God hates cities (and competent people)

I came across agreat article on a blog “Is That In The Bible?” called “The tower of Babel: Did it exist and what does the story mean?” It is a little long and a little dense, but well worth reading if you have the time. To give you a taste of it, though, here is a concise and playful Annotated Tower Of Babel for your enjoyment:


The Tower of Babel (annotated)

(translation of Genesis 11:1–9 by Edwin M. Good)

The whole Earth had one language and few words. And it happened, as they were wandering in the east, and they found a valley in the land of Shin‘ar, and they settled there. This is Chapter 11 of Genesis. Chapter 10 contains the Table of Nations which literally describes how the descendants of Noah branched out to become the seventy nations of the world, all with their own languages. WTF?
And they said to one another, “Come on, let’s make bricks and burn them hard.” And they had bricks for stone and pitch served them as mortar. And they said, “Come on, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in Sky, and let’s make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered all over Earth.” The reason they wanted to build a city was to get famous and not be scattered. Although it’s not clear what it means for a people to be “famous” when those people also represent “the whole earth”. It’s also odd because it’s not clear how fame would prevent people from being scattered. But the most interesting part of this is that, when you look at the raw text, these dudes didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t want to challenge God or be “powerful”. They just wanted a city. Why does God hate cities?
And Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower which the humans had built. And Yahweh said, “Look, it’s one people and they all have one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And now nothing they intend to do will be impossible for them. Come on, let’s go down and ‘confuse’ their language there, so that no one will be able to understand what another says.” Yo, who is Yahweh talking to!? Other Gods? Angels, perhaps? It’s also interesting that Yahweh has to “come down” to the city to find out what humans are up to. This is similar to the story of the Garden of Eden when Yahweh seems unclear about the whereabouts of Adam and Eve (Gen 3:9), or in the account of Cain and Abel when Yahweh has to ask Cain where his brother is (Gen 4:9). This is not an “all knowing” deity… honestly, it’s a deity that is barely in control of the situation.
And Yahweh scattered them from there all across Earth, and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there Yahweh ‘confused’ the language of the whole Earth. This is hilarious, because it’s known to be wrong. Scholars of history know why the place was called “Babel”: it comes from Akkadian Babilu, meaning “gate of the god” — a reference to the chief Babylonian deity Marduk (Bel).
And Yahweh scattered them from there all across Earth. This is the end of the story. Notice Yahweh’s motivation: he doesn’t feel threatened by these people. They aren’t trying to “be like him”, as it is often interpreted by later scholars. If you read the text literally, he’s just ticked off that they are competent. They were too good at communicating, and too good at building their city. So Yahweh said…. “fuck those guys.” End of story.

This is just my humorous synopsis; for more detail, read the original article here.

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  1. Nyt says:

    The usual interpretation of the Babel story is that it represents what the nuns used to chastise me for: the sin of intellectual pride or hubris. IE thinking that’s man’s mind & the creations thereof can be credited to man & not God.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      I know… well this is one of the main points of the original article I link to in the post: NONE OF THAT IS IN THE BIBLE!!!! lol

      The text literally says nothing about hubris or “trying to be like God” or whatnot.

  2. Lanzifer says:

    Nimrod was a man ahead of his time…

  3. Lynn says:

    I know you probably didn’t mean it to be, but this article is actually relevant to the election and the whole Trump phenomenon.

    This is a good article that talks about how this election wasn’t really blue against red, or even “racists” against “non racists” … it was urban against rural:


    There has always been a distrust of “city people” by people who live in the countryside. The story of Babel really just shows that this prejudice has been going on for thousands and thousands of years.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Thank you for your comment!

      And that certainly is an interesting article. I agree somewhat with its analysis, although I will admit I don’t feel totally comfortable with the tone. While I understand the causal link it’s drawing between growing up in a rural environment and being suspicious of “city people”, and therefore inherently xenophobic, I feel like the article could have done a better job of presenting that relationship without sounding like it is “excusing” as well as explaining.

      I have plenty of friends who grew up in the most rural ,”red neck”, “hick” (whatever term you want to use) places, who turned out thoughtful, accepting, open-minded and liberal people. People’s attitude about others isn’t a fixed function of their upbringing. There is room to be able to assign moral responsibility for how we choose to react to the world.