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In the KJV Genesis 11: 1-9 we read that Nimrod began constructing a tower to God (with the help of what seems everyone in existence at the time). Taking notice of this God says, "Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.". After this, he proceeds to split the languages so that the people at the time could not effectively communicate.

Judging by the statement quoted, would I be correct in assuming that Nimrod would have been successful if God had not intervened?

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    This is an hypothetical question and therefore a matter of opinion. The fact is that God Almighty prevented the occurrence. – Nigel J Jan 25 '19 at 6:29
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    Nimrod isn't in Genesis 11. – curiousdannii Jan 25 '19 at 6:42
  • No not in Gen 11 but Nimrod is in Gen 10 and is associated with being the first ‘gibbor’ man v8 and the kingdom builder of Babel “The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. So there is plenty of evidence Babel was led by Nimrod the gibbor man and hunter. He also built Nineveh v11 which ties him in to the Assyrian title in later Scriptures Micah 5:6 – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 25 '19 at 10:43
  • @Nigel J it’s not hypothetical any longer when G-d says “And the Lord said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will DO. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬ it is obvious to me that G-d said it’s going to be completed if they are one nation with one language, they can be led by a one world leader, so let’s split them up, and thwart the plans of this one world leader so the workers no longer understand each other Gen 10:8-11 Nimrod is credited for Babel – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 25 '19 at 10:53
  • @hypothetical questions are allowed if they spring from the text. They aren't very useful if the answer is just "we don't know", but in this case as in many others, interesting answers are possible — Jesse's answer is excellent IMO. – Jack Douglas Jan 26 '19 at 9:58
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Probably

...and that's all we need to know. Here's why...

God even said that they could do whatever they set out ('purpose') to do...

Genesis 11:6 (NASB) emphases added

The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.

Also, note that God saw them having the same language as a reason they would be able to succeed in building.

So, when God changed their languages, this was the factor that logically made them building stop.

Genesis 11:7-8 (NASB) emphases added

7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.

This is the most we know

From what the text tells us, it looks like they probably would have finished. But, the text does not state anything more clearly in the direction of, "If they hadn't, they surely would have finished," but the text comes as close as we should expect it to saying that they could have completed the building. What "would have" happened after—would they have been able to enter "Heaven"?, et cetera—is a whole different question, which isn't even addressed, probably because it isn't important.

The fact that the Bible only gets close, still not saying for certain, also tells us that "knowing for certain" isn't the most important thing. We know with as much clarity as we need to:

They needed to be stopped, they were stopped, and that's why there are many languages today.


Afterthought: How 'clearly' answerable should a Bible question be?

I don't mean this to be silly, but we must remember that the Bible does not often deal in "actual-hypotheticals" or "alternative reality" scenarios. If our curiosity of "what if" is rooted in having been too influenced by our SciFi and "quantum physics" pop culture, then we will tend to expect an unrealistic level of clarity in answers to our questions about the Bible. The passage makes it as clear as it can without going into "quantum physics" and "alternate realities". Moreover, the fact that the Bible doesn't cross the line of "clarifying alternate scenarios" is an argument for "alternate reality" science fiction being just that—fiction—from a Biblical perspective, but that's another discussion.

  • Could you help me understand your afterthought section, given I’m not in tune with pop culture nor pop culture sci-fi. And how it ties in with your answer per se. Thank you in advance – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 25 '19 at 13:14
  • +1 excellent answer, though I also don't think I understand your afterthought section – Jack Douglas Jan 26 '19 at 9:59
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    I am off and away, so I may edit it later. Give me feedback here first. Sometimes, I think our "what if" in retrospect is a little too much second guessing. And, I think 100 years ago we might not have asked so many "what ifs", but from all this tine travel and "alternate reality" scifi, we give the "what ifs" too much weight and expect them to be answered in too much detail. It is just a factor, not a main issue. Make sense? – Jesse Steele Jan 26 '19 at 14:51
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I guess it would depend what you mean by successful? Complete the physical tower, then yes they would have been successful.

