The tower of Babel

Gateway to the Heavens: The Assyrian Account to the Tower of Babel

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The story of the construction of a tower in Babel, which resulted in the confounding of language has also confounded modern scholars. The Book of Genesis tells of a time in which all of the world’s population migrated eastward to the plain of Shinar. Shinar (Hebrew for “ [land of the] two rivers ”) is considered by most to be what the Akkadians referred to as Shumer or Sumer, in what is today Mesopotamia; that is modern day Iraq. The Hebrew etymology is most likely referring to the rivers of the Tigris and Euphrates. In fear of being scattered across the whole face of the earth, the inhabitants of the plain decided to build a city and also a tower to reach the heavens. This city would be referred to as Babel (Akkadian: bab-ili or “ gate of God ”) which was also a play on the Hebrew word balal or “to confuse” (i.e. the language).

The following excerpt is from the Jewish Publication Society translation of Genesis 11:

1 And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.

2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3 And they said one to another: ‘Come, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.

4 And they said: ‘Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, with its top in 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 of men builded.

6 And the Lord said: ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do; and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do.

7 Come, 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 was 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 Tower of Babel

Marten van Valckenborch the Elder - The Tower of Babel. Source: Wikipedia

While most of us are familiar with the Hebrew account of the dispersal of peoples and the introduction of new languages, archaeology has shown that the concept of a spreading of tongues is not as unique as we believe. We much divert our attention to George Smith, the very same George Smith who first translated the Epic of Gilgamesh in the 19th century, and provided the world with the earliest documented reference to a Great Flood.

Following his translation of Gilgamesh, Smith was sent to the site of Nineveh where he was to continue excavations in the hopes of unearthing additional inscriptions that paralleled or showed some relation to the Old Testament. Archaeology at the time was a new science, founded on validating the writings of the Bible. Smith was fortunate, in that the excavation did yield additional tablets (from the Royal Library of Ashurbanipal) and upon further research, he did discover a story likely to have inspired the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel. Catalogued and hidden in the inventory vaults of the British Museum, the fragmentary piece of text reads as follows:

[…] them? The father […]

Of him, his heart was evil,

[…] against the father of all the gods was wicked,

[…] of him, his heart was evil,

[…] Babylon brought to subjection,

[small] and great he confounded their speech.

[…] Babylon brought to subjection,

[small] and great he confounded their speech.

Their strong place (tower) all the day they founded;

to their strong place in the night

entirely he made an end.

In his anger also word thus he poured out:

[to] scatter abroad he set his face

he gave this? command, their counsel was confused

[…] the course he broke

[…] fixed the sanctuary

George Smith provides a commentary to his translation briefly summarizing what the inscription meant to him, along with highlighting key words that emphasize the type of construction that took place.

…we have the anger of the gods at the sin of the world, the place mentioned being Babylon. The building or work is called tazimat or tazimtu, a word meaning strong, and there is a curious relation, lines 9 to 11, that what they built in the day the god destroyed in the night.

Comments

This raises lots of interesting questions about cultural and theological "fluidity," for want of a better word. Scholars of Genesis often focus upon the aims of the priestly authors c.900BC and treat the actual contents as simply material used to meet that end. Over and over we discover through research like this that whatever one believes about its sacredness, it is very unwise to underestimate this text.

Further demonstrating that the biblical tomes are little more than rewrites of pre-existing texts and filled with exageration.

Actually, when the Biblical text is compared to archaeological findings, it is often the Bible that contains a more detailed, and possibly older, version of events.

Depends on what archaeology you are referring to. Biblical Archaeology yeah everything confirms the Bible. All that said read this:

http://www.badarchaeology.com/?page_id=88

I think it's notable that it's the god that is referred to as being wicked and evil. In the entire rest of the text, the god is referred to as he and him, and whole mankind is always them and they. If it's the same god as the Old Testament, it sheds an entirely different perspective of him.

That's what I thought at first too, but on second reading I realized that I wasn't reading the text as fragments and was reading it with an English-language sentence structure. Rather, it seems to be clearly implying the opposite, referring to a wicked/evil being or god who is 'against the father of all the gods.'

Assuming that this being is the subject, this myth is attributing the confusing of languages to the evil being/god rather than the father of all the gods. If one were to try to connect that to the Hebrew story, I'd think it would be similar to the Job story where both the highest divine being has exerts will in terms of Job's demise, but the one who enacts the damage is the evil being. Anyways, now I'm curious to know more about this Assyrian story.

