The Tale of the Babbling Brutes of Babel

The tower of Babel, found in Genesis 11:1-9, is one of the most fascinating passages in the Bible. As people read about the people, the tower, and the languages, imaginations are ignited. Important questions arise, such as: How tall could this tower have been? Where was Babel? Was this how the story really happened?

The ruins of Babel, correctly pronounced bay-bul, are potentially buried under the ancient city of Babylon, in what is currently modern-day Iraq, in addition to being under 5-6,000 years of history, making archaeological discovery and research difficult for what could be Babylon’s initial foundations.

Moreover, despite the popular way of saying Babel as babble – due to the word babble meaning confusion, the location of Babel, and the confusion that occurs there – the name Babel itself is not actually related to, nor does it mean, confusion. It actually means “Gate of/to God.” It was here that God encountered people and scattered them; therefore, while the people were attempting to build a gate to God, God met them instead, making it his gate – the gate of God. However, there is a poetic wordplay on the part of the Hebrew authors, who use babel or babil – a word with Akkadian roots for gate of God – and balal – a Hebrew word for confusion, to literarily show the relationship with the confusion that occurred at God’s gate. Though they are similar words, they are not related.

Finally, neither is humanity’s pride the main reason for God’s destruction of the tower and the ensuing confusion, but rather multiple failures by humanity to obey God’s command to multiply and spread throughout the earth.

I encourage you to read the following paper I wrote a few years back. It may help uncover this buried confusion: The Tale of the Babbling Brutes of Babel.

For more summary, see “The Babbling Brutes of Babel”.

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“The Babbling Brutes of Babel”

The Babbling Brutes of Babel
by Eric Verbovszky

I hear there is a fable
of the babbling brutes of Babel.

They forgot they were told to scatter,
so in Mesopotamia, they gathered.

They said, “Let’s build a city!
And a tower that’s in no way mini!”

Mixing the mortar, firing the bricks,
they really thought they were slick.

But there was one who was Godly;
he saw that their work wasn’t shoddy.

Though, seeing their hearts misplaced,
he finally judged this case.

Sowing people all over the earth,
new tribes and new tongues were birthed.

Given so many opportunities to learn,
our neighbor’s love, we can earn.

Humanity was forced to be given a lift,
but we finally made use of God’s gift.

And, of the babbling brutes of Babel?
Their little project was decisively tabled.

*This is a poem I wrote based on Genesis 11:1-9; although pride is one factor to consider, it is not the motivating factor for God to scatter the people as it is often preached about. Rather, the people defied God’s command to spread out over the earth and make use of God’s gift of creation (Gen. 1:28, 9:1,7). Moreover, God had already seen the evil that occurred in sinful hearts opposed to God; it got so bad, in fact, that God wiped the earth clean with a flood and simply started over with Noah and his family!

Scattering the people was an act of God’s prevenient grace, stopping a unified people with hearts bent toward evil, selfishness, and idolatry.   Finally, diverse people groups with different languages, while keeping sinful people separate and perhaps providing checks and balances to greater evil, also gives us opportunities to learn how to more deeply love one another by getting to know so many of God’s communities around the world.   God loves variety! This is demonstrated in the creation account; giving humanity languages is another example of God’s beauty in diversity!

Babel, meaning ‘Gate of God’ and nothing to do with confusion, could potentially be the earliest city of Babylon. If it is, it is probably buried under at least 5,000 years of Babylonian history. Archaeological excavations to find this early and unfinished foundation would be incredibly difficult.   Noah’s descendants most likely migrated to Mesopotamia after traveling around the Ararat mountains in and around eastern Turkey, settling in what they called the plain of Shinar before God scattered them.

Sumerian ziggurat engineering resembles the building techniques discussed in Genesis 11:1-9.   Noah’s ancestors may be the very first Sumerians or even their predecessors.   The earliest Gilgamesh accounts, which include stories of Utnapishtim who closely resembles Noah, appear during the 4th millenium B.C. with the early Sumerians.   Noah’s descendants would have carried his story with them as they settled there; this story would have merged with Sumerian culture and the Gilgamesh Epic through history.