Josephus: The Tower of Babel
I am slowly but surely reading through the books of Josephus. I am finding a lot of interesting tid-bits along the way that I am stopping off and sharing every once in a while.
This one comes from The Antiquities of the Jews Book one, Chapter 4.
In this section Josephus talks about king Nimrod who turns the hearts of men from God, to complete dependence on the king. According to Josephus, king Nimrod had agrudge against God for the flood. So, the set out to get revenge on God by building a tower that was too tall to be drowned in a flood.
When God looked down and saw that the people were angry with him, therefore building a tower out of spite he thought about destroying them all, but stops and says (in essence) “Well, they didn’t learn anything from the last time I destroyed humanity, why do I think they will learn anything this time?”
Instead, he struck them with different languages, sending them off in their own directions. That place is now called Babylon because there was confusion there that day. People were babbling.
I almost read a different story in the Bible. It seems that people were wandering all over the place and finally someone put there foot down and said, “Let’s stop here and make us a city so we don’t wander any more.”
From there it is like God comes down and says something like, “Wow, life isn’t hard enough for them. I know! I will confuse their languages.” It is as if he wants to make life on earth that much harder.
Josephus is a great source to look at to know what the jews were thinking and believing about the Torah in the time of Christ. It is full of rabbinical ideas on Torah. This is just one example. Back then like today people wrestled with some of the stories and ideas in the Torah and the teachers and theology students of the day had to come up with answers. They looked at God and his character and looked at people and had to interpret stories in ways that made sense.
I am sure this explanation came from someone asking, “Rabbi, of all the kinds of things they could have built, why such a tall tower?” The rabbi probably thought about it for a while and said, “These people have probably grown up hearing stories and knowing about the flood. Perhaps they were even fearing that God would send another flood. They may have built this tower to be able to get away from that.” And so the tradition was born.
“Rabbi, why of all the things that God could have done did he mix up their languages?” Rabbi thinks. “God is always trying to teach us something new. Obviously destroying humanity did not teach these people anything. He had to do something else.”
When I look at the Bible and I am forced to come to my own conclusions about what is going on in this story, I think that God came down to a people who said, “Look lets all stay here and do this thing together so that we don’t stay scattered.” I think that God saw that and said, “These people are relying more and more on each other and on themselves and less and less on me.”
I think God wanted people to 1) rely on him and 2) cover the earth like he told them to. However, they were relying too much on other people and not on him, and they kept trying to just stop in one place rather than cover the earth.
But that’s just me.