tower of babel in the bible

Tower of Babel In The Bible

In the heart of the city of Babylon, between the beginning of the 6th and the beginning of the 5th century BC. J.-C. stood in all its majesty one of the most famous monuments of Antiquity: the multi-story tower. The tower of Babel in the Bible, or ziggurat, is dedicated to the main god of the city, Bêl-Marduk. And attached to the temple where resided his cult statue, the Esagil.

The ziggurat had a different name in the Sumerian language: Etemenanki, meaning the “foundation temple of heaven and earth.” It illustrated the symbolic strength of its location, in the middle of the city, which was itself the center of the universe, like a pivot linking the earth and its depths to the sky, the residence of the gods of the Mesopotamian pantheon. The date of the initial construction of the Etemenanki remains a matter of conjecture. It is necessary to wait, for a relatively late date, at the end of the 2nd millennium, to find a written mention of it.

It is dated around the 12th century BC. the formatting of a lexical list in cuneiform script, called Tintin (one of the Sumerian names of Babylon), which records the salient elements of the topography of the city and quotes, in its fourth tablet, the ziggurat in the second position, just after the Esagil. And it is only in an inscription of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (704-681) that Etemenanki cited, in a precise historical context, that of the destruction that the king ordered of the monuments of Babylon in 689 BC. AD, to punish her for rebelling against him.

History of the Tower of Babel

The myth of the Tower of Babel, a biblical reflection on human vanity, is based on historical facts. This story of the genesis of the old testament testifies to the pride of the Babylonians who, in wanting to reach the heavens, sowed chaos on the earth. To punish men, God created languages ​​that prevented men from communicating with each other and scattered the descendants of Noah across the globe.

There is no doubt that the Tower of Babel in the Bible truly existed in the ancient city of Babylon in Mesopotamia. Numerous excavations carried out in the area have revealed evidence of its existence. It is now possible to affirm that from the beginning of the 6th to the 5th century BC, a ‘ziggurat,’ an Akkadian term designating a Mesopotamian religious building with steps, was built. His Sumerian name was ‘Etemenanki’. Several historical documents bear witness to its existence and its slow destruction.

The building was in the center of the city, which according to the belief of the Mesopotamians, was at the center of the universe. The Etemenanki was dedicated to the worship of Mesopotamian gods. It was created in honor of the main god of the city, Bel-Marduk. Archaeologists believe that the building served as a temple and that it was dedicated to the invocation of the stars, which were supposed to embody the gods.

tower of babel in the bible

Representation of the Tower of Babel in the Bible

The Tower of Babel in the Bible is the symbol of pride and excess

The name of Babel appears in the Hebrew Bible when its king Nebuchadnezzar II. And his troops threaten the tiny kingdom of Judah. The Babylonians seized Jerusalem twice and deported its inhabitants. The Judeans exiled to the Tower of Babel in the Bible remained there for several decades.

The symbolism of human pride and decay marks this city:

  • In Genesis, Babel symbolizes the excessiveness of men who want to establish an empire. A single country, a single people, and a single language.
  • During the period of the Exile, the tower of Babel in the Bible is the seat of the idols. Indeed, the city par excellence reigns the corruption and the decadence of pride which moves away from God.

This symbolism of a city where human evils come together and collectively multiply has been widely taken up. Also, reggae and rasta culture designate corrupt power. Bob Marley thus wrote a title entitled Babylon System in 1979 on this subject.

What is the connection between Babel and Babylon?

The Tower of Babel in the Bible story is one of the best-known texts. To answer this question, let’s look at the different versions and translations of the biblical text :

  • In Hebrew, the city of Babylon and the famous tower of Genesis bear the same name: Babel. More than a link between Babel and Babylon, it is, therefore, the same city designated by the same name in the biblical text in the Hebrew version!
  • The Greek Bible, on the other hand, unusually translated the Hebrew name ” Babel” as ” Confusion ” in this passage.
  • The Latin Bible kept the Hebrew form “ Babel.” Even if, in the other passages, it translates the city of “ Babel ” as “ Babylon.” The French translations distinguish Babel and Babylon. Therefore, follow the Latin tradition. 

Primary Takeaways

The story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible is indeed found at the beginning of the Old Testament. Therefore, the first generations of men who populate the earth after the Flood seek to reach Heaven by building an immense tower. So, God blurs their language to stop their business, and the desire to become “like gods” is dictated by their pride. Access the content written by the editorial staff of Believe about this episode of the Bible.

The city of Babylon in Revelation

Finally, this symbolism is found in the last Book of the Bible, the Apocalypse, written in Greek. Babel-Babylon is thus expressly named there to designate evil and corruption:

And he carried me away into a wilderness in the spirit, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast full of names of blasphemy . . . And the woman was arrayed in purple and golden scarlet, [laden] with precious stones and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her whoredom, a mysterious name written in her forehead: ” Babylon the great, the mother of the whoredoms and abominations of the earth. (Rev 17, 3-5)

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It is easy to understand how the history of this building is found in the biblical story: when the populations of the kingdom of Judah were deported to Babylonia from about 586 BC. They were undoubtedly impressed by this imposing building. And inserted it into the story of the Bible.

However, when the Persians conquered the empire of Babylon in the year 539 BC. Therefore, the religious buildings were gradually abandoned. On his arrival in Babylon in 331, Alexander the Great wanted to restore the building. But his death stopped the work, and the Etemenanki gradually collapsed.

Also, today, nothing remains of this mythical building. But its footprint, a square of 90 meters on a side, remains visible from satellite photos.