The Puzzling Uniqueness of the Tower of Babel Story

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.

Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: Genesis, Hebrew Bible, Mesopotamia, Religion & Holidays, Tower of Babel

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy