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tower of Babel was completely in ruins, and Pausanias (viii. 33) probably merely mentioned a current report on hearsay, when he asserted that the temple of Belus and the walls around Babylon still existed in the time of the Antonines. In the sixteenth century after Christ, Cæsar Fredericus relates that the remains of the ancient tower of Belus formed a kind of mountain amongst the other Babylonian ruins?; and even in our own time it would seem that its height must have been extraordinary, for we are told that fragments of the walls still remain, rising two hundred feet above the ground. The ruins are situated about sixty miles south of Bagdad, in the vicinity of Helleh, and are called by the natives the castle of Nimrod," (Arab. Berz Nimrudo). The whole country for many miles around is strewn with bricks, all bearing inscriptions in the cuneiform letters which still remain undeciphered 3. Niebuhr and Rich have most carefully examined the ruins of Babylon, and in their exact determination of the ground they have been correctly followed by Heeren and Gesenius.
Hakluyt, Voyag. ii. 214. 2 [Modern researches lead to the supposition that the word Berz is the remnant of the word Borsippa, and that the Berz Nimrud is that old fortress, and not the tower of Belus.]
3 [Since Von Bohlen wrote, the labours of Lassen and Burnouf (founded upon Grotefend's excellent conjectures) have opened a way to the understanding of the cuneiform or wedge-shaped inscriptions: and Major Rawlinson has gone far beyond any of his predecessors, in decyphering and translating these interesting monuments.]
And the whole earth was [of] one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east
Verse 1.--Although this verse, in our division of chapters in the Pentateuch, stands isolated, it forms a connecting link between Chapter X. and the following narrative.
Verse 2.-All expressions connected with moving onwards and journeying, in Genesis as well as in other writings of the Hebrews, are taken from wandering or nomadic life.
Nasa signifies 'to pull up the tent pegs,' in order to shift the encampment; and hence Massa', chap. xiii. 3, means a setting out, a stage, or day's journey; similarly, 'Atak', chap. xii. 8, signifies to remove the tent; 'Ahel, chap. xiii. 12, 18, means to pitch a tent; and Gùr refers to the sojourning of a wandering nomadic
The word Mik'k'edem' has perplexed the commentators, since the translation from the east” does not agree with the position of the plain of Babylon, if the ark landed in Armenia. This difficulty was felt by the Targumist, who understood this expression to signify “ from the beginning,” which however conveys no meaning whatever in this passage. Luther translates it “ towards the east,” but this is contrary to grammar, as well as geographically incorrect, for Babylon lies south of Armenia. Other writers have conjectured that the ark rested on a mountain in Bactria, and that from thence the human race went forth. Bochart endeavours to find an explanation for the phrase in an Assyrian usage of language, which would designate the country extending to the river Tigris as the east, while the west would be on the western side of that river ; but by this supposition he tacitly admits, though with reluctance, that the narrative was composed at a later date. All difficulty will however be removed if, in accordance with the observation we have already made (chap. viii. 4),
| Compare Gen. ii. 8.
that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they 3 dwelt there, and said one to another: Come, we will
make bricks and harden them by burning! So they
used bricks instead of stones, and bitumen in place of 4 mortar. And they said : Come, we will build a city and
the position of Ararat is supposed not to be in Armenia, but in the more eastern district of Iran or Aryâvarta, [from whence the journey would be made to the plain of Babylon.]
Bik“ah, where it occurs in other places, means a valley with the basin of a river ; but here it is the low-land or plain of Mesopotamia on the Euphrates, on which river was situated the great city of Babylon', sixty miles in circumference. How the human race had crossed the rapid Tigris, in their progress from the east, we leave those to explain who pretend to be commentators in history, while they only deal in imaginary conjectures.
Verse 3.—The description here is very faithful, for the whole of Babylon, and especially the tower of Belus?, was built of burnt bricks, cemented together with the oily bitumen or asphalt, which oozes from fissures in a thickened states. Indeed this ancient mode of building is still evident in the ruins of Babylon.
