Population of Bable

Discussion in 'Non-Anglican Discussion' started by CRfromQld, Apr 1, 2023.

  1. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    Population of Bable – an exploratory calculation

    Recently I watched a video about the Tower of Babel (ToB) and I started wondering (not for the first time) about how large the population might have been. Would there have been enough people to undertaken building a large tower reaching to the heavens. (In the same sense as we use skyscraper, i.e. very tall for its day) Nobody actually knows but it is possible to explore the possibilities. Here is my attempt.

    “there were 339 years between when Noah and the others left the ark and when the ToB was built.” (1)

    Noah had 3 sons and 16 grandsons (assume 32 grandchildren). Over two generations this implies an average of 4 sons, 8 children, per family; admittedly from a small sample size. While western families today are much smaller I can remember when families of 8 children were common; my wife is one of eight.

    Assume an average of 3 generations per century. 33.3 years per generation. This gives 10 generations from the end of the flood to the ToB. From Arphaxad to Nahor the average for the named descendent was 31.4 years so that seems about right.

    Noah was still alive when the tower commenced. Lifespans were generally long at this time. From Noah to Terah all would have been alive at the time of the ToB. Death due to old age was not a significant factor and population loss by other causes will be neglected.

    Putting these data together gives an annual population growth rate of 4.25%, say 4%. Although high there are several countries today with natural increase above 3%. (2) These numbers can be reduced by warfare, birth control, and poor nutrition and hygiene so a higher number after the flood is reasonable.

    Using these numbers gives a population of ~4.8 million at the time of the ToB!

    Ref (1) using a lower growth rate of 3.5% still gets a population of 920,000; which shows the power of compound growth. Clearly much of this population would be farmers and other workers living outside the city itself, but a city of over 200,000 people is plausible.

    For comparison Athens in the 5th century BC, when the Parthenon was built, had a population of around 250,000 (3). Athens in the 4th century BC had around 60,000 natives. If one adds the slaves and the foreign population, the number rises to 350,000 to 500,000 inhabitants, of whom 160,000 lived in the city and the rest in the suburbs. (4)

    My conclusion is that Babel could well have had the manpower and resources to undertake a major building project such as the Tower of Babel.

    (1) http://www.jewishanswers.org/ask-the-rabbi-3463/noah-tower-of-babel-population-growth/?p=3463

    (2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_by_natural_increase

    (3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_Athens

    (4) https://www.greecehighdefinition.co...s-the-population-of-ancient-greece-and-athens)
     
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  2. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Well-Known Member

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    But don't forget as I heard one doctor state, Noah must have had over 150 communicable diseases, so perhaps a 3.5-4.25% population increase is a bit unrealistic.
     
  3. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    One problem with this mathematical model is that of insuffiient and unrealiable data. These names were almost certainly not recorded and registered in any birth registers at the time of their births. They have been derived through the traditions of the nations they are supposed to have fathered. So the reliability of the account with regard to individual life spans is akin to the reliability of Australian 'Dream Time' accounts, (admittedly 'Dream Time accounts of events that happened 10,000 years ago in geological history have been confirmed regarding the establising of the Great Barrier Reef), but in a highly styalised, legendary form.

    Nations Descended from Noah
    These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood.
    The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.
    The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.
    Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.
    To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born. The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother's name was Joktan. Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan. The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east. These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.
    These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.

    The above account seems to have been an attempt to explain and record the distribution of the various Bronze Age tribes and nations assumed to have derived from the survivors of the flood, in the Fertile Cresent Region in the Middle East.

    The following seems to be a separate account, also collated and edited into Genesis, explaining in the form of a story, (perhaps with a definite historical basis) of how different languages came about and obviously had long existed in Middle East Bronze Age Society, which could now write things down.

    The Tower of Babel
    Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

    So there never WAS a city called Babel. It was only called that AFTER the inhabitants failed in their construction attempt. What they built was probably a Ziggurat:A kind of pyramid with steps.
    (in ancient Mesopotamia) a rectangular stepped tower, sometimes surmounted by a temple. Ziggurats are first attested in the late 3rd millennium BC and probably inspired the biblical story of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1–9).

