11:4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens 1 so that 2 we may make a name for ourselves. Otherwise 3 we will be scattered 4 across the face of the entire earth.”
11:7 Come, let’s go down and confuse 5 their language so they won’t be able to understand each other.” 6
1 tn A translation of “heavens” for שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) fits this context because the Babylonian ziggurats had temples at the top, suggesting they reached to the heavens, the dwelling place of the gods.
2 tn The form וְנַעֲשֶׂה (vÿna’aseh, from the verb עשׂה, “do, make”) could be either the imperfect or the cohortative with a vav (ו) conjunction (“and let us make…”). Coming after the previous cohortative, this form expresses purpose.
3 tn The Hebrew particle פֶּן (pen) expresses a negative purpose; it means “that we be not scattered.”
4 sn The Hebrew verb פָּוָץ (pavats, translated “scatter”) is a key term in this passage. The focal point of the account is the dispersion (“scattering”) of the nations rather than the Tower of Babel. But the passage also forms a polemic against Babylon, the pride of the east and a cosmopolitan center with a huge ziggurat. To the Hebrews it was a monument to the judgment of God on pride.
5 tn The cohortatives mirror the cohortatives of the people. They build to ascend the heavens; God comes down to destroy their language. God speaks here to his angelic assembly. See the notes on the word “make” in 1:26 and “know” in 3:5, as well as Jub. 10:22-23, where an angel recounts this incident and says “And the
6 tn Heb “they will not hear, a man the lip of his neighbor.”