Genesis 11

The Tower of Babel

The Landing Place

Now all the earth had one language and the same speech (Genesis 11:1)

All the inhabitants of the earth spoke one language at the time of this event. Although it is not specified, this may also suggest that they all lived in the same area, perhaps not far from the place where the ark landed. This photo shows a plain below Mount Cudi (pronounced “Judi”), a traditional landing site for Noah’s ark.


Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them with fire” (Genesis 11:3).

This Egyptian tomb painting depicts the main activities associated with making bricks, including digging up clay soil, drawing water, mixing the two together, and then laying the finished product.

Building Post-Flood

They had brick for stone, and they had bitumen for mortar (Genesis 11:3).

After the Flood, Noah and his sons may have used stone for building (trees would take time to grow, and it is uncertain what sort of lumber may have been available), but stone was not abundant in the plain of Sumer. However, brick earth was plentiful, due to the alluvial deposits that make up the plain. Kiln-fired mudbricks are similar to stone in their hardness and strength, but with the advantage of being easily mass-produced in a uniform size. The bricks shown here are from the Assyrian city of Khorsabad (Dur-Sharrukin), about 9 miles (14 km) northeast of Mosul (Nineveh).

A Traditional Option

And let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens (Genesis 11:4).

Some commentators identify the tower of Babel with E-urimin-ankia, the ziggurat of Borsippa. However, Borsippa is located about 10 miles (16 km) south of ancient Babylon, making this an unlikely identification. This American Colony photograph was taken in the first half of the 20th century.

The Center of the World

Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered across the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:4).

The intent of the people in this story was to make Babylon the center of civilization, from which man would rule himself and do as he pleased. A similar idea seems to be portrayed in the world map shown here, which depicts Babylon as the center of the world, surrounded by other cities and regions known to the Babylonians. Incidentally, this is one of the earliest known geographical maps. This tablet was photographed at the British Museum.

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