Babel is famous for God’s judgment on the city and tower, but was it really a judgment? It was like a slap on the hand compared to the Flood. No one was killed. No property was damaged. People just had a harder time putting together a one-world dictatorship because they suddenly became divided by languages. It would take over four thousand years for Babel to be transformed into the still future Babylon the Great of Revelation 17 and 18. God did not judge Babel for what they did as much as for what they “imagined to do”. This Hebrew word yozmu in Genesis 11:6 also has the meaning of an evil plan. We can understand this evil plan from the Book of the Revelation, but also from examining the early changes that took place in Ubaid society.
Much can happen in a hundred years, which was the time between the Flood and Babel. Here are the high points:
- The world population grew to as much as half a million. (see graph above)
- The Near East was filled with small towns all the way from today’s Israel and Turkey to Iran and Armenia, while the rest of the world remained empty.
- Hunters, farmers, and shepherds intermingled and overlapped.
- In the northern Levant, Natufian hunters had settled down in towns such as Ain Ghazal, while by this time the Ghassulian culture developed in the southern Levant.
- In the Middle Euphrates, large megalithic buildings were constructed with stones weighing many tons.
- Cooperation aided the development of trade routes from the oceans to the mountains for raw materials and finished products.
- The Halaf pottery culture spread throughout the Fertile Crescent, but by this generation was being replaced by the Ubaid culture from Eridu.
- Eridu distinguished itself as the first city because of its size. It was located on the plain of Sumer/Shinar in southern Mesopotamia. This was Babel of the Bible.
- Eber was 34 years old at the time of Babel when his son Peleg was born. He is believed to be the founder of the tribe called Hebrews to which Abraham belonged.
Genesis 11:5-9 describes an historical miracle in which God confounded language and people “left off to build the city”. This happened around 2247 BC, when there was a transition from everyone working together with one language to many language groups competing with one another. Archeology provides abundant evidence of these three periods:
- Unity before the fall of Babel/Eridu, known as the Ubaid Period
- An abrupt transition at the fall of Babel/Eridu, which was the transition for the Ubaid to the Uruk Period.
- Disunity after the fall of Babel/Eridu, known as the Uruk Period
We can conclude that academic history agrees with the Bible, as long as we do not ascribe to extravagant dating practices and the anthropology of human evolution. The raw facts align very well with the Bible story. In fact, the fall of Babel is one of the most visible events of ancient history. I could go on and on about Babel, but I will just give some secular quotes that describe this phenomenon.
Stein and Özbal describe the Near East oecumene that resulted from Ubaid expansion, contrasting it to the colonial expansionism of the later Uruk period. “A contextual analysis comparing different regions shows that the Ubaid expansion took place largely through the peaceful spread of an ideology… (1)
The Ubaid expansion is always described as an “oecumene”, which implies one world unity, because it spread through peaceful means. The ideas they spread were not good, but people accepted them willingly. After the creation of diverse languages, during the following Uruk period, culture spread through more militarized colonialization. This is further proven because Ubaid settlements did not have walls but Uruk cities had walls for protection.
The Ubaid period as a whole, based upon the analysis of grave goods, was one of increasingly polarised social stratification and decreasing egalitarianism. Bogucki describes this as a phase of “Trans-egalitarian” competitive households, in which some fall behind as a result of downward social mobility. Morton Fried and Elman Service have hypothesised that Ubaid culture saw the rise of an elite class of hereditary chieftains, perhaps heads of kin groups linked in some way to the administration of the temple shrines and their granaries, responsible for mediating intra-group conflict and maintaining social order. (1)
During the earlier Halaf Period, decisions were made family heads or groups of peers. The Ubaid Period introduced rich and powerful rulers who provided safety and security to the masses in exchange for their loyalty and a loss of freedom. Prosperity was linked to ziggurats, new gods, loose morality, and a new humanistic religion.
Eridu, which was Babel, had 18 building levels, beginning with a campsite, followed by a small 9′ by 9′ mud brick building. The sixth level from the top had a huge and sophisticated 30′ by 72′ temple on a raised platform. The top five levels have been demolished and only traces remain. Many Christians expect to find a tall, nearly completed tower as evidence of Babel, but what we find at Eridu is just as good, for two reasons:
- The city was never completed and abandoned, according to Genesis 11:8, which means that the previous temple was torn down and spaces filled in to create a new platform. New construction was interrupted by communication problems. Perhaps several attempts were made to work together before quitting, which would account for the top five strata. This is what an uncompleted project would resemble.
- People built a city and a tower (migdol, in Hebrew) at Babel. The word migdol does not mean a cylindrical shape, like a castle tower, but rather a raised surface. In Nehemiah 8:4, Ezra stood upon a “migdol” of wood to speak to the people, which was merely an elevated platform. Moreover, the phrase “whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4), in the KJV, has the words “may reach” in italics because they are not found in Hebrew. Henry Morris understood it to mean that its top was dedicated to heaven. In other words, it was an elevated place in the city for worship. We also see this in Eridu.
The evil plan that we see in both the Bible and archeology is world domination by an elite class of people by means of religious perversions. God slowed it down by creating languages and rivalries. All our articles up to this point have described history before the fall of Babel. Next, we turn our attention to history after Babel. The evil plan did not stop when Eridu was abandoned. It was transferred to Uruk and other walled cities which had ziggurats, kings, gods, priests, and servitude. Mesopotamian royal dynasties will also be responsible for the rise of Egyptian dynasties. Out of this widespread rebellion, God will call a man to be different, separated, and holy. One man to stand against the mightiest kingdoms of the world. The world remembers him today as the father of nations, greatly blessed by divine promises,… the Hebrew, the Amorite,… Abraham.