Tower of Babel
Overview
 
The Tower of Babel according to the Book of Genesis, was an enormous tower
Tower
A tower is a tall structure, usually taller than it is wide, often by a significant margin. Towers are distinguished from masts by their lack of guy-wires....

 built in the plain of Shinar
Shinar
Shinar was a geographical locale of uncertain boundaries in Mesopotamia. The name may be a corruption of Shene nahar , Shene or , or Sumer .It has been suggested that Shinar must have been confined to the northern part of Mesopotamia Shinar (Hebrew Šin`ar, Septuagint Σεννααρ Sennaar) was a...

 .

According to the biblical account, a united humanity
Human Race
Human Race refers to the Human species.Human race may also refer to:*The Human Race, 79th episode of YuYu Hakusho* Human Race Theatre Company of Dayton Ohio* Human Race Machine, a computer graphics device...

 of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar
Shinar
Shinar was a geographical locale of uncertain boundaries in Mesopotamia. The name may be a corruption of Shene nahar , Shene or , or Sumer .It has been suggested that Shinar must have been confined to the northern part of Mesopotamia Shinar (Hebrew Šin`ar, Septuagint Σεννααρ Sennaar) was a...

, where they resolved to build a city with a tower "with its top in the heavens...lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the Earth." God came down to see what they did and said: "They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withholden from them which they purpose to do." So God said, "Come, let us go down and confound their speech." And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel "because God there confounded the language of all the Earth."(Genesis 11:5-8).

The Tower of Babel has often been associated with known structures, notably the Etemenanki
Etemenanki
Etemenanki was the name of a ziggurat dedicated to Marduk in the city of Babylon of the 6th century BCE Neo-Babylonian dynasty. Originally seven stories in height, little remains of it now except ruins.-Construction:It is unclear exactly when Etemenanki was first built. A review article by Andrew R...

, a ziggurat
Ziggurat
Ziggurats were massive structures built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, having the form of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels.Notable ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, Iraq; the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near...

 dedicated to Marduk
Marduk
Marduk was the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, who, when Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi , started to...

 by Nabopolassar
Nabopolassar
Nabopolassar was the king of the Babylonia and played a key role in the demise of the Assyrian Empire following the death of the last powerful Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal...

 (c.
Encyclopedia
The Tower of Babel according to the Book of Genesis, was an enormous tower
Tower
A tower is a tall structure, usually taller than it is wide, often by a significant margin. Towers are distinguished from masts by their lack of guy-wires....

 built in the plain of Shinar
Shinar
Shinar was a geographical locale of uncertain boundaries in Mesopotamia. The name may be a corruption of Shene nahar , Shene or , or Sumer .It has been suggested that Shinar must have been confined to the northern part of Mesopotamia Shinar (Hebrew Šin`ar, Septuagint Σεννααρ Sennaar) was a...

 .

According to the biblical account, a united humanity
Human Race
Human Race refers to the Human species.Human race may also refer to:*The Human Race, 79th episode of YuYu Hakusho* Human Race Theatre Company of Dayton Ohio* Human Race Machine, a computer graphics device...

 of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar
Shinar
Shinar was a geographical locale of uncertain boundaries in Mesopotamia. The name may be a corruption of Shene nahar , Shene or , or Sumer .It has been suggested that Shinar must have been confined to the northern part of Mesopotamia Shinar (Hebrew Šin`ar, Septuagint Σεννααρ Sennaar) was a...

, where they resolved to build a city with a tower "with its top in the heavens...lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the Earth." God came down to see what they did and said: "They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withholden from them which they purpose to do." So God said, "Come, let us go down and confound their speech." And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel "because God there confounded the language of all the Earth."(Genesis 11:5-8).

The Tower of Babel has often been associated with known structures, notably the Etemenanki
Etemenanki
Etemenanki was the name of a ziggurat dedicated to Marduk in the city of Babylon of the 6th century BCE Neo-Babylonian dynasty. Originally seven stories in height, little remains of it now except ruins.-Construction:It is unclear exactly when Etemenanki was first built. A review article by Andrew R...

, a ziggurat
Ziggurat
Ziggurats were massive structures built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, having the form of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels.Notable ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, Iraq; the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near...

 dedicated to Marduk
Marduk
Marduk was the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, who, when Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi , started to...

 by Nabopolassar
Nabopolassar
Nabopolassar was the king of the Babylonia and played a key role in the demise of the Assyrian Empire following the death of the last powerful Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal...

 (c. 610 BC). The Great Ziggurat of Babylon base was square (not round), 91 metres (298.6 ft) in height, but demolished by Alexander the Great. A Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ian story with some similar elements is preserved in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta
Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta
Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta is a legendary Sumerian account, of preserved, early post-Sumerian copies, composed in the Neo-Sumerian period ....

.

Biblical narrative and themes

Narrative

The story is found in , and appears in the King James Version as follows:
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 mortar. 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 built. 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 phrase "The Tower of Babel" does not actually appear in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

; it is always, "the city and its tower" or just "the city" . According to the biblical etymology, the city received the name "Babel", from the Hebrew word "balal", meaning to jumble. Various English translations use different vocabulary sometimes with different meanings; usually this causes no important difference to the story: one speech/vocabulary/same words, plain/valley, asphalt/bitumen/slime, children/men, confound/confuse; and sometimes the difference is important to later interpretations of the meaning of the story: may reach unto heaven/in the sky/will be in the skies (examples from King James, Holman Christian, and R E Friedman versions).

Themes

The story explains the confusion of tongues
Confusion of tongues
The confusion of tongues is the initial fragmentation of human languages described in the Book of Genesis 11:1–9, as a result of the construction of the Tower of Babel....

: variation in human language. The story's theme of competition between the Lord and humans appears elsewhere in Genesis, in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The first century Jewish interpretation found in Flavius Josephus explains the construction of the tower as a hubris
Hubris
Hubris , also hybris, means extreme haughtiness, pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power....

tic act of defiance against God ordered by the arrogant tyrant Nimrod. There have, however, been some contemporary challenges to this classical interpretation, with emphasis placed on the explicit motive of cultural and linguistic homogeneity mentioned in the narrative (v. 1, 4, 6). This reading of the text sees God's actions as not a punishment for pride but as an etiology of cultural differences, presenting Babel as the cradle of civilization (in contrast to the alternative Priestly traditions in Genesis 10).

Genre

The narrative of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11.1-9) is an etiology
Etiology
Etiology is the study of causation, or origination. The word is derived from the Greek , aitiologia, "giving a reason for" ....

 or explanation of a phenomenon. Etiologies are narratives that explain the origin of a custom, ritual, geographical feature, name, or other phenomenon. The story of the tower of Babel explains the origins of the multiplicity of languages. Yahweh was concerned that humans had too much freedom to do as they wished, so Yahweh brought into existence multiple languages. Thus, Humans were divided into linguistic groups, and unable to understand each other.

