The Tower of Babel was a structure built by humanity after the flood, in the land of Shinar. Babel was part of the kingdom of Nimrod, a descendent of Noah (Genesis 10:10). The purpose of the Tower of Babel was to reach to heaven. The people said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11:4). This goal was in direct opposition to one of the first commands God gave man both at creation and after the flood, which was to "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Genesis 1:28; 9:1).
When God saw that the people were creating the Tower of Babel, He said "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them" (Genesis 11:6). He then confused their languages, so that they could not understand one another. This encouraged them to split into tribes and settle in other parts of the land, so that God's original plan to fill the earth would come to pass (Genesis 11:8-9).
Some scholars believe that this incident at the Tower of Babel was also the beginning of the different races of humanity—that is, that God actually created the races when He separated the languages. The Bible does not say this, it only says that the languages were confused. For more on the origin of races, please refer to this article. Another interesting detail to note: after the flood, the Bible records Noah's descendants spreading out over the earth "by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations," but this was recorded in Chapter 10, before the story of the Tower of Babel. Is this a contradiction? Did the languages exist prior to the Tower of Babel story? To make sense of this, we need to remember that the life spans were still lengthened during that time (Genesis 11:10-25) and the genealogies in Genesis 10 cover hundreds of years. Genesis 10 records the existence of different languages and nations, and the account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 refers backward, to explain how and why the languages were split.
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