NOAH and his family journeyed down from the mountains where the ark rested to start a new life in the nearby plains. From then on, all the people who came into the world were started by Noah's three sons and their wives. (Genesis 9:19.) After some years had gone by, there were many people in the plains area south of w here the ark had landed. Some of them kept on moving farther down into the valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates, the two main rivers of the ancient land of Assyria. As the years passed and people increased in numbers, many of them moved southeast and over the lower plains toward what is now known as the Persian Gulf. There the soil was rich, and wonderful crops sprang out of it. The ground was at its best in the region where the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers flowed closest together in a land called Shinar. (Genesis 11:2.) More and more families chose that area to live in. There were very few rocks or trees there. Probably no great city would have been built there if it hadn't been discovered that much of the soil was just right for making excellent bricks. These were made by pressing the moist clay into block shapes and baking them around hot fires or even in the sun. Furthermore, there were places where a thick, pitchy liquid oozed from the ground. This liquid, now called bitumen, was the very thing needed to hold the bricks together. (Genesis 11:3.)
Human Beings Huddle Together
Men began putting up homes, barns, warehouses and all kinds of buildings. Before long a good-sized town was sprawling out over the plain of Shinar. People were massing together again just as they had done before the flood. This did not please God. He knew that when human beings huddled together
in crowded buildings they failed to get the best out of the good things He had created for men to find in the fields, the forests, the mountains, the streams and even in the seas and the deserts. Besides, men were more likely to break God's rules of happy living when they existed in masses. God had told Noah and his family that people should spread out over the Earth. Noah lived for three hundred and fifty years after the flood. (Genesis 9:28.) During that time he probably proclaimed God's wishes every time he had the chance to do so. It was also through Noah that God told people who lived after the flood about the Man who would someday come to Earth and die for human beings so that they would be free of wrong ways of living-free from sin. This man, God told them through Noah, would be brought back to life and return to Heaven, the place from which God rules the universe and all in it. Most men were living further and further from God, and didn't care much about their Creator. However, many of them, through Noah's efforts, understood something of God's laws and plans. But one thing they didn't know was just when this Person who was to give his life for them would come to Earth. Today we know that the Man was Jesus Christ, God's Son, and that he came to our planet as a human being about two thousand three hundred years after the flood. (Luke 1:32, 43.)
Nimrod Becomes a Hero
But something happened back then to cause men to believe that the son of a god had come to Earth shortly after the flood. Satan, ruler of demons, planted the idea so that he could lead people into worshipping false gods. This evil plan started with a man who came down from one of Noah's sons, Ham. The man's name was Nimrod. He went by various other names as the centuries passed. Most of Earth's inhabitants today wouldn't have any idea who this man was, although he has in one way or another had a powerful effect on the life of most everyone who has lived in the past four thousand years. Nimrod was a very large, strong, fierce man with very dark skin. Because of his power and skill as a successful hunter of the wild beasts that attacked people, he became a hero and a leader among his tribesmen. (Genesis 10:8-9.) Like most others of his time, Nimrod knew of his Creator's laws. But Nimrod hated those laws. Just as many other people today have been led to believe, so he believed that if he lived by God's rules he wouldn't enjoy life. He lived by his own laws, and tried to prove to others that they would be happier if they would live the same way. Nimrod became chief over the people who grouped together in that sprawling town in the land of Shinar. Probably there were many families that didn't like the way he ordered them to do this or that. But whenever wild animals attacked, Nimrod and his warriors fought to protect the townspeople. Later, Nimrod had a wall built around the growing town. Deeds like these helped make him a strong leader, and caused more and more families to move in and settle under his rule. Before many more years had passed, the town had grown into a city. It was the first large city to be built on the Earth after the flood, and it was such a wonder that people carne from afar to gaze upon the vast mass of buildings and high walls. That country later carne to be known as Babylonia, and the name of the city was Babel or Babylon. (Genesis 10:10.)
