to do such a thing. The record of His reaction could be written for our benefit in studying God's attitude rather than an indication that God didn't know something was going to happen.

2) The story reveals a primitive notion of cosmology. We read the story today and we immediately start looking for metaphors since it is obvious to us that you cannot build a tower to heaven. Reading the story several thousand years ago and the reader might the accept the story as plausible.

It is also obvious that if there were no air there would be no atmosphere to carry the sound of a "Big Bang" as is commonly spoken today. Who could hear a "Big Bang" if there was no way for sound waves to carry the noise?

So our modern talk of "The Big Bang" is also kind of pre-scientific in discription. The expression is scientifically imprecise according to modern standards.

The same is true as with building a tower to reach the heavens as is with the expression that the universe began with a Big Bang.


3) God apparently is threatened by man's capabilities - this is again a smallish view of God that was prevalent at the time. I know some try to twist the words to convey that God was upset because of man's arrogance but that is not what the story literally says and such inspired readings are extrapolations.

The problem I have with this is that quite a lot written in the same book of Genesis portrays no smallness on God's part.

I think what I derive from the story is that what man is about to do is also of no good use to himself let alone a challenge to God's ultimate authority. Nothing will be impossible for them, God says. But what will they attempt to do?

Well, look at the immediate past history of what they did. That may be an indication of what is to come. The earth was totally filled with violence to the point that God had to bring in a universal judging flood. Their imaginations and thoughts were filled only with evil -" ... every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen.6:5)

Was this a an indication of the habitual downward trend of society apart from God? Again it says before the flood "And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. ... for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth" (6:12)

The created race had corrupted itself. It is significant then that after the tower of Babel incident God starts with the called race - the Abrahamic race to accomplish His plans. Through the abrahamic race, the called race, the rest of the created race will be blessed.


4) Contradicts the latter scripture "God is not the author of confusion". Here God is portrayed as the direct divine inventor of languages that create confusion and disharmony between all members of humanity.

I think things have to be considered in context. If I am on my way to your house with a evil plan to murder you, plunder your house, abuse your spouse, and harm your children and God comes in to thwart mty plans He HAS indeed authored "confusion" to my evil plans.

Before my evil scheme was very clear. Perhaps God does something to make my conscience reconsider. I am now confused and hesitate. Suppose He causes a police car to cruise in front of your house just before I cross the street to break down the door? To some extent God would have then thrown my plot into confusion. God would be the author of confusion.

So I think context has to be considered. No doubt, the changing of the languages, however this happened, caused confusion. The flood of Noah caused confusion also to the people whose imaginations were only continually set on violence to others just before the flood.

Now here's a thought. Maybe had the tower been built and the unity maintained something far worse could have insued among the human race?

Consider some of the human sacrifices performed on sacred mounds and temples around the world. Hearts cut out of humans and offered to fertility gods, children burned in the arms of a molten hot statue of a god, fingers of women chopped off to appease the forces of nature.

I think God knew what He was doing and prevented something terribly worse from occuring. It was more than a matter of everyone understanding each other and constructing a high edifice.

5) God is referred to as plural. Perhaps revealing the original source of the story?

That must allude to the Triune God further developed in Scripture. For example in the New Testament:

"Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make an abode with him" (John 14:23)

What does this have to do with "Let Us" in Genesis? Well the plan of God to dispense Himself into man as man's life took centries to reveal because it is so profound. God in His triune nature wants to come into man's being to make a living abode within him. So the same God who said "Let Us" in the Old Testament also says [b]"and We [Father and Son] will come to him and make an abode with him."

We do not see much of the revelation of indwelling in the Genesis account of the Tower of Babel. But we do see the same Triune God in His three-oneness displeased that what man IS about to do is far off from the eternal purpose of God.

Latter the divine "Us" Who disrrupted progress at Babel, comes in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and indwelling of Christ to be the divine "We" Who makes His living abode with the believers in Christ.

Edited by jaywill, : No reason given.

Edited by jaywill, : No reason given.

