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Weekly Bible Studies, part 4 -- Genesis 11:1-9

this covers all of January, 2010, for several studies

The Tower of Babel

Genesis 11:1

NIV:  Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 

KJV:  And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

LXX:  And all the earth was one lip, and there was one language to all.

HEBREW:  And was all the earth of lip one:  and of speech one.

Notes: This is probably the only verse in this particular passage/story which is not argued about. And it also makes good sense that after the Ark, and the one family that survived, their language would be the universal language of the time.

The distinct possibility is that this original language was either paleo-Hebrew or a form of early Hebrew. If the Tablet Hypothesis is correct, then that is the language Adam's tablet was written in and people understood it up to the time of Moses when he collated the tablets into Genesis as we know it.

Even if the Tablet Hypothesis is not correct, the story of creation would have to be remembered in some language that was later also understood. However, given the confusion of languages at Babel, if the material were not written down to begin with, it would be highly questionable how it survived the Babel crisis.

 

Genesis 11:2

NIV:  As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

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

LXX:  And it came to pass as they moved from the east, they found a plain in the land of Senaar, and they dwelt there.

HEBREW:  And it was as they traveled from the east, they found a level valley in the land of Shinar, and they lived there.

Notes: Where was Shinar? This becomes crucial to not only this part of the story but to other passages in the Bible as well. There are three options for the location of Shinar:

1. The traditional thought is that Shinar is in either north or south Mesopotamia; this is connected to the idea of Nimrod's cities being there, and the Bible tells us in Genesis 10 that "Cush begat Nimrod." Mesopotamia is the land between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris.

map

from http://prophetess.lstc.edu/~rklein/images4/meso_map.gif

2. Another possibility for Shinar is near the Base of Mt. Ararat. Allen Roberts is a good friend of ours and was one of the people kidnapped in one of the Ararat expeditions in 1991.  On a separate occasion he was on an expedition in Turkey, and their time (their Visas) was running out, so they were in a hurry.  The route they were taking brought them south of Diyarbakir.  As they travelled this route, there was a small village they came to on the edge of a large plain which stretched to the horizon.  On this plain they could see the ruins of a number of ziggurats and towards the horizon was one enormous ziggurat.  They got out of the car to have a brief look and saw shards of pottery on the ground.  When they examined them they found they contained different languages.  The name of the village?  Cinar (with one of those little marks under the ‘C’ which makes the pronunciation a ‘sh’).  We know Allen never went back; he is aging now and has health issues.  Why don’t the Turks look at this?  They have over 80,000 archaeological sites in their country to examine, and this is just one of them. 

The location can be seen on this map. Cinar is just south of Diyarbakir. It is not far from the mouth of the Tigris River and is in a plain.

Diyarbakir

3. The third option for Shinar is in northern Africa, in the Sudan. Even today the Greek spelling of Shinar, Sennar (or Sannar) , is a city between the Blue and White Nile Rivers, the capital city of the state of Sennar. To the east is a very large range of ancient mountains.

Sudan map

At this point, everything depends on where Noah's Ark landed. The Bible says, "...and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat." (Genesis 8:4) The presumption, and tradition, as been that this refers to Mt. Ararat in Turkey. However, this is not necessarily the case. First of all, the word 'ararat' simply means either 'creation' or 'holy place (also, by implication, 'altar').' the Ark came to rest on the mountains of either 'creation' or a 'holy place.' This actually gives us no geographical information. It does indicate that this was the place where Noah's altar was built, however.

Mt. Ararat, in Turkey, is a volcano. Although the granite base of it, as exposed in the Ahora Gorge, is quite ancient, its heights are the result of relatively recent volcanic activity. That part of the mountain building has taken place since the time of the continental division. It is, in other words, doubtful that the Ark landed there at all.

Another possibility that has been put forth involves the Zagros Mountains. They lie east of Mesopotamia. The Zagros range, however, is geologically new, and uplifted at the time of Peleg and the continental division.

It is necessary to take a close look at Mesopotamia at this point. Geologically the entire area was under water until about the time of Job! It was a shallow sea, and there were no cities there. So what about Nimrod and his cities? We read in Genesis 10, and this will be discussed more fully later when we do the genealogies, that Cush begat Nimrod. However, if you look at Genesis 10, you can see that the section regarding Nimrod (verses 8-12) stands out from the rest for several reasons:

1. It is a clear interruption of the genealogical text in style

2. It gives far more information than any of the others get

3. The sons of Cush are listed in verse 7 and Nimrod is not among them. Instead, in verse 8, Cush 'begat' Nimrod. This simply means that Nimrod was in his family line, or that he was an ancestor of Nimrod. When we take a look at the cities Nimrod was either responsible for or conquered, it seems pretty clear these could not have all built up within two or three generations after the Flood. They may have had large families then, but that's pushing it a bit far.

