Noach (Genesis 6:9 – 11:32)

GENESIS 6:9-22

SPOTLIGHT
Retaliation. Conquest. Competition. Jealousy. Discord. From our inner anxieties and miseries we act out in order to harm or at least get the better of others. There is no satisfaction in it. Yet the will to power, to prevent anyone from hurting us either by not caring or by getting our penny’s worth of cheap vengeance, holds us prisoner if we let it. We may not be power-mad dictators, but we seek to rule our own little world. We must be at the top. We must not lose face. If we multiply our feelings and inner insecurities by millions and even billions, we begin to understand this messed up, violent human race. The author of the Genesis flood story singles out violence as the human sin par excellence. But another way contrasts with it, a way that is called blameless, the way of Noah. This better way is not too hard for us. It is walking with God. It is separating ourselves from the cycle of violence. It is joining with God in the act of saving others instead of seeking to come out the winner of the battle for power and prestige. What lists do we carry around in our heads of wrongs done to us by this person and that person? What is truly more important than walking with God and being with our loved ones? This world God made has plenty of beauty and enjoyment in it to go around for all of us. Every day is a new day and the world is full to overflowing. We can better spend our energy on building something positive out of what life hands to us.

OUTLINE
Blameless Noah (9-10), the lawlessness of earth (11-12), instructions for the Ark (13-16), covenant promise and instructions regarding animals (17-21), Noah’s compliance (22).

OVERVIEW
Was Noah blameless in a relative sense (compared to other people in his time period, since it was a wicked era) or blameless in a superlative sense (even though his wicked era made it harder to be blameless)? Thus far, Genesis has defined goodness as calling on God and staying apart from the cycle of vengeance and violence that is ruining the earth. Noah’s “blameless” character may be simply that. Some Jewish commentators have raised a moral issue with Noah, who they say was less righteous than Abraham. They say this because he did not, at least in the story as it is narrated for us, pray for mercy on his generation (unlike Abraham who sought to have Sodom spared). Like Enoch before him, Noah “walked with God.” But this righteous character of Noah is apparently not something superhuman, an unattainable level of moral perfection. It is simply the basic, humanly achievable practice of worship and general kindness. Some later theologies in Christianity debate how morally perfect we would have to be for God to consider us righteous. In some views, we would have to be perfect from birth to death and achieve levels of selfless love beyond human limits for God to take notice. This is not at all the requirement we see in actual stories of the relationship between God and people in the Bible. God counts our worship and frail mortal virtue to be precious and valued. As for Noah’s generation, the charge is חָמָס chamas, violence. It may seem odd for Genesis to single out brutality and savagery as the quintessential human sin. Many other thinkers have chosen something more intangible (selfishness, envy, pride). But there is one thing that qualifies violence for prime status as the human transgression: it is the visible result of whatever inner condition prevents us as a race from enjoying a good life here on earth. Violence and the will to use it for power mark humanity as a troubled and flawed species. Interestingly, when we write speculative fiction about the future of humanity (i.e., science fiction) it is a common theme to imagine either a time when we are too enlightened to be violent or another race of beings judging us for our violence. Inner conditions like selfishness, envy, and pride become monstrous when we band together and turn them into violence. Vss. 13-16 are the first iteration of instructions for making a ship to survive the coming flood, and the instructions, like many other parts of the story, will be repeated. The entire flood story can be separated out into two strands identifiable by repetitions. The P source of the Torah (a document which once existed separately and which was priestly in its theology and concerns) and the J source (older than P, written in Judah) both had an account of Noah and the flood, and these have been merged into the one final story without deleting anything from either account. See Richard Elliott Friedman (Who Wrote the Bible?) for an analysis and breakdown. Following the instructions God promises a covenant, and this is the first use of this important concept in the Bible. God’s covenants are about rescuing and redeeming, and here God is rescuing humanity by saving one family. The rescue of Noah’s family, which is the rescue and rebuilding of humanity, pre-figures the choosing of Abraham’s family. God saves the world through choosing one family to carry on his name. This saving covenant with Noah is necessary because God will “destroy all flesh.” Is Genesis talking about a global flood? Readers of Genesis should understand that the author had no notion of a globe. Furthermore, many of the terms that sound global had smaller meanings (instead of “earth,” eretz in Hebrew generally means “land”). The flood of Genesis is simply a story about many human beings, the core of civilization at that time, being destroyed. It was a sort of cultural reset on the earth. Attempts to use this story as part of a study of earth’s geology are complete misreadings of this ancient text. The perspective of the author of Genesis is that human civilization was slowed in its growth and a new family began human life all over again on earth as part of God’s plan to redeem the world.

