The Tower Of Babel (3/3)
The Tower of Babel: Outside The Bible
In addition, there is a specific time duration in which this tower must have been built. Archaeological evidence proves that such a ziggurat must have been built no later than 2,400 BC:
‘We see then that the archaeological facts coalesce around the dates 3500 to 3000 B.C. The building of a city not just a settlement, the use of baked brick, the use of bitumen for mortar and the fact that a ziggurat is being built all dovetail in date. This remarkable agreement makes it highly probable that the earliest date to which we can ascribe the tower of Babel as described in Gen 11:1-9 is c. 3500 to 3000 B.C.
But, what is the latest date to which we can ascribe its building? There is a text saying that Sharkalisharri restored the temple-tower at Babylon c. 2250 B.C., and another text indicates that Sargon I destroyed Babylon c. 2350 B.C. 
This suggests that there was a city established at Babylon efore 2350 B.C.; so, allowing a modest 50 years of city history, we can set 2400 B.C. as the terminus ante quem for the first ziggurat built in Babylon. 
We can thus date the building of the tower of Babel sometime between 3500 and 2400 BC.
 CAH3 1:1:219; Evelyn Klengel-Brandt, “Babylon,” OEANE 1:254.
 Ziggurats began as elevated temples and did not become “true ziggurats” until c. 2100 B.c., after which they continued to be built or at least rebuilt until the fall of Babylon in the sixth century B.C.’
Paul H Seely, ‘The Date Of The Tower Of Babel And Some Theological Implications’, page 19, originally published in Westminster Theological Journal 63 (2001) 15-38
This detail provides evidence that the Biblical record of the tower of Babel must itself be very old. Many modern scholars (especially secular academics), wish to argue that the Pentateuch was written at a very late date, supposedly during the Babylonian captivity (6th century BC), though incorporating some earlier material from no earlier than the 10th century BC.
It must be asked how even a 10th century writer living in Israel could possibly have such a precise knowledge of these specific details of religious buildings constructed over 1,400 years before he lived, during a kingdom long since ended, in a geographical area he had never visited.
Aside from the specific details of the tower itself, there is evidence for the key historical events described in Genesis 11, specifically:
* A time when the people had a common language and culture (Genesis 11:1)
* A new era of urbanisation subsequent to the flood (Genesis 11:3-4)
* The confusion of language (Genesis 11:5-7)
In agreement with the Biblical record, the Sumerian King List (copies of which date from at least 2170 BC), records that a new dynastic era commenced after the flood:
‘After the flood had swept over, and the kingship had descended from heaven, the kingship was in Kiš.
In Kiš, Gišur became king; he ruled for 1,200 years.’
The city of Kish was the first of the Sumerian Early Dynastic I era. This era is known as the ‘Golden Age’, and dates from 2,900-2,700 BC. It was the construction of monumental buildings which had previously not been made (such as the ziggurat), and large scale urbanization in the form of new city states:
‘The bloom and further development of the city states is called the Early Dynastic period (2900-2400 BCE) or Old Sumerian period. It is divided into three periods in which different cities dominate. The Old Sumerian period is characterized by strong rivalry between city states and an increasing division between state and religion. Monumental buildings that should be called palaces as opposed to temples are attested for the first time.’
John Heise, ‘Akkadian Language’, chapter 3, 1996
The fact that Early Dynastic I commences shortly after 2,900 BC, proves that both the Sumerian King List and the Genesis 11 record are correct to describe a new era of urbanization and monumental architecture subsequent to the Mesopotamian flood of 2,900 BC.
Significant for the Biblical narrative of the tower of Babel, this was an era during which the region shared a common culture, religion, and language:
‘Despite the rivalry there are strong similarities in architecture, building materials, motives of ornaments etc., The people shared a common religion and spoke the same language. So in general one could speak of a Sumerian art and culture.’
John Heise, ‘Akkadian Language’, chapter 3, 1996
The Sumerian King List informs us that Enmekar ruled subsequent to the kingship of Kis, meaning some time after 2,900 BC:
‘Then Kiš was defeated and the kingship was taken to Eanna.
In Eanna, Meš-ki’ag-gašer, son of Utu, became lord and king; he ruled for 324 years. Meš-ki’ag-gašer entered the sea and disappeared.
Enmekar, son of Meš-ki’ag-gašer, the king of Uruk, who built Uruk, became king; he ruled for 420 years.’
The list of kings of the Early Dynastic I era continues to the first dynasty of Ur, which took place some time after the reign of Enmekar. The sequence given in the Sumerian King List is clearly inaccurate, since archaeological evidence demonstrates that the kings during this time actually reigned between 2,900 and 2,600 BC, many of them being contemporary with each other. The reign of Enmekar therefore took place between 2,900 and 2,700 BC.
