11:3 Then they said to one another, 1 “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” 2 (They had brick instead of stone and tar 3 instead of mortar.) 4 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens 5 so that 6 we may make a name for ourselves. Otherwise 7 we will be scattered 8 across the face of the entire earth.”
11:7 Come, let’s go down and confuse 9 their language so they won’t be able to understand each other.” 10
1 tn Heb “a man to his neighbor.” The Hebrew idiom may be translated “to each other” or “one to another.”
2 tn The speech contains two cohortatives of exhortation followed by their respective cognate accusatives: “let us brick bricks” (נִלְבְּנָה לְבֵנִים, nilbbÿnah lÿvenim) and “burn for burning” (נִשְׂרְפָה לִשְׂרֵפָה, nisrÿfah lisrefah). This stresses the intensity of the undertaking; it also reflects the Akkadian text which uses similar constructions (see E. A. Speiser, Genesis [AB], 75-76).
3 tn Or “bitumen” (cf. NEB, NRSV).
4 tn The disjunctive clause gives information parenthetical to the narrative.
5 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.
6 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.
7 tn The Hebrew particle פֶּן (pen) expresses a negative purpose; it means “that we be not scattered.”
8 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.
9 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
10 tn Heb “they will not hear, a man the lip of his neighbor.”