From the book of Genesis in the Bible, we all learned that the post-flood global community decided to build a huge tower, that would reach to the heavens. Later in the article, I'll talk about how high it was. But why did God destroy it? We build huge towers all the time today. Egyptians and other ancient peoples built huge structures as well. But they don't bring about the wrath of God like the tower of Babel.
The answer lies in the motifs behind building that tower.
The book of Genesis gives a little hint. They wanted to make a name for themselves. But it wasn't just merely a monument to the great unified civilization that would soon disperse. It was a monument to a civilization which declared its independence from God. The tower was built as a token of hatred towards God. They actually thought they could build a tower to ascend to heaven and fight against God.
According to the book of Jasher, the task was undertaken by the founders of Babylonian and Egyptian empires. About 600,000 people were involved in the building of the tower and it's surrounding city.
"And all these people and all the families divided themselves in three parts; the first said We will ascend into heaven and fight against him; the second said, We will ascend to heaven and place our own gods there and serve them; and the third part said, We will ascend to heaven and smite him with bows and spears." Jasher 9:26
So it was essentially a revolt against God.
As they were building, whenever a man fell down and died, no one would pay any attention. Whenever a brick fell and broke, they wept bitterly.
According to the book of Jubilees, the building was going on for 43 years. The height of the tower reached 5433 cubits (almost 2 miles).
This construction began only about 300 years after the Flood. It did not take very long for people to forget God's judgement and become evil again. The condition of their hearts may very well have been as bad as that of their ancestors who have been judged by the flood. For all it's worth, God could have just sent another flood and destroyed the human race for good. They have become as corrupt as before in only 300 years. But since God promised to never destroy the human race like He did during the Flood, He goes another route. He confuses their toungues, so they wouldn't be able to understand each other.
When that happened, the book of Jasher says, a third of them killed each other from anger. When a man recieved a brick he did not order, he would get angry and throw that brick at his neighbor and kill him. Another third have become like animals (mentally I am guessing). And the last third, saw that it was no use continuing with this enterprise, and dispersed throughout the earth, in groups bound by the same language.
Then God destroyed the tower. According to the book of Jasher, a third of it got swallowed by the ground, a third was destroyed by fire from heaven, and a third remained for some period of time. According to the book of Jubilees, it was overthrown by a great wind. Take your pick.
So does God destroy people for not worshipping Him? No. In each case where we read about God's judgement in the Bible, it was because if God hadn't poured His judgement, people would have killed each other, more cruely.
Also, confusion of toungues essentially delayed judgement day by thousands of years. Great masses of people tend to run down the road of demoralization much quicker than when people are alone or in small groups. Evil is contagious. It's much easier for evil to spread when there are great masses, than to get great masses to do something good. The global community before the Flood, became corrupt in 1600 years. The global community after the Flood, became corrupt in 300 years. As we are moving closer and closer to a true global community in the 21st century, are we seeing the same trends?
How tall was the tower of Babel?
Materials scientist from MIT, Dr. Lynn W. Hobbs, decided to recreate a brick similar to the ones used by ancients to build their towers, and did some stress tests on them, to determine the maximum weight such a brick could hold. Why? Because the bricks at the foundation need to support the weight of all the bricks above them. Determining the maximum weight a brick can hold, will give you the maximum number of bricks that could have been placed on top of it, and consequently, the maximum possible height of the tower.
So Dr. Hobbs created a sun-baked brick out of clay, straw, and sand, than put it to a test until it crushed. A 2-in wide brick could hold 800lbs. That brick put sideways could hold 5 times more weight.
800lbs X 5 = 4000 lbs.
So a brick that weights 1lb, could hold 4000 bricks on top of it.
Suppose a brick is 1 and 1/4 in high on its horizontal side:
1.25in X 4000bricks / 12in/ft = 417ft.
Now, if you stack the bricks in a pyramid shape, like the ancients seemed to have liked to stack them, the load is distributed more, and a brick foundation can hold more weight. And it is very likely that it was in a pyramid shape indeed. There are pyramids in Egypt that were built a few centuries after. And there are about a dozen ziggurats in the region of ancient Mesopotamia from around that time (2000 B.C.), that still stand today.
Ancients built pyramids, because it is the most stable shape for a structure. By stacking bricks in a pyramid shape, you could build a structure 3 times higher, than a straight tower, with the same materials.
417ft X 3 = 1250 ft.
Now, the Bible says they baked the bricks in fire. Why would they do that? Because that would rearrange the chemical structure of a brick, and make it stronger.
That same small brick we were talking about, when baked in fire, fails at a load of almost 6000lbs. So the bricks become 7 1/2 times stronger. Running those same calculations for the baked brick, would give a maximum height of a structure at over 9000 ft, almost 2 miles.
As I was watching about these tests, the book of Jubilees's description of the tower of Babel came to mind. According to Jubilees 10:21, the tower was 5433 cubits high. Let's make a conservative estimate of a cubit to be 18in, using the length of modern human's arms.
5433 X 18in / 12in/ft = 8150ft (1.5miles)
By comparison, today's tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is 2722ft or 0.5miles high. Which means the tower of Babel could have been 3-4 times taller than today's tallest building.
"Forbidden Knowledge: the Lost Secrets of the Bible", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwdSyACPkmQ
"List of today's tallest buildings", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_and_structures_in_the_world