So our suggestion is that Nimrod and his cities were not in Mesopotamia at all at the time of Babel, but, rather, that they date from the time of the earliest Assyrian cities about the time the Ice Age was coming to an end and the Arabian Peninsula and the Mesopotamian area were no longer under water.

And that leaves the "unheard of" possibility of Sennar in the Sudan as the place where men first lived after the Flood. Is this impossible? Not at all. Along the east coast of that section of Africa is a very high range of mountains which are much older than the Zagros, and date from the time of the Flood. They would have been the highest mountains around that area.

 

pan-African

The map above shows where the earliest mountain-building was occurring, along the east edge of Africa. The Arabian peninsula, unmarked above it to the right, remained underwater during this time.

rift valley

 

East of the mountains is are the plains of the Sudan. In the above picture it is interesting to see that during the time of Peleg the Rift opened in the middle, creating the lake and the area today where we find so many hominid fossils. The people living here were trapped and buried.

We are presenting this as an option regarding where Babel was. It makes sense in terms of what the Bible says, as well as in terms of what geology is pointing to. But this is simply an option. We do feel Nimrod, with his many cities, was someone who came a few hundred years later in time.

Genesis 11:3

NIV:  They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s bake bricks and bake them thoroughly.’  They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.

KJV:  And they said one to another, God to, let us make brick, and burn then thoroughly.  And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.

LXX:  And the man said to his neighbor, Come, let us make bricks and bake them with fire.  And the brick was to them the stone, and their mortar was bitumen (literally ‘asphaltos’)

HEBREW:  And said each one to his neighbor, Come, let us make bricks and burn thoroughly.  And was to them the brick for stone, and the asphalt it was to them for mortar.

Notes:

1. "Asphalt:  brownish-black substance used commonly in road making, roofing, and waterproofing. Chemically, it is a natural mixture of hydrocarbons. It varies in consistency from a solid to a semisolid, has great tenacity, melts when heated, and when ignited will burn with a smoky flame leaving very little or no ash. It is found in nature in deposits called asphalt lakes. Natural asphalt was probably formed by the evaporation of petroleum."

2. Natural deposits of asphalt include lake asphalts such as Pitch Lake. Here is some interesting material on Pitch Lake from Wikipedia:

The origin of Pitch Lake is related to deep faults in connection with subduction under the Caribbean Plate related to Barbados Arc. The lake has not been studied extensively, but it is believed that the lake is at the intersection of two faults, which allows oil from a deep deposit to be forced up. The lighter elements in the oil evaporated, leaving behind the heavier asphalt. Bacterial action on the asphalt at low pressures creates petroleum in asphalt.

The Chaima Indians had other ideas about how the lake was formed. After a victory over a rival tribe, the tribe got carried away with its celebration, cooking and eating the sacred hummingbirds they believed held the spirits of their ancestors. Thus, legend has it, their winged god opened up the earth and conjured up a lake of nasty pitch to swallow the entire village. Amerindian pottery has been found, along with the remains of prehistoric animals such as the mammoth and what is believed to be the tooth of a giant sloth.

What is interesting in the above legend is that Pitch Lake is associated with an opening up of the earth which swallowed an entire village. This, by the way, occurred after a battle, or war, with another tribe.

3. Asphalt is not available until the water and petroleum distillates have evaporated.  Two generations after the Flood is reasonable timing for this material to have become available.  Did they already know what it was?  There was some geological activity before the Flood when the cratons rose up, so there is the possibility of asphalt extruding before the flood, and people learning about its uses then.    Earliest known civilizations used it for glue in their idols to secure in precious stones and such , for mummifying, for water-proofing ships and weapons, and similar.

4. There is evidence from the Scandinavian Countries and Russia that oil is coming up from beneath the most ancient granites in some areas in these countries. Since the granite extends down to the base of the earth's crust, these oils cannot have a biological origin. We do not know the source of the asphalt which was used by the builders of Babel. Current thought is that it was the result of the rotting of the antediluvian life forms. There is the possibility that what they were using was from much deeper, however, as, if Shinar were in Africa, they were living on a craton -- a granite block extending deep into the earth. Today in Russian and Siberia, their cratons are yielding oil when they are drilled into.

