In the book of Genesis chapter 11 the entire human population at the time, Noah’s offspring, started to build a city and a tower in order to consolidate their own situation and also for their name and the increase of their reputation. Building a town and a tower by the entire population of the earth would have represented a way of strengthening human unity, but God apparently didn’t like this kind of human agreement. Unfortunately, this was considered to be a bad idea by God. Humankind was seen as a kind of adversary by God and He would have considered that instilling division amongst the human beings would be a better policy than strengthening their unity.
This is clearly a metaphor with no correspondence in reality, but it is interesting why this legend is found in the book of Genesis, and what is its underlying message? Taken literally this story is absurd for many reasons. God, as we imagine Him like an Almighty Reality would have been aware that confusing languages of humankind wouldn’t have been enough to stop them cooperating to achieve common goals. In the ancient world people organized in strong societies, everywhere on Earth developed civilizations and built huge constructions, and their vestiges can be found all over the world today.
People speaking mainly one language sometimes using workforces from other countries with other languages have built pyramids and other impressive constructions in spite of the languages allegedly being confused by God at the Tower of Babel. Moreover, the model of the tower, pyramids or ziggurats, is the most enduring achievement of many civilizations all over the world. The existence of many languages on Earth wouldn’t have been enough to stop human beings building what they wanted. The confusion of the languages by God wouldn’t have achieved anything when aiming to stop humankind cooperating for different goals but would have generated conflict and finally destructive wars between different nations.
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Many languages and many cultures can be and often were a false motivation for destruction when one civilization or nation considered itself superior to others. Is God responsible for the confusion of languages and consequently for so many conflicts between nations during history? I honestly don’t think so and the story of the Babel Tower is only a myth trying to explain why there are so many languages on Earth. The story of the Tower of Babel goes in the same lines as do all the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis, which in their turn try to explain one thing or another, but by doing that they only generate confusion.
Trying to elucidate why there are so many languages on Earth, the author of the text from the book of Genesis has gone beyond what he or she knew and generated a text which is a legend, hence having no factual support. The text implies that it could have been otherwise and all people could have spoken only one language, but God didn’t want that. Confusing humankind’s languages is a bad moral teaching coming from the book of Genesis which presupposes that God wanted people to misunderstand one another. This is contrary also to the Christian morality which professes unity and understanding, not divisions and conflicts.
How would God have confused the languages? Allegedly all people around Babel were family, Noah’s grandsons. Did God arbitrarily separate some of Noah’s grandsons from other grandsons, giving to each of them a different language? How many languages were imposed on people? Did they speak those languages automatically without learning them? Did they know them without being taught the words and rules? Usually, languages evolve from a more rudimentary way of communication to a more evolved one. Had Noah’s offspring received in the same time the alphabet of those languages in order to enable them to write? Was humankind made to forget the common language used until the confusion moment by erasing it from their minds or were they prevented from using it? The entire story is unrealistic. This is the most incredible manner of explaining the apparition of languages on Earth.
The differences in languages generated differentiations between cultures and finally, those differentiations have contributed decisively to conflicts and wars. Did God intend humankind to confront rather than to have a good understanding? It is what the book of Genesis says but of course cannot be taken literally as a fact. Such divine attitude would contradict the image of a loving God whose aim is to bring humankind to peace and to establish harmony between all human beings. We tend to see all God’s actions depicted by the Bible as part of a broad plan in which the most important feature is to better human nature. God and humankind aren’t seen by Christianity as competitors but the book of Genesis presents this relation as a competition and a struggle for knowledge and creation.
As a matter of fact, God wouldn’t have succeeded in stopping people realizing common goals because in spite of the existence of different languages human beings have reached the sky, launching satellites or going to the moon.
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