the children of men built. 6. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now they will be restrained

pears on the Bla

Obelisk, and several workmen were unable to remove the rubother Assyrian monuments, as a town of bish within two months, he abandoned Shinar;

and which Strabo mentions as a his pretentious designs. However, the Babylonian town, sacred to Diana and portion of the structure which was in Apollo, and renowned for its linen existence in Pliny's time, was imposing manufactories. — The temple of Jupiter enough to be still called the temple of Belus with its tower, constructed of kiln- Belus; and Benjamin of Tudela, in the burnt bricks cemented with bitumen, twelfth century, described it as a brickwas regarded as one of the most gi- building, the base measuring two miles, gantic works of antiquity, and attracted and the breadth 240 yards; he added, that the curiosity of travellers from every a spiral passage, built round the tower, in country. Herodotus, who saw it him- stages of ten yards each, led up to the sum. self, dwells upon it with emphasis. He mit, which allows a wide prospect over an describes it as a square building, ex- almost perfectly level country; and contending two stadia on every side; the cluded with the old tradition, that the tower was one stadium in length, and one heavenly fire which struck the tower, split in breadth. On this tower, another was it to its very foundation. erected, which again bore another, and so More than six hundred years, the ruins on to the number of eight. They were of Birs-Nimroud remained unnoticed and ascended from the outside, by a way run- unknown; they were first re-discovered ning spirally round them, and provided by Niebuhr, in 1756; then more accuin the middle, with convenient resting- lately described by Ker Porter, Rich, places. In the uppermost story, which Buckingham, and the other eminent traformed the adytum, was a spacious temple vellers, who inaugurated a new era in the with a golden table for lectisternia; it was, history of East-Asiatic antiquities; but perhaps, also used for astronomical pur- their examination, and the discovery of poses; for the astronomers of Borsippa some of the monumental records they formed a separate sect; and other planetary contain, were reserved to the last degods, besides Jupiter were here worshipped. cennium. They consist of two dis-It was partially destroyed by Xerxes, tinct parts, but enclosed by the same when he returned from Greece (B.C. 490), wall. The western mound, though lower, upon which the fraudulent priests appro- is larger; it is more than 1,200 feet in priated to themselves the lands and enorm- diameter, is traversed by ravines and ous revenues attached to it; and seem, water-courses, and, though composed of from this reason, to have been averse to loose accumulations of dust, has upon its its restoration. A part of this mag- summit two small mosques, to which the nificent edifice existed still more than Mohammedans attach pious legends confive centuries later; but the other part nected with the history of Abraham and was, in the time of Alexander the Great, Nimrod. It is supposed to represent the a vast heap of ruins; the ambitious Mace- treasure-house, the dwellings of the donian determined to rebuild it: he issued priests, and the temple with the great the orders accordingly; and when the work altar of Belus, where, according to did not proceed with the vigour and result Herodotus, full-grown sheep only were which he had anticipated, he resolved to sacrificed; where, on the great annual undertake it himself with his whole army; festival, frankincense to the amount of a he lacked, however, the perseverance of thousand talents was burnt; and near the oriental despots; for, when 10,000 which stood a statue of the god, of solid

from nothing which they imagine to do. 7. Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. 8. So the Lord

gold, twelve cubits high, coveted by Darius, and taken away by Xerxes, after killing the priest who opposed him. The higher mound, though at present possessing scarcely more than half its original elevation, rises abruptly on the western face, amazing the eye by its gigantic proportions; but ascends on the other side by a series of gradations, which, though much obliterated by violent rains, creeks, and fissures, have been recognised by accurate observers as the sides of several distinct stages or terraces (probably for many periods the usual type of sacred architecture in Mesopotamia), which evidently represent the seven “spheres" above mentioned, and which some conjectured to have served for various astronomical purposes. The walls are of enormous thickness, and allow, at about half their height, an easy circuit round the ruins, as on broad steps; the bricks of the exterior structure, except a part of the eastern side, are kiln-burnt, whilst those of the interior are sun-dried, mixed with chopped straw; and the whole mass is pierced with square holes, probably to admit air through the build. ing. A large number and variety of gems, intaglios, amulets, and other valuable objects, have been found in the rubbish, both by natives and travellers, and many of them have been deposited in European museums. The uppermost part is a solid piece of masonry, twentyeight feet broad and thirty-five feet high, one of the most beautiful examples of Babylonian architecture, so compact that no stone can be loosened from it, apparently indestructible, and, though split from one end to the other by some unknown catastrophe, still standing erect, with its bricks elegant and perfect. The view from this spot is vast and desolate beyond description; it includes not only the numerous other mounds scattered around the principal group, but the cele

brated grave of the prophet Ezekiel, and ruins considerably beyond it.

