by: Gary Stearman –
Many who present themselves as intellectuals are convinced that the ancient narratives of the Bible are nothing more than fictional stories concocted around ancient tribal campfires.
One of these is the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, said by some to be simply a mythical explanation of how mankind came to speak different languages. The scoffers say that early men could not possibly have built a tower that would reach to heaven … their declared intention as given in Scripture. Today, we have skyscrapers much higher than the original Tower of Babel. Furthermore, those on the upper floors of these modern megaliths do not suddenly experience having their common language compromised. Nor do they acquire an ability to commune with angels.
On the other hand, we believe the story of the ancient Tower is true, and that the men who built it had access to a type of knowledge that has since been lost. In fact, it seems to have been an arcane knowledge that God would not allow unregenerate man to possess.
The purpose of this study is to investigate the Babel debacle in an effort to understand what post-flood society was really doing. God, Himself, took special notice of their wicked work.
As an article of faith, we believe that Moses wrote the five books attributed to him. Though some may question his authorship, we are convinced that he gave an accurate account of those key historical events that occurred during the 2,500 years from the creation of Adam to his day.
Jesus, speaking to the leaders of Israel, dramatically affirmed that Moses wrote the books attributed to his name:
“45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me” (John 5:45,46).
He wrote the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They systematically delineate God’s Creation, man’s fall and the line of Messianic redemption that would emerge from the family lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Late in the 15th century B.C., his writings were compiled – probably by the Levites – priestly successors of Aaron. So, about five hundred years before the accession of David and the Kingdom period, these books had been copied into a single scroll, called the “Scroll of Moses.”
It is important to remember that under the leading of God’s Spirit, Moses collated and anthologized a number of histories, going all the way back to the creation of the world, and of Adam. Over the centuries, several Sumerian and Akkadian clay tablets have been found to include striking details of events that were apparently quoted (if inaccurately) from the five books of Moses!
Yet, from among these historical records, the Lord anointed Moses to record a true history of mankind. Doubtless, some details were omitted, and others added, as God gave him insight. One thing is certain: the historical documents the Lord gave to Moses are a pure distillation of human history.
Moreover, their point of view is specifically that of a world seen through God’s eyes. Mankind is critically appraised and found deficient. He is viewed with a brutal frankness that could never have come from a human oligarchy, which always tends to flatter itself.
One has only to look through the bulk of the ancient cuneiform writings of Sumer to see humanity in full self-adulation. At the same time, these early post-Flood societies are lost in the deep convolutions of idolatry.
LONGING FOR AN “ANCIENT WISDOM”
In secular accounts of man’s early history, there is always the distinct overtone of loss and separation. That is, early man viewed himself as having been cut off from a source of wisdom and power that he had once obtained from “the gods.”
In ancient Sumer (the Biblical Shinar, later to be known as Babylon), ancient scribes wrote fantastic accounts of gods who descended in their flying machines and taught men exotic skills and philosophies. Such trysts with the gods led to innumerable idolatries, such as the worship of Ishtar and Tammuz, Baal and Oannes, the talking fish-god who came forth from the great river to teach men the lost arts. He was said to emerge periodically, to speak his wise words to the leaders of mankind.
In one way or another, the men of this period were continually trying to reunite with the gods who had formerly been so close to them. Approximately fourteen to twenty centuries later, the Persians, Greeks and Romans launched their own versions of these fantastic histories. Their mythologies are full of stories about how the gods once walked among men, giving them the great knowledge of the gods that had since been lost. These were the so-called “Arcadian Myths.” They tell of a time when the gods capriciously appeared to bless or curse humanity. On the whole, however, this period was characterized by great tranquility and perfection, when man wanted for nothing, and was on the verge of achieving godhood, himself.
Of course, Genesis 6 gives God’s view of this era, when fallen angels corrupted mankind to the point that its destruction was the only alternative. Still, men longed (and still do) for a repetition of this condition. They believe it is their only salvation. In this generation, the flying gods of old have been renamed: They are the “ancient astronauts.” Once again, the old myths of the gods who created man are rising in the public consciousness.
Homer called one narrative of this ancient culture, “Atlantis,” recounting the myth of its destruction by a great flood. And though his account is garbled and mixed with fable, it surely recalls the event known in the Bible as the Great Flood of Noah.
Through the period of the Greeks and Romans – and all the way to the present – man has sought through his own efforts to regain this deeply buried pool of lost knowledge. He is, in short, trying to claw his way back up to the position that was lost when Adam sinned and became separated from God. And the condition prevailed after that, when the offspring of Cain became associated in a fast-and-loose illicit relationship with fallen angels.
