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Dec 1, 2016 Note: The Translation Page has been superseded by the sidebar’s Select Language drop-down menu with a choice of over 100 languages.
Why is translation necessary?
The History Book of the Universe explains the reason in Genesis 11:1-9. Translation is necessary because of what happened at the Tower of Babel over 4,000 years ago. That’s why there are so many different languages in the world today.
Following the Great Flood (Genesis 6:1-9:19) around 2500 BC, Noah’s family disembarked from the Ark, and the clan eventually settled on the plain of Shinar. God clearly instructed Noah and his sons to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1,7) Yet Noah’s descendants made no attempt to spread out and fill the earth. On the contrary, they stuck together, defying God’s order to re-populate the earth.
Nimrod, King of Babel
Noah’s clan built the city of Babel (literally confusion – Genesis 11:9) in the land of Shinar under the leadership of Noah’s great-grandson Nimrod (literally rebel). (Genesis 10:6-12 )
Noah’s sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Nimrod was the son of Ham’s son Cush. The Bible says Nimrod “became a mighty one on the earth” and was “a mighty hunter before the LORD” (Genesis 10:8-9). He was the leader of the world at the time of the dispersal from Babel, so his influence was doubtless carried throughout the earth.
The first-century Jewish historian Josephus reports that Nimrod led the rebellion against God at Babel. Josephus says,
“Now it was Nimrod who excited them [the people of Babel] to such an affront and contempt of God. … He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers!
Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.”
(From Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 4, Sections 2-3).
The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484–425 BC) reported seeing in Babylon what he believed were the remains of Nimrod’s Tower of Babel. But he probably saw instead the ziggurat that Nebuchadnezzar rebuilt over the ruins of the one from the middle of the second millennium BC. This ziggurat was dedicated to Marduk, the chief god of the Babylonians. No doubt Nimrod’s Tower of Babel inspired the original ziggurat that Nebuchadnezzar rebuilt. As the founder of Babel in Shinar, Nimrod was probably the one who was eventually deified to become Merod-ach or Marduk.
As the son of Cush, Nimrod would also be called bar-Cush in Hebrew. He is probably the one later worshiped as Bacchus (bar-Cush) by the Romans. The god of wine, revelry, and dissipation, Bacchus symbolized everything which is immoral, disorderly, and subversive of authority. This is consistent with the portrait of Nimrod in Genesis and various extra-Biblical sources. It fits his probable role in the debauchery and rebellion that necessitated God’s disruptive intervention at Babel.
Nimrod founded and ruled many cities in addition to Babel. This included Nineveh in Assyria, called the “land of Nimrod” by the prophet Micah (Micah 5:5-6). Babylon and Nineveh both developed into great empires that oppressed Israel many centuries later.
Tower of Babel
The aim in building Babel and a Tower to “reach into heaven” was to prevent the people from being “scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). This was in direct defiance of Yahweh’s command to Noah and his sons.
Genesis reports the people used fire-baked bricks, not sun-baked bricks which tended to crumble and eroded quickly (Genesis 11:3). Fire-baked bricks permitted a much larger structure due to their greater strength, and they would last longer. As a result, the Tower of Babel or its ruins probably endured for a long time.
The people said, “Let us make for ourselves a name,” with Babel and the Tower (Genesis 11:4). Instead of honoring and glorifying the Creator, they arrogantly sought to elevate themselves.
From God’s perspective, the main problem was mankind’s prideful refusal to “multiply and fill the earth” as He had commanded. He also foresaw future rebellion: “Now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” (Genesis 11:6)
It was necessary to humble them and to disperse them across the earth. The most effective way to do this would be to break their unity and thwart their communication by scrambling their common language into diverse tongues. God created new languages to force mankind to spread out across the earth and to halt their working together in rebellion against God.
The city and tower were named Babel, meaning confusion, because that’s what Yahweh did there (Genesis 11:9). He “confused the language of all the earth.” The confused sound of babbling in unknown languages was people’s last memory of the place as they drifted away.
As one would expect with such a tremendously disruptive event, the memory of the Tower and the Language Scrambling lives on across the globe. The account appears in somewhat distorted forms in other historical sources besides Shem’s record in the Bible. (Genesis 11:10) It’s also remembered imperfectly in the legends of many people groups around the world. See Babel Sources and Legends for examples of other sources and legends.
The Tower of Babel was one of the major events of world history. Its consequences ripple down through the centuries to our own day. Have you ever struggled to learn another language, or strained to understand someone with a heavy foreign accent? You can credit your rebellious ancestors at the Tower of Babel for contributing to your troubles.
Soli Deo Gloria.
This is the first post in the Tower of Babel series. Subsequent posts will suggest answers to these intriguing questions about the Tower of Babel:
Where was it located?
What did it look like?
When did the event occur?
What was the common language at Babel?
How many languages did Yahweh create at Babel?
How is Babel a major problem for evolutionists?
Read the sequel:
2. Tower of Babel – Where?
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday March 6, 2013 A.D.
Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. And it came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)