Genesis 11:1 – And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed east … 11:4 and they said, Come, let us build a city, and a tower, and let us make us a name; let we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
The whole earth spoke one language, and they were journeying east. Notice the direction constantly mentioned is east: there is gold to the east, Adam and Eve were placed east of Eden, Cain was banished east of Eden.
The last part of that verse is intriguing, they want to make name, otherwise they would be scattered abroad. So they build a tower to reach heaven. Are they looking for a heavenly name?
Unfortunately, unlike Noah’s ark, we have no description or dimensions to describe the Tower. It must have turned into dust over time because we have no archaeological evidence of the Tower existing, so all we are left with is renditions of the imagination:
While it’s not directly stated, it’s almost implied that they want to be gods or God-like. An interesting parallel to Adam and Eve who, if they ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, would also become “like gods”.
So, in answer similar to Adam and Eve, Jehovah responds:
11:6 – And Jehovah said, Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do: and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do. Come, LET US go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
There is the “us”‘ again, pointing not to one being in heaven, but multiples as we saw in Genesis Book 1. The idea that they would become like gods if they succeeded: “…nothing will be witholden from they, which they purpose to do.” So, it sounds like they were doing it so they could be Gods or God like.
So not describing who or how or where these languages went, Jehovah confounded their languages so they could not understand each other. A cultural explanation of why other nations speak different languages put into myth? An actual event which spread the descendants of Noah who once traveled in one group all over the world?
Then Genesis 11 continues on with the lineage of Shem (is this an allusion to the idea that the lineage of Shem are the people in said story?) The roots of Abraham are put into place. One verse of interest to note: Abram was by birth, a Chaldean:
11:27 – Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.
So now we get some locality, Ur of Chaldees being in Babylon. Is this where Abram’s ancestors were scattered to during the Tower of Babel fiasco? And now Abram is being told to come back? Conjecture at this point.