Genesis 11:4

Hebrew Bible

2 When the people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” (They had brick instead of stone and tar instead of mortar.) 4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves. Otherwise we will be scattered across the face of the entire earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the people had started building. 6 And the Lord said, “If as one people all sharing a common language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be beyond them.

Deuteronomy 9:1

Hebrew Bible

1 Listen, Israel: Today you are about to cross the Jordan so you can dispossess the nations there, people greater and stronger than you who live in large cities with walls that reach to the heavens.1 2 They include the Anakites, a numerous and tall people whom you know about and of whom it is said, “Who is able to resist the Anakites?” 3 Understand today that the Lord your God who goes before you is a devouring fire; he will defeat and subdue them before you. You will dispossess and destroy them quickly just as he has told you.

 Notes and References

"... The human project includes building a city and a tower that is the equivalent of a modern skyscraper. This is the second reference to city building, the first being 4:17. The word for tower is miḡdāl, which is related to the word “great” (gāḏôl), thus suggesting the Olympian nature of the building project. miḡdāl normally refers to a fortified tower or acropolis (Judges 8:9, 17; 9:46–52; Psalm 48:13; 61:4; Ezekiel 26:9). In Isaiah especially it is a symbol of strength and pride (Isaiah 2:15; 30:25; 33:18), and thus what it represents is abhorred by God (Isaiah 25:2–3). The impression created is that these builders are megalomaniacs. This impression is strengthened by the fact that the aspiration is to build a tower with its peak in the heavens. Had the writer wanted to say simply that the plan was to build a high tower he had at his disposal a number of words that would easily have conveyed that idea. Yet it is clear from other Old Testament passages that the expression “with its peak in the heavens” is figurative language to describe edifices of impressive and monumental proportions. The returning spies reported to Moses that the cities of the Canaanites “are great and fortified up to heaven” (Deuteronomy 1:28). Even God describes the cities Israel is to dispossess as “cities great and fortified up to heaven” (Deuteronomy 9:1). The oracle of Jeremiah against Babylon includes a passage strikingly similar to that in Genesis 11 - “Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify her strong height, yet destroyers would come from me upon her, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 51:53). The text does not say how the erection of such an edifice would guarantee that they would make a name for themselves. If we take “name” to signify reputation, as our translation reflects, then the connection would be that the completion of such a titanic building would bring a certain fame and immortality to its builders ..."

Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (p. 203) William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990

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