Authorship and source criticism

Tradition attributes the whole of the Pentateuch to Moses, however in the late 19th century, the documentary hypothesis
Documentary hypothesis
The documentary hypothesis , holds that the Pentateuch was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors...

 was proposed by Julius Wellhausen
Julius Wellhausen
Julius Wellhausen , was a German biblical scholar and orientalist, noted particularly for his contribution to scholarly understanding of the origin of the Pentateuch/Torah ....

. This hypothesis proposes four sources, J
Jahwist
The Jahwist, also referred to as the Jehovist, Yahwist, or simply as J, is one of the sources of the Torah. It gets its name from the fact that it characteristically uses the term Yahweh for God in the book of Genesis...

, E
Elohist
The Elohist is one of four sources of the Torah described by the Documentary Hypothesis. Its name comes from the term it uses for God: Elohim; it is characterised by, among other things, an abstract view of God, using "Horeb" instead of "Sinai" for the mountain where Moses received the laws of...

, P and D
Deuteronomist
The Deuteronomist, or simply D, is one of the sources underlying the Hebrew bible . It is found in the book of Deuteronomy, in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings and also in the book of Jeremiah...

. Of these hypothetical sources, proponents suggest that this narrative comes from the J or "Yahwist source." The etiological nature of the narrative (see Genre above) is considered typical of J. In addition, the intentional word play regarding the city of Babel, and the noise of the people's "babbling," is found in the Hebrew words as easily as in English, and is considered typical of the "Yahwist source."

Historical context

The Greek form of the name Babylon is from the native Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 Bāb-ilim, which means "Gate of the god", which summarizes the religious purpose of the great temple towers (the ziggurat
Ziggurat
Ziggurats were massive structures built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, having the form of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels.Notable ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, Iraq; the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near...

s) of ancient Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

 (Biblical Shinar
Shinar
Shinar was a geographical locale of uncertain boundaries in Mesopotamia. The name may be a corruption of Shene nahar , Shene or , or Sumer .It has been suggested that Shinar must have been confined to the northern part of Mesopotamia Shinar (Hebrew Šin`ar, Septuagint Σεννααρ Sennaar) was a...

).
In Genesis 10, Babel is said to have formed part of Nimrod
Nimrod (king)
Nimrod is, according to the Book of Genesis and Books of Chronicles, the son of Cush and great-grandson of Noah and the king of Shinar. He is depicted in the Tanakh as a man of power in the earth, and a mighty hunter. Extra-Biblical traditions associating him with the Tower of Babel led to his...

's kingdom. It is not specifically mentioned in the Bible that he ordered the tower to be built, but Nimrod is often associated with its construction in other sources.
The Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 version of the name of the city and the tower, Babel, is attributed in Gen. 11:9 to the verb balal, which means to confuse or confound in Hebrew. The ruins of the city of Babylon are near Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

.

The peoples listed in Chapter 10 of Genesis (the Table of Nations) are stated by 11:8-9 to have been scattered over the face of the earth from Shinar only after the abandonment of the Tower. Some see an internal contradiction between the mention already in Genesis 10:5 that "From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with his own language" and the subsequent Babel story, which begins "Now the entire earth was of one language and uniform words" (Genesis 11:1). However, this view presupposes a rigid chronological sequence of 10:5 and 11:1, whereas the traditional Judeo-Christian interpretation is that 10:5 refers to the same later scattering as mentioned more fully in 11:9. An alternative resolution to the apparent contradictory material of Genesis 10:5 and 11:8-9 is found in the documentary hypothesis
Documentary hypothesis
The documentary hypothesis , holds that the Pentateuch was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors...

 which suggests different sources for those verses. The commonly held view of biblical scholars holding to the four-source origins of Genesis (J
Jahwist
The Jahwist, also referred to as the Jehovist, Yahwist, or simply as J, is one of the sources of the Torah. It gets its name from the fact that it characteristically uses the term Yahweh for God in the book of Genesis...

, E
Elohist
The Elohist is one of four sources of the Torah described by the Documentary Hypothesis. Its name comes from the term it uses for God: Elohim; it is characterised by, among other things, an abstract view of God, using "Horeb" instead of "Sinai" for the mountain where Moses received the laws of...

, P
Priestly source
The Priestly Source is one of the sources of the Torah/Pentateuch in the bible. Primarily a product of the post-Exilic period when Judah was a province of the Persian empire , P was written to show that even when all seemed lost, God remained present with Israel...

, D
Deuteronomist
The Deuteronomist, or simply D, is one of the sources underlying the Hebrew bible . It is found in the book of Deuteronomy, in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings and also in the book of Jeremiah...

) is that 10:5 comes from the Priestly
Priestly source
The Priestly Source is one of the sources of the Torah/Pentateuch in the bible. Primarily a product of the post-Exilic period when Judah was a province of the Persian empire , P was written to show that even when all seemed lost, God remained present with Israel...

 (P) text source and 11:8-9, and actually the entirety of the Babel narrative, from the Jahwist
Jahwist
The Jahwist, also referred to as the Jehovist, Yahwist, or simply as J, is one of the sources of the Torah. It gets its name from the fact that it characteristically uses the term Yahweh for God in the book of Genesis...

 source (J). The final editors of Genesis were not concerned with the narrative continuity between sources.

Destruction

The account in Genesis makes no mention of any destruction of the tower. The people whose languages are confounded simply stop building their city, and are scattered from there over the face of the Earth. However, in other sources such as the Book of Jubilees (chapter 10 v.18-27), Cornelius Alexander (frag. 10), Abydenus
Abydenus
Abydenus was a Greek historian, and the author of a History of the Chaldeans and Assyrians, of which some fragments are preserved by Eusebius in his Praeparatio Evangelica, and by Cyril of Alexandria in his work against Julian. Several other fragments are preserved by Syncellus. These were...

 (frags. 5 and 6), Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 (Antiquities 1.4.3), and the Sibylline Oracles
Sibylline oracles
The Sibylline Oracles are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state. Fourteen books and eight fragments of Sibylline Oracles survive...

 (iii. 117-129), God overturns the tower with a great wind. In the Midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

, it said that the top of the tower was burnt, the bottom was swallowed, and the middle was left standing to erode over time.

Etemenanki, the ziggurat at Babylon


Etemenanki (Sumerian: "temple of the foundation of heaven and earth") was the name of a ziggurat dedicated to Marduk in the city of Babylon. It was famously rebuilt by the 6th century BC Neo-Babylonian dynasty rulers Nabopolassar
Nabopolassar
Nabopolassar was the king of the Babylonia and played a key role in the demise of the Assyrian Empire following the death of the last powerful Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal...

 and Nebuchadnezzar II. According to modern scholars such as Stephen L. Harris, the biblical story of the Tower of Babel was likely influenced by Etemenanki during the Babylonian captivity of the Hebrews.

Nebuchadnezzar wrote that the original tower had been built in antiquity: "A former king built the Temple of the Seven Lights of the Earth, but he did not complete its head. Since a remote time, people had abandoned it, without order expressing their words. Since that time earthquakes and lightning had dispersed its sun-dried clay; the bricks of the casing had split, and the earth of the interior had been scattered in heaps."

