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Genesis 11:4-5

Context
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.”

11:5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the people 5  had started 6  building.

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 (vÿnaaseh, 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 Heb “the sons of man.” The phrase is intended in this polemic to portray the builders as mere mortals, not the lesser deities that the Babylonians claimed built the city.

6 tn The Hebrew text simply has בָּנוּ (banu), but since v. 8 says they left off building the city, an ingressive idea (“had started building”) should be understood here.



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