Plasma theory supports this possibility, because there is a layer of carbon some way below the earth's crust, layered there when the plasma filament itself was sorting elements via ionization potential.

5. They used 'bricks for stone' -- this has two implications: First, that they built with stone before the Flood and knew how to do it. Second, that stone was not as available as they wanted it. This would have been because any loose stones/rocks from the mountain building would have washed down during that building processes and been buried in sediments. Stones, in other words, were not available in the quantities needed. It would several hundred years before they started quarrying stones for the cities and pyramids. Both the Babel catastrophe and the later division of the continents would have interrupted the technological recovery of civilization.

 

Genesis 11:4

NIV:  Then they said, ‘Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’

KJV:  And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top [may reach] unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

LXX:  And they said, Come, let us build to ourselves a city and tower, whose top shall be to heaven, and let us make to ourselves a name, before we are scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth.

HEBREW:  And they said, come, let us build for ourselves a city and a tower with its top the heavens, and make for ourselves a name, lest we be scattered on the face of all the earth.

Notes:

1. The 'reaches to' and 'may reach' are interpreters' insertions. The Hebrew above gives the most correct translation: "its top the heavens."

2. the following is a quote regarding a ziggurat, or tower such as Babel was, which was built at a later time, but probably was of the same pattern:

“About five miles S.W. of Hillah, the most remarkable of all the ruins, the Birs Nimroud of the Arabs, rises to a height of 153 feet above the plain from a base covering a square of 400 feet, or almost four acres.  It was constructed of kiln-dried bricks in seven stages to correspond with the planets to which they were dedicated:  the lowermost black, the colour of Saturn; the next orange, for Jupiter; the thirs red, for Mars; and so on (note: fragments of these coloured glazed bricks are to be seen in the British Museum.).  These stages were surmounted by a lofty tower, on the summit of which, we are told, were the signs of the Zodiac and other astronomical figures; thus having (as it should have been translated) a representation of the heavens, in stead of ‘a top which reached unto heaven.’” (quote from Lieut.-Gen. Chesney as found in p. 10 of  The Witness of the Stars, E.W. Bullinger, Kregel Publications, 1893/ 1970)

3. The point of the tower may not have been its height nearly as much as its use – since most ancient known times, astronomer/astrologers were also the priests of the cultures.  Did this start with Gospel in the Stars?  If so, then Babel was a deep perversion and rebellion – the purpose of what may have been an observatory may ostensibly have been to determine an accurate calendar after the Flood, but would then also have been used to give power to the rebel priests.

They also erected large observatories or watch towers called "Ziggurats" in the temple complexes of the great cities to study celestial phenomena. (Ziggurats are monuments with stepped platforms ascending to a small temple or sanctuary at the peak.) The biblical Tower of Babel is said to be such a monument, called the temple-tower of Etemenanki. http://www.moonlightsys.com/themoon/ancient3.html)

4. Its Sumerian name E-temen-an-ki means "House of the foundation of heaven on earth".

5. The best description of the monumental tower can be found in a cuneiform tablet from Uruk, written in 229 BCE. It is a copy of an older text and is now in the Louvre in Paris. It states that the tower was made up of seven terraces and it gives the height of the seven stocks - 91 meters all in all. The ground floor measured 91 x 91 meters, and this is confirmed by archaeological excavations conducted by Robert Koldewey after 1913 (91,48 x 91,66 m). Large stairs were discovered at the south side of the building, where a triple gate connected the Etemenanki with the Esagila. A larger gate in the east connected the Etemenanki with the sacred procession road. Seen from the triple gate, the Etemenanki must have resembled a true "stairway to heaven", because the gates on the higher terraces seemed to be standing on top of each other.
…. The building history suggests that the Babylonians were occupied with the construction of the tower for over a century. It is possible that the ambitious design of a tower of 92 x 92 x 92 meters was too grandiose, so that they needed as much time for their project as the medieval builders of the European cathedrals. For a long time, the tower must have looked unfinished, and this may explain how the Biblical story came into being. It is certainly possible that the sanctuary was never finished at all.
from http://www.livius.org/es-ez/etemenanki/etemenanki.html

 

Genesis 11:5

NIV:  But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building.