The Greek historian Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 (440 BC) later wrote of this ziggurat, which he called the "Temple of Zeus Belus", giving an account of its vast dimensions.

The already decayed Great Ziggurat of Babylon was finally destroyed by Alexander the Great in an attempt to rebuild it. He managed to move the tiles of the tower to another location, but his death stopped the reconstruction. Since then only the base remains, but it is visible from Google Earth, which places its location at 32.5362583°N 44.4208252°W just south of Baghdad.

Book of Jubilees

The Book of Jubilees contains one of the most detailed accounts found anywhere of the Tower.

And they began to build, and in the fourth week they made brick with fire, and the bricks served them for stone, and the clay with which they cemented them together was asphalt which comes out of the sea, and out of the fountains of water in the land of Shinar. And they built it: forty and three years were they building it; its breadth was 203 bricks, and the height [of a brick] was the third of one; its height amounted to 5433 cubit
Cubit
The cubit is a traditional unit of length, based on the length of the forearm. Cubits of various lengths were employed in many parts of the world in Antiquity, in the Middle Ages and into Early Modern Times....

s and 2 palms, and [the extent of one wall was] thirteen stades
Stadion (unit of length)
The stadion, Latinized as stadium and anglicized as stade, is an ancient Greek unit of length. According to Herodotus, one stade is equal to 600 feet. However, there were several different lengths of “feet”, depending on the country of origin....

 [and of the other thirty stades]. (Jubilees 10:20-21, Charles' 1913 translation)

Pseudo-Philo

In Pseudo-Philo
Pseudo-Philo
Pseudo-Philo is the name commonly used for a Jewish pseudepigraphical work in Latin, so called because it was transmitted along with Latin translations of the works of Philo of Alexandria but is very obviously not written by Philo...

, one of the earliest accounts (c. AD 70) though not thought to be by Philo
Philo
Philo , known also as Philo of Alexandria , Philo Judaeus, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Yedidia, "Philon", and Philo the Jew, was a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher born in Alexandria....

, the direction for the building is ascribed not only to Nimrod, who is made prince of the Hamites, but also to Joktan
Joktan
Joktan or Yoktan was the second of the two sons of Eber mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. His name means "small" or "smallness"....

 as prince of the Semites, and to Phenech son of Dodanim
Dodanim
Dodanim or Rodanim, , was, in the Book of Genesis, a son of Javan . He is usually associated with the people of the island of Rhodes as their progenitor. "-im" is a plural suffix in Hebrew, and the inhabitants of Rhodes were also called Rodanim or Dodanim...

 as prince of the Japethites. Twelve men are arrested for refusing to bring bricks, including Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

, Lot
Lot (Bible)
Lot is a man from the Book of Genesis chapters 11-14 and 19, in the Hebrew Bible. Notable episodes in his life include his travels with his uncle Abram ; his flight from the destruction of Sodom, in the course of which Lot's wife looked back and became a pillar of salt; and the seduction by his...

, Nahor
Nahor
Nahor, Nachor, or Naghor may refer to three different names in the Hebrew bible: two biblical people, who were both descendants of Shem, and one biblical place named after one of these descendants....

, and several sons of Joktan. However, Joktan finally saves the twelve from the wrath of the other two princes.

Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews

The Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews is a twenty volume historiographical work composed by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in the thirteenth year of the reign of Roman emperor Flavius Domitian which was around 93 or 94 AD. Antiquities of the Jews contains an account of history of the Jewish people,...

 (c AD 94), recounted history as found in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 and mentioned the Tower of Babel. He wrote that it was Nimrod who had the tower built and that Nimrod was a tyrant who tried to turn the people away from God. In this account, God confused the people rather than destroying them because destroying people with a Flood hadn't taught them to be godly.
Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear
Fear
Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger...

 of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power... Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water. When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly, since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners [in the Flood]; but he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them diverse languages, and causing that, through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the tower is now called Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before; for the Hebrews mean by the word Babel
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, confusion...

Greek Apocalypse of Baruch

Third Apocalypse of Baruch (or 3 Baruch, c 2nd century), one of the pseudepigrapha, describes the just rewards of sinners and the righteous in the afterlife. Among the sinners are those who instigated the Tower of Babel. In the account, Baruch is first taken (in a vision) to see the resting place of the souls of "those who built the tower of strife against God, and the Lord banished them." Next he is shown another place, and there, occupying the form of dogs,
Those who gave counsel to build the tower, for they whom thou seest drove forth multitudes of both men and women, to make bricks; among whom, a woman making bricks was not allowed to be released in the hour of child-birth, but brought forth while she was making bricks, and carried her child in her apron, and continued to make bricks. And the Lord appeared to them and confused their speech, when they had built the tower to the height of four hundred and sixty-three cubits. And they took a gimlet, and sought to pierce the heavens, saying, Let us see (whether) the heaven is made of clay, or of brass, or of iron. When God saw this He did not permit them, but smote them with blindness and confusion of speech, and rendered them as thou seest. (Greek Apocalypse of Baruch, 3:5-8)

Midrash

Rabbinic literature
Rabbinic literature
Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of rabbinic writings throughout Jewish history. However, the term often refers specifically to literature from the Talmudic era, as opposed to medieval and modern rabbinic writing, and thus corresponds with the Hebrew term...

 offers many different accounts of other causes for building the Tower of Babel
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, and of the intentions of its builders. According to one midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

 the builders of the Tower, called "the generation of secession" in the Jewish sources, said: "God has no right to choose the upper world for Himself, and to leave the lower world to us; therefore we will build us a tower, with an idol on the top holding a sword, so that it may appear as if it intended to war with God" (Gen. R. xxxviii. 7; Tan., ed. Buber, Noah, xxvii. et seq.).

The building of the Tower was meant to bid defiance not only to God, but also to Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

, who exhorted the builders to reverence. The passage mentions that the builders spoke sharp words against God, not cited in the Bible, saying that once every 1,656 years, heaven tottered so that the water poured down upon the earth, therefore they would support it by columns that there might not be another deluge (Gen. R. l.c.; Tan. l.c.; similarly Josephus, "Ant." i. 4, § 2).

Some among that sinful generation even wanted to war against God in heaven (Talmud Sanhedrin 109a.) They were encouraged in this wild undertaking by the notion that arrows which they shot into the sky fell back dripping with blood, so that the people really believed that they could wage war against the inhabitants of the heavens (Sefer ha-Yashar, Noah, ed. Leghorn, 12b). According to Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 and Midrash Pirke R. El. xxiv., it was mainly Nimrod
Nimrod
Nimrod means "Hunter"; was a Biblical Mesopotamian king mentioned in the Table of Nations; an eponym for the city of Nimrud.Nimrod can also refer to any of the following:*Nimród Antal, a director...

 who persuaded his contemporaries to build the Tower, while other rabbinical sources assert, on the contrary, that Nimrod separated from the builders.

Kabbalah

According to another mysterious Kabbalistic account, one third of the Tower builders were punished by being transformed into semi-demonic creatures and banished into three parallel dimensions, inhabited now by their descendants.

