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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Babel

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the tower and city founded by the descendants of Noah in the plain of Shinar. The different tribes descended from Noah were here collected, and from this point were dispersed through the confusion of their language. The time when this tower was built in differently stated in the Hebrew and Samaritan chronologies. The former fixes it in the year 101 after the flood, which Mr. Faber thinks encumbered with innumerable difficulties. This writer then goes on to show, that the chronology of the Samaritan Pentateuch reconciles every date, and surmounts every difficulty. It represents Shem as dying nearly a century and a half before the death of Peleg, instead of more than that number of years afterward, and almost four centuries and a half before the death of Abraham; whom, in accordance with the history, it makes to survive his father Terah precisely a hundred years. It removes the difficulties with which the Hebrew chronology invests the whole history, by giving time, while it allows the dispersion to have taken place in the latter part of Peleg's life, for the thirteen sons of his younger brother Joktan to have become heads of families; for Noah and his sons to have died, as it is proved they must have done, prior to the emigration from Armenia; for Nimrod, instead of being a boy, to have been of an age suitable to his exploits, and to have acquired the sovereign command, not, in the face of all probability, while the four great patriarchs were living, but after their decease; and for the families of mankind to have multiplied sufficiently to undertake the stupendous work of the tower. It explains also the silence respecting Shem in the history of Abraham, by making the former die in Armenia four hundred and forty years before the latter was born, instead of surviving him thirty-five years; and, lastly, it makes sacred history accord with profane; the Babylonic history of Berosus, and the old records consulted by Epiphanius, both placing the death of Noah and his sons before the emigration from Armenia.

The sum of the whole is as follows: All the descendants of Noah remained in Armenia in peaceable subjection to the patriarchal religion and government during the lifetime of the four royal patriarchs, or till about the beginning of the sixth century after the flood; when, gradually falling off from the pure worship of God, and from their allegiance to the respective heads of families, and seduced by the schemes of the ambitious Nimrod, and farther actuated by a restless disposition, or a desire for a more fertile country, they migrated in a body southwards, till they reached the plains of Shinar, probably about sixty years after the death of Shem. Here, under the command of their new leader, and his dominant military and sacerdotal Cuthites, by whom the original scheme of idolatry, the groundwork of which was probably laid in Armenia, was now perfected; and, with the express view to counteract the designs of the Almighty in their dispersion into different countries, they began to build the city and tower, and set up a banner which should serve as a mark of national union, and concentrate them in one unbroken empire; when they were defeated and dispersed by the miraculous confusion of tongues. All this probably occupied the farther space of twenty or twenty-one years; making eighty-one from the death of Shem, and five hundred and eighty-three after the flood. All of which also will come within the life of Peleg, who, according to the Samaritan Pentateuch, died in the year 640. The tower of Belus in Babylon, mentioned by Herodotus, was probably either the original tower of Babel repaired, or it was constructed upon its massive foundations. The remains of this tower are still to be seen, and are thus described by Captain Mignan, in his Travels in Chaldea:—

"At daylight I departed for the ruins, with a mind absorbed by the objects which I had seen yesterday. An hour's walk, indulged in intense reflection, brought me to the grandest and most gigantic northern mass, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, and distant about four miles and a half from the eastern suburb of Hillah. It is called by the natives, El Mujellibah, ‘the overturned;' also Haroot and Maroot, from a tradition handed down, with little deviation, from time immemorial, that near the foot of the ruin there is a well, invisible to mortals, in which those rebellious angels were condemned by God to be hung with their heels upward, until the day of judgment, as a punishment for their wickedness. This solid mound, which I consider, from its situation and magnitude, to be

the remains of the Tower of Babel, (an opinion likewise adopted by

that venerable and highly distinguished geographer, Major Rennell,) is a vast oblong square, composed of kiln-burnt and sun-dried bricks, rising irregularly to the height of one hundred and thirty- nine feet, at the south-west; whence it slopes toward the north-east to a depth of one hundred and ten feet. Its sides face the four cardinal points. I measured them carefully, and the following is the full extent of each face: that to the north, along the visible face, is two hundred and seventy-four yards; to the south, two hundred and fifty-six yards; to the east, two hundred and twenty-six yards; and

to the west, two hundred and forty yards. The summit is an uneven flat, strewed with broken and unbroken bricks, the perfect ones measuring thirteen inches square, by three thick. Many exhibited

the arrow-headed character, which appeared remarkably fresh. Pottery, bitumen, vitrified and petrified brick, shells, and glass, were all equally abundant. The principal materials composing this

ruin are, doubtless, mud bricks baked in the sun, and mixed up with straw. It is not difficult to trace brick work along each front, particularly at the south-west angle, which is faced by a wall, composed partly of kiln-burnt brick, that in shape exactly resembles a watch tower or small turret. On its summit there are still considerable traces of erect building; at the western end is a circular mass of solid brick work, sloping toward the top, and rising from a confused heap of rubbish. The chief material forming this fabric appeared similar to that composing the ruin called Akercouff, a mixture of chopped straw, with slime used as cement; and regular layers of unbroken reeds between the horizontal courses of the bricks. The base is greatly injured by time and the elements; particularly to the south-east, where it is cloven into a deep furrow from top to bottom. The sides of the ruin exhibit hollows worn partly by the weather, but more generally formed by the Arabs, who are incessantly digging for bricks, and hunting for antiquities."

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Babel'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/b/babel.html. 1831-2.

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