Most of the Old testament can be traced back to the Sumerian civilization because the Ancient Hebrews were from Ancient Sumer.  Abraham's father, Terah was a priest in the city of Nippur (Ni.Ib.Ru, or place of the crossing), one of Sumer's capital cities.  There is in fact some linguistic speculation that that the word Hebrew is derived from the Sumerian Ib.ru, or people from Ib.Ru.  So clearly, the roots of the Hebrew culture including it's foundational religious texts lay in Sumer (Shumer, Shi.Nar). 

Yikes.  Sorry about that.

LoL..no problem. Did not know if you realized  you were doing it.

*

Dude! Lay off the "save" button! You only have to click it once! 

And the stories of the bible are taken from the stories of the people who enslaved them. As Cannanites they had many Gods, then in Egypt their was a cult of one God which they learnt there. The Assyrians and Babylonians also enslaved them and taught them a lot of things which can be found in the Old Testament.

Where are the references that the Assyrians and Babylonians enslaved them? 

Just another creation myth to explain other languages. The 'world' to them would merely be where they lived. It took humans a long time to realise the Earth wasn't flat. The Tower may have been a metaphorical bridge to god/heavens - as language would be be the spreader of the word/news.

Obviously any God-like entity would not have any reason to intervene in this project, for he/she/it would know that the best the humans could have done was break through earth's atmosphere and discover outer space, which last time I checked was not off-limits to human endeavor, so what relevance could this story possibly have beyond revealing historical biblical explanations of reality to be scientifically illiterate, fanciful notions?

You like most of the world believes in heliocentricity but that is nothing but fantasy, the earth is flat and this is becoming known by millions since early 2015. NASA THINKS YOUR AN IDIOT AND THAT YOU WONT ACTUALLY TEST WHAT THEY SAY. You just look at there cgi photos about the earth being a ball and think the bible is wrong even though archaeology finds exactly what the bible says happned even chariots bellow the red sea and tons of artifacts below the real mount sinai and on and on it goes. Even the city of sodom and gomorah around the dead sea has been rediscovered but you wouldnt know this because you dont look for things like this. There are only 2 pictures of the earth from nasa one was supposedly taken in 2015 the other one taken by the fake astronauts and proven to be faked by nasa own video showing them faking there distance/size/shape of earth. OH by the way the summerians recorded a version of historical known events such as noahs flood as well as every ancient society we know, you want to assume the biblical text is wrong because you dont wanna believe in yahshua/jesus. We live in a time where evolution is dieing and the truth is getting out but there will always be people trying to hide and distort the truth because there evil like the bible says thinking themselves to be wise they became fools. I hope you wake up and realise the truth in yahshua the messiah the only truth

captain79 resurrection of bronzesnake?

I think this story is telling us that when we unite in purpose, we become a force to be reckoned with...as this self-appointed God says, in this state, there is nothing we will not be able to accomplish.
Really?
So, I take that to mean this:
If we want to save our planet from this death spiral of environmental catastrophe and stop the 6th extinction (which we are causing and cannot ourselves escape at present) all we have to do is understand the meaning of this story and act accordingly. Forget all the bullshit and lets fix this mess! It's not like we don't know what we are doing wrong.

Exactly.Well said.

Tsurugi's picture

Sorry but no matter where you stand in the climate debate you have to know that crap about the "6th extinction" is complete BS. The 5 historical mass extinctions that occurred were vast catastrophic events of unimaginable violence and devastation that wiped out tens of thousands of species in very short spans of time. The most recent mass extinction coinciding with the end of the last ice age, for instance, was so deadly to the megafauna that to match its destruction we'd have to kill every single animal on earth today weighing more than a hundred pounds. And that's just what happened to the megafauna that lived on land, not counting the countless species of smaller creatures gone without a trace, not to mention the toll taken on marine life.

Comparing what is happening today with events of such magnitude is ridiculous and insulting. Alarmism at its shrill worst.

rbflooringinstall's picture

Interesting that the "gods" are always trying to seperate mankind. Kinda makes you think what's so scarey to them about us as All One.

Peace and Love,

Ricky.

hmm...

I'm guessing that if they are all from the same family of Noah that made it through the deluge then they all might have similar stories. And their personal slants (YH good or YH bad) would arise out of how they felt about being thrust into such an earth-changing situation; some resentful that things had changed so drastically; some grateful for deliverance; some indifferent; or a combination of the three.

It never ceases to amaze how many are so willing to dismiss that the Japhetite, Hamite and Shemite families could all have similar stories not because one arose from another but because of a shared experience. But perhaps my take is the elephant in the room most are trying to ignore.