GENESIS 7:1-16

SPOTLIGHT
Genesis 7:11 is “old world science,” to use a term coined by John Walton (The Lost World of Genesis One). We think there is only one “science,” but if we paused to reflect, we’d realize before Galileo and Copernicus some very famous aspects of “science” used to look very different. We could equally imagine other great breakthroughs in understanding the universe that changed the language and perspective of science. Even in the ancient world, in the time of the Israelites, there were different ideas about how the world was held together. Concerning the flood story, Richard Elliott Friedman (The Bible with Sources Revealed) points out that the J source simply says it rained while the P source evidences a more colorful scientific belief: the world is a bubble surrounded by waters. Old world science is all over the Bible. The sky has floodgates that let the waters in. The earth rests on pillars (or mountains). What should we as modern readers think about a verse like Genesis 7:11, “In the 600th year of the life of Noah, in the second month on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day, all the fountains of the great Deep [tehōm, like the chaos dragon Tiamat] burst, and the windows of heaven broke open”? The point of the verse is to cause us to wonder, to behold in radical amazement, the forces which are far greater than us but which God controls effortlessly. Our life is small compared to the universe, which is small still compared to the God who made it. The God who controls such forces has made a covenant with us as a human race and has our good future in mind. The story inspires us to be among those, like Noah, who call on God and are “righteous” in our generation.

OUTLINE
Noah instructed to enter the ark with animals (1-5), Noah obeys and the rain starts (6-10), chronological notes and a poetic line about the flood (11-12), Noah’s family and the animals comprised male and female of all flesh (13-16).

OVERVIEW
The Noah story is a combined text from two sources, both of which can be separated out, and each of which tells the complete story. Rather than deleting parts from the two versions of the story and combining them in a single version, both original versions have been left complete. Therefore, every major story element is repeated in a final version that sometimes makes strange reading. One source, referred to as J, is from Judah during the period of the monarchy in Israel. The other source, P, is from Jerusalem and reflects priestly theology and concerns. Because it is natural for us to read the Noah account as a single story, we tend to harmonize conflicts in the story details. Thus, for example, 6:19; 7:8-9, 15-16 say Noah brought one pair of each kind of animal on the ark. But 7:2-3 says seven pairs of clean animals and birds were brought aboard. We may be puzzled at first, but then we harmonize the story by assuming he brought one pair of most animals but seven of others. See Richard Elliott Friedman (Who Wrote the Bible?) for a thorough discussion of the double-sourced Noah story and how to separate the sources into two complete versions. The story tells us (from the J source) why Noah was spared in the flood: כִּי־אֹתְךָ רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק לְפָנַי בַּדּוֹר הַזֶּה, ki-ōtcha ra’iti tzadiq lefanai badōr hazzeh, “for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.” So far Genesis has depicted humanity as dividing into two categories: those who participate in violence and those who call on God. Noah’s righteousness is simply a matter of belonging to the latter group. God has a desire to preserve and increase this trait among human beings. One detail in the story raises the issue of anachronism. The laws of sacrificial animals will not be revealed until much later in history and yet the story (the J source part of the story) depicts Noah as bringing more clean animals aboard than unclean. How did Noah know the difference? A popular way of reading the story assumes that the clean/unclean distinction is something humanity has always known and that dietary laws are universal (required for Jews and non-Jews). Actually, as we will see in Genesis 9:3, Noah is permitted to eat any animal, clean or unclean. We should not assume that Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean animals, but that the writer knows his audience (Israelites) are aware of the difference. We should remember this story is being told much later, in the time of when Torah was developing, and that terms from the time of Torah could be used to explain a primeval story (anachronism). Also, the nations outside of Israel had been practicing sacrificial worship for ages before the Torah was written and the customs of worship in the Torah are not completely unique. Another verse in this section that stands out is 7:11. This is likely from an older Israelite or Mesopotamian epic about the flood. Both the creation and flood stories contain hints of an older tradition of epic poetry about creation, the kind of poetry that shows up in places like Job 38, Isaiah 40, and various Psalms (Cassuto). The note in vs. 16 that God shut Noah into the ark differs from the Mesopotamian stories, in which the heroes Utnapishtim and Atrahasis shut themselves in (Sarna). The meaning is that Noah’s deliverance is not by his own heroism, but by the providence of God alone.

