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A Rethinking of the Tower of Babel Story
A Rethinking of the Tower of Babel
2011© Roy III and Donna Blizzard
In the story of theTower of Babel we have been taught for many years that this story is telling us how come there are so many languages in the earth. Unfortunately, this semi-historical thinking has no truth in the actual historical spread of the languages on the Earth. If this is so, then what is this passage in the Old Testament really trying to tell us?
The Bible is a wonderful book which relates the intimacy between man and God and every story in the Bible needs to be reviewed in this aspect. When we get sidetracked on the languages issue it tends to cloud the real story that God has been trying to communicate to his people for thousands of years.
In Genesis 10:8-10 a man named Nimrod is first mentioned.
8) “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. 9) He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. 10) And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”
In Chapter 11 we get a continuation of the story.
1) “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2) And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in thelandofShinar; and they dwelt there. 3) And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. 4) 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. 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, 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. 7) Go to, 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 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.
The real key here is in the words themselves in Hebrew.
אֶחָת, וּדְבָרִים, אֲחָדִים.וַיְהִי כָל-הָאָרֶץ, שָׂפָה
And all the earth were of “sapha echat and debarim echadim.” This phrase is translated in the King James as one language and one speech. However, the best translation of echad is not one, but unified in purpose. So if we utilize this understanding of echad it would read they were unified for a purpose in language and speech. But this still is a bit of a problem. If we look at the words for speech and language in Hebrew both of these words can easily be translated as simple talking. In other words, these people atBabelwere unified in their daily talking about some purpose that they had. Not that they all had to be speaking the same exact language, but they could have been. But what was important to note was that they were all speaking the same plan or purpose. They were of one accord!
When we look back at chapter 10 we see that old Nimrod –נמרד- was a mighty hunter, but what was he hunting? Not animals. He was a kingdom builder. He was usurping God and man’s authority and claiming for his own. He was setting himself up to be a God. In other words he was running around overtaking other peoples and convincing them either by speech or the sword that they needed to obey him. But what do we see in the text? Does the text support this?
Nimrod is an ancient word. In the Brown Driver Briggs, they have no idea where the word comes from etymologically. They equate it with Kings of Babylon etc, but what if this is just a simple Hebrew word that describes the aspects of an Evil Man. We certainly have examples of that in the text, just look at King Saul. His real name wasn’t Saul. Saul means “asked for” because that’s what the people did was ask for a King! So God gave them King Asked For. Could Nimrod be the same thing?
Hebrew joins words together quite frequently. If we look at Nimrod, it seems to be a compound of two words, Neum –נאםand the word Ruud –רוד .
Neum means utterance, declaration or a revelation, something spoken of by a prophet in an ecstatic state. What is unusual is that this word is usually found only in a construct form!, meaning it usually doesn’t stand alone, it is joined with another word. Ruud means to wander or roam restlessly and in the Ethiopic can mean to attack, invade or run upon and invade. So if we just simply apply linguistic principles to these two words we would easily come up with Nimrod, a man who is a wandering and invading orator, someone who can control the masses because of his power of speech. In other words, a little Hitler. Who says history can’t repeat itself if you don’t properly look at it!
If in fact this is what the word Nimrod means, what does this mean for us in relation to chapter 11 of Genesis? Click on the link below - Babel and Nimrod Part 2 - to go to the conclusion of this study that will prove this story has nothing to do with the creation of the races or in the creation of the languages as commonly taught by the churches.
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