Where is the Tower of Babel?

The city of Babel is first mentioned in Genesis 10:8-10, "Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD." And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar." Hence we know that the city existed in a region known as Shinar. Shinar is mentioned again in the Bible as the place that king Nebuchadnezzar ruled from Babylon (Daniel 1:1-2). The city, therefore, was found in Babylonia which existed between the Euphrates and Trigis river in the country of modern-day Iraq. It is likely that the city of Babylon derives its name from ancient Babel and that the two cities are at the same location.

Genesis 11:1-11 records the history behind the tower built in Babel. Even though God command men to scatter over the face of the earth (Genesis 9:1), men of that day were determined to live together (Genesis 11:4). So they built a tower as an attraction for people to remain in that region. Verse 3 tells us that the main material was baked bricks joined with an asphalt mortar. Some of the earliest known buildings in that area use similar material. An early text, dated about 2250 BC, mentions that king Sharkalisharri, king of Agade, restored a temple tower (or ziggurat) in Babylon. A later reference was made about 681-685 BC that king Esarhaddon of Assyria restored a ziggurat in Babylon. This building was called Etemenanki, or The Building of the Foundation - Platform of Heaven and Earth. It was described as a building whose top reaches to heaven. This particular ziggurat was damaged in a war between 652 and 648 BC, but then was restored again by Nebuchadrezzar between 605 and 562 BC. Whether this was built at the site of the original tower built in Babel, we probably will not know. Ziggurats were built throughout this region and it is likely that the basic plans followed the infamous tower in Babel.

We do know that the original tower was never completed (Genesis 11:8). God confused the people's language making it impossible for them to cooperate in this major task. The name "Babel" memorializes this event. Babel in Hebrew means "confussion." In English we still remember this when we say that someone is babbling (talking without making sense).


March 15, 2005