Man still operates with a gnawing sense of loss. Even in the early twenty-first century, the new stratagems of science are considered to be humanity’s access to glorification … to self-redemption. Human genetic research, we are told, is on the verge of being able to create a “superman.” Trans-humanism is an increasing subject in scientific dialogue. Quantum physics is said to be near the point of allowing man to penetrate the dimensional barrier that prevents him from scaling the heights to the spirit world, and an empowered life of perfection and awareness.
The energies of the human psyche are now probing the barriers of time and space. What was once called “clairvoyance,” is now called “remote viewing,” a technique employed by our own intelligence community to mentally spy on military and industrial enemies. It is said by some that they are able to peer into the future!
With his particle accelerators, proton emission tomography scanners, with gas chromatographs and radiation sensors, man is once again building a virtual “tower” that will reach the heavens. Some speak of the gigantic particle accelerator in Switzerland – CERN – as an effort to open a “portal” into another dimension.
In today’s new physics, even the mathematical mumblings and meditations of theoreticians sound like the metaphysics of Zen Buddhism. The line between pure science and Eastern religion is being blurred.
Higher and higher is his goal; man wants to reach his ancient and arcane treasure house. He deeply desires to break through the barriers that are holding him back. As we shall see, his quest is not new; it is only a repetition of an ancient mystery religion.
THE REASON FOR THE FLOOD
Moses didn’t write simply to record history. There is reason and purpose behind every syllable – indeed, every letter – of his five books. The style is remarkably straightforward. To the seeker of God’s wisdom, it progressively opens layer after layer of meaning. Bit by bit, as man is capable of understanding, the books are opened and one discovers that … voilà! … they perfectly expound God’s plan for man.
They do so in a compact manner that humans, writing on their own behalf, never seem to master. For example, the reason for the Great Flood of Noah is given in only four verses:
“5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:5-8).
Without entering into the debate about the deeper theological meaning of “repented,” it is clear from this statement that God decided to destroy all but a tiny remnant of humanity.
This was radical action, indeed! And there is no need to ask why such an extreme step had to be taken. The “gods” of paganism not only walked among men, but were apparently free to teach their heresies, bestow mystical powers, and allow themselves to be worshipped.
“4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown” (Genesis 6:4).
The “giants” were the Nephilim, or “fallen ones.” They were the “angels” of Jude 6, who
“… kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation….”
Their wickedness was of such extreme depth that they are locked away for a special judgement at the throne of God.
They usurped the position reserved for God, alone. Posing as man’s creators and sustainers, they encouraged the worship of those whom they had duped. Ultimately, they corrupted the human ancestral lineage of man. Only Noah and his family retained their genetic purity.
In the ancient Book of Enoch, these fallen angels are said to have lusted after the beautiful daughters of men. Furthermore, they were well aware that they were sinning and agreed to commit their wicked acts as a group in order to evade possible punishment.
They taught the women “charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants.”
One, named Azazel, “taught men to make swords and knives and shields and breastplates and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets and ornaments and the use of antimony and the beautifying of the eyelids and all kinds of costly stones and all coloring tinctures.”
Another, named Semjaza, “taught enchantments.” Still another, called Baraqijal, “taught astrology.” Kokabel taught “the constellations;” Araqiel, “the signs of the earth;” Shamsiel, “the signs of the sun;” and Sariel, “the signs of the moon.”
Thus, were antediluvian men said to have received the knowledge of the biological and physical sciences, chemistry and the illegal metaphysical arts. No doubt, God had already given Adam and his lineage considerable knowledge. It was wisdom of the kind that would glorify Him.
But under the reign of fallen angels, forbidden knowledge entered the picture. Corrupt priesthoods flourished and illicit discernment grew, even as mankind plunged ahead on its suicidal course.
Following the Great Flood of Noah, mankind was given a restored covenant. Unfortunately, Noah’s offspring were not free from the temptations that had wiped out the men of their former civilisation.
The ground had hardly dried when the sin of Ham once again introduced a dark side into the picture of human development. As Noah and his sons descended to the Mesopotamian plain, evil crept into their post-Flood society like leavening through a loaf of rising bread.
Again they longed for the support of the heavenly benefactors who had revealed arcane wisdom before the worldwide deluge. Having tasted of the power that accompanied the fallen angels, they began to glorify the experience. Remember, Genesis 6:4 refers to the days before the Flood, and says that the same situation also occurred “after that”:
“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that …” (Genesis 6:4).
THE WAY UP FROM DOWN
Following the Flood, the sons of Shem, Ham and Japheth would logically have busied themselves with restoring normal life. They would have worked to set up enclaves and outposts across the landscape. Working in barren terrain, they literally had to reinvent their societies and cultures.
The lineage of Shem eventually populated the Middle East and Far East.
