The unfinished Tower of Babel has stood for centuries in art, literature and biblical commentaries as an outrageous, heaven-reaching challenge to the God of Genesis, who responded by scrambling the common language of the citizens and dispersing them around the world. The brief account has nearly always been lumped together with the punishment stories involving Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and the great flood—stories about how Yahweh deals with arrogant, sinful humanity.
The Babel settlers, who all spoke the same language, had decided to “build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and . . . make a name for ourselves” as a way to stay together and preserve their common tongue.