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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Names

Babel

By Jeff A. Benner

To most people the name Bavel (or Babel) is only known to us as the name of the city where God confounded the languages. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:9). Whenever a Hebrew name is given in the text and followed by the word "because", the text is providing the connection between the name and the reason for the name. In this case the word "confused" is the Hebrew word בלל (balal) meaning to be mixed up and it was here that God "mixed up" the languages. Interestingly the name בבל (babel) is a mixing up of the letters from the word בלל (balal).

While we may only be familiar with this place name as Babel as found in Genesis, this name is used 262 times throughout the Biblical text. But, instead of translating this name the same way all the time, the translators have chosen to translate it as "Babylon" in all its other occurrences. Yes, Babel and Babylon are one and the same place; Babylon is the place of confusion.

In our English language we also have the word babble meaning "To utter a meaningless confusion of words or sounds", a clear connection between Hebrew and English.




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