But although the tower was reared to an immense altitude; the town itself was not completed; the men ceased to build it; and the vast circumference of Babylon's walls without a proportionate number of streets and houses, and with spacious fields and gardens within its precincts, might have given to the stranger the idea of an unfinished city, especially if Borsippa, where the tower of Belus stood, was considered a part of Babylon, as is the case in our text, and seems frequently to have been done by ancient writers, in consequence of the magnificence and prominent importance of that building.

The infinite variety of languages, which so much impedes and incommodes the general intercourse of nations, which is itself both the cause and the consequence of conflicting ideas and conceptions, and which may have been especially striking and bewildering in the plains of Mesopotamia, where the commerce of the east and the west met, and the tongues of all nations perplexed and confused the ear:this antagonism of languages is, then, represented as the result of the arrogant aspirations of the human families, and as a wholesome check to their growing pride. Their unity had imparted to them a strength and a tenacity of purpose, which threatened to forget all human limits, and to banish that humility which is the root of practical piety. The sin in Paradise consisted in grasping after a spiritual advantage which was withheld for inscrutable reasons; the offence at Babel was the vain longing after external and perishable goods which poison the heart. The curse of exhausting physical labour was the punishment of the former, dispersion and mutual estrangement that of the latter; and in both instances, God Himself stopped the further progress in the same blameable direction by contrasting the past conduct

scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 9. Therefore is its name called Babel; for there the Lord con

with the possible future consequences society would speak Hebrew, is now classed (ver. 6, and iii. 22); but in the happy times among the popular errors. At present, of the Messiah, when the knowledge of the scale of probability inclines more to God will be universal and perfect, and the Sanscrit, although the disquisition is when all the nations of the earth will far from being concluded or settled. again, like one loving family, congregate We must, however, warn against an inround one centre, not the temple of an ference which has been drawn in favour idol, but of the Lord of hosts, the dif- of the Babylonian cuneiform language ference of the languages will cease, and from the circumstance, that those characas God will be one, so His name will be ters are found on the bricks forming the one (Zech. xiv. 10). Such is the spirit of foundation of Birs-Nimroud, the supposed our narrative; but the form, as we have Tower of Babel. That temple, in its erobserved, was borrowed in part from a isting ruins and relics, does not date, at general and prevailing ancient tradition. the utmost, earlier than the twelfth century It is marked by many of the peculiarities before the present era; and cannot, thereof the early Hebrew style; it does not fore, in any way be employed in deteravoid human expressions in reference to mining the question concerning the one the Deity; God is represented as living on primitive language. high; He descends from hearen to see the The materials generally used for the town and the tower; He reflects and soli- construction of Babylonian buildings are loquizes; He seems, though without jea- here most faithfully described (ver. 3). lousy or envy, to fear the too great approach As in Egypt, the edifices of Mesopotamia of mankind to His power, as formerly to consisted of sun-dried, but often also of His wisdom; He takes a resolution, and burnt bricks, baked of the purest clay, and executes it. But this simplicity of lan- sometimes mixed with chopped straw, guage, which produces sublime and ab- which materially enhances their compactstract thoughts in a familiar form, has ness and hardness; these bricks wero ceased to appear objectionable to our generally covered with inscriptions, promore discriminating age; it is distinctly mising to prove of the greatest historical separated from the ideas which it embodies, value. But instead of mortar, the Babyand is but rarely and unsuccessfully used lonians used as a cement that celebrated to traduce the Biblical notions.

asphalt or bitumen, which is nowhere The linguistic researches of modern found in such excellence and abundance times have more and more confirmed the as in the neighbourhood of Babylon. theory of one primitive Asiatic language, We refer, for further details, to our notes gradually developed into the various mo- on Exodus, i. 14, ii. 3, and v. 7. One of difications by external agencies and influ- the most gifted of the modern explorers ences. Formerly, the Hebrew tongue was, declared the ruins of Birs-Nimroud a speby many scholars, advocated as the original cimen of the perfection of Babylonian idiom; for it was maintained both by early masonry, and remarked, “that the cement Jewish and Christian authorities, that as by which the bricks were united is of so the race of Shem were no partners in the tenacious a quality, that it is almost imimpious work of the Tower, they remained possible to detach one from the mass in possession of the first language, which the entire” (Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, fathers of the earliest age had left to Noah;

p. 499). but this view, like the more recent one, Nothing but the violence of fearful that a child if left alone without human conflagration, the ravages of which are

founded the language of all the earth; and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

manifest in the ruins of Birs-Nimroud, would have been able to annibilate a building which appeared to be beyond the destructive power of time.