Edited by jaywill, : No reason given.

Edited by jaywill, : No reason given.

Edited by jaywill, : No reason given.

Edited by jaywill, : No reason given.

Edited by jaywill, : No reason given.


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prodigious by design
Junior Member (Idle past 3884 days)
Posts: 2
From: Louisiana USA
Joined: 06-03-2008


Message 12 of 12 (469053)
06-03-2008 10:04 AM


If one reads the text carefully (even comparing several different translations), it becomes apparent that they didn't finish what they started. The confusion which ensued because of the many different languages forced them to scatter. One common language had fostered unity. Now, disparate languages evoked division. Pride of man broken in the dust again ("Pride of Man", Quicksilver Messenger Service).

The story is actually a historical account and it's very possible that some artifacts may one day be found.

The tower story I believe is somewhat of an embarrassment to the fundamental literalist because the literal reading presents several problems:

1) God evidently does not exhaustively know the future (omnipotent). In the story God is found to be surprised during an inspection to earth of the industrialness and achievements of his subjects. Interesting, considering that these subjects are beings of his own creation that were created in his own image.

2) The story reveals a primitive notion of cosmology. We read the story today and we immediately start looking for metaphors since it is obvious to us that you cannot build a tower to heaven. Reading the story several thousand years ago and the reader might the accept the story as plausible.

3) God apparently is threatened by man's capabilities - this is again a smallish view of God that was prevalent at the time. I know some try to twist the words to convey that God was upset because of man's arrogance but that is not what the story literally says and such inspired readings are extrapolations.

4) Contradicts the latter scripture "God is not the author of confusion". Here God is portrayed as the direct divine inventor of languages that create confusion and disharmony between all members of humanity.

5) God is referred to as plural. Perhaps revealing the original source of the story?

The problems are only imagined due to shoddy exegesis.

1) God can't know the future because it doesn't exist. However, He can create the present (while it is the future) through manipulating the past (while it is the present). The only reality is NOW (the present).

An image does not equal what it is an image of any more than a photograph equals what it portrays. Regardless, that has no bearing on God's surprise. Mankind was (and still is) a work in progress. Since mankind (and, in fact, most all creation) is left uninhibited, God is watching to see how it plays out. If he doesn't like the results, He intervenes. Imagine a gardener. He doesn't keep his eyes on his garden 24/7. If he notices damage being done to his crops, he takes action (a good gardener stays on top of things). That's God.

2) It's not primitive knowledge of cosmology, it's the degenerate cognitive abilities of modern man. The word 'heaven' in the Bible refers to three distinct but separate places. The first heaven (or lowest) refers to the atmosphere.

Acts 14:17 -- "Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons;...

Of course we can build towers to the heavens...we call them skyscrapers.

Also, people reading these stories several thousand years ago would have understood more easily as they were much more intelligent than man today.

What's amazing about the Bible is that it contains scientific knowledge that scientists have just rediscovered in the last 50 years or so. Primitive? Hardly.

3) God's not threatened by mankind but vexed. In order to understand God's displeasure at man's settlement in Shinar, one must look back to His first commandment to mankind:

Gen 1:27 So God created humans to be like himself; he made men and women.
Gen 1:28 God gave them his blessing and said: Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth.

He commanded mankind to fill the earth and here he was trying to settle in one place and forgo scattering. Since mankind (misled by Satan) was resisting God's plan, God gave him another nudge. At least He didn't totally wipe him out and start again from scratch. God was finally making progress with mankind.

4) It's not God that is confusing mankind, it's Satan. Man is indeed confused but it's not from listening to God.

5) A plural is referred to because God is not alone. Did you ever wonder how God 'spoke' everything into existence? It's simply that He gives an order (command) and His servants obey.

Note: There is no TRIUNE God. That is a pagan teaching fostered by the RCC under the influence of Satan. It's easy to 'prove', but not willingly accepted. The Trinity (I'm sure) is debated elsewhere...I'll look for it.


  
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