11:4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens10 so that11 we may make a name for ourselves. Otherwise12 we will be scattered13 across the face of the entire earth.”
tn A translation of “heavens” for שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) fits this context because the Babylonian ziggurats had temples at the top, suggesting they reached to the heavens, the dwelling place of the gods.
tn The form וְנַעֲשֶׂה (véna’aseh, from the verb עשׂה, “do, make”) could be either the imperfect or the cohortative with a vav (ו) conjunction (“and let us make …”). Coming after the previous cohortative, this form expresses purpose.
tn The Hebrew particle פֶּן (pen) expresses a negative purpose; it means “that we be not scattered.”
sn The Hebrew verb פָּוָץ (pavats, translated “scatter”) is a key term in this passage. The focal point of the account is the dispersion (“scattering”) of the nations rather than the Tower of Babel. But the passage also forms a polemic against Babylon, the pride of the east and a cosmopolitan center with a huge ziggurat. To the Hebrews it was a monument to the judgment of God on pride.