Temple Towers of the Ancient Pagans
IN MANY a city or town the most eminent spot is occupied by a religious structure. The structure itself may be the tallest in the community. This custom of giving religion such prominence can be traced all the way back to Nimrod, the hunter, who lived just a few generations after the Flood.
It appears that this Nimrod, by violence and intimidation, succeeded in uniting and regimenting from among Noah’s descendants a large number of families. In their travels eastward, in what is today known as the Fertile Crescent, they settled in a section of Mesopotamia called Shinar. There they built the ancient cities of Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh. From this start, the first Babylonian empire expanded rapidly to include such cities as Nineveh to the north. Nimrod was the instigator of temple-tower building. He became a false god, and to this day untold millions, knowingly or unknowingly, honor him.
Associated with this king and these cities were massive towers or stage-temples. The reason for the construction of the city of Babel and its tower is described in the Biblical account in the following manner: “They now said: ‘Come on! Let us build ourselves a city and also a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a celebrated name for ourselves, for fear we may be scattered over all the surface of the earth.”’ Examining this record closely, we learn that the building of the cities and their corresponding towers was to accomplish three principal purposes: (1) unite men under a visible ruler or king in defiance of the true King and God Jehovah; (2) provide a haven of refuge, due to a lack of faith in God’s promise that he would never destroy wicked men again by means of a flood, and (3) provide a place for their god or gods to dwell.—Gen. 11:4.
Their project for world domination was thwarted, however, by a confusion of tongues. Co-operation became impossible when they could not communicate with one another. “Jehovah proceeded to go down to see the city and the tower that the sons of men had built. After that Jehovah said: ‘Look! They are one people and there is one language for them all, and this is what they start to do. Why, now there is nothing that they may scheme to do that will be unattainable for them. Come now! Let us go down and there confuse their language that they may not listen to one another’s language.’ Accordingly Jehovah scattered them from there over all the surface of the earth, and they gradually left off building the city. That is why its name was called Babel, because there Jehovah had confused the language of all the earth and Jehovah had scattered them from there over all the surface of the earth.” As a result the work on the city and its tower was brought to a halt and its would-be empire builders were dispersed. The Biblical record informs us that in the days of Peleg “the earth was divided,” possibly meaning that the confusion of tongues occurred in his lifetime, or about 150 years after the Flood.—Gen. 11:5-9; 10:25.
Modern ethnologists and philologists may scoff at this simple, to-the-point account, but it is a Scriptural fact and one that is further confirmed by history, archaeology and folklore. Historian Josephus, the first-century Jewish writer, quotes from The Sibyl in telling about the confusing of the tongues: “When all men were of one language, some of them built a high tower, as if they would thereby ascend up to heaven, but the gods sent storms of wind and overthrew the tower, and gave every one his peculiar language, and for this reason it was that the city was called Babylon.” North of Marduk temple in Babylon once stood a huge tower, and in this area archaeologist George Smith discovered a tablet with a similar account. In part the tablet reads: “The building of this illustrious tower offended the gods. In a night they threw down what they had built. They scattered them abroad, and made strange their speech. Their progress they impeded.” Various lands yield additional evidence through their folklore, testifying to the miraculous change of tongues: “Versions have been recorded from near the Zambezi and also from Ashanti; among some of the Tibeto-Burman peoples of Assam the story of a tower and confusion of speech is found. Similar tales are found in Mexico.” (The Encyclopœdia Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 839) These tower stories may vary among themselves, but the fact that they all say there was a tower and that men’s tongues were changed is noteworthy and gives the authentic Bible record support.
Nimrod’s plan failed, and his city, instead of proving to be Babilu (meaning “Gate of God”), became known as Babel (meaning “Confusion”). Upon abandoning their city and tower project, however, the builders carried with them Nimrod’s original idea. As a result, there are to be found in all principal cities of the Fertile Crescent massive tower temples, ziggurats or zigguratu, meaning literally “top of a mountain.” These ziggurats were always located at the highest part of the city; and the idea of an elevated place for worship is later to be found in the high places mentioned in the Bible, which places were a modification of temple towers.
