5 occurrences in 5 dictionaries

Reference: Babel


Confusion, the name of a lofty tower, begun to be built by the descendants of Noah among who Nimrod was a leader, about one hundred and twenty years after the flood; so called because God there confounded the language of those who were employed in the undertaking, Ge 10:10; 11:9. Their object in building the city and tower, was to concentrate the population and the dominion at that spot; and as this was contrary to the divine purpose of replenishing the earth with inhabitants, and betrayed an ungodly and perhaps idolatrous disposition, God frustrated their designs by miraculously giving to different portions of the people different languages, or different modes of pronunciation and divergent dialects of the original language of man, thus causing them to disperse over the globe. Compare Ac 2:1-11. The tower was apparently left incomplete, but the foundation of the city was probably laid, and a portion no doubt of the builders continued to dwell there. The place became afterwards the celebrated city of Babylon. It has been supposed that the tower of Babel was afterwards finished, and called the tower of Belus, within the city of Babylon. Herodotus visited this tower, and describes it as a square pyramid, measuring half a mile in circumference at the base; from this rose eight towers one above another gradually decreasing in the summit, which was reached by a broad road winding up around the outside. This tower was used for astronomical purposes, but was chiefly devoted to the worship of Bel, whose temple contained immense treasures, including several statues of massive gold, one of which was forty feet in height. Here were deposited the sacred golden vessels brought from Jerusalem. 2Ch 36:7; Jer 51:44. Its ruins are supposed to be the present Birs Nimroud, six miles south-west of Hilleh, the modern Babylon: an immense mound of coarse sun-dried bricks, laid with bitumen. It is a ruinous heap, shattered by violence, furrowed by storms, and strewn with fragments of brick, pottery, etc., fused and vitrified by some intense heat. It is 190 feet high, and on the top rises an irregular tower 90 feet in circumference and 35 feet high, built of the fine brick - with which the whole mound appears to have been faced. The tower is rent asunder and mutilated at the top, and scathed as if by lightning - a monument, some have thought, of the just wrath of God. See NEBUCHADNEZZAR.


1. A celebrated city situated on the Euphrates, the original foundation of which is described under the word Babel. Wit this coincide many ancient traditions, while some speak of Semiramis as the founder, and others of Nebuchadnezzar. These accounts may all be reconciled, by supposing that Semiramis rebuilt the ancient city, and the Nebuchadnezzar. These accounts may all be reconciled, by supposing that Semiramis rebuilt the ancient city, and that Nebuchadnezzar afterwards greatly enlarged and adorned it.

Babylon lay in a vast and fertile plain watered by the Euphrates, with flowed through the city. Its walls are described as 60 miles in circumference, 300 feet high, and 75 feet wide, Jer 51:44-58. A deep trench ran parallel with the walls. In each of the four sides were 25 brazen gates, from which roads crossed to the opposite gates. On the squares thus formed countless houses and gardens were made. Nebuchadnezzar's palace was in an inclosure six miles in circumference. Within this were also "the hanging gardens," an immense artificial mound 400 feet high, sustained by archers upon arches, terraced off for trees and flowers, the water for which was drawn from the river by machinery concealed in the mound, Da 4:29-30.

Under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon reached the summit of her greatness and splendor. She was renowned for learning especially in astronomy, and for skill in various arts, as the making of carpets and cloths, of perfumes, jewelry, etc. Her location gave her to a great extent the control of the traffic, by the Euphrates and by caravans, between Central Asia and Arabia and Egypt. She was "a city of merchants," Isa 43:14; Eze 17:4; and into her lap flowed, either through conquest or commerce, the wealth of almost all known lands. Justly therefore might the prophets call her "the great," Da 4:20; "the praise of the whole earth," Jer 51:41; "the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency," Isa 13:19; "the lady of kingdoms," Isa 47:5; but also "the tender and delicate," and "given to pleasures," Isa 47:1,8. In consequence of the opulence and luxury of the inhabitants, corruptness and licentiousness of manners and morals were carried to a frightful extreme. Bel, Nebo, Nergal, Merodach, Succoth-benoth, and other idols, were there worshipped with rites in which impurity was made a matter of religion. Well might we expect Jehovah to bring down vengeance on her crimes. Indeed, the woes denounced against Babylon by the prophets constitute some of the most awfully splendid and sublime portions of the whole Bible, Isa 13; 14:22; 21:9; 47; Jer 25; 50; 51, etc.