KJV:  And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

LXX:  And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men built.

HEBREW:  And came down Jehovah to see the city and the tower which had built the sons of Adam.

Notes:

1. There are a few times in the Bible where the Lord 'came down.' This is quite different from the idea of the Lord walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden, talking to Noah, or discussing Sodom with Abraham. Here are the other times. It is interesting to note that the only other times the Bible mentions the LORD came down is in Genesis. All the following are in the context of the Israelites being led through the wilderness. (The following is from Bible Gateway)

  • Exodus 19:20
    • King James Version
      And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.
  • Exodus 34:5
    • New International Version
      Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD.
  • Numbers 11:25
    • King James Version
      And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
    • New International Version
      Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.
  • Numbers 12:5
    • King James Version
      And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.
    • New International Version
      Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward,

Please note that each of these times is dramatic. Babel may have been the most dramatic of all. There is an interesting 'interruption' in Psalm 18 when David is talking about the depth of his despair and trouble. Starting in verse 7 and going to 15, we read:

 7 The earth trembled and quaked,
       and the foundations of the mountains shook;
       they trembled because he was angry.

 8 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
       consuming fire came from his mouth,
       burning coals blazed out of it.

 9 He parted the heavens and came down;
       dark clouds were under his feet.

 10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
       he soared on the wings of the wind.

 11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
       the dark rain clouds of the sky.

 12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
       with hailstones and bolts of lightning.

 13 The LORD thundered from heaven;
       the voice of the Most High resounded. [a]

 14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies ,
       great bolts of lightning and routed them.

 15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
       and the foundations of the earth laid bare
       at your rebuke, O LORD,
       at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

If this is anything like what happened at Babel, then we have a massively destructive event. Valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare. There was a blast of some kind of wind, hailstones, great bolts of lightning, earthquakes, fire.... this was not a small, local event.

Genesis 11:6
NIV:  The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.

KJV:  And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do:  and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

LXX:  And the Lord said, Behold, one race, and one lip of all, and they have begun to do this, and now nothing shall fail from them of all they may have undertaken to do.

HEBREW:  And said Jehovah, See, the people is one and the lip is one to all them and this they are beginning to do; and now not will be restrained from them all which they have imagined to do.

Notes: It seems the Lord simply delayed the end here -- after all these years the world is 'coming together' again and struggles are taking place for complete control of all people everywhere.

Genesis 11:7 

NIV:  Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

KJV:  Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

LXX:  Come, and having gone down, let us there confound their tongue, that they may not understand each the voice of his neighbor.

HEBREW:  Come, let us go and mix up there their language so that  not they can understand one language their neighbors.

Notes:

1. It is known that electroshock "therapy" to the left side of the brain can and will cause language disorders as well as memory problems

2. Other legends add more possible details to this story

3. From the above link comes:

The characteristic of this catastrophe was its influence upon the mental, or mnemonic, capacity of the peoples. The description of it, as told by many tribes and peoples, if it contains authentic features, arouses the surmise that the earth underwent an electromagnetic disturbance, and that the human race experienced something that in modern terms seems like a consequence of a deep electrical shock.

The application of electrical current to the head of a human being often results in a partial loss of memory; also a loss of speech may be induced by the application of electrodes to specific areas of the brain.

 

Genesis 11:8

NIV:  So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.

KJV:  So the LORD scatterd them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

LXX:  And the Lord scattered them thence over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city and the tower.

HEBREW:  And scattered Jehovah them from there, over the face of all the earth; and they ceased from building the city.

Notes:

1. This does indicate they were not finished building the tower.

2. In Genesis 11:9, we see the people are scattered.  That word is hephaitz.  In the Greek that becomes hephaizt – and Hephaistos is another name for Vulcan, “The father of the gods” in Egypt.   In Greek and Roman mythology he is the god of fire, including volcanoes. 

Genesis 11:9

NIV:  That is why it was called Babel – because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world.  From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

KJV:  Therefore is 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.

LXX:  On this account its name was called Confusion, because there the Lord confounded the languages of all the earth, and thence the Lord scattered them upon the face of all the earth.

HEBREW:  Therefore was called its name Babel, because there mixed up Jehovah the speech of all the earth and from there scattered Jehovah them abroad on the face of all the earth.

