Sunday, December 27, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 11

Ah, the Tower of Babel. And the inconsistencies start with the very first line of chapter 11.

Verse one:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. (GEN 11:1)
 And here the confusion begins because chapter 10 implies that the descendants of Noah's sons all had their own languages. Chapter 11 also states it was God who scattered the tribes of Noah's sons around the world (GEN 11:9), but chapter 10 implies that they just spread that way - no mention of God doing the scattering is made in chapter 10. Bit of an oversight. There also seems to be some confusion over whether the clans had many languages (GEN 10) or just one (GEN 11). I guess being kind we can say that they started with one language and then ended up with many - but that doesn't deal with the confusion that chapter 10 implies the clans developed their own language and chapter 11 clearly states God simply confused the one language into many.

Anyway. Here in chapter 11 humans decide to all live in one city and build a big tower with bricks and tar that reaches to the heavens so that they aren't scattered all over the earth. (GEN 11:3-4) Not quite sure how a big tower would prevent that - just seems like Biblical willy waving to me. Overcompensating for something obviously.

God, as we know from chapter 3, is jealous of his privileged position as a deity and basically wants to make sure humanity knows its place and doesn't get to big for itself, he sees the humans building this fancy tower and says to himself:

If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other. (GEN 11:6-7)
What a colossal prick, and who was he speaking to when he referred to 'us'? God, the supreme all knowing and all loving being, didn't want humans to co-operate or understand each other. War is not humanity's fault - it is God's fault. All that suffering. All those misunderstandings. All those missed oppurtunities. All God's fault. God doesn't want humanity to achieve the impossible, he doesn't want humanity to be able to work together for common goals. God doesn't want humanity to succeed. It says so right there in the Bible. Everything we have managed to do, we've done not because of God but despite him. Interpreters directly defy God's will. Learning other languages but your own directly defies God's will.

Suddenly I understand U.S. Christian fundie hostility to the United Nations. It's in the Bible. The United Nations is directly defying God's will. Heaven forbid we actually solve problems together, as one people. God did his best to ensure we could never co-operate.

Really I've run out of words to describe just what God is for doing this. (Disclaimer: For those religious types who would like to say "But I thought you didn't believe in God?" - I don't, but for the purposes of this series of posts I am assuming the Bible is the word of God and that God exists. This chapter clearly shows if he exists, he is a massive arsehole.)

Then, just to further ensure that humans will spend the rest of their existence killing each other, he scatters the different peoples all over the world. Now we live seperately and can't speak to each other. No, can't see any possible conflict arising there. No siree.


The rest of this chapter is devoted to more lineage information (from Shem to Abram), not much to get excited about but there are a few things of note. First are the ages that people live to. Shem lives to be 600.

And here's a contradiction I have mentioned before. Noah lives to be 950. Shem 600, Arphaxad 438. There are more. Yet, in chapter 6 verse 3 God had said that man would be mortal and "his days will be a hundred and twenty years." Now, this is confusing. Did that mean literally that every day for a man is one hundred and twenty years, or that no man would live longer than one hundred and twenty years. If no man could live longer than that, then how does that explain all the extended lifespans of Noah and his sons and their descendants?

Literalists - what's your answer? How did Noah and his descendants defy God and live for as long as they did? Did they live as long as the Bible says, or as long as the Bible says God said they would?

So, that's one big inconsistency or contradiction for the literalist. But there's more. Chapter 10 lists the sons of Shem, and their sons. In some cases it is very specific. In Genesis 10:22 Shem is listed as having five sons, amongst them Arphaxad. In Genesis 11:11 he is listed as having Arphaxad and then just other sons and daughters (daughters apparently weren't important to whoever wrote chapter 10). Arphaxad was the father of just Shelah in chapter 10 (GEN 10:24) but in chapter 11 he is the father of Shelah and other sons and daughters. In 10 Shelah is only the father of Eber, but in 11 it is Eber and other sons and daughters. On Eber, chapter 10 is very specific - two sons, Peleg and Joktan. (GEN 10:25) However, in chapter 11 no mention of Joktan and the implication that Eber has more than two sons and he has daughters as well. (GEN 11:17).

Then it gets almost interesting - Peleg is not mentioned as having any sons in chapter 10, but in chapter 11 he becomes the father of Reu and other sons and daugthers. (GEN 11:18-19) Joktan on the other hand is listed as having 13 sons in chapter 10 (GEN 10:26-27) but not a mention of him in chapter 11. So, which is the correct lineage stemming from Shem? Why isn't Joktan mentioned by name at all in chapter 11, but given 13 sons in chapter 10 whereas Peleg is not given any sons in chapter 10 and some in chapter 11?

Couldn't be different versions of the same story rolled into one text, could it?

Not much else to this chapter, just more lists of births and where some of them died after having lived longer than God is supposed to have allowed.

And I haven't even really touched on Genesis and its relation to actual ancient history yet. That's a can of worms that won't be resolved by me!

1 comment:

  1. Well this is where the Bible as a historical record really comes into its own. Add a little logic and serious scholarship we suddenly discover undeniable new truths...

    Language can not be the product of man putting together sounds all by himself. For example, there are many universal human sounds (like the “raspberry” sound) that are not part of any human language. If man invented language on his own, it would make sense for some language to use that sound.