LATER TEMPLE TOWERS
What the original temple of Babel or Babylon was like is not known, although discoveries by excavation shed much light on the subject. The later towers, no doubt patterned after the one at Babel, were pyramidlike in appearance. The construction of these later towers began by first raising a mound of hard-packed mud to a considerable height. The mound was then leveled and faced with burnt brick or stones if available. On this mound was laid the foundation of the tower to a height of two or three feet, which in turn was surrounded with stamped mud, thus giving more firmness to the building. Upon this foundation were constructed consecutive stages of solid mud and sun-dried bricks one above the other, each smaller in size than the one below. The stages generally numbered four, seven or eight, and upon the final stage was built a sanctuary to the god of the city. The tower at Ur was originally 200 feet long, 150 feet wide and 70 feet high. The city tower of Borsippa (Birs-Nimrud) had seven stages. Each side of the base stage was 272 feet long, and the height of the first and second stages was 26 feet each. The final stage reached to the height of 153 feet.
The recent discovery of a Greek manuscript (Harpocration) gives in vivid detail the description of a tower of six stages that was in use until a century after Jesus’ death. Each stage was 28 feet high, and at the top rested a sanctuary 15 feet in height. The sanctuary was made accessible by a stairway of 365 steps; the first 305 steps were made of silver and the last 60 were made of gold. Each stage was painted a different color and was dedicated to a particular star god. The temple tower as a whole was dedicated to a patron god of the city, such as Ea of Eridu, Enlil of Nippur, Anu of Erech, and Sin of Ur. In recent years some archaeologists have advanced the theory that upon each stage were planted trees, shrubs and bushes, and thus from a distance it would appear to be a high mound or hill.
The sanctuary built upon the final stage was not the actual temple, but on a mound raised next to the tower was where the real temple was constructed. Also upon this mound were to be found shrines and chapels dedicated to lesser deities. In this area lived the “patesi” or king-priest of the city, the other city rulers and priests. Sacrifices were offered in special rooms. This entire part of the city was a fortress separated from the rest of the city by a wall. In the city proper, which was built lower than the temple area, were built other temples in honor of other gods who were to render aid to the city god in caring for the city and its inhabitants.
PURPOSE OF TOWERS AND TEMPLES
The Babylonian cult was mystic and based upon astrology and divination. Thus the sanctuary located at the top of the tower, besides being the abode of the god of the city, served as an observatory for astronomical and astrological studies. The tower area also served as a sort of bank, and there was to be found the wealth of the city. Since the priests were considered representatives of the gods, they would be the logical custodians of the money. Being ambitious men, they exploited the people by charging interest on loans sometimes at a rate of 20 or 30 percent! As a result of this greed the priests became exceedingly rich and influential. They were also considered medicine men and magi with supernatural power to cure and to foretell the future, so the temple area even served as a kind of primitive hospital.
From Shinar Nimrod-Semiramis worship spread to other localities, and Semiramis came to be adored under some forty-one different names and titles. The worship was wicked and debased, exploiting sex.
TEMPLE TOWERS TODAY
Of interest is the great temple of Marduk, located in Babylon, which was rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar with its great tower to the north called in ancient times E-temen-an-ki. Many persons today are of the opinion that this tower marks the site of the original tower built by Nimrod. Although the tower no longer stands, it once covered an area more than three hundred feet square. Others think that the tower of Borsippa (still standing in part), which is located about ten miles from the heart of Babylon, is the remains of the tower of Babel.
Towers are not built today with the same intent as that of Nimrod and his wife-mother Semiramis; nevertheless, they continue to exist in modified forms. The noted historian and author James Breasted in his book Ancient Times, a History of the Early World compares the Moslem minaret and the “Christian” church spire to the towers of Mesopotamia.
True Christians do not put trust in man-made religious towers or look to them as places of special holiness. Rather, they trust in Jehovah God. “The name of Jehovah is a strong tower. Into it the righteous runs and is given protection.”—Prov. 18:10.