The original story of the Bible is in both epiques Gilgamush / Balgamush (meaning Bal man) and the clay tablettes of Assyrian lands. This one prehistoric common language of humanity is Ancient Bulgarian language still spoken in Today Bulgaria. Bulgarian language can be found in the base of all ancient toponyms and states and continents. Ancient Balgarians the people of God Sun Bal were spread around the world after the Biblical flood in Black Sea 7500 years ago. With their spreading around the globe Balgarian language started being modified and changed. However many common Balgarian words especially those related to past people and events are preserved in all the world languages. For instance Sumer is the name first given to an ancient Bulgarian village still existing today. Sumer means out of the sea and refers to the first dry land appearing out of the water. Babilon means God Bal Door

Satan,and his demons;knowing what would happen, influenced many cultures throughout the ages and gave them stories to hand down. he did all of this in order to make unbelievers deny the true Word of God.
He made sure that many similar events were recorded into ancient human history. It's as simple as that.

tiyohistud9's picture

Interesting. Will it be a reason for the unrest in the middle east, in particular Iraq? Searching for 'heavens'?

sww

Shabda's picture

Regardless of the opinions of any religionists here, the fact of te matter remains that civilization absolutely did NOT begin in Sumer. Civilizations of the conservative age of 7500 years old have been found in India,namely Krishna's city, the original Dwarka, now under the ocean. Articles have been found there and dated, as I said, at least 2000 years older than anything in Sumer, not to mention Gobekli Tepe which dates to around 12,000 B.C.. The entire Sumerian, Jewish, or Christian viewpoints are inaccurate at best. Some also draw conclusions about Abraham as having originally been a story about the one Hindu God, Brahma. Any will have whatever opinions on any of that that they find most comfortable to hold, and that is fine, but what this shows ver clearly is that ALL religious teachings have a far older history on earth than any of their own histories illustrate.

On the part of the Babel story having to do with the world's at one time having spoken only one language, and by whatever means arriving at having many different ones, actually looks as if that might actually have been the case. There was a BBC documentary on the subject that used to be available on youtube called "Before Babel” that showed that certain linguists (who are still a mere minority, which may or may not necessarilymake any difference about the truth of their theories) began by determining that in the Americas,the native languages from the souther tip of South America, all the way north to roughly the southern two-thirds of the United States, all originated from and were related to, a single language.

Then this group of linguists went on to look at every region and language around the globe, and found that much the same thing was true, that all of the languages had a great deal in common with each other, one of the most surprising commonalities being found between Hindustani and English. The point of this seriously suggests that at one point early in humanity's history, all humans might have literally spoken a single language, having nothing to do with any God or any tower of Babel. I just checked and that video is no longer available on youtube, however, I did copy and save it and can produce it for any interested in seeing more about this.

 

on being open to the truth that civilization started before Sumer. Only Western Civ began in Sumer.

Shabda's picture

Did not even remotely begin in Sumer. They were latecomers. Jericho was constantly inhabited for over 10,000 years.

The book of Josephus goes into great detail on the Tower of Babel. He writes that it took a man over a year to walk around the base. If a man fell during the construction it was expected but if a brick fell everyone mourned.

Why is it that the most powerful entity and all religion around the world is based on this? The masons , who can arguably be the most powerful orginization in the whole world have a very astute and profound belief in Nimord, the grandmaster mason, who built the tower of Babel as well as assyria ninevah , babylon UR Egypt etc... All religions both pagan and christian polytheistic and monotheistic have roots back to this event. Do any of you really believe that man was dumb enough or not smart enough to know better than to make up stories and spend billions of dollars in gold silver and precious stone, as well as enslaving thousands to build these monuments for them to be fake? What alot of you are saying doesnt add up.Maybe look into the ancient mystery religion of Zoroaster and compare the details of all of these religions from around the world, both modern and ancient and tell me that its all fairy tales... The fact that not only the bible but many important ancient cuneiforms an tablets as well as monuments all point to the same things and events there has to be some genuiness to the documentation of this. Also, the fact that all of the worlds religions have about the same starting times around the start of the bronze age and have massive simularities and heirachy of gods all are almost identical. Maybe there is some truth to this tower and languages hence the mass migration of peoples around the world with similar cultures and religions even with 1000's of miles between. Its hard to tell the exact same story in multiple languages. Maybe this was the true intent of the Rosetta stone to try and unite the major nations tongues to get this once great mass of people together in defiance? Just food for thought..

...and most powerful does not mean the wisest.

Also, one might be interested in the story of gilgamesh as well as the white stag if this interests anyone.

Also, could it be that this catastrophc flood that is laid into almost 3000 different cultures and languages actually happened and that this is what truly killed off everything instead of just an ice age? If you had a global flood as told in the story of gilgamesh or even the chinese flood accounts mayan etc it would cause the earth to cool tremendously.I mean the fact that they have found hundreds of frozen alive animals with fresh vegitation in their mouths and digestive tracts would point towards something far quicker than a crazy climate change from a single volcano or meteor impact? Just speculating.

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