God is stated to have frustrated the ambitious schemes of men by miraculous interference: it is, therefore, futile to guess whether flashes of lightning converted their speech into an unintelligible stammering, or whether a temporary suspension of the intellectual faculties changed the thought into absurdity. But the words of our text do certainly not imply

that God destroyed by lightning the upper part of the building; “He descended” merely to confound the speech of the builders; and it is inadmissible to base the interpretation of this passage on the circumstance, that the higher portions of the temple of Belus present a glazed, fused, or burnt appearance; for this destruction, by whatever agency it might have been worked, did not take place till considerably after the time of Nebuchadnezzar.



CHAPTER XI. 10–32.

10. These are the generations of Shem: Shem was a hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the food: 11. And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.12. And Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begat

10–32. The genealogy of Shem, which were the founders of tribes; but the forms the contents of this section, is the difficulty consists in ascertaining where immediate continuation of the table of the here the real individuals begin. It may, Adamites contained in the fifth chapter; perhaps, not be impossible to find nations and both are parallel in every respect.

have some resemblance Both consist of ten generations; and with Reu and Serug; but it is undoubted both end with the individual selected to that the three last names of our list, glorify and to propagate his race; the one Nahor, Terah, and Abram, are intended with Noah, the other with Abram. In as individuals; and although the uncerboth lists nearly the same chronological tainty concerning Reu and Serug, dedates are inserted, and both are therefore prives us of an interesting addition to equally intended to serve for historical our knowledge of ancient geography, their computations. But there is one great connection with Eber proves, at least, to difference between both. Whilst the list which part of the Shemitic branches they of the Adamites contains individuals, belonged; and if they indeed represent that of the Shemites enumerates, at least cities or tribes, we must seek them in the partly, representatives of nations. We neighbourhood of the Euphrates. But know from the preceding chapter, that the general historical meaning of this geArphaxad and Salah, Eber and Peleg, nealogy is as certain as it is important.

whose names

Salah: 13. And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.—14. And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber: 15. And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. -16. And Eber lived thirty-five years, and begat Peleg: 17. And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters —18. And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu: 19. And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years,

and begat sons and daughters.—20. And Reu lived thirty-two years, and begat Serug: 21. And Reu lived after he

That branch of the Shemites which inhabited Arphaxad or northern Assyria, after having increased and crossed the Euphrates, was divided into several tribes, no doubt on both sides of the river, till the descendants, in the fourth generation, migrated westward to Canaan (see p. 189). Thus the descent and the journeys of Abraham and of his progeny are traced with an accuracy which will guide our judgment regarding the other geographical allusions of this passage. Terah and Abraham are stated to have been born in Ur of the Chaldees”; they intended to exchange their native abodes with those of Canaan; and on their way to this land they stayed in Haran. The identity of the last-mentioned town with Carrhae of the classical writers, is undisputed. It was situated on the river Balissus, 20 miles south-east of Edessa, in a country destitute of water and of trees, to which circumstance it may owe its name, which means a “ dry or parched place"; surrounded by mountains, though itself built in a large plain. It was the point whence several caravan roads issued, one over Nisibis to the Tigris, another southward to the Euphrates, to Circesium and Babylon; and another south-west to Syria and Palestine. It belonged to the chief towns forced by Sennacherib's predecessors under the Assyrian sceptre; and stood with Tyre in commercial relations naturally favoured by its po

sition; it was, after the time of Alexander the Great, peopled with Macedonians; offered efficient assistance to Pompey, who here stationed a Roman garrison; but became chiefly famous by the death and total defeat which Crassus suffered in its vicinity from the Parthians(B.C. 53); it preserved a faithful attachment to the Romans, who therefore made it the first Roman colony in Mesopotamia, and raised it to the metropolis of the country (165 A.C.); it was further renowned by its oracles, and its mysterious worship devoted to the moon-goddess, and shared by the Roman emperors, Caracalla and Julianus; it became the frontier town of the Byzantine empire, wherefore Justinianus fortified its walls; it is mentioned by Arabic writers as a principal town of Sabaean worshippers, who here possessed an oratory ascribed to Abraham; it was, therefore, by Syrian authors contemptuously called the “heathen town," in contradistinction to the Christian city, Edessa, and asserted to have been the centre from which idolatry spread over the whole earth; it was, in the twelfth century still inhabited by some Jewish families, which stated that their synagogue was built by Ezra, and pointed out the site where the house of Abraham was said to have stood, where no other building was allowed to be constructed, and which the Mohammedans also held in high veneration. But already in the thirteenth century, Haran was

« ElőzőTovább »