Babel: A Tower of Evidence
The Tower of Babel account in Genesis 11:1-9 tells the story of a group of people who united in Babel, the first city established after Noah’s flood, to construct a tower in defiance of God. As a consequence, God confused their language and dispersed them throughout the world. Today, a towering body of evidence supports the historical accuracy of this account and challenges evolutionary theories on the origins of human civilization and language...
|Artist’s reconstruction of the Tower of Babel based on historical evidence. Composite graphic by Brendon O’Loughlin and Steve Cardno.|
The Tower of Babel: A Ziggurat
- Both the Tower and ziggurats were built in Mesopotamia, which was known for the construction of ziggurats, during the 3rd millennium B.C. (Gen. 11:2).
- Both were built on a plain (Gen. 11:2).
- Both were built with baked bricks and mortar made of bitumen (Gen. 11:3).
- Both were built in a pyramidal fashion, with the Hebrew word used to describe the Tower, migdal, also referring to a pyramidal structure (Gen. 11:4; cf. Song of Sol. 4:4).
- Both were built to reach up to heaven and establish a connection between earth and the divine (Gen. 11:4). The “top” of the Tower possibly refers to the uppermost level of a ziggurat, a temple platform that was believed to be the gateway to the heavens.
The level of detail in these similarities is remarkable, given that ziggurats were built centuries before Moses’ time and in a region far from where he lived. It is highly unlikely that he was familiar enough with their construction to have accurately described them in such detail. This implies that Genesis 11 describes a real tower from early Mesopotamian history.
The Tower was probably influenced by Mesopotamia’s impressive ziggurats and other monumental structures of the time and most likely inspired the construction of similar structures worldwide in the years following the event...
Ziggurats Around the World
It is a well-known fact that ziggurats and similar pyramid-style structures can be found in ancient civilizations all over the world, from Mesopotamia and Egypt to South America. Remarkably, these impressive structures share strikingly similar designs and construction techniques, despite being built by diverse cultures that were often separated by vast distances and had little or no contact with each other until recent historic times.
While the similarities pose a challenge to evolutionary historians who believe that each culture devised the same style of building independently, they can be easily explained by the Babel account. It is more plausible to believe that the people who participated in the construction of the Tower carried the knowledge and skills required to build such structures as they dispersed worldwide, and that the existence of similar structures in regions where ziggurats were not previously constructed can be explained by a shared inspiration, such as the Tower.
As an aside, it is worth mentioning that archaeologists studying ancient civilizations are often amazed or surprised by the high level of man’s skill in the distant past (see: Evidence for God: The Great Pyramid). According to one evolutionist researcher, “The transition from primitive to advanced society seems to have occurred so rapidly that it defies historical explanation.” However, their surprise is due to their preconceived notions of evolution that predispose them to anticipate evidence of “primitive” humans rather than intelligent beings created in God’s image.
Similar Myths and Legends Around the World
|Similar deities around the world|
Despite being distorted by time and countless retellings, the similarities between these stories not only lend further support to the Babel account but also provide independent corroboration of other historical events described in the Bible that would have been known to all people groups at one time.
It is noteworthy that some of these stories were in circulation before the Bible was written and can even be found in cultures that had no prior exposure to Christianity or the Bible. Regardless, the differences between these stories are substantial enough to show that they were not simply copied from the biblical text or other historical sources.
Language Complexity & Diversity
The incredible complexity and diversity of over 7,000 human languages, which appear to have arisen relatively quickly in human history, are another testament to the Babel account and the creation timeline. The intricate grammar, morphology, phonetics, and syntax in ancient texts, such as Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs, indicate that human language emerged fully formed and complex. This is reinforced by linguistic observations, including:
- Languages have a relatively short lifespan and can disappear or transform beyond recognition within just a few generations.
- Many of the world’s languages can be traced back to a relatively small number of ancestral languages, suggesting rapid language diversification. This is further supported by DNA analysis, which shows patterns of genetic diversity consistent with rapid language diversification.
- Linguistic reconstructions indicate that many of the world’s language families may have diverged from a common ancestor within the past 10,000 years.
