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Literary Criticism of Genesis 11:1-9 - Term Paper Example

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On analysis of the author’s use of repetitions Genesis 11:1-9 appears to contain three distinct parts. The first part consists of a few repetitions. The second comprise a gradual increase in these repetitions…
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Literary Criticism of Genesis 11:1-9
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Download file to see previous pages In dividing the passage in this particular order the author appears to be very deliberate in his approach to the description the Tower of Babel. The first third describes the setting in which the idea for the Tower of Babel was conceptualized. Initially, the men on the earth travelled from one location to the other as they settled at Shinar they decided to make bricks. The men were so in tune with each other that they were able to conceptualize grandiose plans. The second third begins with man’s understanding of the oneness which existed among them. This understanding perhaps spurred them on to develop these grandiose ideas into action. They desired to use these bricks for something other than what it was intended for. Instead of houses they decided to build a city and a tower reaching up to heaven. They must have sensed the power of their connectivity because it was at this point that the men of the earth received the attention of the LORD. The final third constitutes motion along both horizontal and vertical planes. The LORD intervenes in the affairs of man and scattered them across the ‘face of the earth’. Remarkably, this fear of being scattered was the exact reason given in the passage for the building of the Tower. The scattering appeared to be an urgent and immediate gesture. Perhaps the author wanted to convey this urgency by his structure of the passage. For it was in this part of the passage that there was not only an exponentially rapid increase in the use of repetitions but the main actors, God and man became involved with each other. The interaction along both planes became so dynamic that the naming of the city as Babel and the tower as the Tower of Babel was established. Moreover, it was in this third of the passage that a milestone in history occurred – for the first time in the account of the world man’s language was no longer the same for God had ‘confused’ their language. The communication of the meaning of this passage was indeed enhanced by the utilization of Hebrew words. On investigation of the word ‘name’ which is ‘shem’ in Hebrew one finds that the word shem refers to the character of a thing or a person. Thus, its use in Genesis 11:4, ‘let us make a name for ourselves…’ denotes the character of the men. They were proud and believed they were invincible. They probably believed they could be higher than God, hence the reason for wanting the top of the tower to be in heaven. Shem is also used in verse 9 where the name (shem) of the city was called Babel because the Lord ‘babbled’ the language of the earth. It is clear that the name given to the city suited its character. The word there (sham) is used 5 times in this passage. The word there (sham) implies direction or place. The first usage in verse 2, the men settled there (sham) - meaning they settled in that place. The last verse uses sham twice - ‘…because there (sham) the LORD babbled the language of all the earth; and from there (sham) the LORD scattered them …’ God scattered them from there (sham) meaning in that place. Heaven (shamayim) as used in verse 4 refers to heaven and the highest heavens. From this meaning one can assume that the men wanted to get a hold of God. Therefore, the men did not want to reach the heaven alone but the highest heaven – where God lives. Here is a general rewriting of the passage using the Hebrew words as their meanings suggest: The men of the earth settled in Shinar. It was there (sham) (in that place) that they decided to make bricks to make themselves a tower touching the highest heavens (shamayim). Their pride gave them a desire to make a perpetual name (shem) for themselves. It was there (sh ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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