The Books of Moses

Fact or Fiction?

 

 

Session 7

 

 

The Plain of Shinar,

Nimrod and

the Tower of Babel

 

 

Bruce Armstrong

 

 

The Plain of Shinar, Nimrod and the Tower of Babel

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Land of Shinar

The Rise of Nimrod

Babel

But Where Was Babel and its Famed Tower?

Nimrod’s Kingdom

The Tower of Babel

Local Claim to Nimrod’s Tower

Archeological Evidence for the Tower

The Neolithic Lookouts/Temples

The Tower Builders

Why Would God Want to Stop Them

What was Nimrod’s New Religion?

The Confusion of the Languages

Nimrod Banished

Backfilling the ‘Temples’

Conclusion

 

 

But Jehovah came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men were building.  And Jehovah said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.  Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

 

So Jehovah scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.

Therefore its name is called Babel.    Genesis 11:5-9

 

 

Introduction

Over the last two sessions we looked at the Biblical Account of the Great Flood, examining various aspects of the Flood, its consequences and possible problems with the Biblical Great Flood.

 

Today, we will look at some of the most important events as Noah’s family began to multiply on the new earth after the Great Flood.

 

The Land of Shinar

As discussed last session, the most likely place that the Ark settled on was Mount Judi, which would place Noah and his family at the north-east corner of what is today called Mesopotamia, a Greek term meaning “between the rivers”.  The rivers are the Tigris and the Euphrates.  The Tigris river was only about fifteen kilometers west from where I suggested that Noah may have made his initial settlement and farm.  The Euphrates, where the Khabour River joins it, is 290 kilometers to the south-west.

 

The Bible gives this account:

 

Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.  And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.    Genesis 11:1 & 2

 

So, where is this land of Shinar?

 

Shinar means the “land of two rivers” in Hebrew (derived from shene nahar), similar to Mesopotamia in Greek.  It is also significant that the Euphrates is named after one of the most famous rivers in the Pre-Flood world.  This is a common thing among settlers moving into a new land, and suggests that when they encountered the new river, they named it after the Euphrates they knew from the pre-Flood world, as it was not long after they left the Ark and began exploring.

 

The land of Shinar includes Cizrie, and extends across to the Euphrates catchment and up into the Harran plain and perhaps south as far as the Sinjar mountains.  Many researchers believe Sinjar is a version of Shinar, and the Sinjar and Abd Al’Aziz mountains mark the southern edge of Shinar.  To the north, the land of Shinar extends up into the mountains that form the headwaters of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers (Figure 1).1  Mesopotamia today includes this area plus the entire plain to the south, all the way to the Persian Gulf.  We will discuss the plain in this land of Shinar shortly.

 

 
 

Figure 1: The Probable Extent of the Land of Shinar.

The Rise of Nimrod

The Bible also talks about Nimrod, and the kingdoms he began building:

 

  The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.  The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabtechah; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan.  Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth.

He was a mighty hunter before Jehovah’s face; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod, the mighty hunter before Jehovah’s face.”2  And his first kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh: a city of broad streets, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).    Genesis 10:6 to 12

 

Babel

Then we are given more information about what happened in Nimrod’s city of Babel:

 

These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the Great Flood.  Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.

And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar,3 and they dwelt there.  Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.”  They had brick for stone, and they had bitumen for mortar.

And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

But Jehovah came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men were building.  And Jehovah said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.  Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

So Jehovah scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.

Therefore its name is called Babel, because there Jehovah confused the language of all the earth; and from there Jehovah scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.    Genesis 10:32 to 11:9

 

We need some background to understand these verses.

 

The first thing to understand is that Nimrod was not a favoured son of God’s.

 

Flavius Josephus, about 90 CE, wrote this in his Antiquities of the Jews:

 

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power...

 

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.

 

When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly, since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners [in the Flood]; but he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them diverse languages, and causing that, through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the tower is now called Babylon, because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before; for the Hebrews mean by the word Babel, confusion. The Sibyl also makes mention of this tower, and of the confusion of the language, when she says thus:-- “When all men were of one language, some of them built a high tower, as if they would thereby ascend up to heaven; but the gods sent storms of wind and overthrew the tower, and gave everyone a peculiar language; and for this reason it was that the city was called Babylon.”

 

But Where Was Babel and its Famed Tower?

Several locations for Nimrod’s first kingdom have been proposed.  The most widely accepted one is the least plausible.  Josephus says that Babel is actually Babylon, due to the similarity in names and the fact that there are the ruins of an ancient ziggurat there (called Etemenanki (meaning ‘temple connecting heaven and earth’, located at 32.53639°N 44.42083°E and indicated in Figure 2).  There are serious problems with this suggestion: First, Babylon is too far from where the Ark landed, and in the wrong direction.  Babylon is 560 km to the south-south-east of Noah’s village.  But Noah’s descendants travelled west, not south.  And why would they travel so far south, and most of it over good agricultural land, before they settled down?  And why would they pick this spot, which has no mountains to hunt in and to protect the cities and is essentially the same as the rest of the plain?

 

Secondly, Babel is Hebrew, derived from their verb balal which means Confusion, due to the confusion caused when God changed their languages.  Babylon is derived from the Akkadian name of the city of Bab-ilim, meaning the “Gate of God”.  So these are actually two different cities with different names that mean very different things.