Tower of Babel

Genesis 11:1-32

The Torah now tells a tragic tale, set just ten generations after the flood. All the people of the Earth speak a common language, and opt to use this unity to build a tower to heaven. Their expressed concern: they do not wish to be dispersed across the Earth.


God observes the tower, and decries the abuse of such unity. He causes confusion among them by changing the languages they speak, thus ending communication. The people then are scattered and dispersed across the land.


The Israel Bible makes the connection between the word for language, safa, used in our portion, and the same word in the book of Zephaniah. There (Zephaniah 3:9), God promises he will one day change the languages of the world that everyone shall speak a safa b’rurah, a clear or pure language, which the Sages identify as Hebrew.


The portion ends by listing the ten generations which have passed between Noah and the next hero who will take center stage: Abraham.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think God was so opposed to the people of the Earth building their tower and staying together?

Comments ( 14 )

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  • Jshem

    Is it possible that the ‘Tower with it’s top to the heavens’ resembled a Ziggurat with the Zodiac signs painted in he ceilings as found in some ancient buildings? If so it would indicate typical pagan worship of the heavens instead of their true maker. The top would be ‘to or in ‘ the heavens but not necessarily with intent of reaching physically the abode of G-d.

  • Herman Arentsen

    First there was the disobedience to the Word of G-d to spread over the surface of the earth and be the light of the world. They like to stay around their political powercenter building: a tower in order to speak with as much authority as G-d . They were dispersed over the earth by confusing their speech and thus ending their communication…….until G-d will give the pure language: Hebrew.(or is meant the language of pure hearts?)

  • DannyLee ben Israel

    To give answer to the classroom question, Elohim is said in Scripture to be a "jealous Elohim". These people weren't just building some architectural wonder to beautify their city. They were building a monument to rival and overthrow Elohim. As we might say in our time, "Them's fightin' words, buddy". Through the ages, Elohim has shown His long suffering. However, on other occasions, He's shown the propensity to "lower the boom". He won't allow anyone or anything to be higher than He, and frowns mightily upon those that try.

    • Angela B

      I agree with your comment, entirely!


      I Like that one from Chicago, God Bless, its only one GOD.

  • DannyLee ben Israel

    Good points all. These people were no different than people of our day. They were a proud people, intent upon doing things there own way. They built this tower so they could get to heaven on their own terms. As we know, there is only one way to attain that goal–faith and trust in the Living Elohim.
    In a parallel link to our day, it is evident people haven't changed. They're still trying to obtain heaven on their own terms. They're even trying to imitate Elohim by creating life in a test tube. They're trying to make Elohim obsolete. Could that actually be what the ancients were doing? As YHVH brought down their tower, He's about to bring down the towers we've built today.

    • DannyLee ben Israel

      Could the overt attempts of many elite today to set up a "one-world" government be the same attempt with "Babel"? They were one people, one language, and in one accord. That's a very powerful unity capable of just about anything. Would not a one-world government today have even more power to go against the Almighty and His followers?

    • Doreen Poole

      I agree with you DannyLee. The world today is no different. With talk of one world religion, one world government mankind is forgetting about the one true G-d, the one true government…HaSem and His word. Man wants his own rules. As kids we were taught that the Tower of Babel was mankind wanting to reach HaSem his own way. Wanting to reach the heavens and be like G-d, and that was my Catholic up bringing. Since I have been studying the Torah I have asked the L-rd if we are not like Babel, we have languages at our fingertips, we as mankind can unite and build terrible towers. May He have mercy on us.

  • SueJean Heinz

    6 And the LORD said: ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do; and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do.
    ו וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, הֵן עַם אֶחָד וְשָׂפָה אַחַת לְכֻלָּם, וְזֶה, הַחִלָּם לַעֲשׂוֹת; וְעַתָּה לֹא-יִבָּצֵר מֵהֶם, כֹּל אֲשֶׁר יָזְמוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת.
    I like both Herman and Sheila’s points as it was clear that the people had chosen to go their own way and do their own thing in direct opposition to Ahuva’s note that Hashem had given clear direction that they were to “go forth and fill the earth”. It seems clear from the verse above that Hashem sees their purposes in opposition to HIM.
    Baruch Hashem.

  • Ahuva Balofsky (Moderator)

    Good points. Additionally, God specifically commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply and replenish (in Hebrew, “fill”) the earth and subdue it”. By remaining in one place, they stymie this aspect of God’s plan.

  • Sheila

    The people rebelled against God’s commands and the blessings He imparted — seeking their own glory and not the glory of God. The words — let US make — let US build —- let US make — Gen11:3-4 — 3 times– which symbolises human pride and selfishness. The people unified in their human effort to build this tower and God saw that nothing they plan would be impossible for them. Then God in his covenant love stepped in to prevent mankind from attaining their goal which ultimately would cause more corruption and lawlessness — he confused their language which bought disunity, no more construction of the tower and their dispersion and scattering over the face of the earth.

    • Brian

      Very good point Sheila. The very words that came out of their mouths (Gen.11:3-4) was a direct verbalization of their rebellion to Elohim. In Gen. 1:26, Elohim said, "Let us make…" and in Gen.2:18 "I (Elohim) will make…".
      If you notice the act of building a high tower was after the flood. The next generation saw that drowning could destroy them again, so they tried to 'protect themselves' from God. So it was a defiant act to build the tower as if to shake their fists at Elohim saying in effect, "you will not destroy us again like you did with that flood".

  • Herman

    When the peoples stayed together they didn’t obey the commandment to be a light for the peoples and they didn’t spread the knowledge of G’ds Reign over the earth. In building the tower they had a clear sign of their center. Moreover they (in their stupidity) thought that they also could rule the invisible world. (which was thought to be over them)

    • Pauline Graham

      Maybe they worked together to overthrow Yehovah. After ten generations they had heard about the flood. Noach would have told them what it was like as his sons would of. Thus instead of obeying Yehovah, they could of possibly hated him and wanted to overthrow Him. So Yehovah stopped this by making them not able to understand each other. How amazing is that, they all spoke one language, then next minute they couldn't understand each other. Without killing them, he caused them to separate and fill the earth.

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