The Tower of Babel and Yahweh’s Heavenly Staircase

in Horizons in Biblical Theology
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The people of ancient societies and modern times have continually had an unusual fascination for tall structures. In the Hebrew Bible, however, gigantic structures rarely feature in the plotting of its stories. In contrast to this literary norm, the narrator of Genesis places two elevated structures at the center of his story, namely the tower of Babel (Gen 11) and the heavenly staircase at Bethel (Gen 28). In these two locations, the narrator appears to have situated the two structures above all the characters and the architectural landmarks of Genesis. Consequently, the paper engages the theological elevation of these two high-level spots in the creative mapping of Genesis’ subtle representations of human-divine tensions. While past studies have diachronically described the individual significance of these two vertical representations in Genesis, the present paper underscores the intertextual/theological importance of these two elevated structures in the narrative space of Genesis.

The Tower of Babel and Yahweh’s Heavenly Staircase

in Horizons in Biblical Theology




See WenhamGenesis225.


FokkelmanNarrative Art in Genesis: Specimens of Stylistic and Structural Analysis (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock1991) 17.Fokkelman also notes the sarcasm of this quest when he observes the fame “. . . is a kind of superhuman fame which they want to attain. People want a name? Well they can have it but how different it will be from the name they had dreamt of: ‘. . . therefore its name was called Babel ‘Muddle’! This unexpected turn is like a judgement so biting is its sarcasm” (p. 14).


Gnuse“An Overlooked Message: The Critique of Kings and Affirmation of Equality in the Primeval History,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 36 (2006) 153.


SternbergThe Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading (Bloomington: Indiana University Press1987) 110.


FokkelmanNarrative Art in Genesis) 13.


FokkelmanNarrative Art in Genesis53.


Bar-EfratNarrative Art in the Bible103.


FokkelmanNarrative Art in Genesis19.


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