Notes:

1. Bel – confounder; Ba – same as be – ‘against, among, for, in, on, with’

2. Who was Bel? Probably Cush: let's look at some connections from legend and mythology

Cush was the son of Ham, and therefore was Herm-es. The 'es' ending means 'out of' or 'son of.' In mythology, Hermes is also Mercury.  Hermes was seen in pagan mythologies as being the author of their religious rites. 

Ham = Her and also Khem, meaning ‘the burnt one’  “Her” also means the hot, or burning one.  This may be an Identification with the sun god and thus the beginning of what we consider pagan mythologies -- or what would have been considered among the believers of the time as the Great Apostacy.  Her is also Horus, who is identified with the sun. 

“Hermeneutics” or the deciphering of language meanings comes from Hermes

What is interesting is that "Jove" appeared to have been a shortened form of Jehovah, not originally Jupiter. 

In Chaldee, ‘peresh’ means ‘to interpret, but ‘peres’ means ‘to divide’ – so was Cush the great interpreter of the speeches of men or the great divider of the speeches of men?  He was one of the two according to legends….

Cush had two different titles as well:  Baal, meaning ‘the lord’ and ‘Bel’ meaning ‘confounder.’    Ovid identifies Cush with Bel – he says ‘the ancients called me Chaos.’ – not merely state of confusion, but god of confusion (in Chaldee Cush is pronounced ‘chaos’ and comes that way into the English language.)

Jeremiah 50:2:  Bel is confounded (KJV) is a play on words.  The confounder is confounded.    “Merodach” is “the Great Rebel” and so the two are identified as one in this verse. Cush appears to be the Great Rebel and the Confounder.

Vulcan’s hammer is essentially the same as the club of Janus/Chaos – breaking things in pieces

Jeremiah 50:23:  “How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken!  How is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!”

 

pan-Africa map

http://web.earthsci.unimelb.edu.au/antarctica/images/pan-african.gif

The above map again shows the southern half of the supercontinent before the time of continental division as mentioned in Genesis 10:25.   The red section down the east coast of Africa was being upthrust during the Flood of Noah.  These were the highest mountains in the entire area after the Flood. 

Ararat, Cudi, the Zagros, and the other mountains often associated with Noah’s Ark’s landing had not yet formed and the areas where they are now were still under water at this time. 

Jurassic Arabian

http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/documents/97020/plate_12.jpg

The two following maps show the Arabian area first at about the time of Babel and then just before the continental division at the time of Peleg.  This indicates that not only were the Cities of the Plain and the tower of Babel not possible in this area during any of this time, but that no migration from Babel could have taken place into this area before the division of the continents.

Arabian peninsula 1

http://www.searchanddiscovery.net/documents/zeigler/images/fig03.htm

Above is ‘late Permian’ which would have been, when dates are corrected, about 200 years after the Deluge, or at the time of Babel.  All the colored area was under water.  The different colors show different types of deposits.  The Red Sea, at this time, was not yet formed and was dry.

pre-Peleg Arabian peninsula

http://www.searchanddiscovery.net/documents/zeigler/images/fig15.htm

This map is labeled ‘early Late Cretaceous.’  When atomic dates are corrected to orbital dates, this puts it just before the time of Peleg and the continental division.   The water line has receded somewhat, but Mesopotamia is still under water.

It is for this reason that we have come to the conclusion that Babel was not anywhere near Mt. Ararat (nor did Noah’s Ark land there) or the Zagros or Mt. Cudi or anywhere else in that entire area.  The mountains that WERE uplifted during the Flood were along East Africa.  And that makes the fact that the area and city called Sannar in Sudan a very interesting one.  It may well have been here that Babel was built, between the two rivers, the Blue Nile and the White Nile, if they both existed at that time. 

What we do have is the interesting rift which comes down through the Jordan Valley, through the Red Sea, and into Africa, just south of the area of Senaar. 

Rift valley

http://www.igorilla.org/assets/images/where/riftvalley2.jpg

In the above map, the Ethiopian Rift is the southern portion of the Rift that starts north of the Jordan Valley and comes down the Red Sea.  The mountains shown just to the west of it are the high mountains uplifted at the time of the Deluge, and the plains to the west of them are in the Sudan, where Senaar is now located.   It is very interesting that many of the ‘hominid’ fossils – the men who lived at that time, are now being found between the two branches of the Rift which are separated by the lake in the map. 

As will be seen in the study on Peleg, the settling of Mesopotamia could not have taken place until about the time of the Ice Age following the continental division.

 

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