Nimrod Begins Idol Worship
Meanwhile, Nimrod was not only ruler of Babylon, but he had become the most feared man in the land. His power and wealth grew as people moved into or near Babylon. He made the laws, and those laws decreed that Babylonians should not look to the God of Noah as their ruler, but should be ruled by human governments. Nimrod also taught them that Satan should be honored by their worship of objects they could see, such as the sun and snakes and other kinds of things. (Romans 1:21-23.) Nimrod called Satan "Merodach" — meaning "Lord " or "Master." (Jeremiah 50: 2.) In the Hebrew language the name was "Baal " He was the sun-god. He was considered the chief god among the many idols. Nimrod strengthened his power over his subjects by making himself the high priest of Merodach or Baal. There, in ancient Babylon, were born the false beliefs that have wormed their way into almost every religion. Even today millions and millions of people who may want to live according to the right ways are not aware that their manner of worship follows very closely that of ancient idol worship and pagan rites begun at Babel. One of Nimrod's schemes to hold people together under his rule was to build a tower so gigantic that it would excite everyone's awe and wonder. It was to be a temple, a monument to the sun-god, and the center of a world-ruling human government. Nimrod intended that it would be the greatest tower ever built. (Genesis 11:4.) Men slaved for a long time Just to erect the base of the tower. Then little by little, as workers swarmed over it month after month, the temple took shape toward the sky. Nimrod's plan for a brick monster to 100m up over the plains was working out very well. Then God stepped in. He saw that Babel was only the beginning of what men would do. God knew that if the people continued their efforts, " then nothing would be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do." (Genesis 11:6.) God had to
step in to stop men from doing then the things which men are now beginning to do for the first time. Think what it would have been like if men such as Nimrod would have been able to possess weapons like we have today in order to enslave the whole Earth!
Many Languages Begin
Up to that time there was only one language. Men hadn't moved apart in different tribes long enough to start speaking in different ways as do the people of today in different sections of the Earth. (Genesis 11:1.) But something happened to the men working on the tower. They began to accuse each other of not talking plainly. Some talked one way, while others talked other ways. The less they understood one another, the more they argued. Arguments grew
into fights. Work came to a halt on the tower. (Genesis 11:7-8.) Can you imagine what it would be like if each one in your family would stare speaking in a language of his own? Not understanding each other would lead to much trouble, and it would be hard to live together. So it was with the men who were working under Nimrod on the tower that came to be known as the "tower of Babel." Not every workman necessarily spoke a different language, but so many ways of speaking developed through God's influence that there was too much confusion to continue erecting the tall temple. The tower was thereafter called "Babel" because "Babel" meant "confusion" in the language Noah spoke. Not understanding their neighbors, many of the families living in or near the city of Babylon moved away to seek a living in distant parts of the land. This was what God had intended for them to do. (Genesis 10:25 and Deuteronomy 32:7-8.) His way of scattering them by confusing their language was a great blow to Nimrod and his schemes for quick growth of his kingdom and greater control over man's religious habits. But during the next few years, while people were scattering out over the lands, those who stayed in or near Babylon were also becoming greater in numbers. Besides, many families who had never before been near Babylon stopped there in their travels. In time, there were so many men again living there that Nimrod once more put men to work on the city of Babylon.
But it was not God's will that the tower would ever be finished — and it never was.
Nimrod Plans to Rule the Earth
With the passing of years, Nimrod built other cities on the plains of Shinar in Babylonia. He spread his kingdom into Assyria, into the continents of Asia and Europe and even down into the land of Egypt and Ethiopia in the continent of Africa. Everywhere he implanted the evil custom of worshipping the devil in the form of a snake or as the sun-god. Nimrod claimed that Satan the devil had secret knowledge which he alone was able to open up to his fellowmen. Nimrod's followers therefore called him "Peter," which means the "opener" in the language of Babylonia. Meanwhile, many of Earth's inhabitants had little or nothing to do with Nimrod's ways. Some tribes had traveled so far beyond Babylonia that they didn't even know about the start of idol worship. Others didn't care much about God or about idols. A small part of the people still chose to obey their Creator. Shem, one of Noah's sons, was a leader among God's followers. For many years he worked against the wave of idol worship that spread out of Babylon. Ancient writings in stone have shown that Shem warned the Egyptians of Nimrod's evil plans. As a result Nimrod fled from Egypt to Europe where he hid out at Rome until he was killed. And that is how the story of Nimrod or "Peter" being killed at Rome began over four thousand years ago. Nimrod's death was a shocking surprise to his followers. They couldn't understand how or why the high priest of the sun-god could be allowed to die. So many subjects lost faith in their hero that Nimrod's religious system started to crumble. But Satan had no idea of giving up his struggle to turn man against his Creator. He worked in a very shrewd way to use Nimrod's death to shock men into going on with their worship of idols. Satan had a plan to make pagan religions something that would not only become more and more popular at the time, but which would cause them to last for thousands of years!
