Tower of Babel

🏷  Bible text Semitic interlinear · text   —   by Gerry · Dec 2020 · 1367 words

The literal Tower of Babel story is already about superiors confusing their subjects, to prevent them from achieving anything. Still, it is surprisingly hard to de-pun, because it focuses on the actions of the people rather than the spooks: The story seems to talk about how the people once wanted to build up clarity & understanding about their rulers — that is what the rulers needed to prevent through confusion.

How to read the interlinear puns

Genesis 11

Genesis 11:1

And it was thatyhy be, become wyhy   ויהיyhy be, become And it was thatallkl all kl   כלkl all allthe oppressed [had]rṣṣ oppressed hˀrṣ   הארץˀrṣ earth, country the earth [had]a judgmentšpṭ judge, judgment, decide, govern, rule šph   שפהšph language špt language languageunitedˀḥt one, united ˀḥt   אחתˀḥt one, united oneand a behaviordbr lead, guide, act, behave, conduct wdbrym   ודבריםdbr word, speech and speechunited.ˀḥd one, united ˀḥdym   אחדיםˀḥd one, united one.

Genesis 11:1

2 pun-meanings are possible here: “united government” and “united understanding”. I’ll go with “understanding”, because a united government (of moles) would be the spooks’ solution, and not the initial problem.

Genesis 11:2

And it came to passyhy be, become wyhy   ויהיyhy be, become And it came to passas they [the people?] were deceivedb as nšˀ deceive, beguile bnsˁm   בנסעםb as nsˁ move, journey as they journeyedby the “hidden”m by ktm dark, hidden mqdm   מקדםm from qdm east from the eastthat they [the “hidden”?] foundmṣˀ find, encounter, happen wymṣˀw   וימצאוmṣˀ find, encounter, happen that they [the people?] found[themselves to be] examinedbqˀ examine, search bqˁh   בקעהbqˁh valley, plain a plain[from] among the oppressedb among rṣṣ oppressed bˀrṣ   בארץb in ˀrṣ land in the landwho were stirring & waking up [?]š who nˁr servant, shake off, stirred up, wake, awake šnˁr   שנערšnˁr Shinar of Shinarand was explained [?]yšb settled, explained wyšbw   וישבוyšb dwell and dwelttheir existence & nature [?].šm existing, nature, character šm   שםšm place, there there.

Genesis 11:2

Genesis 11:3

And they saidˀmr say wyˀmrw   ויאמרוˀmr say And they saidoneˀyš one ˀyš   אישˀyš one onetoˀl to ˀl   אלˀl to toanother: another rˁhw   רעהו another another:Come,hbh come hbh   הבהhbh come Come,let us buildn will l to bnh build nlbnh   נלבנהn will l to bnh build let us buildan understanding of them [the “hidden”]lb heart, mind, will, thought, understanding lbnym   לבניםlbnh brick bricksand rebel against [them]n will srb refuse, deny, against, rebel, decline office wnšrph   ונשרפהn will šrp burn, burned and bake [them]to refuse [them].l to srb refuse, deny, against, rebel, decline office lšrph   לשרפהl to šrp burn, burned into a baked state.And there washyh be wthy   ותהיhyh be And there wasto themlhm to them lhm   להםlhm to them to themthe willlb heart, mind, will, thought, understanding hlbnh   הלבנהlbnh brick brickfor thought & understanding,lb heart, mind, will, thought, understanding lˀbn   לאבןl to ˀbn stone for stone,and the stirred-up / determinationkmr heat, stirred gmr conclude, determine, decide whḥmr   והחמרḥmr clay, asphalt, mortar and asphaltthere washyh be hyh   היהhyh be there wasto themlhm to them lhm   להםlhm to them to themto wreak destruction.l to kmr heat, stirred gmr conclude, finish, destroy lḥmr   לחמרl to ḥmr clay, asphalt, mortar for mortar.

Genesis 11:3

This may be a double-pun, depending on who is “them”: The common people have lb “will” and gmr “determination”; The spooks employ lˁb “mockery” and ḫmr “veils”.

Genesis 11:4

And they [the people?] said:ˀmr say wyˀmrw   ויאמרוˀmr say And they [the people] said:Come,hbh come hbh   הבה hbh come Come,let us buildn will bnh build nbnh   נבנהn will bnh build let us buildfor ourselveslnw to us lnw   לנוlnw to us for ourselvesan understandingˀwr clear, enlighten, understanding ˁyr   עירˁyr city a cityof the twisted / nobilitym of gdl arrogant, twisted, majesty gdwl noble, leader wmgdl   ומגדלmgdl tower and a tower[whose] leaders & rulers [are]rˀš leader, master, ruler wrˀšw   וראשוrˀš head, top [whose] top [is]veiled.b in ṣmh veil ṣmṣm veil oneself bšmym   בשמיםb in šmym heavens in the heavens.And let us maken will ˁšh make wnˁšh   ונעשהn will ˁšh make And let us makefor ourselveslnw to us lnw   לנוlnw to us for ourselvesa mighty force [of our own?]ˁṣm strong, mighty, force šm   שםšm name a namelestpn lest, or else, otherwise pn   פןpn lest, or else, otherwise lest[we] be shattered & brokennpṣ shatter, break npwṣ   נפוץnpṣ scatter [we] be scatteredoverˁl on, over, to ˁl   עלˁl on, over, to overthe facepny face pny   פניpny face the faceof allkl all kl   כלkl all of allthe earth.rṣṣ oppressed hˀrṣ   הארץˀrṣ earth the earth.

Genesis 11:4

This may be a double-pun, depending on who is “them”: The common people need ˀwr “understanding” of the gdl “nobility”; The spooks need rˀw “appearances” that are gdl “noble”.