Qur'an and Islamic traditions

Though not mentioned by name, the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 has a story with similarities to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel, though set in the Egypt of Moses. In Suras 28:38 and 40:36-37, Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 asks Haman
Haman (Islam)
In the Qur'an, Haman was the vizier of Pharaoh at the time of Moses. Haman's name appears six times throughout the whole Qur'an, four times with Pharaoh and twice by himself. According to the Qur'an, both Pharaoh and Haman had armies responsible for killing the sons of the Israelites...

 to build him a stone, or clay tower so that he can mount up to heaven and confront the God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 of Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

.

Another story in Sura 2:102 mentions the name of Babil, but tells of when the two angels Haroot and Maroot taught the people of Babylon the tricks of magic and warned them that magic is a sin and that their teaching them magic is a test of faith.

A tale about Babil appears more fully in the writings of Yaqut (i, 448 f.) and the Lisan el-'Arab (xiii. 72), but without the tower: mankind were swept together by winds into the plain that was afterward called "Babil", where they were assigned their separate languages by God, and were then scattered again in the same way. In the History of the Prophets and Kings
History of the Prophets and Kings (book)
The History of the Prophets and Kings is a historical chronicle written in Arabic by Persian author and historian Ibn Jarir al-Tabari d...

 by the 9th century Muslim theologian al-Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari was a prominent and influential Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur'an from Persia...

, a fuller version is given: Nimrod has the tower built in Babil, God destroys it, and the language of mankind, formerly Syriac, is then confused into 72 languages. Another Muslim historian of the 13th century, Abu al-Fida relates the same story, adding that the patriarch Eber
Eber
Eber is an ancestor of the Israelites, according to the "Table of Nations" in and . He was a great-grandson of Noah's son Shem and the father of Peleg born when Eber was 34 years old, and of Joktan. He was the son of Shelah a distant ancestor of Abraham...

 (an ancestor of Abraham) was allowed to keep the original tongue, Hebrew in this case, because he would not partake in the building.

Though variations of the stories similar to the Judeo-Christian narrative of the tower of babel exist within Islamic traditions, the central theme of God separating humankind on the basis of language is alien to Islam according to author Yahya Emmerick. In Islamic belief God created nations to know each other and not to be separated.

Book of Mormon

In the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2600 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr...

, a man named Jared
Jared (Book of Mormon)
In the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon, Jared was the name of the primary ancestor of the Jaredites. He, his brother, their families and their friends came to the "promised land" shortly after the Tower of Babel...

 and his family ask God that their language not be confounded at the time of the Tower of Babel. Because of their prayers, God preserves their language and leads them across the sea to the Americas. See the Book of Ether
Book of Ether
The Book of Ether is one of the books that make up the Book of Mormon. The Book of Ether tells of an ancient people , descendants of Jared and his companions who were led by God to the Americas shortly after the confusion of tongues and the destruction of the Tower of Babel...

  in the Book of Mormon.

Irish folklore

Irish texts such as Lebor Gabála Érenn
Lebor Gabála Érenn
Lebor Gabála Érenn is the Middle Irish title of a loose collection of poems and prose narratives recounting the mythical origins and history of the Irish from the creation of the world down to the Middle Ages...

 and Auraicept na n-Éces
Auraicept na n-Éces
Auraicept na n-Éces is claimed as a 7th century work of Irish grammarians, written by a scholar named Longarad....

 claim that the legendary king Fenius Farsa
Fenius Farsa
Fénius Farsaid is a legendary king of Scythia who shows up in different versions of Irish folklore. He was the son of Bathath who was a son of Magog...

 chose the best features of all the confused languages and fused them together to create Goidelic, the forerunner of the Irish language
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

.

In Western culture

Historical linguistics
Historical linguistics
Historical linguistics is the study of language change. It has five main concerns:* to describe and account for observed changes in particular languages...

 has long wrestled with the idea of a single original language
Origin of language
The origin of language is the emergence of language in the human species. This is a highly controversial topic. Empirical evidence is so limited that many regard it as unsuitable for serious scholars. In 1866, the Linguistic Society of Paris went so far as to ban debates on the subject...

. In the Middle Ages, and down to the 17th century, attempts were made to identify a living descendent of the Adamic language
Adamic language
The Adamic language is, according to certain sects within Abrahamic traditions, the language spoken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, i.e., either the language used by God to address Adam, or the language invented by Adam ....

, e.g. in the Irish legend of Fenius Farsa
Fenius Farsa
Fénius Farsaid is a legendary king of Scythia who shows up in different versions of Irish folklore. He was the son of Bathath who was a son of Magog...

.

Pieter Brueghel
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a Flemish renaissance painter and printmaker known for his landscapes and peasant scenes . He is sometimes referred to as the "Peasant Bruegel" to distinguish him from other members of the Brueghel dynasty, but he is also the one generally meant when the context does...

's influential portrayal is based on the Colosseum
Colosseum
The Colosseum, or the Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre , is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire...

 in Rome, while later conical depictions of the tower (as depicted in Doré's illustration) resemble much later Muslim towers observed by 19th century explorers in the area, notably the Minaret of Samarra
Great Mosque of Samarra
The Great Mosque of Samarra is a 9th century mosque located in Samarra, Iraq. The mosque was commissioned in 848 and completed in 851 by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil who reigned from 847 until 861....

. M. C. Escher
M. C. Escher
Maurits Cornelis Escher , usually referred to as M. C. Escher , was a Dutch graphic artist. He is known for his often mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints...

 depicts a more stylized geometrical structure in his woodcut
Tower of Babel (M. C. Escher)
Tower of Babel is a 1928 woodcut by M. C. Escher. It depicts the Babylonians attempting to build a tower to reach God, a story that is recounted in Genesis 11:9. God frustrated their attempts by creating a confusion of languages so the builders could no longer understand each other and the work...

 representing the story.

The composer Anton Rubinstein
Anton Rubinstein
Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein was a Russian-Jewish pianist, composer and conductor. As a pianist he was regarded as a rival of Franz Liszt, and he ranks amongst the great keyboard virtuosos...

 wrote an opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 based on the story, Der Thurm zu Babel
Der Thurm zu Babel
Der Thurm zu Babel is a one-act 'sacred opera' by Anton Rubinstein to a libretto by Julius Rosenberg based on the story in the Book of Genesis, chapter II...

.

American choreographer Adam Darius
Adam Darius
Adam Darius is an American dancer, mime artist, writer and choreographer. As a performer, he has appeared in over 85 countries across six continents...

 staged a multilingual theatrical interpretation of The Tower of Babel in 1993 at the ICA
Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Institute of Contemporary Arts is an artistic and cultural centre on The Mall in London, just off Trafalgar Square. It is located within Nash House, part of Carlton House Terrace, near the Duke of York Steps and Admiralty Arch...

 in London.

According to one modern legend, "sack" was the last word uttered before the confusion of languages.

