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(bay' behl) Babel is a Hebrew word meaning “confusion,” derived from a root which means “to mix.” It was the name given to the city which the disobedient descendants of Noah built so they would not be scattered over all the earth (Genesis 11:4 ,Genesis 11:4,11:9 ). Babel is also the Hebrew word for Babylon.

The tower and the city which were built were intended to be a monument of human pride, for they sought to “make a name” for themselves (Genesis 11:4 ). It was also a monument to mankind's continued disobedience. They had been commanded to fill up the earth but were seeking to avoid being scattered abroad (Genesis 9:1 ; Genesis 11:4 ). Further, it was a monument to human engineering skills, for the techniques of its building described the use of fired clay bricks as a substitute for stone. Bitumen, found in relative abundance in the Mesopotamian Valley, was used to bind the bricks together.

Ruins of numerous temple-towers, called ziggurats, have been found in the region of Babylon. It is possible that ruins of the great temple-tower to Marduk found in the center of ancient Babylon is the focus of this narrative. We possess descriptions of this tower, recorded by ancient historians, as it stood undamaged and unravaged by time.

To bring the people's monumental task to an end, God confused their language. The inspired writer apparently considered this to be the basis for the origin of the different human languages. When the builders were no longer able to communicate with each other, they then fled from one another in fear. The city of Babylon became to the Old Testament writers the symbol of utter rebellion against God and remained so even into the New Testament (Revelation 17:1-5 ). See Babylon .

Bob Cate

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Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Babel'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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