Genesis 11:5

But came downyrd come down wyrd   וירדyrd come down But came downthe “hidden”yḥbh hidden yhwh   יהוהyhwh Yahweh Yahwehto seel to rˀt see lrˀt   לראתl to rˀt see to see ˀt to ˀt   אתˀt to  the understandingˀwr clear, enlighten, understanding hˁyr   העירˁyr city the cityandˀt to wˀt   ואתˀt to andthe greatnessm of gdl great mgdl enlarged, magnified hmgdl   המגדלmgdl tower the towerwhichˀšr which ˀšr   אשרˀšr which whichhad builtbnh build bnw   בנוbnh build had builtthe sonsbny sons bny   בניbny sons the sonsof [common] men.ˀdm man, men hˀdm   האדםˀdm man, men of men.

Genesis 11:5

Genesis 11:6

And saidˀmr say wyˀmr   ויאמרˀmr say And saidthe “hidden”:yḥbh hidden yhwh   יהוהyhwh Yahweh YahwehBehold,hn lo, behold hn   הןhn lo, behold Behold,the people [are]ˁm people ˁm   עםˁm people the people [are]unitedˀḥd one, united ˀḥd   אחדˀḥd one, united oneand [have] a judgmentšpṭ judge, judgment, decide, govern, rule wšph   ושפהšph language špt language and [have] languageunited,ˀḥt one, united ˀḥt   אחתˀḥt one, united one,to everything.l to kl all m them lklm   לכלםl to kl all m them to everything.And thiszh this wzh   וזהzh this And thisthey have begunḥll begin hḥlm   החלםḥll begin they have begunto do,l to ˁšh do lˁšwt   לעשותl to ˁšh do to do,nowˁth now, already wˁth   ועתהˁth now, already nownothing not, nothing   לא not, nothing nothingwill be withheldbṣr withhold ybṣr   יבצרbṣr withhold will be withheldfrom themm from hm them mhm   מהםm from hm them from them[of] allkl all kl   כלkl all [of] allthatˀšr which ˀšr   אשרˀšr which thatwe schemezmm devise, plan, scheme yzmw   יזמוzmm devise, plan, scheme they deviseto do.l to ˁšh do lˁšwt   לעשותl to ˁšh do to do.

Genesis 11:6

Genesis 11:7

Come,hbh come hbh   הבהhbh come Come,let us go downn will yrd go down, bring down nrdh   נרדהn will yrd go down, bring down let us go downand confuse / minglen will bll mix, mingle, anoint wnblh   ונבלהn will bll confuse, confound and confusetherešm there šm   שםšm there theretheir judgment & rules / with their judges & rulers,špṭ judge, judgment, govern, governor, rule, ruler m their šptm   שפתםšpt language m their their language,thatˀšr that ˀšr   אשרˀšr that thatnot not   לא not notmay understandšmˁ listen, obey, understand yšmˁw   ישמעוšmˁ listen, obey, understand may understandone manˀyš man ˀyš   אישˀyš man one manthe judgments & decisionsšpṭ judge, judgment, decide, govern, rule špt   שפתšpt speech the speechof another. another rˁhw   רעהו another of another.

Genesis 11:7

How do the the “hidden” confuse the people? The verse may be a double-pun, as bll-špt-m means “confuse their decisions”, but also “mingle with their decisionmakers”, even “anoint their decisionmakers”! Having rebellous people be “led” by misdirecting moles is certainly what the spooks did in later epochs.

Genesis 11:8

So destroyedpṣṣ break, destroy wypṣ   ויפץpwṣ scatter So scatteredthe “hidden”yḥbh hidden yhwh   יהוהyhwh Yahweh Yahwehthem [the people]ˀt to m them ˀtm   אתםˀt to m them them [the people]from therem from šm there mšm   משםm from šm there from thereoverˁl over ˁl   עלˁl over overthe facepny face pny   פניpny face the faceof allkl all kl   כלkl all of allthe earth,ˀrṣ earth hˀrṣ   הארץˀrṣ earth the earth,and they ceasedḥdl cease, desist, stop wyḥdlw   ויחדלוḥdl cease, desist, stop and they ceasedto build upl to bnt build lbnt   לבנתl to bnt build to buildclarity & understanding.ˀwr clear, enlighten, understanding hˁyr   העירˁyr city the city.

Genesis 11:8

Genesis 11:9

Uponˁl upon ˁl   עלˁl upon Uponthuskn thus kn   כןkn thus thusis calledqrˀ call qrˀ   קראqrˀ call is calledthe namešm name šmh   שמהšm name the name“Babel”,bbl Babel bbl   בבלbbl Babel “Babel”,forky for ky   כיky for fortherešm there šm   שםšm there thereconfusedbll mix, confuse, confound bll   בללbll mix, confuse, confound confusedthe “hidden”yḥbh hidden yhwh   יהוהyhwh Yahweh Yahwehthe judgment & decisionsšpṭ judge, judgment, decide, govern, rule špt   שפתšpt language the languageof allkl all kl   כלkl all of allthe oppressed,ˀrṣ earth hˀrṣ   הארץˀrṣ earth the earthand from therem from šm there wmšm   ומשםm from šm there and from theredestroyed thempṣṣ break, destroy hpyṣm   הפיצםpwṣ scatter scattered themthe “hidden”yḥbh hidden yhwh   יהוהyhwh Yahweh Yahwehoverˁl over ˁl   עלˁl over overthe facepny face pny   פניpny face the faceof allkl all kl   כלkl all of allthe earth.ˀrṣ earth hˀrṣ   הארץˀrṣ earth the earth.

Genesis 11:9

The actual Babylon was certainly not named for this pun, though probably already ruled by spooks or proto-spooks.

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