A legendary account of the reign of Enmekar, written some time after, includes a significant reference to the division of men’s languages by one of the gods. The exact details of the translation are uncertain, but it is undisputed that the text refers specifically to the languages of men having been divided by the god Enlil, some time prior to the reign of Enmekar.
Here are two translations of the text:
‘Once upon a time there was no snake, there was no scorpion,
There was no hyena, there was no lion,
There was no wild dog, no wolf,
There was no fear, no terror,
Man had no rival.
In those days, the lands of Subur (and) Hamazi,
Harmony-tongued (?) Sumer, the great land of the decrees of princeship,
Un, the land having all that is appropriate (?), The land Martu, resting in security, The whole
universe, the people in unison (?)
To Enlil in one tongue [spoke].
(Then) Enki, the lord of abundance (whose) commands are trustworthy,
The lord of wisdom, who understands the land,
The leader of the gods,
Endowed with wisdom, the lord of Eridu
Changed the speech in their mouths, [brought (?)] contention into it,
Into the speech of man that (until then) had been one.’
‘Chant to him the holy song, the incantation sung in its chambers — the incantation of Nudimmud: “On that day when there is no snake, when there is no scorpion, when there is no hyena, when there is no lion, when there is neither dog nor wolf, when there is thus neither fear nor trembling, man has no rival!
At such a time, may the lands of Cubur and Hamazi, the many-tongued, and Sumer, the great mountain of the me of magnificence, and Akkad, the land possessing all that is befitting, and the Martu land, resting in security — the whole universe, the well-guarded people — may they all address Enlil together in a single language! For at that time, for the ambitious lords, for the ambitious princes, for the ambitious kings, Enki, for the ambitious lords, for the ambitious princes, for the ambitious kings, for the ambitious lords, for the ambitious princes, for the ambitious kings
— Enki, the lord of abundance and of steadfast decisions, the wise and knowing lord of the Land, the expert of the gods, chosen for wisdom, the lord of Eridug, shall change the speech in their mouths, as many as he had placed there, and so the speech of mankind is truly one.’
Regardless of which translation is preferred, in both it is clear that this passage contains a reference to an earlier time, before the reign of Enmekar, when unity of language was ended by a Divine act resulting in a diversity of languages. The second translation sees this invocation as an appeal to the gods to reverse this process.
The Modern Babel
The modern manifestation of Babel was foretold in Scripture, just as the ancient Babel is recorded there. The spirit which drives men to form vast organisations aimed at uniting nations in political empires is as alive and well today as it was thousands is years ago on the plain on Shinar. Neither the attitudes, nor the aims have changes, and even the catchcry is the same:
‘For the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire we have the opportunity to unite Europe, not by force of arms, but on the basis of shared ideals and agreed common rules.’
Romano Prodi, EU Commission President, EU Parliament, 13 October 1999
‘The last step will then be the completion of integration in a European Federation, such a group of States could conclude a new European framework treaty, the nucleus of a constitution of the Federation.
On the basis of this treaty, the Federation would develop its own institutions, establish a government which, within the EU, should speak with one voice… a strong parliament and a directly elected president.’
Joschka Fischer, Geman Foreign Minister, Berlin, 12 May, 2000
As if this were not enough, these modern builders of Babel explicitly identify themselves with the ancient tower and its architects, even to the point of building their own tower. Many of us would be familiar with the poster printed by the European Council depicting the tower of Babel depicted in Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting of 1563, and the words ‘Europe: Many Tongues, One Voice’, an explicit challenge to the Divine judgment on the men of Shinar. We may also be familiar with the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, also designed deliberately to look like the same depiction of the tower of Babel.
These modern expressions of the spirit of Shinar show that the lesson is well understood and is being consciously rejected. But such schemes, though oft repeated over the centuries, are doomed to failure:
42 In that the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, the latter stages of this kingdom will be partly strong and partly fragile.
43 And in that you saw iron mixed with wet clay, so people will be mixed with one another without adhering to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.
‘Time and again men have dreamed of rearing on these dominions one mighty kingdom. Charlemagne tried it. Charles V tried it. Louis XIV tried it. Napoleon tried it. But neither succeeded.
A single verse of prophecy was stronger than all their host.
…’Partly strong, and partly broken,’ was the prophetic description. And such, too, has been the historic fact concerning them.
…It is ‘partly strong’–i.e., it retains, even in its broken state, enough of its iron strength to resist all attempts to mold its part together.
‘This shall not be,’ says the word of God.
‘This has not been,’ replies the book of history.’
William Newton, ‘Lectures on the First Two Visions of the Book of Daniel’, pages 34-35, 1859
44 In the days of those kings the God of heaven will raise up an everlasting kingdom that will not be destroyed and a kingdom that will not be left to another people. It will break in pieces and bring about the demise of all these kingdoms. But it will stand forever.
45 You saw that a stone was cut from a mountain, but not by human hands; it smashed the iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold into pieces. The great God has made known to the king what will occur in the future. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is reliable.”