The city did not long remain the capital of the world. Under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar's grandson. Nabonnidus, the Belshazzar of the Scriptures, it was besieged and taken by Cyrus. The accounts of Greek historians harmonize here with that of the Bible: that Cyrus made his successful assault on a night when the whole city, relying on the strength of the walls, had given themselves up to the riot and debauchery of a grand public festival, and the king and his nobles were reveling at a splendid entertainment. Cyrus had previously caused a canal, which ran west of the city, and carried off the superfluous water of the Euphrates into the lake of Nitocris, to be cleared out, in order to turn the river into it; which, by this means, was rendered so shallow, that his soldiers were able to penetrate along its bed into the city, Da 5. 538 B.C. From this time its importance declined, for Cyrus made Susa the capital of his kingdom. It revolted against Darius Hystapis, who again subdued it, broke down all its gates, and reduced its walls to the height of fifty cubits. According to Strabo, Xerxes destroyed the tower of Belus. Under the Persians, and under Alexander's successors, Babylon continued to decline, especially after Seleucus Nicator had founded Selencia, and made it his residence. A great portion of the inhabitants of Babylon removed thither; and in Strabo's time, that is, under Augustus Babylon had become so desolate, that it might be called a vast desert. There was a town on its site until the fourth century, and many Jews dwelt there,

1Pe 5:13. But from this time onward, Babylon ceases almost to be mentioned; even its ruins have not been discovered until within the last two centuries; and it is only within the present century that these ruins have been traced and described. These consist of numerous mounds, usually of brick, deeply furrowed and decayed by time, strewn with fragments of brick, bitumen, pottery, etc. One of these is described above. See BABEL. Another, four miles northwest of Hilleh, and called by the natives Kasr, is thought to mark the site of the hanging gardens. These ruins are 2,400 feet long, and 1,800 broad. Another near by, called Mujellibah, is of similar dimensions. From these mounds thousands of bricks have been dug, bearing arrow-headed inscriptions as ancient as the time of Nebuchadnezzar, whose name often occurs. The aspect of the whole region is dreary and forlorn. It is infested by noxious animals, and perhaps in no place under heaven is the contrast between ancient magnificence and present desolation greater than here. The awful prophecy of Isaiah, uttered more than a century before, has been most literally fulfilled, Isa 13:14.

The name of Babylon is used symbolically in Re 14:8; 16; 17; 18, to mark the idolatry, superstition, lewdness luxury, and persecution of the people of God, which characterized heathen Rome and modern Antichrist. Some thus interpret 1Pe 5:13.

2. There was also a Babylon in Egypt, a city not far from Heliopolis. Some suppose this to be the Babylon mentioned 1Pe 5:13; but this is not probable.

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Babel (Hebrew) means Babylon; so that "the tower" should be designated "the tower of Babel." Capital of the country Shinar (Genesis), Chaldea (later Scriptures). The name as given by Nimrod (Ge 10:10), the founder, means (Bab-il), "the gate of the god Il," or simply "of God." Afterward the name was attached to it in another sense (Providence having ordered it so that a name should be given originally, susceptible of another sense, signifying the subsequent divine judgment), Ge 11:9; Babel from baalal, "to confound; .... because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth," in order to counteract their attempt by a central city and tower to defeat God's purpose of the several tribes of mankind being "scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth," and to constrain them, as no longer "understand one another's speech," to dispel The Talmud says, the site of tower of Babel is Borsippa, the Bits Nimrud, 7 1/2 miles from Hillah, and 11 from the northern ruins of Babylon.

The French expedition found at Borsippa a clay cake, dated the 30th day of the 6th month of the 16th year of Nabonid. Borsippa (the Tongue Tower) was a suburb of Babylon, when the old Babel was restricted to the northern ruins. Nebuchadnezzar included it in the great circumvallation of 480 stadia. When the outer wall was destroyed by Darius Borsippa became independent of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar's temple or tower of Nebo stood on the basement of the old tower of Babel. He says in the inscription, "the house of the earth's base (the basement substructure), the most ancient monument of Babylon I built and finished; I exalted its head with bricks covered with copper ... the house of the seven lights (the seven planets); a former king 42 ages ago built, but did not complete its head. Since a remote time people had abandoned it, without order expressing their words; the earthquake and thunder had split and dispersed its sun-dried clay."

The substructure had a temple sacred to Sin, god of the mouth (Oppert). The substructure is 600 Babylonian ft. broad, 75 high; on it Nebuchadnezzar built seven other stages. God had infatuated His will that "the earth should be divided," the several tribes taking different routes, in the days of Peleg ("division"), born 100 years after the flood (Ge 10:25,32; De 32:8). Another object the Babel builders sought was to "make themselves a name"; self-relying pride setting up its own will against the will of God, and dreaming of ability to defeat God's purpose, was their snare. Also their "tower, whose top (pointed toward, or else reached) unto heaven," was designed as a self-deifying, God-defying boast. Compare Isa 14:13; God alone has the right to "make Himself a name" (Isa 63:12,14; Jer 32:20).