The descendants of Ham and his son, Canaan, produced the ancient civilizations between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers … the general area of the biblical land called Shinar. Later, they were to travel south and westward into Africa.
Japheth was the progenitor of the Eurasian and Greco-Roman Gentiles.
But before they became established in these far-flung locations, they were apparently drawn together in an instinctive drive for self-preservation.
The Bible gives a brief statement about the conditions of this period in two short sentences:
“1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2 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).
The fact that these Flood survivors are said to have “journeyed from the east,” tells us that they must have first come down from the mountains of Ararat toward the southeast. There, in the region south of the Caspian Sea, they established their initial encampment.
This was the region of the ancient Median Kingdom (later to become the land of Medo-Persia), where they congregated to assess their lot.
Apparently, after two or three generations, they began to migrate westward to the fertile and pleasant lowlands of Mesopotamia. Perhaps led by a few scouts, they went there to establish themselves.
One can only attempt to understand their plight. These three men, sons of Noah, could well remember the unimaginably blissful environment that characterized the pre-Flood world. The weather and growing conditions had once been perfect. Nutrition and atmospheric conditions afforded agricultural success, peace and longevity that were totally absent in this post-Flood world.
Now, they coped with a thin atmosphere and fickle weather. Dealing with seasonal changes in a scratch-and-grovel agriculture, these men must have doubted their very survival. They were searching for something better in a broken world.
Speaking a unified language, they assessed their situation, then migrated westward to the land of Shinar, which would later be known as the land of Babylon. Here, they consolidated under the leadership of Nimrod:
“8 And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. 10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar”
Alexander Hislop, quoting various historical authorities, identifies a certain “Bel,” founder of Babylon as none other than Cush. His son, Ninus, known in the text of the Bible as Nimrod, was the first ruler of Babylon. He was said to be a giant of a man, who claimed some connection with the power of giants (Nephilim) who had corrupted mankind before the Flood. His promise was the restoration of the world’s former greatness. That which the Lord saw as corruption in Genesis 6, was viewed by Nimrod and his followers as greatness.
Nimrod was a rebel who allowed himself to be worshipped as a god. After the Flood, his rebellion became the foundation of mankind’s greatest religious apostasy. Down through the generations, this system of false worship became known simply as the “Babylonian Mystery Religion.”
Its basis is quite clear. It attempts to channel the power of the ancient gods through the figure of one, powerful man. Nimrod became that god, later worshipped as the mythical Tammuz, whose wife, Semiramis, became the Goddess/Mother of humanity. She is the model for all the ancient fertility goddesses – Ishtar, Astarte, Ashtoreth, Artemis, Isis and Diana.
With exhaustive scholarship, Hislop documents these goddesses as so-called “tower goddesses.” Their ancient effigies wear a distinctive towered headdress, which conjure up the great power of the ancient tower-builders.
Under the leadership of Nimrod, the early post-Flood societies were obviously attempting to reunite with the fallen spirit-beings, who were within their recent historical memory.
The unbearable punishment of living in a world of chaos, disease, unpredictable weather and destructive earthquakes drove them to seek an accursed liaison with the very spirit-beings who had corrupted their peers in the days before the Flood.
“3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. 4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth”
Since Moses recorded this event in the context immediately following the post-Flood genealogies of Shem, Ham and Japheth, it must be one of the major events of human history.
From our perspective in the twentieth century, we look back at various ancient cultures and see these “towers” all over the world. Virtually every major culture on Earth involved itself in some form of tower building. Many ancient civilisations from China to the pre-Columbian territories of Central and South America built the monuments that we call pyramids. Silbury Hill in England is a good example. This would seem to make tower-building a common phenomenon. What, then, makes the Tower of Babel so special?
There is the common thought that this Tower was merely a monument to pride. That is, it held no real mystical power, but was simply a device to focus the superstitions of the crowd upon a common goal.
The Bible, itself, dispels this notion. It provides the Lord’s own view of the developing situation. As He observes the activities of the tower builders, we read this profound statement:
“5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Genesis 11:5-7).
Certainly, God did not view their activities as simply a work of superstitious delusion. Rather, His statement reveals a concern that they were on the verge of achieving their primary goal – not just to build a tower, but to break through a barrier to the realm of heaven, itself. They were apparently about to realize some success in penetrating the dimensional veil that separates some aspect of heaven from the earth!
This “tower” would enable men to realise their darkest imaginings. And what had they imagined to do? Simply to renew their contact with the “sons of God,” as their predecessors had done before the Flood.
This is the only apparent way to explain the observations of the Lord as He watched their work. The Flood had presented mankind with a crushing defeat. Now they were simply trying to regain their lost wisdom and power. They had been knocked down; now they were trying to get back up. And they were breaking the laws of heaven and Earth to do it.