Babel, The Tower of

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"The name of Babel, which is in Assyrian 'bab-ilani', or 'babilu', i.e. the Gate of God, is a Semitic translation of the Accadian 'Ka-dingirra-ki'; with the same meaning; literally: 'Gate + of God + the place'. The etymology of the name Babel from balbel, 'to confound,' which is suggested both in the Assyrian account of the story and in Genesis, is one of those popular etymologic errors which are frequently found in ancient authors."
—The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil[1]

As from the quotation above, we can see that there are two meanings to the word "Babel". The most commonly-known meaning, which is "to confound", is widely known from the story of the Tower of Babel that is told in Chapter 11 of the Book of Genesis.[2]

The Tower of Babel

Generations after the Great Flood, the entire world was united in language and speech but divided across nations. As time passed, people began to migrate to a plain in the land of Shinar.
The people who dwelt there said to one another,
"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."

The Lord, on seeing this, 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."
"Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech."

From then on, the people were scattered; the city remained unfinished. It was named Babel, for it was there that the Lord confounded the language of all the earth.

The second meaning, "the Gate of God", derived from the Assyrian "babilu", is the more accurate, historical one. It is also of this Assyrian word that the word "Babylon" is derived from.

Appears in


  1. Carus, Paul, Dr. History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil, The, New York: Gramercy Books. ISBN 0-51715-064-6.
  2. Genesis (Gen 10:32-11:9)
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