“And the Lord said... and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭KJV‬

If you mean utilize the tower, make a name for themselves and dethrone G-d? Dethrone as in defy His rulerships over them, implied by establishing another name in the region of heaven reserved for G-d. In a sense seeking equality with G-d

“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name...” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭11:4‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Then, no, they clearly would not have succeeded because G-d is above the heavens and certainly in their thinking He was above the impenetrable firmament. But it was a symbolic gesture to say, we don’t need You. We too can be in heavenly places and we will live ungoverned by You.

“The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭113:4‬ ‭KJV‬‬

G-d understood their intentions, which was to shake the yoke of a deity ruling humans. By making a place to reach heaven it would be seen as an affront to G-d. So He saves them the effort and releases them from His governing power, allowing them some level of independence of Him. However He being G-d decides how this would look like.

He split them up

“When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of G-d.” ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭32:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The split or scattering also came with a new language

“Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭11:9‬ ‭KJV‬

And now if we put both verses together each language/nation had their own elohim to represent them before G-d. The idea of the elohim representing the nations is seen throughout Scripture. Especially in Psalm 82:

“G-d standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭82:1-2 KJV

G-d judges the gods who in turn judge the humans

Unfortunately the elohim corrupted themselves Psalm 82 and become the gods of the nations

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.” ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭12:12‬ ‭KJV‬‬

And G-d made His own nation from Abraham starting from scratch through which He planned to regain all the nations back.

“The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:” ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭7:7‬ ‭KJV‬‬

And tie that in with

“For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭32:9‬ ‭KJV‬‬

The connection there being that in Genesis 11 the nations are divided but Abram (father of Israel) , doesn’t come on the scene until chapter 12, so clearly they were the fewest, the nations had a head start. G-d started from scratch a nation through Abraham.

Had G-d not confused their languages and they had built the tower, they would have had the illusion that they could reject G-d’s governance over them. G-d thwarted that wrong perception

This was led by a one world leader

“And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty (gibbor) hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel...” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭10:8-10‬ ‭KJV‬‬

This tells me they wanted a human to govern over them and not G-d because this gibbor established himself over the people and proposed independence from G-d by means of a tower to heaven. To which they all agreed.

Notes why sons of G-d, as opposed to sons of Israel

I personally don’t ascribe to how the MT reads, “sons of Israel” because Israel didn’t even exist and Abraham was not even called yet. It’s not logical to divide something according to thatb which doesn’t yet exist. Plus the DSS and the LXX both agree sons/angels of G-d. That’s two witnesses against one.

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The stated purpose for building the tower according to Genesis 11:4 was not to reach God but to serve as a point of cohesion. The text does not suggest they were building the tower to God but one whose top would extent into "the heavens" - plural. In other words, into the sky.

“Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

The stated purpose for building this city was to prevent them from being scattered. This violated the mandate of the Lord given in 9:7 to

“be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”

Rather than obeying this mandate from the Lord, they decided they did not want to scatter but to remain localized.

At the time, the earth was still one language, literally, one dialect.

  1. Language is the cohesive agent of any society.
  2. In Nimrod's time, one language offered a global point of reference.
  3. A common language provided a strong sense of continuity and organization.
  4. Language provides a conduit for the flow of ideas.
  5. A common language provides limitless possibilities for human achievement that does not serve the will of God.
  6. For knowledge to be controlled, language must be controlled. Without language as a common frame of reference there can be no flow of ideas.

In order to stop the construction of the tower and force the people to scatter, God disrupted the flow of communication. When there is no avenue of communication, the social continuity immediately broke down. Consequently, the people scattered and the city went unfinished.

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Nimrod was indeed the one who began the building of Babel and its tower.

Wrote Josephus: “[Nimrod] little by little transformed the state of affairs into a tyranny, holding that the only way to detach men from the fear of God was by making them continuously dependent upon his own power. He threatened to have his revenge on God if He wished to inundate the earth again; for he would build a tower higher than the water could reach and avenge the destruction of their forefathers. The people were eager to follow this advice of [Nimrod], deeming it slavery to submit to God; so they set out to build the tower . . . and it rose with a speed beyond all expectation.” —Jewish Antiquities, I, 114, 115 (iv, 2, 3).

  • did you finish this answer? – Skullomania Feb 8 '20 at 18:00
  • @Skullomania it was something I had recently read and I thought it adds a bit of certainty that nimrod was driven enough to complete the task he started had God not intervened. – Kris Feb 8 '20 at 18:20

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