10 Things Christians Should Know about the Tower of Babel
- Hope Bolinger Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2019 3 Oct
Christians often know the story of the Tower of Babel (a brick ziggurat structure) as an account of the event wherein several languages in the world originated. In the story, a group of people want to create a tower that reached the heavens, so they could make a name for themselves (Genesis 11).
In essence, they wanted to become like God.
God, seeing this, confuses their languages, so they can’t communicate with each other and had to quit the project.
Although the story only spans nine verses, this article will dive into some lesser-known facts about the tower of Babel. Here are ten things Christians should know about this tower:
1. You Won’t Find ‘the Tower of Babel’ in the Bible
You may flip open your Bible and say, “Hey, this section header says the Tower of Babel.”
Allow me to explain.
First, headings weren’t added into Bibles until long after it was written. The original inerrant word of God contained no verses, chapters, or headings. Theologians added those later for convenience and organizational purposes.
So technically headings aren’t the inerrant Word of God.
But later in the text, you may see the word “Babel.” However, that refers to the whole city they’d attempted to build before God introduced several languages. Not only had they intended to build a tower, but also, a city.
2. The People Who Built it Were from the Land of Shinar
Many people think this is in Babylon. After all, some versions of the Bible (Daniel 1:2) seem to indicate Babylon had possession of that land at one point. Many people believe the Tower of Babel was built in what would later be the Kingdom of Babylon, as the Israelites came to know it when they were taken into captivity into it.
But various theories have emerged throughout history about the exact location of the tower, none completely conclusive.
3. The Tower of Babel Was Built to Disobey God
One may look at the story of the Tower of Babel and say, “What gives? Why does it matter if they wanted to build a tower or city?”
Here’s where the people went wrong:
- Pride and arrogance
- Direct disobedience of God’s orders to fill the earth and continue spreading. They decided to settle down in Shinar and build themselves up as much as possible.
- Possible astrology and polytheistic worship. Many believe the Tower of Babel was a ziggurat structure, a structure used to worship gods in the heavens. So this would be blatantly worshipping other gods instead of the one True God.
4. The People of Shinar spoke…?
What language did the world speak before there were many languages?
Although it should come as no surprise that there isn’t anything conclusive, many have attributed the language they spoke to:
- Adamic/Edenic – From Adam being the first man on earth, whatever language he spoke
- Noahic – Whatever language Noah spoke post-Flood
- Old Hebrew – To answer why Moses could read pre-Babel texts
- Semitic – Some Semitic language spoken by all people at the time
No matter what it was, after the beginnings of the construction, people walked away with several more languages.
5. The Tower of Babel Was Constructed of Bricks and Tar
6. In Genesis 11:7 God Confounds the Babylonians’ Language to Scatter Them
God gave a command for people to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). The people disobeyed this by settling.
Yes, he confused their language to stop them building a structure which had possible astrological purposes. But also, he confused their languages to help assist them in obeying his command.
7. To Christians Today, the Tower of Babel Symbolizes the Birth of Many Languages
But also, it represents what happens when you attempt to thwart God’s plan or put yourself in the place of God. It will never work. God’s plan will happen whether a person builds a tower or not.
8. The Story of the Tower of Babel Reflects our Human Nature
Although we may encounter this story in Sunday school, we don’t often hear about it from the pulpit or in our morning devotionals.
But we can often see ourselves in the narrative, especially today.
There may be an interesting parallel between the building of Babel and the building of our Internet. Perhaps the Internet is our modern version of the Tower of Babel.
Or, on a smaller scale, maybe we can see ourselves in how we try to disobey God’s plan for our lives every day. Like Jonah, we flee our calling to Nineveh. But God can send large fish to swallow us and carry us to Nineveh anyway.
9. Other Cultures Have Adopted the Narrative in Genesis 11
Like the flood narrative, elements of events in Genesis have made their way into the stories of many cultures.
Sumerians for instance talked about Etemenanki, a ziggurat dedicated to Marduk.
Josephus covers a version of the Tower of Babel narrative in his Antiquities.
Pseudepigraphal works such as Third Apocalypse of Baruch and The Book of Jubilees have versions of this story.
10. There is Some Compelling Evidence for the Existence of the Tower
Archeological digs in what would’ve been the city of Babylon have revealed a structure that could have possible links to the original tower, as mentioned in this video here, when an important tablet mirrored that of the Biblical narrative. However, the video points to the person in charge of the construction as Nebuchadnezzar II, which goes against the belief that Nimrod had initiated the construction.
But even if archeologists have not located the tower yet, archeologists have uncovered evidence of ziggurats (like the Ziggurat at Ur) whose origins could be traced back to the Tower. In addition, the existence of a Tower of Babel narrative in other cultures gives some clout with the possibility of the Tower having existed historically.
Here is a video of a well-preserved Ziggurat.
Overall, we can learn from the story that God’s plan cannot be impeded by obstacles, not even large towers or cities. Human arrogance and pride can only take place for so long before God can bring even the largest towers down low.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 450 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) released in June, and they contracted the sequel “Den” for July 2020. Find out more about her here.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Sergio-Delle-Vedove