Episode 1: “Lest We Be Scattered Over the Face of the Earth”

In the inaugural episode of Polarities, we look at that great foundational myth that tries to explain the origin of languages, borders, displacement, and the concept of human division itself: the Tower of Babel. While much hay has been made from interpretations of the story that attempt to claim it for everything from fundamental Christianity to…whatever it is Borges is doing here...the truth of the story might be a lot more local than we like to think.

With that in mind, we take a brief (very brief) crash course in the history of Near Eastern civilization, with the vain and probably doomed attempt to use the myth’s enduring legacy to explain our present circumstances. How can we use a vague and contradictory text to understand our current reality of festering xenophobia and growing displacement?

Featuring words and thoughts from:

Gwendolyn Leick: Near East historian, urban design specialist, and weightlifting champion (really!)

Marc Brettler: Professor in Judaic Studies at Duke University

Brent Strawn: Professor of the Old Testament at Duke Divinity School

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Brueghel’s “The Tower of Babel” (1563)

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