GENESIS 7:17 – 8:14

SPOTLIGHT
What is the flood story all about? When civilization on earth was growing monstrous, God destroyed that civilization and checked its progress for quite some time. This had the effect of slowing down the growth of an empire of violence and oppression on the earth. At the same time, God chose a family and established a covenant relationship, which led eventually to Abraham and the rest of the Genesis story. We might look at our world today and think that God’s action was a complete waste. That monstrous civilization came back and human history has been dominated by a succession of empire after empire, by competition with a few winners and numerous losers, by a series of economies in which the minority take and the majority give. Was the flood a wasted effort on God’s part? There are at least two considerations that would see the value in the flood story. First, if God found damnable the human propensity to use violence to build empires, and if at one time he expressed his wrath through destruction, we still benefit from this revelation even if there was not yet a permanent solution. We see that God has spoken. The flood narrative challenges what human beings think is important. There has to be a better way than empire building. Second, the family with which God established a relationship left a permanent mark on the world. Noah leads to Abraham, Abraham to Judaism, Judaism to the faith of several billion people on earth today. Of course, critics may argue that faith in the Judeo-Christian God is ineffectual, that it has brought about little if any change in human destiny. But we may see it as part of a process that is still ongoing. As the world was saved from the flood, it will be saved again in the redemption to come. Some of us look to Noah and Abraham and others, seeing ourselves as part of a kingdom that transcends human empires.

OUTLINE
The waters rise above mountains (17-20), all life but those on the ark perishes (21-23), waters recede from the 150th day to the tenth month (7:24 – 8:5), the ark opened and birds sent out (6-12), one year after God’s first word to Noah, the land was drying, and fifty-six days later was dry (13-14).

OVERVIEW
It may not be obvious to modern readers, but ancient audiences could not miss the fact that the flood story of Genesis is related to the similar tales in Mesopotamia. Not only that, but the Israelite audience was also aware of other flood stories, probably poems told by storytellers. Umberto Cassuto observes that the creation and flood stories show evidence of being related to older Israelite epic poems (and creation poetry shows up in Psalms and Isaiah). Genesis 8:2 is possibly from an earlier flood tale, “Shut up tight were the fountains of the Deep [tehōm, related to the name of the chaos dragon Tiamat] and the windows of heaven, and held back firmly were the rains from heaven.” Perhaps there was a memory in Mesopotamia of a great flood that once destroyed the major population centers. But the Genesis version has its own unique elements, especially regarding the theology of the flood event. Cassuto observes some key points made in the way Genesis tells the story. The ark drifted without rudder because the salvation of Noah’s family followed God’s providence and not human self-determination. All life perished because God, who made life, can also unmake it. The flood’s end is marked by God “remembering” Noah because God’s ways are determined by covenant relationships. God was always in control of the flood and stopped it when he willed it to stop. Should we read the flood story, as so many have done, as being about the entire globe being submerged in water? Such things would not have occurred to ancient readers who knew nothing about earth as a planet. Modern readers are confused by language that sounds earth-wide. Ancient stories sometimes used cosmic language as a poetic device, not to be taken literally. A clear example demonstrating this tendency can be found in Judges 5, in Deborah’s song, which describes an ordinary stream overflowing in the valley of Megiddo. Although the meteorological event would be considered minor and localized, Judges 5 says things like “the earth trembled and the heavens dropped,” “from heaven the stars fought,” “the ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon, swept them away.” Thus, when we read the language of the flood story, we need not take literally its descriptions. “Mountain” can also be “hill” and “earth” can simply mean “land.” The descriptions are perfectly consistent with a devastating local flood. As for the death toll, who knows, but perhaps this flood destroyed the major population center of the time. Some might argue that God’s goal in the story was to literally destroy all human life except for Noah’s family in order to rebuild humanity. While those who wish to read the story as a literal wiping out of humanity could do so. Even a local flood could possibly at some early point in human history have wiped out all human beings if all human beings were concentrated in one population center. Nevertheless, the story could reflect God destroying and holding back the rapid advance of Mesopotamian civilization while establishing a covenant relationship with one family from whom would come Abraham. What can we say about the discrepancies in the story that arise in this section? We read that the flood waters rose for forty days in 7:17 and yet they swelled one hundred and fifty days according to 7:24. It turns out the “forty days” theme is used in a number of verses (7:4, 10, 12; 8:6-12). Likewise, the “one hundred and fifty days” theme has its repetitions (7:11, 24; 8:3, 5, 13, 14). All of the “forty days” references come from the source document known as J and all of the “hundred and fifty days” references from the document known as P (see Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?). These discrepancies are all part of the combining of two originally independent versions of the story (by the authors of J and P respectively) into one account. It is possible to separate out the sources and to find two complete versions of the flood story.