To understand how this happened, we must know something about Nimrod's wife, Ishtar. Many people called her Semiramis. When her husband was killed, she became the ruler over his kingdom. But because many of her subjects believed that Nimrod wasn't the god-like being he had claimed to be, Semiramis feared that she might lose control over them. She knew that she must think of something that would appear to be a great miracle — something that would fi 11 the people with awe and show them that Nimrod was really a god. Some time after Nimrod's death, Semiramis gave birth to a baby boy. This was just what this evil woman needed to carry out her greedy plan! Immediately she commanded the following news to be proclaimed throughout the land: "Our queen has just given birth to a son. This baby has no human father, but was brought into being by a magic beam of light from the great sun-god! You have heard that someday one would be born who would be like a god, and have the power to save all people. This baby who has been born to our queen is that god! He is Nimrod's son come to restore his father's government!" This terrible lie was probably too much for some to believe. Nevertheless, the queen succeeded in keeping control of the kingdom. Nimrod was looked upon more and more as the sun-god. Furthermore, because of more of her efforts, Semiramis began to be worshipped as the mother of god. She was also known as "The Virgin Mother" and "Queen of Heaven." (Jeremiah 7:18 and 44:17-19, 25.) She was the first religious ruler of the world. All this happened more than four thousand years ago. It was the very beginning of various pagan religions, and it had such a strong effect down through the centuries that even today many people worship a "Queen of Heaven," even though there never was such a person. Satan worked in such a crafty way that those ancient idol-worship symbols, dates, customs, ideas and traditions have become mixed in with the manner in which most of us worship today. These things from the past, spoken of in the Bible as "hidden mysteries," still hide the truth from millions who truly want to obey God.
Pagan Holidays Observed Today
God tells us through H is scriptures not to learn the customs of idol-worshippers. (Jeremiah 10:2 and Deuteronomy 12:30-3l.) On the other hand, many religious leaders sincerely tell us that it would be pagan not to observe the twenty-fifth of December as a holiday. The twenty-fifth day of December is the day celebrated by those ancient pagans as the day of the birth of Nimrod, god of the sun! Christ's birthday was sometime in the autumn, not in December. Semiramis claimed that on December twenty-fifth an evergreen tree grew up overnight from a dead stump in Babylon, and that Nimrod would secretly return at that same time each year to leave gifts on the tree. This was the real beginning of Santa Claus and what is celebrated now as Christmas! Another time observed by world-wide religious festivals is that of the birth of Semiramis or Ishtar. She falsely claimed to have lived as a spirit before the flood, and to have come down from heaven in a huge egg dropped into the Euphrates river. The goddess in the Ishtar egg (Easter egg) was none other than Semiramis under another name! You will find Easter mentioned in the King James Bible. (Acts 12:4.) However, it was wrongly put there by translators in place of the word "Passover." Passover is one of the times God wants us to observe, whereas Easter Sunday, with its ancient sunrise services, is entirely pagan. (I Corinthians 5:7-8.) Later on we will tell you how Christ came out of his grave late Saturday afternoon, and had no connection with the fable that a savior arose on what is wrongly called Easter Sunday. Among the popular beliefs that have come down to us from ancient idol-worship and have been mixed in with our religions is the one that each of us has a spirit that will live forever. The Bible tells us that one can live forever only if given eternal life as a gift from God. (Romans 6:23.) Those who continue to disobey God when they know the right thing to do will die. (Ezekiel 18:4, 20.) However, people are still taught, through the influence of false religions, that those who are wicked will be sent to a fiery place inside the Earth, there to live forever and ever. (Malachi 4:1.) Now you can begin to understand how Satan worked through Nimrod and Semiramis to cause human beings to believe lies (Revelation 12:9), just as he caused Eve to believe the first lie. However, Satan will not always be able to deceive human beings. The time is soon coming when his power will be cut off for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:1-3.) Then the false religions will be blotted out, and the world will happily receive all the truth much of which has been kept from us for so long. But that is another story to coming later.
Noah Dies of Old Age!
At the time Nimrod's kingdom had spread all the way into Egypt, Noah was still living! He was over seven hundred years old when God scattered men from Babylon. Still he was not feeble, and because he remained faithful to God, God gave him many more years of life. He became a successful farmer, and was nine hundred and fifty years old when he died! That is a long, long time to live, especially when we consider how short a time we live in these days. Yet those who are wise enough to turn from the wrong kind of living in order to seek the ways God has given us will enjoy even longer lives. They will get to live forever as spirit beings (I Corinthians 15:44-45, 53), and many of them will start that long life by ruling the Earth soon with Jesus Christ for a thousand years! (Revelation 2:26-27 and 5:9-10.) Later, they will dwell in a beautiful, jewelled city God will send down from heaven to earth. (Revelation 21:2.)
This is one of the many wonderful things God has prepared for those who love Him.