Sumerian parallel

There is a Sumerian myth
Mesopotamian religion
Mesopotamian religion refers to the religious beliefs and practices followed by the Sumerian and Akkadian peoples living in Mesopotamia that dominated the region for a period of 4200 years from the fourth millennium BC to approximately the 3rd century AD...

 similar to that of the Tower of Babel, called Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta
Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta
Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta is a legendary Sumerian account, of preserved, early post-Sumerian copies, composed in the Neo-Sumerian period ....

, where
Enmerkar
Enmerkar
Enmerkar, according to the Sumerian king list, was the builder of Uruk in Sumer, and was said to have reigned for "420 years" ....

 of Uruk
Uruk
Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the ancient dry former channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.Uruk gave its name to the Uruk...

 is building a massive ziggurat in Eridu
Eridu
Eridu is an ancient Sumerian city in what is now Tell Abu Shahrain, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq. Eridu was considered the earliest city in southern Mesopotamia, and is one of the oldest cities in the world...

 and demands a tribute of precious materials from Aratta
Aratta
Aratta is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list.-Role in Sumerian literature:Aratta is described as follows in Sumerian literature:...

 for its construction, at one point reciting an incantation imploring the god Enki
Enki
Enki is a god in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians...

 to restore (or in Kramer's translation, to disrupt) the linguistic unity of the inhabited regions — named as Shubur
Subartu
The land of Subartu or Subar is mentioned in Bronze Age literature...

, Hamazi
Hamazi
Hamazi or Khamazi was an ancient kingdom or city-state of some importance that reached its peak ca. 2500-2400 BC...

, Sumer, Uri-ki
Akkad
The Akkadian Empire was an empire centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region in Mesopotamia....

 (Akkad), and the Martu land, "the whole universe, the well-guarded people — may they all address Enlil together in a single language."

One recent theory first advanced by David Rohl
David Rohl
New Chronology is the term used to describe an alternative Chronology of the ancient Near East developed by English Egyptologist David Rohl and other researchers beginning with A Test of Time: The Bible - from Myth to History in 1995...

 associates Nimrod, the hunter, builder of Erech and Babel, with Enmerkar (i.e., Enmer the Hunter) king of Uruk
Uruk
Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the ancient dry former channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.Uruk gave its name to the Uruk...

, also said to have been the first builder of the Eridu
Eridu
Eridu is an ancient Sumerian city in what is now Tell Abu Shahrain, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq. Eridu was considered the earliest city in southern Mesopotamia, and is one of the oldest cities in the world...

 temple. (Amar-Sin
Amar-Sin
Amar-Sin was the third ruler of the Ur III Dynasty. He succeeded his father Shulgi .Year-names are known for all 9 years of his reign...

 (c. 2046–2037 BC), third monarch of the Third Dynasty of Ur
Third Dynasty of Ur
The Third Dynasty of Ur, also known as the Neo-Sumerian Empire or the Ur III Empire refers simultaneously to a 21st to 20th century BC Sumerian ruling dynasty based in the city of Ur and a short-lived territorial-political state that some historians regard as a nascent empire...

, later attempted to complete the Eridu ziggurat.) This theory proposes that the remains of the historical building that via Mesopotamian legend inspired the story of the Tower of Babel are the ruins of the ziggurat of Eridu
Eridu
Eridu is an ancient Sumerian city in what is now Tell Abu Shahrain, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq. Eridu was considered the earliest city in southern Mesopotamia, and is one of the oldest cities in the world...

, just south of Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

. Among the reasons for this association are the larger size of the ruins, the older age of the ruins, and the fact that one title of Eridu was ("mighty place"), which later became a title of Babylon. Both cities also had temples called the E-Sagila.

Towers

Various traditions similar to that of the tower of Babel are found in Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

. One holds that Xelhua
Xelhua
Xelhua is one of the seven giants in Aztec mythology who escaped the flood by ascending the mountain of Tlaloc in the terrestrial paradise, and afterwards built the Great Pyramid of Cholula...

, one of the seven giants rescued from the deluge, built the Great Pyramid of Cholula
Great Pyramid of Cholula
The Great Pyramid of Cholula, also known as ' , is a huge complex located in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico. It is the largest archaeological site of a pyramid in the New World. The pyramid stands above the surrounding plain, and in its final form it measured...

 in order to storm Heaven. The gods destroyed it with fire and confounded the language of the builders. The Dominican friar Diego Duran
Diego Durán
Diego Durán was a Dominican friar best known for his authorship of one of the earliest Western books on the history and culture of the Aztecs, The History of the Indies of New Spain, a book that was much criticized in his lifetime for helping the "heathen" maintain their culture.Also known as the...

 (1537–1588) reported hearing this account from a hundred-year-old priest at Cholula, shortly after the conquest of Mexico.

Another story, attributed by the native historian Don Ferdinand d'Alva Ixtilxochitl (c. 1565-1648) to the ancient Toltecs, states that after men had multiplied following a great deluge, they erected a tall zacuali or tower, to preserve themselves in the event of a second deluge. However, their languages were confounded and they went to separate parts of the earth.

Still another story, attributed to the Tohono O'odham
Tohono O'odham
The Tohono O'odham are a group of Native American people who reside primarily in the Sonoran Desert of the southeastern Arizona and northwest Mexico...

 Indians, holds that Montezuma
Montezuma (mythology)
Montezuma was the name of a heroic-god in the mythology of certain Amerindian tribes of the Southwest United States, notably the Tohono O'odham and Pueblo peoples — not to be confused with the two historical Aztec Emperors of the same name in Mexico, Moctezuma I and Moctezuma II.-Tohono O'odham...

 escaped a great flood, then became wicked and attempted to build a house reaching to heaven, but the Great Spirit destroyed it with thunderbolts. (Bancroft
Hubert Howe Bancroft
Hubert Howe Bancroft was an American historian and ethnologist who wrote and published works concerning the western United States, Texas, Mexico, Central America, British Columbia and Alaska.-Biography:...

, vol. 3, p. 76; also in History of Arizona)

According to David Livingstone
David Livingstone
David Livingstone was a Scottish Congregationalist pioneer medical missionary with the London Missionary Society and an explorer in Africa. His meeting with H. M. Stanley gave rise to the popular quotation, "Dr...

, the Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

ns whom he met living near Lake Ngami
Lake Ngami
Lake Ngami is an endorheic lake in Botswana north of the Kalahari Desert. It is seasonally filled by the Taughe River an affluent of the Okavango River system flowing out of the western side of the Okavango Delta. It is one of the fragmented remnants of the ancient Lake Makgadikgadi...

 in 1849 had such a tradition, but with the builders' heads getting "cracked by the fall of the scaffolding" (Missionary Travels, chap. 26).

In his 1918 book, Folklore in the Old Testament
Folklore in the Old Testament Studies in Comparative Religion Legend and Law
Folklore in the Old Testament: Studies in Comparative Religion, Legend, and Law written in 1918 by Sir James Frazer, compares episodes in the Old Testament with similar stories from other cultures in the ancient world.-Contents:...

, Scottish social anthropologist Sir James George Frazer documented similarities between Old Testament stories, such as the Flood, and indigenous legends around the world. He identified Livingston's account with a tale found in Lozi mythology
Lozi mythology
The main function of Lozi mythology is to show that the original Lozi people were dwellers on the Barotse Floodplain of the upper Zambezi River and that they are, therefore, entitled to claim unchallenged title to that homeland...

