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Babel

Source:
A Dictionary of the Bible What is This? Contains accessibly written entries for topics covering the religious, historical, and social aspects of the Bible.

    Babel

    Hebrew for Babylon. According to local tradition the city was founded by the god Marduk; in the OT it is the archetypal place of confused languages (Gen. 11: 1 ff.). Linguistic diversity was imposed by God, according to the aetiological myth, as a punishment for human arrogance in building a lofty tower—possibly a ziggurat, as developed by the Babylonians and the Assyrians. Such a building had several platforms at various heights and the whole was crowned by a temple as much as 70 feet (approx. 20 m.) above ground level.

    When a multinational crowd on the day of Pentecost understood the apostles because they suddenly began to use a variety of foreign languages (Acts 2: 5–13), the story is probably intended by the author to be the reversal of the chaos at Babel: diversity and confusion are replaced through the Spirit by unity and understanding in a common humanity. ‘In our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power’ (Acts 2: 11).

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