They desired to establish a grand central point of unity. They tacitly acknowledge they have lost the inward spiritual bond of unity, love to God uniting them in love to one another. They will make up for it by an outward forced unity; the true unity by loving obedience to God they might have had, though dispersed. Their tower toward heaven may have marked its religious dedication to the heavens (sabeanism, worship of the tsaba, the hosts of heaven), the first era in idolatry; as also the first effort after that universal united empire on earth which is to be realized not by man's ambition, but by the manifestation of Messiah, whose right the kingdom is (Eze 21:27). "The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded," i.e. (in condescension to human language), Jehovah took judicial cognizance of their act: their "go to, let us," etc. (Ge 11:3-4), Jehovah with stern irony meets with His "Go to, let us," etc.

The cause of the division of languages lies in an operation performed upon the human mind, by which the original unity of feeling, thought, and will was broken up. The one primitive language is now lost, dispersed amidst the various tongues which have severally appropriated its fragments, about to rise again with reunited parts in a new and heavenly form when Jehovah will "turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve Him with one consent" (Zep 3:9). "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one" (Zec 14:9). The fact that the Bible names in Genesis 1-10 are Hebrew does not prove it the primitive tongue, for with the change of language the traditional names were adapted to the existing dialect, without any sacrifice of truth.

The earnest of the coming restoration was given in the gift of tongues at Pentecost, when the apostles spoke with other tongues, so that "devout men out of every nation under heaven" heard them speak in their own tongues "the wonderful works of God." The confusion of tongues was not at random, but a systematic distribution of languages for the purpose of a systematic distribution of man in emigration. The dispersion was orderly, the differences of tongue corresponding to the differences of race: as Ge 10:5,20,31, "By these were ... Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families in their nations."

ORIGIN. Genesis (Ge 10:8-10) represents Nimrod as the son of Cush (Ethiopia), and that "the beginning of his kingdom was Babel (Babylon)" Bunsen held that there were no Cushites out of Africa, and that an "Asiatic Cush existed only in the imagination of Biblical interpreters," and was "the child of their despair."

But the earliest Babylonian monuments show that the primitive Babylonians whose structures by Nebuchadnezzar's time were in ruins, had a vocabulary undoubtedly Cushite or Ethiopian, analogous to the Galla tongue in Abyssinia. Sir H. Rawlinson was able to decipher the inscriptions chiefly by the help of the Galla (Abyssinian) and Mahra (S. Arabian) dialects. The system of writing resembled the Egyptian, being pictorial and symbolic, often both using the same symbols. Several words of the Babylonians and their kinsmen the Susianians are identical with ancient Egyptian or Ethiopic roots: thus, hyk or hak, found in the Egyptian name hyksos or shepherd kings, appears in Babylonian and Susianian names as khak. Tirkhak is common to the royal lists of Susiana and Ethiopia, as Nimrod appears in those of both Babylon and Egypt.

As Ra was the Egyptian sun god, so was Ra the Cushite name of the supreme god of the Babylonians. Traces appear in the Babylonian inscriptions of all the four great dialects, Hamitic, Semitic, Aryan, and Turanian, which show that here the original one language existed before the confusion of tongues. The Babylonian and Assyrian traditions point to an early connection between Ethiopia, S. Arabia, and the cities on the lower Euphrates near its mouth. A first Cushite empire (Lenormant quoted by G. Rawlinson) ruled in Babylonia centuries before the earliest Semitic empire arose. Chedorlaomer (or Lagomer, an idol), king of Elam, is represented in Genesis 14 as leader of the other kings including the king of Shinar (Babylonia). Now Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions show that Elam (Elymais or Susiana, between Babylonia and Persia) maintained its independence through the whole Assyrian period, and that at a date earlier than that commonly assigned to Abraham (2286 B.C.) an Elamite king plundered Babylonia.

About this date a Babylonian king is designated in the inscriptions "ravager of Syria." Originally "the gate of the god's" temple, whereat justice used to be ministered, Babel or Babylon was secondary in importance at first to the other cities, Erech, Ur, and Ellasar. The earliest seat of the Chaldaeans' power was close on the Persian gulf; as Berosus, their historian, intimates by attributing their civilization to Oannes the fish god, "who brought it out of the sea." Naturally the rich alluvial soil near the mouth of great rivers would be the first occupied. Thence they went higher up the river, and finally fixed at Babylon, 300 miles above the Persian gulf, and 200 above the junction of the Tigris with the Euphrates.