, wherein the wicked men build a tower of masts to pursue the Creator-God, Nyambe, who has fled to Heaven on a spider-web, but the men perish when the masts collapse. He further relates similar tales of the Ashanti that substitute a pile of porridge pestles for the masts. Frazer moreover cites such legends found among the Kongo people
Kongo people
The Bakongo or the Kongo people , also sometimes referred to as Kongolese or Congolese, is a Bantu ethnic group which lives along the Atlantic coast of Africa from Pointe-Noire to Luanda, Angola...

, as well as in Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

, where the men stack poles or trees in a failed attempt to reach the moon . He further cited the Karbi and Kuki people
Kuki people
The Kukis are an ethnic group that spread throughout the Northeastern region of India, Northwest Burma and Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. In Northeast India they are present in all the states except Arunachal Pradesh. This dispersal across international borders is mainly attributed to the...

 of Assam
Assam
Assam , also, rarely, Assam Valley and formerly the Assam Province , is a northeastern state of India and is one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country...

 as having a similar story. The traditions of the Karen people
Karen people
The Karen or Kayin people , are a Sino-Tibetan language speaking ethnic group which resides primarily in southern and southeastern Burma . The Karen make up approximately 7 percent of the total Burmese population of approximately 50 million people...

 of Myanmar
Myanmar
Burma , officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar , is a country in Southeast Asia. Burma is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and the Andaman Sea on the south....

, which Frazer considered to show clear 'Abrahamic' influence, also relate that their ancestors migrated there following the abandonment of a great pagoda
Pagoda
A pagoda is the general term in the English language for a tiered tower with multiple eaves common in Nepal, India, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other parts of Asia. Some pagodas are used as Taoist houses of worship. Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most commonly Buddhist,...

 in the land of the Karenni
Karenni
Red Karen also known as Karenni, is a subgroup of the Karen people, a Sino-Tibetan people living mostly in Kayah State of Burma....

 30 generations from Adam, when the languages were confused and the Karen separated from the Karenni. He notes yet another version current in the Admiralty Islands
Admiralty Islands
The Admiralty Islands are a group of eighteen islands in the Bismarck Archipelago, to the north of New Guinea in the south Pacific Ocean. These are also sometimes called the Manus Islands, after the largest island. These rainforest-covered islands form part of Manus Province, the smallest and...

 where mankind's languages are confused following a failed attempt to build houses reaching to heaven.

Traces of a somewhat similar story have also been reported among the Tharu of Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

 and northern India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 (Report of the Census of Bengal, 1872, p. 160).

Multiplication of languages

There have also been a number of traditions around the world that describe a divine confusion of the one original language into several, albeit without any tower. Aside from the Ancient Greek myth that Hermes
Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

 confused the languages, causing Zeus to give his throne to Phoroneus
Phoroneus
In Greek mythology, Phoroneus was a culture-hero of the Argolid, fire-bringer, primordial king of Argos and son of the river god Inachus and either Melia, the primordial ash-tree nymph or Argia, the embodiment of the Argolid itself: "Inachus, son of Oceanus, begat Phoroneus by his sister Argia,"...

, Frazer specifically mentions such accounts among the Wasania of Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, the Kacha Naga people
Naga people
The term Naga people refers to a conglomeration of several tribes inhabiting the North Eastern part of India and north-western Burma. The tribes have similar cultures and traditions, and form the majority ethnic group in the Indian state of Nagaland...

 of Assam, the inhabitants of Encounter Bay
Encounter Bay
Encounter Bay is located on the south central coast of South Australia, some 100 km south of Adelaide, South Australia. It is named after the encounter on 8 April 1802 between Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin, both of whom were charting the Australian coastline for their respective countries...

 in Australia, the Maidu
Maidu
The Maidu are a group of Native Americans who live in Northern California. They reside in the central Sierra Nevada, in the drainage area of the Feather and American Rivers...

 of California, the Tlingit of Alaska, and the K'iche' Maya of Guatemala. (See also: Mythical origins of language
Mythical origins of language
There have been many accounts of the origin of language in the world's mythologies and other stories pertaining to the origin of language, the development of language and the reasons behind the diversity in languages today....

)

The Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

n myth of "the Cooking of Languages" has also been compared.

Height of the tower

The narrative in the book of Genesis does not mention how tall the Biblical tower was. The phrase used to describe the tower, “its top in the sky” (v.4), was an idiom for impressive height; rather than implying arrogance this was simply a cliché for height . The tower's height is discussed in various extra-canonical sources.

The Book of Jubilees mentions the tower's height as being 5,433 cubit
Cubit
The cubit is a traditional unit of length, based on the length of the forearm. Cubits of various lengths were employed in many parts of the world in Antiquity, in the Middle Ages and into Early Modern Times....

s and 2 palms, or 2484 m (8,149.606 ft), about three times of Burj Khalifa, or roughly 1.6 miles high. The Third Apocalypse of Baruch mentions that the 'tower of strife' reached a height of 463 cubits, or 211.8 m (695 ft), taller than any structure built in human history
Timeline of three tallest structures in the world
This is the timeline of the 3 highest man-made structures in the world that have the strength to carry more than their own weight.- Overview :...

 until the construction of the Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is a puddle iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris. Built in 1889, it has become both a global icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world...

 in 1889, which is 324 m (1,063 ft) in height.

Gregory of Tours
Gregory of Tours
Saint Gregory of Tours was a Gallo-Roman historian and Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of Gaul. He was born Georgius Florentius, later adding the name Gregorius in honour of his maternal great-grandfather...

 (I, 6) writing ca. 594, quotes the earlier historian Orosius (ca. 417) as saying the tower was "laid out foursquare on a very level plain. Its wall, made of baked brick cemented with pitch, is fifty cubits wide, two hundred high, and four hundred and seventy stades in circumference
Circumference
The circumference is the distance around a closed curve. Circumference is a special perimeter.-Circumference of a circle:The circumference of a circle is the length around it....

. A stade contains five agripennes. Twenty-five gate
Gate
A gate is a point of entry to a space enclosed by walls, or a moderately sized opening in a fence. Gates may prevent or control entry or exit, or they may be merely decorative. Other terms for gate include yett and port...

s are situated on each side, which make in all one hundred. The doors of these gates, which are of wonderful size, are cast in bronze. The same historian Orosius tells many other tales of this city, and says: 'Although such was the glory of its building still it was conquered and destroyed.'"

A typical mediaeval account is given by Giovanni Villani
Giovanni Villani
Giovanni Villani was an Italian banker, official, diplomat and chronicler from Florence who wrote the Nuova Cronica on the history of Florence. He was a leading statesman of Florence but later gained an unsavory reputation and served time in prison as a result of the bankruptcy of a trading and...

