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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Babel Tower of

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Ba´bel, Tower of. From the account given in Genesis 11:1-9, it appears that the primitive fathers of mankind having, from the time of the Deluge, wandered without fixed abode, settled at length in the land of Shinar, where they took up a permanent residence. As yet they had remained together without experiencing those vicissitudes and changes in their outward lot which encourage the formation of different modes of speech, and were, therefore, of one language. Arrived however in the land of Shinar, and finding materials suitable for the construction of edifices, they proceeded to make and burn bricks, and using the bitumen, in which parts of the country abound, for cement, they built a city and a tower of great elevation. A divine interference, however, is related to have taken place. In consequence, the language of the builders was confounded, so that they were no longer able to understand each other. They therefore 'left off to build the city,' and were scattered 'abroad upon the face of all the earth.' The narrative adds that the place took its name of Babel (confusion) from this confusion of tongues. That the work was subsequently resumed, and in process of time completed, is known on the best historical vouchers.

The sacred narrative (Genesis 11:4) assigns as the reason which prompted men to the undertaking, a desire to possess a building so large and high as might be a mark and rallying point in the vast plains where they had settled, in order to prevent their being scattered abroad, and thus the ties of kindred be rudely sundered, individuals be involved in peril, and their numbers be prematurely thinned at a time when population was weak and insufficient. Such an attempt agrees with the circumstances in which the sons of Noah were placed, and is in itself of a commendable nature. But that some ambitious and unworthy motives were blended with these feelings is clearly implied in the sacred record.

After the lapse of so many centuries, and the occurrence in 'the land of Shinar' of so many revolutions, it is not to be expected that the identification of the Tower of Babel with any actual ruin should be easy, or lead to any very certain result. The majority of opinions, however, among the learned, make it the same as the temple of Belus described by Herodotus, which is found in the dilapidated remains of Birs Nimrud.

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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Babel Tower of'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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