Tower of Babel – Settling on a Date?

I have not studied the Book of Jubilees much as a source. Though historically important, it is not recognized as canonized scripture in either the Jewish or Christian traditions. But, while I still take it with a grain of salt, I do believe that the Book of Jubilees, chapter 10 has something to add to our study on the Tower of Babel…

18 – And in the three and thirtieth jubilee, in the first year in the second week, Peleg took to himself a wife, whose name was Lomna the daughter of Sina’ar, and she bare him a son in the fourth year of this week, and he called his name Reu; for he said: ‘Behold the children of men have become evil through the wicked purpose of building for themselves a city and a tower in the land of Shinar.’

19 – For they departed from the land of Ararat eastward to Shinar; for in his days they built the city and the tower, saying, ‘Go to, let us ascend thereby into heaven.’

20 – And they began to build, and in the fourth week they made brick with fire, and the bricks served them for stone, and the clay with which they cemented them together was asphalt which comes out of the sea, and out of the fountains of water in the land of Shinar.

21 – And they built it: forty and three years [1645-1688 A.M.] were they building it; its breadth was 203 bricks, and the height (of a brick) was the third of one; its height amounted to 5433 cubits and 2 palms, and (the extent of one wall was) thirteen stades (and of the other thirty stades).

Verse 18 brings out the evil intentions of the builders more directly than Genesis 11:3-4 do. It would seem that the Tower of Babel fits right in with other human endeavers of sin recorded in the Bible, such as the golden calf, the census in Israel and later Rome, Solomon’s 700 wives, and Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. What they have in common is the tendency of man to indulge in his own self-imprtance, over that of other men and even God. Consider God’s reactions up until this point in time. He banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. He made Cain an outcast, stopped him from farming, and marked his forehead. He killed Adam’s descendents through The Flood. Now, mankind was at it again, attempting to reach no less than the heavens of God Himself. Now, look at us today: rocket ships, sky-scrapers, solar power… will God be stopping us at some point? Makes you think! Well, let’s move on with the Jubilee verses…

In addition to motive, verse 18 provides a possible basis for honing in on the date of the tower… the birth of Reu. We can compute when Reu was born by using Genesis 11:10-18…

 10 This is the account of Shem’s family line.

   Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father[d] of Arphaxad. 11 And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters.

 12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. 13 And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

 14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber. 15 And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

 16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. 17 And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

 18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu. 19 And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

Add these 131 years to a flood date of 2807BC, and Reu’s birth would seem to be 2676BC. Assume King’s Calendar years, and the numbers become 120 years and 2687BC respsectively. Now, we need to be careful, because Jubilees 10:18 does not say the tower was being built when Reu was born, but that men had only purposed to build a tower at that point; the building may have been started later.

Jubilees 10:20 records the years of building as 1645-1688 AM (anno munde). We need to translate that into actual years. Well, given that BoJ 5:31 dates the flood at 1309 AM, the would place the start of the Tower 336 years later. If the duration is accurate, then we can apply that duration to the Flood date of 2807 BC, hence placing the building of the Tower at 2471-2428 BC (or 2497-2457 BC using King’s Calendar conversion).

Now, this is actually rather interesting. First of all, we’ve narrowed our range for the Tower’s end (when God confused things) to the span of 2687BC – 2428BC, a span of 259 years. That’s worst case, assuming the earliest King’s Calendar date for Reu’s birth and the latest conventional date for God confusing the languages. Can we narrow it further?

We saw in Genesis 11:3 – The Tower of Babel – The Science and History that King Ur-Nina, King of Lagash, had a palace that was built the same way as the Tower of Babel (asphalt and baked bricks). It is the earliest structure of its kind that I have found in my research so far, and King Ur-Nina dates back to around 2500BC, which is almost exactly the King’s Calendear date we computed above for when the tower began. If we assume that Ur-Nina’s reign started close to 2500BC, then it is quite possible that the entire 43 years of building recorded in Jubilees occurred during Ur-Nina’s reign. Obviously, we cannot compute more accurate numbers with any degree of certainty, but the possibility that Ur-Nina watched the rise and fall of the Tower of Babel, and then used the advancement in building technology for his own palace is certainly a feasible development within the range of dates our sources imply.

To test our hypothesis that Ur-Nina watched the tower and copied it, let us look a little more closely at what else we know. First of all, King Ur-nina was king of Lagash, which was located in Modern Iran. It was West of Elam, and the Tigris River. You can see it off a tributary of the Euphrates in the map below…

Now, most of my sources say that Babel is in Babylon. However, the BoJ is a little more specific, calling the entire region of Shinar “Babel”, and placing the Tower somehwere between Asshur and Babylon, a bit of a ways from Lagash…

25 – For this reason the whole land of Shinar is called Babel, because the Lord did there confound all the language of the children of men, and from thence they were dispersed into their cities, each according to his language and his nation.

26 – And the Lord sent a mighty wind against the tower and overthrew it upon the earth, and behold it was between Asshur and Babylon in the land of Shinar, and they called its name ‘Overthrow’.

27 – In the fourth week in the first year [1688 A.M.] in the beginning thereof in the four and thirtieth jubilee, were they dispersed from the land of Shinar.

Several things about this make a lot of sense for Ur-Nina. First of all, being located by the water, they could have been getting their asphalt from the sea, as asphalt has been known to be harvested from driftwood in bodies of salt-water… see how close Lagash is to the gulf? Second, according to Wikipedia, Ur-Nina was the first king of Lagash after the Flood. It gives one the impression that he provided order to the city. However, this was about 300 years later, so while the Flood may in fact have introduced chaos, it was not the triggering event for Ur-Nina to tame it. Ah, but the Tower of Babel and the confusion of languages would have been the perfect triggering event! Whatever chaos was already there, the Tower brought would have brought it to a new level. My guess is that that Ur-Nina’s reign started just after my computed date for the Tower’s demise, placing his reign just after 2457 BC, which conveniently rounds off to the historical dating of 2500 BC.

Just imagine, Ur-Nina telling having his people to build him a palace in the exact style that was just destroyed by God… and his was not blown down. No wonder they were willing to serve!

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