GENESIS 8:15 – 9:7

SPOTLIGHT
We are at once broken and loved, capable of breaking God’s heart and touching it. Noah’s burnt offerings were pure worship, a giving of love and appreciation to the God who made and saved him. God receives the gift, not like the gods of myth who were eager to eat food supplied by human slaves, but as a parent who gives and receives with his children. Noah’s act causes God to consider that, bent as we are toward violence, we are better preserved than destroyed. The natural order God made in the act of creation (with day and night, water and land, earth and sky, separated to make room for life) will not again be overturned. God’s original intention to make human life possible in the world will continue uninterrupted now. God’s way of dealing with human beings will start to look different, especially when the generation of Abraham arrives.

OUTLINE
God tells Noah to disembark (15-19), Noah makes an offering and God’s pleasure leads to a covenant (8:20-22), God blesses Noah (9:1-2), all animal life is food (3), prohibition of eating blood (4), prohibition of murder (5-6), the fertility blessing (7).

OVERVIEW
God has been in control of the entire judgment and salvation. The ark drifted on its own and was not steered by Noah. God shut Noah into the ark. Now, the disembarkation is also initiated by God, who invites them to disembark and bring out with them all the animals they have preserved. God speaks again a blessing over animal life, that they might increase and spread out on the earth. The reader gets the message that the problems human beings face sometimes are beyond our ability to solve, so that we find we need God to intervene and change the situation. Noah’s offering, like all offerings prior to the Torah, is a burnt offering. Its purposes include thanksgiving and worship. Sarna notes that in the Utnapishtim flood story, the gods crowd like flies around the sweet smell of the sacrifice, eager to eat what the human has offered. In what is likely a deliberate contrast to the pagan story, Genesis reveals that God’s pleasure in the sacrifice was not for his own appetite, but love for humanity and joy in the worship that was offered to him. A race that can offer thanksgiving can also receive love in return. Thus we see, right after Noah’s offering, the benevolent determination of God to save and not destroy. God reasons that though human beings continue to have a disposition toward evil (vs. 21), we are worth rescuing and even entering into a covenant with. What follows in chapter 9 is a section of laws about life, blood, and the life that is in the blood. These laws, often referred to in rabbinic thought as the Noahide laws, are directly related to the flood experience. The flood has taken life. So should human beings have a casual view concerning the taking of human life? No, the taking of animal life for food is permitted, although there is even a restriction involved in this: the blood of an animal shall not be eaten. As for human life, God will judge both animals and people who take human life. The reason human life is sacred, while animal life is less sacred, is that human beings are made in God’s image and likeness. The other nations make images of their gods, but God made us to be his images. Why is the eating of blood forbidden? Genesis does not say, although Leviticus 17:11 provides an unusual answer: blood is symbolic of life and is used for ritual purification. One of the ideas behind the Noahide laws is that there are moral laws which do not require a law-code to be known. Consider, for example, that the flood generation was judged for lawlessness and violence, in spite of the fact that there was no Torah or law-code of any kind. Judaism built on this idea, developing a longer list of Noahide commandments. Some rabbis suggested that the longer list of Noahide commandments was God’s total expectation of non-Jews (i.e., Jews have the Torah and non-Jews have the Noahide laws). We do see, in at least partial agreement with this concept in Judaism, that the dietary laws of the Torah are not placed upon Noah’s descendants as a requirement (see 9:3, where Noah is permitted to eat any living thing, though not the blood).

