The story of the Tower of Babel is told in the first book of the Old Testament of the Bible. After a great flood, some of Noah's descendants decided to build a city on the plains of southern Mesopotamia * with a tall tower reaching up into the heavens. Their plan was to gain recognition for themselves as a people and to be able to stay together. When God saw what they were doing, however, he concluded that they were trying to gain more power. To make planning difficult for them, he made them speak many different languages. Unable to communicate with each other at the building site, the people gave up the project and scattered to different lands. The remains of the city became known as Babel.
The story of the tower may have developed from the way that later visitors interpreted the ruins of the old cities of that area. In Hebrew, the word Babel is a version of the name Babylon, which meant "the gate of God." In fact, researchers have found evidence of one or more tall towers in the ancient city of Babylon. Another Hebrew word, baiai, means "confusion." Today the image of the Tower of Babel is used to mean confusion and failure to communicate.
See also Semitic Mythology .