1. Literary Features: alliteration, paronomasia, inclusion, chiasmus, irony, sarcasm


A. Gordon Wenham’s outline (Word Biblical Commentary):

Introduction                                                   (1)

Scene 1: Travels of mankind                       (2)

Scene 2: Human plans to build city/tower      (3-4)

Scene 3: Divine inspection visit                          (5)

Scene 4: Divine plans to frustrate mankind   (6-7)

Scene 5: Mankind is scattered                    (8)

Conclusion: What Babel means                          (9)


B. Parallelism:

“one language” (1)                         “one people” (6)

“one kind of speech” (1)                   “one language (6)

“there” (2)                                       “there” (7)

“each other” (3)                                 “each other” (7)

“build . . . a city” (4)                          “building the city” (8)

“name” (4)                                      “it’s name” (9)

“lest we are scattered” (4)               “the Lord scattered them over the face of the earth. (8-9)


C. Chiastic Structure:


A   “the whole world had one language” (1)

B   “there” (2)

C “each other” (3)

D “Come, let’s make bricks” (3)

E “Come, let us build ourselves (4)

F “a city, with a tower” (4)

G “the LORD came down” (5)

F’ “the city and the tower” (5)

E’ “that the men were building” (5)

D’ “Come, let us . . . confuse” (7)

C’ “each other” (7)

B’ “from there” (8)

A’ “the language of the whole world” (9)


D. Wordplay in Hebrew:

nilbĕnâ – “let us make bricks” (3)

nābĕlâ – “Let us go down” (7) (Hebrew consonants lbn inverted to nbl)


bābel – “Babel”         (9)

bālal – “confused”   (9)


E. Irony and Sarcasm:

  1. Their unity brought about their scattering.
  2. Their worst fears were realized by their own doing.
  3. Grandiose plan ends in dismal failure.
  4. They sought a great “name,” but received a humiliating name “Babel.” Akkadian name for “Babylon” – “City of the gods”
  5. The builders think the tower reaches to heaven, but God has to descend just to see it!
  6. Brick and bitumen vs. stones which Israel used to build.



  1. Divine command to “fill the earth” – (1:28; 9:1)
  2. Security of the people rested on their homogeneity in their minds.
  3. They sought to preserve their union by building a city/tower with religious intent.
  4. Their pride, polytheism, desire for social unity, and a “name” motivated the attempt.
  5. Their attempt resulted in disbandment by God himself.
  6. God is the sovereign Lord.

Not all unity is from God and not all disunity is from Satan!

“Therefore the particularism of the Abrahamic call and the genesis of Israel did not by any means derail the universality of the promissory blessing intended for all humanity (1:28; 9:1). Rather, the particularism achieved the universal possibilities.” (Ken Mathews, Genesis 1:1-11:32, New American Commentary, 475)

“Shem” – “Name!” – ancestor of Abraham, about whom God says he will make his name “great” (Genesis 12:1-3)

God makes David’s name “great” – (2 Samuel 7:9, 29)

Acts 2:1-18 – an echo and reversal in some sense of Genesis 11:1-9. Many languages now understood as one by the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 11:10 – Abraham seeks a city whose architect and builder is God.

Revelation 21-22 –   Babel, an earthly city vs. God’s heavenly city

Babel, with its tower to heaven vs. new Jerusalem coming down from heaven.

Babel, people making a name for themselves vs. God’s city with names of the 12 apostles; Rev. 2:17 – a new name written on the white stone those who overcome; Rev. 3:5 – “I will not erase his name out of the book of life;” “I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”

Babel’s rise (Genesis 11) vs. Babel’s fall (Revelation 17-18)