GENESIS 9:8-17

SPOTLIGHT
God’s might has at times and will again be bent for destruction. Yet this is not the ultimate plan. God’s bow, representing his power, is fundamentally aimed toward life and increasing it on the earth. Genesis shows us a God who prepared a world for life, spoke the blessing of life and increase on the earth, vowed not to end life on the earth, and who rescues and redeems. Life can be cruel. It is all too easy to believe this is because the author of life is callous, unfeeling. If we look at the story of the rainbow, and more fully at the evidence all around us that the world is made for life, an optimistic view of our situation can sustain us. Are we subjects of an impersonal universe or creatures of a feeling, loving creator? Is God a hard master, more worried about judging human beings than offering us a chance at redemption? The Genesis story encourages us to expect benevolence from him, to understand his motives in judgment as subordinate to his motives in salvation.

OUTLINE
The covenant (8-11), the bow of God as the sign (12-17).

OVERVIEW
Genesis has already made use of allusions to elements from Mesopotamian myth, such as the reference to Tehom (the Deep) in 1:2 (a reference to Tiamat, the chaos dragon of the salt waters of the earth). The “rainbow” at the end of the flood story is another such allusion. There is no actual word for a rainbow here, but simply a bow (qeshet, קֶשֶׁת). In a well known story about Marduk in the Enuma Elish, he made a constellation out of his bow, the same one he used to defeat Tiamat (Sarna). God’s might, his bow, is no longer an object of fear (as when he decided to institute the flood) but of protection (through his covenant not to wipe out humanity again by flood). As a side purpose, the allusions to myth in Genesis tend to function as a denial of some popularly believed truth. There is a bow in the sky, Genesis tells us, but it is God’s, not Marduk’s.

GENESIS 9:18 – 10:32

SPOTLIGHT
The story of Noah becomes embarrassing after the flood is over and he settles down to become a wine-maker. Is this an old story told to warn people of the dangers of drinking too much wine? Is it a story offering some explanation for the later servitude of the Canaanites to Israel in the land? Interestingly, God does not curse the Canaanites in this story, but rather Noah does. The situation implied, in which at some point in history Canaanites are a subservient people, fits with the time of Israel’s monarchy (after the time of king David). Rather than viewing the story as a prophecy (there is no prophet here, unless the reader assumes Noah is prophesying), it seems rather an explanation after the fact. Why are the Canaanites a subservient people? How did their fortunes diminish in society? What the reader should observe is that the human condition is constantly being affected by things like the will to power, the unbalanced pursuit of pleasure, and unchecked desire to gain more. In the Hebrew Bible, the good life is not about happiness or power, but rather it is a life filled with meaning and purpose. When Noah was saving people and animals, everything was fine. When he settled down and turned his attention to wine-making, a problem arose. This little incident in Noah’s life is a hint that the flood did not solve humankind’s problems. The narrative will soon turn to an even greater demonstration of the evils plaguing humanity.

OUTLINE
Humanity grows from Noah’s sons (18-19), Noah’s drunken sleep and Ham’s shameful act (19-23), Noah’s curse and blessing (24-27), Noah’s death (9:28-29), the table of nations (10:1-32).