Verse 4.–The expression "whose top may reach unto heaven,” is of course a mere hyperbole. So in Deuteronomy i. 28, we read of a city, that it was walled up to heaven, and in Daniel iv. 11, it is said of a tree, that its height reached unto heaven; the corresponding word oúpavoumans (“ reaching unto heaven') is employed with reference to a pine-tree in Odyss. v. 239: it should also be remembered that, according to the original myth, the giants intended to have stormed Heaven. These giants were called 'anshey a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven, and we will make us a name; lest we be scattered over the whole earth.
1 Jerem. li. 58; Daniel iv. 29. 3 Arrian, Exped. Alex. vii. 17. ek hlívdov onths év áopálou vouoouévns.
3 See Herodotus i. 179, (referring to the use of hot bitumen as mortar), Téluatı xpeóuevou dopárty Depuñ; Strabo 16, 1 ; Rosenmüller, Alt. und Neues Morgenl. i. 44.
Then Jehovah came down to see the city and the tower, 6 which the children of men builded. And Jehovah said:
hashshém, ('men of renown or glory,') vi. 4, and in their exploit of building the tower, some idea is given of the glory which they sought: for, if we adhere to the previous account of the narrator respecting the giants in chapter vi., the word Shém (or name) in the verse before us cannot be misunderstood, nor considered to have been either a memorial or monument", corresponding to what David had in 2 Samuel viii. 13; nor was the tower built in such a way that men might protect themselves by its means from a second deluge, as Josephus supposed; nor, according to Perizonius?, was it an elevated landmark, to enable them the more easily to find their city again. Still less can this word Shém suggest the idea of a deitys, nor can any modification of the word be admitted which would lead one to think of 'Em, a metropolis. But the sentence should be interpreted according to the customary usage of the Hebrew language, and it is correctly rendered in this manner by the Vulgate (“et celebremus nomen nostrum ”), as well as by Rosenmüller (in the Scholia) and Gesenius. Lastly, the phrase “ lest we be scattered,” is not immediately connected with the tower, but rather with the building of the city, in which the people wished to remain united.
Verse 6.-There is some irony in this expression of Jehovah, which is clearly observable, especially in the subsequent words “Well, we will go
down4." The words Yazěmu in verse 6, and Nabělah without the Dagesh in verse 7, show traces of a Chaldæan origin, and the
1 With Clericus, Vater, Rosenmüller (Biblische Alterthumskunde, i. 2. p. 8), and Schumann.
2 Orig. Babylon. p. 236,' signum altum,' (Arab.) simmat.
Behold the people is one, and they have all one language, and as they have begun to do thus, nothing will
be any more too difficult for them, which they imagine 7 to do. Well, we will go down, and there confound their
language, that they may not understand one another's 8 speech. So Jehovah scattered them abroad from thence
over the whole earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because Jehovah did
there confound the language of all the earth, and from thence did Jehovah scatter them abroad over the whole earth.
first may perhaps have been derived from a kindred form Yazom!; but the other word Nabělah, “confound,' refers clearly to the mention of Balal in verse 9. In fact the Hebrew narrator had in his mind this radical word for confounding, when he introduced the name Babel, regardless both of the forced derivation which he assigned to it, (for the analogy of Golgotha from Galal is not strictly applicable), and of the improbability that so renowned a city as Babylon should have given to herself the name of confusion.
The principal god of the Babylonians, Bel, or Balas, the Mighty,' was worshiped throughout the whole of Upper Asia; whence Cicero2 gives this name to the Indian Hercules, and the Semitic tribes only transferred to it their own title of Baal or lord. This name (Bel) is unquestionably contained in that of Babel, as Belus was said to have built the city; and hence the proper interpretation of the word is Bab Bel, Court of Bel,' (as Eichhorn renders it), or, according to other critics, Bar Bel, · Castle of Belus.'
1 Ewald, Kritische Grammatik, p. 475.
2 Nat. Deor. iii. 16.