SIZE AND GENERAL FEATURES. So extensive was it that those in the center knew not when the extremities were captured (Jer 51:31). Herodotus gives

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The word 'Babel' occurs but twice: in Ge 10:10 it is the name of the first place mentioned as the beginning of the kingdom of Nimrod; and in Ge 11:9 the tower and city are called 'Babel,' because there the language of man was confounded so that they did not understand one another. The tower was to be very high 'unto heaven,' not with any thought of reaching heaven, but it declared the lofty imagination of man's heart in the desire to make them a name, and to form a gathering point, which would prevent their being scattered. God would not suffer this, for man no sooner has power than he begins to abuse it. He could not therefore let them as one family exalt their own name, for the Lord's name alone is to be exalted. As the result of God's judgement they were scattered and formed into nations according to their tongues and families.

It may be that the name given to the city by Nimrod was Bab-il, signifying 'gate of God' (and it is said that on the monuments this very name 'The 'gate of God,' as the name of a city has been found); but that Jehovah altered it to Ba-bel, which signifies 'confusion.'

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(confusion), Bab'ylon (Greek form of Babel), is properly the capital city of the country which is called in Genesis Shinar, and in the later books Chaldea, or the land of the Chaldeans. The first rise of the Chaldean power was in the region close upon the Persian Gulf; thence the nation spread northward up the course of the rivers, and the seat of government moved in the same direction, being finally fixed at Babylon, perhaps not earlier than B.C, 1700. I. Topography of Babylon--Ancient description of the city.--All the ancient writers appear to agree in the fact of a district of vast size, more or less inhabited having been enclosed within lofty walls and included under the name of Babylon. With respect to the exact extent of the circuit they differ. The estimate of Herodotus and of Pliny is 480 stades (60 Roman miles, 53 of our miles) of Strabo 385, of Q. Curtius 368, of Clitarchus 365 and of Ctesias 360 stades (40 miles). (George Smith, in his "Assyrian Discoveries," differs entirely from all these estimates, making the circuit of the city but eight miles.) Perhaps Herodotus spoke of the outer wall, which could be traced in his time. Taking the lowest estimate of the extent of the circuit, we shall have for the space within the rampart an area of above 100 square miles--nearly five times the size of London! It is evident that this vast space cannot have been entirely covered with houses. The city was situated on both sides of the river Euphrates, and the two parts were connected together by a stone bridge five stades (above 1000 yards) long and 30 feet broad. At either extremity of the bridge was a royal palace, that in the eastern city being the more magnificent of the two. The two palaces were joined not only by the bridge, but by a tunnel under the river. The houses, which were frequently three or four stories high, were laid out in straight streets crossing each other at right angles. II. Present state of the ruins.--A portion of the ruins is occupied by the modern town of Hillah. About five miles above Hillah, on the opposite or left bank of the Euphrates occurs a series of artificial mounds of enormous size. They consist chiefly of three great masses of building,--the high pile of unbaked brickwork which is known to the Arabs as Babel, 600 feet square and 140 feet high; the building denominated the Kasr or palace, nearly 2000 feet square and 70 feet high, and a lofty mound upon which stands the modern tomb of Amram-ibn-'Alb. Scattered over the country on both sides of the Euphrates are a number of remarkable mounds, usually standing single, which are plainly of the same date with the great mass of ruins upon the river bank. Of these by far the most striking is the vast ruin called the Birs-Nimrud, which many regard as the tower of Babel, situated about six miles to the southwest of Hillah. [BABEL, TOWER OF]

See Tower

III. Identification of sites.--The great mound of Babel is probably the ancient temple of Beaus. The mound of the Kasr marks the site of the great palace of Nebuchadnezzar. The mound of Amram is thought to represent the "hanging gardens" of Nebuchadnezzar; but most probably it represents the ancient palace, coeval with Babylon itself, of which Nebuchadnezzar speaks in his inscriptions as adjoining his own more magnificent residence. IV. History of Babylon.--Scripture represents the "beginning of the kingdom" as belonging to the time of Nimrod.

