Several elements of the biblical story of the Tower of Babel—most obviously the name babel, which is simply the Hebrew term for Babylonia—suggest that it either reflects some historical event in ancient Mesopotamia or is based on Mesopotamian legend. According to Christoph Uehlinger, however, there is little concrete reason for believing this:
Since the time of the rabbis in late antiquity, people have searched for the city ruins and the tower of Babel. . . . The view that the mythical tower of Babel was a memory of this historical building has become so compelling that modern scholars hardly question it. However, . . . the equation is far from obvious. . . .
[Although] there are indeed close parallels elsewhere to the narratives [in the opening chapters of Genesis] about the creation of the world and of humanity, early cultural heroes, and the flood, no parallel earlier than the Hellenistic period is known for the Babel story. . . .
Because of the conspicuously sociopolitical message of this very short story, which expresses a fear of losing social cohesion, some scholars [more convincingly] understand [it] as a critique of empire-building and metropolitanism, which was purposefully inscribed into the earliest history of postdiluvian humanity.