The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel in 1563
The Tower of Babel and the origin of Languages
The Tower of Babel is a Biblical myth that was meant to explain the origin of different languages and countries just after the great Flood. In the Bible, the Book of Genesis tells the story of the Tower of Babel and why it was built. According to this story, after the Flood and when all the people of the earth spoke the same language, they all came to the plain of Shinar in Babylonia. Here they collected bricks and mortar to build a city and a tower whose top would reach up to Heaven. On seeing this, God knew that men were trying to make themselves equal with Him, and He therefore made them speak different languages so they could not understand one another. Because of this, the people were unable to carry on with their building and the Lord scattered them abroad.
The city was called Babel, a name that comes from two words meaning 'the Gate of God'. Because of the story in the Bible, English speaking people call a confused noise a babel. The remains of several great towers built by the Babylonians have been discovered, but it is not known for certain which one was supposed to be the Tower of Babel. Some people believe that it was the same kind of building as a ziggurat, which was a great tower built in seven huge steps with a shrine on top.
In the Bible the Book of Jubilees contains one of the most detailed accounts found anywhere of the Tower.
And they began to build, and in the fourth week they made brick with fire, and the bricks served them for stone, and the clay with which they cemented them together was asphalt which comes out of the sea, and out of the fountains of water in the land of Shinar. And they built it: forty and three years were they building it; its breadth was 203 bricks, and the height [of a brick] was the third of one; its height amounted to 5433 cubits and 2 palms, and [the extent of one wall was] thirteen stades [and of the other thirty stades]. (Jubilees 10:20–21, 1913 translation).