Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER XI. 1-9.

The human race advance from the East towards Mesopotamia, and resolve to build a city in that country, with a high tower, in order that they may not be dispersed abroad. Jehovah comes down from heaven, to see how they are occupied, and confounds their language, which has until that period been only of one kind; and they are consequently obliged to leave off building the tower, and are dispersed abroad upon the face of the whole earth. Owing to the circumstance of the language being confounded, the city receives the name of Babel, or Confusion.

This account is closely connected with Chapter X., and ought to have preceded the genealogy of the nations, as it is intended to furnish the reason for the dispersion of mankind according to their different languages, which was before distinctly stated in chapter x. 25, but which first occurred in consequence of the building of the tower. The narrator may however have transferred the account to its present place, in order that he might enlarge more fully on the origin of his own nation from Mesopotamia, and so by means of this myth might form a direct connection between the legendary traditions of the Chaldæans and those of the Hebrews.

We may here observe that the Israelitish writer has already often connected his narrative, for his own purposes, with the fictions of foreign nations; as for instance, in chap. vi. 3. where he introduces a number regarded as important among the Chaldæans (120); in chap. ix. 20, the invention of wine; and in ix. 27, a foreign national name (Canaan]. In like manner here, the principal characteristics of the narrative unquestionably belong to central Asia ; for Abydenus and Eupolemus both relate, and so also does the Armenian annalist Moses of Chorene, (whose account, according to Maribas, was derived from Assyrian sources,) that the Giants in their conflicts with Saturn built a tower at Babylon, in order to storm heaven'.

In this narrative the ruder form of a myth, resting upon a received system of theogony, appears in some measure to outweigh the later date of the evidence given, and to authenticate the [Assyrian] origin of the legend; from which we have in fact to separate those objects that the Hebrew writer had in view, and which were chiefly of a twofold nature,-first, to explain the origin of different languages and the name of Babel; and next, to solve the problem, why mankind have been so much scattered over the earth, and why they have had different languages in use; notwithstanding that the first man, according to the intention of the same narrator, had already given Semitic names to everything; and that the circumstance of the human race living together, and employing only one language, must have offered considerable advantages both for mutual intercourse and traffic between different parts of the world. Such ideas, which might certainly have been entertained in Chaldæa, easily led to the notion, that the

See Eusebius, Præp. Ev. ix. 14, 18; Moses Choronens. Annales Armen. i. 8, 9; Origenes contr. Cels. iv. 174; Bochart, Phaleg. p. 45, &c.; Gesenius, in the Halle Encyclopædia, under the art. Babylonien.

diversity of languages might probably be in itself a punishment from the wrathful and frequently jealous Jehovah, in order that mortals should not, from the misuse of their powers, become too mighty". In accordance with similar notions, the Greeks represented Kronos as abolishing the unity of language which existed in the Golden Age, when men demanded immortality and eternal youth, and Philo very properly applies this analogy to the narrative in Genesis. The Hebrew compiler was surrounded in Palestine only by Semitic dialects, which could scarcely have given rise to his observation, of the wide-spread diversity of languages in the human race, for the same kindred language extended all over Mespootamia. But in Babylon itself both the sovereign and his court belonged to the Indo-Germanic4 race; and here, in this most flourishing city of the ancient world, a number of foreigners must necessarily have resided, whose various dialects might have appeared to the Semitic writer as a real confusion of tongues. And again, at no great distance from that writer were the geographical limits of the two principal families of language, with whose division he appears to have been acquainted. Some results of inquiries on this subject we shall communicate at the conclusion of this section. The narrator the more readily adopted a mythical groundwork for this account, as he could at the same time connect it with an idolatrous monument, and derive from it an explanation satisfactory to himself, of the name of Babel or Babylon. It is indeed almost certain that an ironical allusion to the circumstance

1

Compare verse 6.

2 See Gesenius in loc. cit. 3 De Confus. Linguar. iij. 313. et seq. Pfeiff.

[To the opinion that the Chaldees were Indo-Germanic, Pritchard is decidedly opposed. See Physical History of Man, vol. iv. pp. 563–568.]

5 Gen. x. 24, 25.

4

[merged small][ocr errors]

of Babylon being the mistress of the world is contained in this narrative, as Herder and De Wette conjectured, which is confirmed by the tendency of all the mythical allusions directed against foreign nations both by the same writer, and by the prophecies of Isaiah against Babel'. Previous to the time of Hezekiah [in the eighth century before Christ], Babel was unknown to the Israelites?; and the narrative in the text must refer to a still later period B.C. 625–539, when Babel had become the capital of the Babylonian kingdom, and it was perhaps associated in general estimation with the tower of Belus, which had at that time already fallen into decay; hence in order correctly to understand this chapter, some preliminary remarks are here requisite on the erection and history of the great Babylonian tower.

Herodotus has given the best description of this gigantic structure, the age of which is unknown; and his testimony is the more valuable as he had unquestionably visited Babylons. The entire height of the tower he does not mention; but when we reflect that the lower square, forming the base of that edifice, measured a furlong or six hundred feet each way, and that upon this were reared seven successive stories or turrets, we may conceive how enormous the size of the whole building must have been, which indeed the remains as seen at the present day would lead us to imagine. The four sides of the temple exactly faced the four quarters of the heavens: in the lowest story stood the massive golden statue of Belus, forty feet in height, which was afterwards carried away by Xerxes : in the

1 Isaiah xiii. xiv. 2 See Pustkuchen, Urgeschichte (Primæval History), p. 89. Isaiah xxxix. 1. 3 Herodotus i. 181.

highest turret, as the holy of holies, which was reached by a staircase winding to the top, outside of the tower, there was a golden table for sacred offices (on which banquets were provided for the gods], the planetary deities being worshiped here as well as Bel or Belus, who represented the sun'. The eighth story, as usual in similar edifices of Sabæan worship, represented the heavens. Martinius? describes in a like manner a Chinese tower, ninety ells in height, situated in the province of Fo-kien; and on a somewhat similar plan the great pyramid in Mexico was constructed. The Hindoo pagodas, also, with their eight landing-places, as well as the eight courts around the temples and royal castles, and the coloured walls at Ecbatana, were all intended to realize to the eye the same idea 3.

When Cyrus took Babylon, B.C. 539, and chose Susa for his residence, the more ancient city went to decay, while even at an earlier period the tower may have suffered much in consequence of its vast height; it was robbed of its wealth under Xerxes, and afterwards it underwent further injury in consequence of an insurrection during the reign of Darius. Alexander found the tower in a dilapidated state, and conceived the bold idea of restoring it; but ten thousand workmen were unable in two months to accomplish the removal of the rubbisho. Finally both the city of Babylon and its temple were abandoned to destruction, when Seleucus, B.c. 293, founded Seleucia on the Tigris, and favoured the inhabitants of that new city with peculiar privileges. In the time of Diodorus the

See Gesenius, in the Encyclop. under the article Bel, p. 401.
2 Atlas Sinic. fol. 57.
3 See Altes Indien, ii. 105.
4 Compare Arrian, Exped. Alex. vii. 17.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »