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The “Mock Building Account” of Genesis 11:1-9: Polemic against Mesopotamian Royal Ideology

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AbstractThis article argues that Genesis 11:1-9 follows the well attested structure of Mesopotamian building accounts polemically addressing the main themes and motifs presented therein. Motifs of name-making, universal hegemony and colossal building projects are found in both the Genesis account and the Mesopotamian inscriptions. The Hebrew author subverts the imperial hubris presented in Mesopotamian royal building ideology by creating a “mock” building account based on components traditional to the building-account genre. Analysis of the Genesis pericope in light of the building-account genre helps explain some of the difficult interpretive contours of the text (e.g. the so-called “double descent” of YHWH) as well as highlights a main aspect of the offense inherent in the actions and attitude of the Babel builders—that building an entirely new city on virgin ground required divine consent—consent that YHWH does not give to such royal imperialistic pretensions.

Affiliations: 1: Fuller Theological


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