the Tower came up in a recent conversation and James made the great point
that God doesn't seem very omniscient or omnipotent in the story. let's find out why.
it's related to Sumerian mythology. first of all, the tower was likely just a Babylonian ziggurat temple. the story appears in the J document and uses a pun based on the name of the city. supposedly, according to the bible itself, the city is called Babel because god "confused" the languages. however, in Hebrew the word balel
while Babel means gate of god
. Babylon is the familiar Greek form of the name of the city which in Babylonian, and other eastern Semitic languages, was Bab-Ilu. if we assume for a second that it was a Babylonian temple then we can understand why the writers of the J document would have included the story- don't mess around with other gods because this is what happens!
but the story itself, you're right, presents problems regarding god's supposed omnipotence. if he's all powerful then why is he threatened by the tower? bible believers will object and say that the languages were confused because Nimrod, the project leader, and the other builders were sinning against god and so god punished them. but that's crap. to see that it's crap you need only read the story. Gen 11:4 says that all the people wanted to do was "make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." nothing sinful about that. and indeed god notices the project and says, "if as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." (6-7) the story doesn't say anything about god confusing the languages because the project was sinful. the story tells us that god, and whoever "us" is, supposedly, the Christians say, the angels who are always with god, simply didn't want the people to be able to accomplish anything they set their minds to and that's why he confused their language. it's important to remember that, in the bible, when people are disobedient, or violate some taboo- basically if they displease god for any reason- they're simply killed outright and often their entire city or tribe just on general principles. so if Nimrod and the builders were being evil in sinning then why does god respond in this way as opposed to simply laying waste to the city along with everyone of the builders? here's where the mythology comes in.
but first let's look at the creation stories in Genesis to see if we might get some more explanation. remember that god tells Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge because if they do they will surely die (Gen 3:3). but the serpent then tells A&E that they absolutely will not die if they eat, that god is only saying that because god knows that if they eat of the tree "your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (3:5)" so we see that what god fears is his creation becoming equal to god himself. later, after god curses A&E for having done something so horrible, acquire knowledge(!), god then says, "the man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. he must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.(3:22)" again, who "us" is is explained away by the Christians as being god's angels but remember that the mythologies that informed the creation myths are all polytheistic and even the Jews themselves were polytheistic until post-Exhilic times (after 586 BCE) so there's good reason for thinking that he was talking to other gods in the pantheon of gods that were believed to exist at the time. regardless, it's clear that what god fears both from the tree of knowledge and from the ability of humans to accomplish anything they put their minds to, and so the reason why he confuses their language, is that they will be equal to god himself. and now on to the mythology...
in an earlier Sumerian myth the god Enki is jealous of the fact that all peoples of the earth are worshiping his rival, Enlil. this unified worship his rival is possible because everyone on earth speaks one language. Enki then confuses their speech, creating divisions and war and in the process brings over at least some of the worshipers from Enlil to himself. in the version of the myth in Genesis, Yahweh's fear matches Enki's jealousy. in both the Sumerian original and its Hebrew version, the Tower of Babel, the gods' act of sowing confusion as nothing to do with the sinfulness of humans. god is just being jealous and protective of his status as a god and doesn't want humans to be equal to him.