- The earliest known written records of human language date back only 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. (Unsurprisingly, these records were found in the same region where the Babel account takes place.)
 Instead, they are perfectly consistent with the biblical account of God confounding people’s languages at Babel around 4,200 years ago, leading to the creation of many distinct languages with shared roots and structures, all stemming from a complex language that already existed.
The fact that no other species has demonstrated the ability to use language in the same way as humans is further evidence that language is a unique, God-given trait.
Extra-Biblical Sources for the Tower
The Babel account is also independently corroborated by multiple sources outside of the Bible. These sources include legends, historical accounts, and archaeological evidence.
Several legends from different parts of the world share similarities with the Babel account. For example, the Mikir tribe from Northeast India has a legend which states:
“Higher and higher rose the building, till at last the gods and demons feared lest these giants should become the masters of heaven, as they already were of earth. So they confounded their speech, and scattered them to the four corners of the world. Hence arose all the various tongues of mankind.”
Similarly, the Gaikho tribe from Southeast Asia recounts:
“In the days of Pan-dan-man, the people determined to build a pagoda [tall tower] that should reach up to heaven...When the pagoda was half way up to heaven, God came down and confounded the language of the people, so that they could not understand each other. Then the people scattered...”
(For more intriguing stories, check out Tongue-Twisting Tales.)
Even secular historians from ancient times confirm the historical occurrence of the events in the Babel account, albeit with slight variations due to differences in interpretation, language, and cultural context. Abydenus, who quoted Berossus, a Babylonian priest from the 3rd century B.C., related:
“The first inhabitants of the earth, glorying in their own strength and size, and despising the gods, undertook to raise a tower whose top should reach the sky in the place where Babylon [Babel] now stands; but when it approached the heavens, the winds assisted the gods, and overthrew the work of the contrivers...and the gods introduced a diversity of tongues among men, who till that time had all spoken the same language...”
Likewise, Polyhistor recorded the account of Eupolemus, a Jewish historian from the 2nd century B.C.:
“Eupolemus in his book Concerning the Jews of Assyria says that the city Babylon was first founded by those who escaped from the Deluge [Flood]; and that they were giants, and built the tower renowned in history. But when this had been overthrown by the act of God, the giants were dispersed over the whole earth...”
Although some may argue that certain aspects of the Babel account were included in the accounts of historians because it was a well-known story in the region, the discovery of two primary sources, ancient clay tablets containing Mesopotamian versions of the event, has put a damper on such claims.
The first tablet, now in the British Museum and highly fragmentary, tells of the destruction of a building in Babel by a god who “confused or mixed” the speech of the builders, causing them to scatter. Interestingly, this Hebrew word, bālal, is also used in Genesis 11:7, 9.
|The first tablet: an Assyrian clay tablet discovered in Nineveh. © Trustees of the British Museum, London.|
The second tablet, in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, contains an intact account of the incident and helps to locate where it might have occurred. It states:
“In those days...the compass of heaven and earth the people entrusted could address [the god] Enlil, verily, in but a single tongue. In those days...the lord of Eridu estrange the tongues in their mouths as many as were put there. The tongues of men which were one.”
The reference to Eridu, an ancient city situated in southern Mesopotamia, is particularly significant. Not only was Eridu also known as Babel, and the world’s first city, but archaeological evidence suggests that a tower or ziggurat was under construction in Eridu during that period but never completed. Moreover, a migration that began from this region, known as the Uruk Expansion, is consistent with the biblical account of the scattering of people after the confusion of tongues. See more: What is the Evidence for the Tower of Babel?
|Remains of the ziggurat (center) at the Eridu temple complex|
It should be noted, however, that the exact location of the Tower has yet to be confirmed, and there are other archaeological sites in Mesopotamia with equally compelling evidence, such as an unexcavated mound near Turkey in Upper Mesopotamia. See: An Upper Mesopotamian location for Babel
The evidence overwhelmingly supports the historical accuracy of the Babel account, with the supernatural nature of the account further proving the existence of God. If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior today. He offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:16). Learn more: Salvation
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