From Gate Of God To Confusion
In most English translations of the Bible, the first mention of "Babel" (from which came the name Babylon) in the Holy Scriptures occurs in Genesis 10:10, before the tower of Babel was constructed:
"10:6 And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan.
Is this a contradiction in the next chapter then? Did "Babel" exist before the LORD called it "Babel"?
"11:8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 11:9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth." (Genesis 11:8-9 KJV)
From "Gate Of God" To "Confusion"
Although it's often rendered as "babel," the actual word in Genesis 10:10 was the related-Semitic word pronounced bawb-iloo, which meant gate of God. Even the English rendering of "babel" reflects that meaning with the "el" (see El) in "babel" - which, in its root form, also means gate of the LORD. It's that reason that the LORD's presence, or access, is stated in Nimrod's "babel":
"10:9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.
But note carefully what happened when the humans began building a tower at the "gate of God" - the very reason that they chose that location to build it was to attempt to enter through the gate of God that was perceived as being there.
"11:4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
It was then that the LORD renamed it as "babel" (as it's rendered in English), which in Hebrew is pronounced baw-bale. It means confusion - there is no actual "el" in it. The reason that it is often written that way is because translators have confused (amazingly, since the word that they confused means confusion!) for the earlier word which did have "el" in it.
"11:1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 11:2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
Fact Finder: Did the LORD identify Himself by the same Name to Abraham and Moses?