 (1300): He relates that "it measured eighty miles round, and it was already 4,000 paces high, or 5.92 km (3.68 mi) and 1,000 paces thick, and each pace is three of our feet." The 14th century traveler John Mandeville
John Mandeville
"Jehan de Mandeville", translated as "Sir John Mandeville", is the name claimed by the compiler of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, a book account of his supposed travels, written in Anglo-Norman French, and first circulated between 1357 and 1371.By aid of translations into many other languages...

 also included an account of the tower, and reported that its height had been 64 furlong
Furlong
A furlong is a measure of distance in imperial units and U.S. customary units equal to one-eighth of a mile, equivalent to 220 yards, 660 feet, 40 rods, or 10 chains. The exact value of the furlong varies slightly among English-speaking countries....

s or 13 km (8 mi), according to the local inhabitants.

The 17th century historian Verstegan provides yet another figure - quoting Isidore, he says that the tower was 5,164 paces high, or 7.6 km (4.7 mi), and quoting Josephus that the tower was wider than it was high, more like a mountain than a tower. He also quotes unnamed authors who say that the spiral path was so wide that it contained lodgings for workers and animals, and other authors who claim that the path was wide enough to have fields for growing grain
GRAIN
GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. Our support takes the form of independent research and analysis, networking at local, regional and...

 for the animals used in the construction.

In his book, Structures or why things don't fall down (Pelican 1978–1984), Professor J.E. Gordon
J.E. Gordon
James Edward Gordon was one of the founders of materials science and biomechanics, and a well known author of three books on structures and materials, which have been translated in many languages and are still widely used in schools and universities.-Biography:Gordon graduated in naval...

 considers the height of the Tower of Babel. He wrote, 'brick and stone weigh about 120 lb per cubic foot
Cubic foot
The cubic foot is an Imperial and US customary unit of volume, used in the United States and the United Kingdom. It is defined as the volume of a cube with sides of one foot in length.-Conversions:- Symbols :...

 (2,000 kg per cubic metre) and the crushing strength of these materials is generally rather better than 6,000 lbf per square inch or 40 megapascals. Elementary arithmetic shows that a tower with parallel walls could have been built to a height of 2.1 km (1.3 mi) before the bricks at the bottom were crushed. However by making the walls taper towards the top they ... could well have been built to a height where the men of Shinnar would run short of oxygen and had difficulty in breathing before the brick walls crushed beneath their own dead weight."

Enumeration of scattered languages

There are several mediaeval historiographic accounts that attempt to make an enumeration of the languages scattered at the Tower of Babel. Because a count of all the descendants of Noah
Sons of Noah
The Seventy Nations or Sons of Noah is an extensive list of descendants of Noah appearing in of the Hebrew Bible, representing an ethnology from an Iron Age Levantine perspective...

 listed by name in chapter 10 of Genesis (LXX) provides 15 names for Japheth's descendants, 30 for Ham's, and 27 for Shem's, these figures became established as the 72 languages resulting from the confusion at Babel — although the exact listing of these languages tended to vary over time. (The LXX Bible has two additional names, Elisa and Cainan, not found in the Masoretic text of this chapter, so early rabbinic traditions such as the Mishna speak instead of "70 languages".) Some of the earliest sources for 72 (sometimes 73) languages are the 2nd century Christian writers Clement of Alexandria
Clement of Alexandria
Titus Flavius Clemens , known as Clement of Alexandria , was a Christian theologian and the head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement is best remembered as the teacher of Origen...

 (Stromata
Stromata
The Stromata is the third in Clement of Alexandria's trilogy of works on the Christian life. Clement titled this work Stromateis, "patchwork," because it dealt with such a variety of matters...

 I, 21) and Hippolytus of Rome (On the Psalms 9); it is repeated in the Syriac book Cave of Treasures
Cave of Treasures
The Cave of Treasures, sometimes referred to simply as The Treasure, is a book of the New Testament apocrypha.-Origin:This text is attributed to Ephrem Syrus, who was born at Nisibis soon after AD 306 and died in 373, but it is now generally believed that its current form is 6th century or...

 (c. AD 350), Epiphanius of Salamis
Epiphanius of Salamis
Epiphanius of Salamis was bishop of Salamis at the end of the 4th century. He is considered a saint and a Church Father by both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches. He gained a reputation as a strong defender of orthodoxy...

' Panarion
Panarion
In early Christian heresiology, the Panarion , to which 16th-century Latin translations gave the name Adversus Haereses , is the most important of the works of Epiphanius of Salamis...

 (c. 375) and St. Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

's The City of God 16.6 (c. 410). The chronicles attributed to Hippolytus (c. 234) contain one of the first attempts to list each of the 72 peoples who were believed to have spoken these languages.

Isidore of Seville
Isidore of Seville
Saint Isidore of Seville served as Archbishop of Seville for more than three decades and is considered, as the historian Montalembert put it in an oft-quoted phrase, "le dernier savant du monde ancien"...

 in his Etymologiae
Etymologiae
Etymologiae is an encyclopedia compiled by Isidore of Seville towards the end of his life. It forms a bridge between a condensed epitome of classical learning at the close of Late Antiquity and the inheritance received, in large part through Isidore's work, by the early Middle Ages...

 (c. 600) mentions the number of 72, however his list of names from the Bible drops the sons of Joktan and substitutes the sons of Abraham and Lot, resulting in only about 56 names total; he then appends a list of some of the nations known in his own day, such as the Longobards and the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

. This listing was to prove quite influential on later accounts which made the Lombards and Franks themselves into descendants of eponymous grandsons of Japheth, e.g. the Historia Brittonum (c. 833), The Meadows of Gold
The Meadows of Gold
Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems is an historical account in Arabic of the beginning of the world starting with Adam and Eve up to and through the late Abbasid Caliphate by medieval Baghdadi historian Masudi .Its only English version is the abridged The Meadows of...

 by al Masudi (c. 947) and Book of Roads and Kingdoms
Book of Roads and Kingdoms (al-Bakri)
Book of Roads and Kingdoms or Book of Highways and Kingdoms is the name of an eleventh-century geography text by Abu Abdullah al-Bakri...

 by al-Bakri (1068), the 11th cent. Lebor Gabála Érenn
Lebor Gabála Érenn
Lebor Gabála Érenn is the Middle Irish title of a loose collection of poems and prose narratives recounting the mythical origins and history of the Irish from the creation of the world down to the Middle Ages...

, and the midrashic compilations Yosippon (c. 950), Chronicles of Jerahmeel
Chronicles of Jerahmeel
The Chronicles of Jerahmeel is a voluminous work that draws largely on Pseudo-Philo's earlier history of Biblical events and is of special interest because it includes Hebrew and Aramaic versions of certain deuterocanonical books in the Septuagint....

, and Sefer haYashar
Sefer haYashar (midrash)
The Sefer haYashar is a Hebrew midrash also known as the Toledot Adam and Dibre ha-Yamim be-'Aruk. It is known in English translation mostly as The Book of Jasher...

.

Other sources that mention 72 (or 70) languages scattered from Babel are the Old Irish poem Cu cen mathair by Luccreth moccu Chiara
Luccreth moccu Chiara
Luccreth moccu Chíara was a poet from County Kerry, Ireland who wrote in archaic Old Irish. Moccu is an archaic form marking affiliation to an ancestral population group or gens, in this case the Cíarraige...

