1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.As we saw last time, in Genesis 10, people were divided into various nations with their own languages. Now all of a sudden they aren't after all. The logic of the proposition here is mysterious -- why will they be scattered if they don't build a tower that reaches to the heavens? In any event, obviously, a tower can't reach to the heavens. Shinar (Babylon) is on the Euphrates river southwest of modern Baghdad, not far above sea level. The people were well aware of the existence of mountains, as the story of the ark tells us, so they know that heaven must be a hell of a lot (sorry about that) higher than anything they can build. Nowadays, we know that it doesn't actually exist, that you can just keep going up forever. Oh well.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “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. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
Hmm. It seems God couldn't see the tower from wherever he was sitting. Also, God is evidently plural. (It's not a royal "us," this is in all translations.) He or they is worried that they'll build a tower that can reach him or them? And the way to stop it is to make them speak various languages? That's just silly. People kept on building towers after that, and they kept getting higher and higher. Once we figured out how to make steel framed buildings in the 19th Century, well . . .
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
This is a silly pun -- the name of Babylon sounds like the Hebrew word babel, which means confused. Babylon actually means "gate of the gods." But of course the city of Babylon did get built, and its ruins are still there. Mythically, the city did have a tower, the so-called Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but if it existed, its ruins have not been found. There was a structure corresponding to the description in Nineveh, built by Sennacharib. Nineveh is further north, near modern Mosul. But this sort of muddle is commonplace in the Bible. Some archaeology corresponds partially to some of it, some contradicts it entirely, and some is just a mess.
But again, I have to ask, what is the point of this nonsensical story? What lesson are we supposed to draw from it? As I say, Jews and Christians certainly didn't stop building towers, people communicated when necessary with the aid of bilingual translators, and nowadays we even have machines that can translate pretty well. Is that against the will of God? He doesn't seem to be doing anything about it.