Ge 10:6-10

The early annals of Babylon are filled by Berosus, the native historian, with three dynasties: one of 49 Chaldean kings, who reigned 458 years; another of 9 Arab kings, who reigned 245 years; and a third of 49 Assyrian monarchs, who held dominion for 526 years. The line of Babylonian kings becomes exactly known to us from B.C. 747. The "Canon of Ptolemy" gives us the succession of Babylonian monarchs from B.C. 747 to B.C. 331, when the last Persian king was dethroned by Alexander. On the fall of Nineveh, B.C. 625, Babylon became not only an independent kingdom, but an empire. The city was taken by surprise B.C. 539, as Jeremiah had prophesied,

Jer 51:31

by Cyrus, under Darius, Dan. 5, as intimated 170 years earlier by Isaiah,

Isa 21:1-9

and, as Jeremiah had also foreshown,

Jer 51:39

during a festival. With the conquest of Cyrus commenced the decay of Babylon, which has since been a quarry from which all the tribes in the vicinity have derived the bricks with which they have built their cities. The "great city" has thus emphatically "become heaps."

Jer 51:37

Ba'bel, Tower of. The "tower of Babel" is only mentioned once in Scripture,

Ge 11:4-5

and then as incomplete. It was built of bricks, and the "slime" used for mortar was probably bitumen. Such authorities as we possess represent the building as destroyed soon after its erection. When the Jews, however, were carried captive into Babylonia, they thought they recognized it in the famous temple of Beaus, the modern Birs Nimrod. But the Birs-Nimrrud though it cannot be the tower of Babel itself; may well be taken to show the probable shape and character of the edifice. This building appears to have been a sort of oblique pyramid built in seven receding stages, each successive one being nearer to the southwestern end which constituted the back of the building. The first, second and third stories were each 26 feet high the remaining four being 15 feet high. On the seventh stage there was probably placed the ark or tabernacle, which seems to have been again 15 feet high, and must have nearly, if not entirely, covered the top of the seventh story The entire original height, allowing three feet for the platform, would thus have been 156 feet, or, without the plat-form, 163 feet.

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BABEL, the tower and city founded by the descendants of Noah in the plain of Shinar. The different tribes descended from Noah were here collected, and from this point were dispersed through the confusion of their language. The time when this tower was built in differently stated in the Hebrew and Samaritan chronologies. The former fixes it in the year 101 after the flood, which Mr. Faber thinks encumbered with innumerable difficulties. This writer then goes on to show, that the chronology of the Samaritan Pentateuch reconciles every date, and surmounts every difficulty. It represents Shem as dying nearly a century and a half before the death of Peleg, instead of more than that number of years afterward, and almost four centuries and a half before the death of Abraham; whom, in accordance with the history, it makes to survive his father Terah precisely a hundred years. It removes the difficulties with which the Hebrew chronology invests the whole history, by giving time, while it allows the dispersion to have taken place in the latter part of Peleg's life, for the thirteen sons of his younger brother Joktan to have become heads of families; for Noah and his sons to have died, as it is proved they must have done, prior to the emigration from Armenia; for Nimrod, instead of being a boy, to have been of an age suitable to his exploits, and to have acquired the sovereign command, not, in the face of all probability, while the four great patriarchs were living, but after their decease; and for the families of mankind to have multiplied sufficiently to undertake the stupendous work of the tower. It explains also the silence respecting Shem in the history of Abraham, by making the former die in Armenia four hundred and forty years before the latter was born, instead of surviving him thirty-five years; and, lastly, it makes sacred history accord with profane; the Babylonic history of Berosus, and the old records consulted by Epiphanius, both placing the death of Noah and his sons before the emigration from Armenia.

The sum of the whole is as follows: All the descendants of Noah remained in Armenia in peaceable subjection to the patriarchal religion and government during the lifetime of the four royal patriarchs, or till about the beginning of the sixth century after the flood; when, gradually falling off from the pure worship of God, and from their allegiance to the respective heads of families, and seduced by the schemes of the ambitious Nimrod, and farther actuated by a restless disposition, or a desire for a more fertile country, they migrated in a body southwards, till they reached the plains of Shinar, probably about sixty years after the death of Shem. Here, under the command of their new leader, and his dominant military and sacerdotal Cuthites, by whom the original scheme of idolatry, the groundwork of which was probably laid in Armenia, was now perfected; and, with the express view to counteract the designs of the Almighty in their dispersion into different countries, they began to build the city and tower, and set up a banner which should serve as a mark of national union, and concentrate them in one unbroken empire; when they were defeated and dispersed by the miraculous confusion of tongues. All this probably occupied the farther space of twenty or twenty-one years; making eighty-one from the death of Shem, and five hundred and eighty-three after the flood. All of which also will come within the life of Peleg, who, according to the Samaritan Pentateuch, died in the year 640. The tower of Belus in Babylon, mentioned by Herodotus, was probably either the original tower of Babel repaired, or it was constructed upon its massive foundations. The remains of this tower are still to be seen, and are thus described by Captain Mignan, in his Travels in Chaldea: