Interestingly enough, it seems that Native American mythology like that of the Iroquois comes closer to reality by suggesting that groups of people were first spread out and isolated from one another by the creator deity, the Holder of the Heavens, and then because of that cultural and geographic isolation their languages changed to be different from one another. This etiological myth for the origin of the differentiation of language has the added bonus of including some things we can actually observe when we look at how and why languages evolve over the centuries, unlike the Babel myth which relies solely on divine intervention.
We're told here the people used brick instead of stone and tar instead of mortar. Why does our presumed author Moses feel the need to insert this clarifying remark about building materials for his audience? Wouldn’t the children of brick mason slaves have been relatively familiar with baking bricks and using tar in the Nile Delta, a region that had lots of clay due to the regular deposition of sediment from the flooding of a major river system? Why does the author seem to think his audience would’ve been more familiar with techniques involving stone and mortar? Maybe it’s because stone and mortar would have been much more familiar to someone already living in the Syro-Palestinian region where good building stone is abundant, which would suggest our author is not Moses and his audience was native to Palestine and not wandering in the wilderness. Maybe this parenthetical remark was just added by a later editor other than Moses? Yeah, that's it.
Ever. In the entire Bible.
The stated reason for building the tower is to make a name for themselves and to avoid being scattered across the face of the earth. It's not clear exactly how building a city with a tower reaching into heaven would keep them from being scattered. Once the city and tower were finished [the available materials and techniques of the day placed obvious physical limitations on achievable height] one assumes the population would continue to grow, constraints would be placed on resources, people would have other differences despite the common language and the natural forces that lead to migration would eventually present themselves.
In short, the plan wasn't going to work and therefore no divine intervention was really necessary. Completion or collapse of the tower followed by expansion and migration of the people was imminent. All Yahweh needed to do was sit back and wait. If he wanted to accelerate the process he could just send a wind or an earthquake or something. Of course, then our story-teller wouldn't be able to give us an etiology for why people speak different languages. Additionally, he appears to be stuck with the notion that all language must have divine origin and can't merely develop and change over time in the way we observe it happening today.
|"That's one small step for man, one giant middle finger to insecure tribal Bronze Age deities."|
Note that punishing their pride or forcing them to fulfill the creation mandate is nowhere stated as the reason for his intervention either. Yahweh is clearly worried that if he doesn't do something "nothing they plan to do will be beyond them." As with the garden, Yahweh (along with the other gods) is again concerned about rivals. But that explanation has to be ignored by commentators, of course, and instead everything from hubris to a desire to communicate with the spirit world has to be suggested instead. Again the text itself becomes the biggest impediment to making sense of things.
Watch as our Creation Museum representative below ignores what it says right in the text of Genesis 11:6 and instead appeals to a strained reading of Genesis 9:1 when he tries to explain why God confused the languages at Babel. Note that there are supposedly enough people to build a city and a tower and then be split apart into at least 78 different nations a mere 106 years after only 3 couples are left to populate the earth. I'd say they've got the multiplying part of that command down just fine.
God appears to be authoring confusion in this instance and yet one gets the impression from another passage about people speaking strange languages that this would be quite inconsistent with his character. That's odd.
|"What the heck are you people saying?"|