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).