 (c. 600); the Irish monastic work Auraicept na n-Éces
Auraicept na n-Éces
Auraicept na n-Éces is claimed as a 7th century work of Irish grammarians, written by a scholar named Longarad....

; History of the Prophets and Kings by the Persian historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari was a prominent and influential Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur'an from Persia...

 (c. 915); the Anglo-Saxon dialogue Solomon and Saturn
Solomon and Saturn
Solomon and Saturn is a work in the corpus of Anglo-Saxon literature. The work is cast in the form of a dialogue full of riddles, in which Solomon, the wisest king of the land of Israel, and Saturn, the eldest of the elder gods of Roman mythology, though identified in the poem as a prince of the...

; the Russian Primary Chronicle
Primary Chronicle
The Primary Chronicle , Ruthenian Primary Chronicle or Russian Primary Chronicle, is a history of Kievan Rus' from about 850 to 1110, originally compiled in Kiev about 1113.- Three editions :...

 (c. 1113); the Jewish Kabbalistic
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

 work Bahir
Bahir
Bahir or Sefer Ha-Bahir סֵפֶר הַבָּהִיר is an anonymous mystical work, attributed to a 1st century rabbinic sage Nehunya ben ha-Kanah because it begins with the words, "R. Nehunya Ben Ha-Kanah said"...

 (1174); the Prose Edda
Prose Edda
The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or simply Edda, is an Icelandic collection of four sections interspersed with excerpts from earlier skaldic and Eddic poetry containing tales from Nordic mythology...

 of Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was twice elected lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing...

 (c. 1200); the Syriac Book of the Bee
Book of the Bee
The Book of the Bee is an historical/theological compilation containing numerous bible legends. It was written by Syrian Nestorian Solomon, Bishop of Bassora . It was written in Syriac.-Book:...

 (c. 1221); the Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum
Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum
The Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum , written mainly by Simon of Kéza around 1282-1285, is one of the sources of early Hungarian history...

 (c. 1284; mentions 22 for Shem, 31 for Ham and 17 for Japheth for a total of 70); Villani
Giovanni Villani
Giovanni Villani was an Italian banker, official, diplomat and chronicler from Florence who wrote the Nuova Cronica on the history of Florence. He was a leading statesman of Florence but later gained an unsavory reputation and served time in prison as a result of the bankruptcy of a trading and...

's 1300 account; and the rabbinic Midrash ha-Gadol
Midrash ha-Gadol
Midrash HaGadol or The Great Midrash is an anonymous late compilation of aggadic midrashim on the Pentateuch taken from the two Talmuds and earlier Midrashim. In addition, it borrows quotations from the Targums and Kabbalistic writings , and in this aspect is unique among the various midrashic...

 (14th c.). Villani adds that it "was begun 700 years after the Flood, and there were 2,354 years from the beginning of the world to the confusion of the Tower of Babel. And we find that they were 107 years working at it; and men lived long in those times". According to the Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum, however, the project was begun only 200 years following the Deluge.

The tradition of 72 languages persisted into later times. Both José de Acosta
José de Acosta
José de Acosta was a Spanish 16th-century Jesuit missionary and naturalist in Latin America.-Life:...

 in his 1576 treatise De procuranda indorum salute, and António Vieira
António Vieira
Father António Vieira was a Portuguese Jesuit and writer, the "prince" of Catholic pulpit-orators of his time.-Life:Vieira was born in Lisbon to Cristóvão Vieira Ravasco, the son of a mulatto woman, and Maria de Azevedo. Accompanying his parents to Brazil in 1614, he received his education at the...

 a century later in his Sermão da Epifania, expressed amazement at how much this 'number of tongues' could be surpassed, there being hundreds of mutually unintelligible languages indigenous only to Peru and Brazil, respectively.

See also

  • Babel fish
  • Babylonia
    Babylonia
    Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

  • Babylonian astronomy
  • Borsippa
    Borsippa
    Borsippa was an important ancient city of Sumer, built on both sides of a lake about southwest of Babylon on the east bank of the Euphrates. The site of Borsippa is in Babil Governorate, Iraq and now called Birs Nimrud, identifying the site with Nimrod...

  • Diana Al-Hadid
    Diana Al-Hadid
    Diana Al-Hadid is a contemporary artist. She was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1981 and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She received a BA in Art History and a BFA in sculpture from Kent State University in Ohio , an MFA sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond , and attended...

  • Enuma Anu Enlil
    Enuma anu enlil
    Enuma Anu Enlil is a major series of 68 or 70 tablets dealing with Babylonian astrology...

  • Etemenanki
    Etemenanki
    Etemenanki was the name of a ziggurat dedicated to Marduk in the city of Babylon of the 6th century BCE Neo-Babylonian dynasty. Originally seven stories in height, little remains of it now except ruins.-Construction:It is unclear exactly when Etemenanki was first built. A review article by Andrew R...

  • Linguistic divergence
  • Origin of language
    Origin of language
    The origin of language is the emergence of language in the human species. This is a highly controversial topic. Empirical evidence is so limited that many regard it as unsuitable for serious scholars. In 1866, the Linguistic Society of Paris went so far as to ban debates on the subject...

  • Sons of Noah
    Sons of Noah
    The Seventy Nations or Sons of Noah is an extensive list of descendants of Noah appearing in of the Hebrew Bible, representing an ethnology from an Iron Age Levantine perspective...

  • Space elevator
    Space elevator
    A space elevator, also known as a geostationary orbital tether or a beanstalk, is a proposed non-rocket spacelaunch structure...

  • Space tower
  • The Tower (Tarot card)
    The Tower (Tarot card)
    The Tower is the sixteenth trump or Major Arcana card in most cartomancy Tarot decks. It is not used as part of any game.- History :...

    • Major Arcana
      Major Arcana
      The Major Arcana or trumps are a suit of twenty-two cards in the tarot deck. They serve as a permanent trump suit in games played with the tarot deck, and are distinguished from the four standard suits collectively known as the Minor Arcana...

    • Tarot
      Tarot
      The tarot |trionfi]] and later as tarocchi, tarock, and others) is a pack of cards , used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play a group of card games such as Italian tarocchini and French tarot...

    • Trump
      Trump
      A trump is a type of card in some card games.Trump may also refer to:* Trump * Trump * Trumps * The Trump * HMS Trump , a British submarine* The Trump Organization, a business conglomerate...

  • The Tower of Babel (Brueghel)
    The Tower of Babel (Brueghel)
    The Tower of Babel is the subject of three oil paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The first, a miniature painted on ivory, was painted while Bruegel was in Rome and is now lost...

  • Tower of Babel (M. C. Escher)
    Tower of Babel (M. C. Escher)
    Tower of Babel is a 1928 woodcut by M. C. Escher. It depicts the Babylonians attempting to build a tower to reach God, a story that is recounted in Genesis 11:9. God frustrated their attempts by creating a confusion of languages so the builders could no longer understand each other and the work...



External links

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