OVERVIEW
Grapes are not a common Mesopotamian product, so the story is more likely set in either Syria or Canaan (Sarna). A long time has passed so that vine culture is now thriving and perhaps Ham’s son Canaan is a grown man by now. The story leaves many questions. Did Ham merely look on Noah’s nakedness or is more implied? Cassuto thinks only looking, since Shem and Japheth solved the problem by covering. Sarna thinks more is hinted since the story seems abridged, as if it was too embarrassing to relate in full. Why is the curse on Canaan and not Ham? This is another clue that this story is ultimately about Canaanites, Israelites, and surrounding peoples in Moses’ time and not just Patriarchs from the post-flood generation. Ham includes Canaan and Egypt. Japeth includes the sea peoples (Phoenicians, Hittites, Philistines). Shem is the line from which Abraham will come, the line that carries the knowledge of God to the world. The Canaanites wound up serving Egypt and Israel. Cassuto sees it differently and the whole servitude theme is fulfilled in Genesis 14 with Sodom and Gomorrah serving Chedorlaomer (an Elamite or Persian, from Shem). Noah (whose name means comfort) took to wine making (viticulture), as had been foretold in 5:29, bringing “comfort” out of the ground. What follows the Noah story in Genesis 10 is known as the table of the nations, showing how all the seventy nations of Moses‘ time descended from Shem, Ham, and Japheth. It is repeated with some variations in 1 Chronicles 1:4-23. The table of nations emphasizes numerical harmony (groups of sevens) and God’s providence. There are three individuals with an expanded description: Nimrod (vss. 8-12), Canaan (vss. 15-19), and Eber (vss. 25-30). Nimrod is the first renowned conqueror on earth (a prototype of Mesopotamian kings). Cassuto thinks we have in 10:8-12 a fragment of a larger epic poem about Nimrod which was well-known but has been lost to history. He is said to have conquered Babel and founded Nineveh. The description of Canaan is about people groups which Israel encountered in the conquest and afterwards. Concerning Eber (vs. 21, 25) it is important to note that Eber (Eiver) is related to the word Hebrew (Eevree) and that Hebrew is a term outsiders called Israelites and which Israelites used to describe themselves to outsiders. The descendants of Eber are all people of the Arabian deserts, suggesting Israel saw its origins in this way (a nomadic, desert people).

GENESIS 11:1-32

SPOTLIGHT
Take the general selfishness of one person and strengthen it by banding us together in large groups, and you get something so sinister it can literally wipe out nations and destroy the planet. נַעֲשֶׂה־לָּנוּ שֵׁם na’aseh-lanu shem, “Let us make a name for ourselves.” The stated goal of the people at Babel is about winning something, seeking greater glory. The motive is competition. Everyone wants to dominate. Governments use the language of “common good” and “national pride,” but such goals are warped from the beginning. The building project at Babel has several features worth noting. Lacking stone, they are trying to make a brick tower with inferior technology. The ziggurats of Mesopotamia did not last like the pyramids of Egypt. Their technology seems impressive, but is in reality fleeting. The vaunted pride of nations, the endless seeking of immortality, is a wrongheaded path to building something worthwhile. What lasts is not stone or brick and what matters over generations is not a monument, but rather a culture of caring and equality. Also, their building has a religious purpose and sends a theological message. They imagine that other nations have an advantage over them, since other nations have mountains and hills. So they think in order to have divine power working for them, they need to build a mountain for their gods. This tower will be their Mount Olympus or Mount Zephon or Mount Sinai. The idea behind it is that the gods will come down and serve the needs of human beings. A ziggurat tower featured a room at the top for the deity and a stairway so the powers of heaven could ascend and descend. The makers of Babel wanted to bring God down to serve them. It’s ironic how we think so much of our governments and social aims that we imagine we lead God in developing a better world. The attitude is the exact opposite of reality. Rather than looking for a way to serve the plan of God, they are making plans they feel God should serve. Some people band together to honor and worship the Name and other people are looking to make a name for themselves. There could hardly be a greater difference between the two.

OUTLINE
The story of Babel’s ziggurat (1-9), genealogy from Noah to Abraham (10-32).

OVERVIEW
Babylon, by the Euphrates, lacks mountains. Ancients tended to worship gods on mountains (even Israel, both the righteous on Mt. Zion and the disobedient on the high places). The Greeks had Mt. Olympus and numerous examples of mountain abodes of deity existed in the mythological world of the past. In the Enuma Elish 6.48-79 the gods wanted to honor Marduk and so they built Babylon, molding bricks for a year and constructing a tower “as high as heaven.” The Biblical version of Babel (Babylon), as is the case in every other parallel story, casts the Babylon tale in a different light. The tower is a ziggurat, a mountain-like structure or stepped pyramid. The Babylonians thought they needed an artificial mountain (since Babylon lacks mountains) for the gods to alight on earth and thus serve mankind. The biblical story depicts this as degradation, not progress. People have gone from knowing God as the ultimate sovereign (knowledge of the Most High having passed down from Noah) to a view of deity as manipulable and able to be tamed with human worship to serve the ends of humanity. The original Babylonians desired to make a place where all humanity would congregate and be served by God/the gods (it is not clear if polytheism was yet the belief or if residual monotheism had degraded into a lower view of deity). The biblical story parodies their intention. God makes of Babel (gate of gods) a place of gibberish (babble, in Hebrew balal, Sarna).