    The notion of 'reaching the heavens' had little to do with 'height' of the building. Ziggurats were temples to the gods or astronomical, (astrological), observatories intended to predict the future by divination through astronomical events. The report of the Magi's visit could only have come from Mary, (Joseph had since dies). Mary knew nothing of astrology, it was forbidden knowledge to Jews. She would have interpreted their explanation for their presence as having followed 'A Star' rather than them casting an ephemeris backwards, (a clever piece of work in astrology), to identify the birth place on Earth of someone born at a point of time, during a particularly significant conjunction of planets, signifying a birth of worldwide significance.
    .
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2023
  4. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    While there was no central register of births/death/marriages that does not mean they weren't recorded or remembered. You'll notice that the lists in the Table of Nations become vague after a few generations; e.g. "From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands". However individual families would remember and pass on their own ancestry over many more generations, as the Maori and other people do today, so Moses talking to descendants of Joseph would have the genealogy of that branch through Abraham.

    You are correct.

    I agree. It would have been tall for their day, which would not be tall for our day. Probably a ziggurat as you suggest.

    There are several "Babels" and archeologist Doug Petrovich suggests that Eridu could be the site of the biblical Babel based on available evidence. He notes a large "ziggurat" foundation that was abandoned soon after commencement of building.
     
  5. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    If indeed the 'tower of Babel' was actually a ziggurat then it seems clear that there would certainly have been sufficient population density at the time ziggurats were being built. Otherwise they would not be there for archiologists to unearth. The problem of identification would be that most of them would at least appear to be incomplete because of the habit of builders of raiding materials from old buildings to incorporate into new ones. At St Andrews, my local parish church we have Roman and Saxon stones that have been reused, putting them into the walls of a clearly Norman building. Why quarry your own stones if you can just pick some up for nothing at the local ruins of a Roman fort or villa?

    As with all legends and folk stories one needs to pick through the actual text to see what it might be implying, rather than accept at face value exactly what it actually says. This seems to be the case with the notion of 'reaching the heavens'. I think it far more likely this has to do with divination and astrological prediction of the future, than it does with altitude.
    .
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2023
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  6. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    This is not a new claim and has been answered many years ago. Here's an article from last century.
    You only have to look at recent history to see that diseases can mutate and spread from animals to humans. These probably were benign or even beneficial in there original form. E. Coli for instance is a common gut bacteria but some strains (mutations) can cause disease. I have a genetic defect myself but I have no reason to believe that Noah's family had it.
    Actually one disease that might have been on the Ark was syphilis since this seems to have been widespread quite early. The origins are unknown.
    To believe that Noah's family had to carry ALL current diseases implies that you don't believe in evolution.
     
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  7. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Actually I believe in God, and Christ. I only believe that evolution happens. :laugh:
    .
     
  8. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Well-Known Member

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    I, probably like the doctor, didn't intend this to be a die in a ditch, peer reviewed, 100% accurate statement. It's probably the general gist he was getting at.
    I thought syphilis was an American invention taken to Europe post 1492. Maybe the ark did land in America, for God's sake don't tell the Mormons this.:D
     
  9. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    When researching my answer I was surprised to find that many ancient remains from Eurasia have syphilis like scars. I'm not sure they can say definitely that they were caused by syphilis but it seems likely. Perhaps Noah's sons weren't as righteous as Noah.

    Gen 9:22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside.
    "[An] option that can be supported conceptually from the ancient Near East is that Ham committed incest with his mother in an attempt to usurp the authority of the family from his father." Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the Old Testament.
     
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  10. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    I believe in evolution; but not the Theory of Evolution. But that's a topic for another thread.
     
  11. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Othe only thing misleading about the theory is the impression that most people seem to get that God is in no way involved and that it is not actually a divinely creative process still going on.
    .
     
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  12. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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  13. Nevis

    Nevis Active Member

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    very interesting!
     
  14. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    In the US, we already have the Ark Encounter. Next time Ken Hamm scrapes $30 mil together he's going to build a Tower of Babel theme park. Fly into Cincinnati, where the airport is actually already in Kentucky, get a rental car and a bag of White Castles and make a day or 2 of it.
     
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  15. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    AIG says, "Lord willing, we hope to build a reconstruction of what the tower of Babel might have looked like at the Ark Encounter." Not quite the same as a "build a Tower of Babel theme park."
     
  16. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps the promotional media is hyperbolic at times. If you've been to the Ark, it's got a fair number of theme park elements already installed: zip lines, arcade, fudge shop, etc.
     
  17. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    So it will be part of the existing theme park.
     
  18. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Would all this be the Protestant equivalent of the tacky souvenor gift stalls and retailing outlets cluttering the place at Roman Catholic shrines and holy places like Lourdes etc? :laugh:
    .
     
  19. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    A fairly specific subset of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Although many other people visit the place out of curiosity. It's free for children 10 and under but a regular admission is 50 USD.
     
  20. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    It's not exclusive to RC. There were gift shops at several Anglican cathedrals I visited in the UK.