The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire BibleGenesis 11:3
And they said one to another, go to…
exhorting, stirring up, and encouraging one another to the work
proposed, of building a city and tower for their habitation and
let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly;
they knew the nature
of bricks, and how to make them before: according to Sanchoniatho F8,
the brothers of Vulcan, or Tubalcain, before the flood, were the first
inventors of them; for he relates, that
``there are some that say that his brothers invented the way of
making walls of bricks: he adds, that from the generation of
Vulcan came two brothers, who invented the way of mixing
straw or stubble with brick clay, and to dry them by the sun,
and so found out tiling of houses.''
Now in the plain of Shinar, though it afforded no stones, yet they
could dig clay enough to make bricks, and which they proposed to burn
thoroughly, that they might be fit for their purpose. According to an
eastern tradition F9, they were three years employed in making and
burning those bricks, each of which was thirteen cubits long, ten
broad, and five thick, and were forty years in building:
and they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar:
could not get stone, which they would have chosen, as more durable;
they got the best bricks they could make, and instead of mortar they
used slime; or what the Septuagint version calls "asphaltos", a
bitumen, or kind of pitch, of which there was great plenty in that
neighbourhood. Herodotus F11 speaking of the building of Babylon, uses
language very much like the Scripture;
``digging a foss or ditch (says he), the earth which was cast
up they formed into bricks, and drawing large ones, they
burnt them in furnaces, using for lime or mortar hot
asphaltos or bitumen.''
And he observes, that
``Eight days journey from Babylon was another city, called Is,
where was a small river of the same name, which ran into the
river Euphrates, and with its water were carried many lumps
of bitumen, and from hence it was conveyed to the walls of
This city is now called Ait, of which a traveller F12 of the last
century gives the following account;
``from the ruins of old Babylon we came to a town called Ait,
inhabited only with Arabians, but very ruinous; near unto which
town is a valley of pitch, very marvellous to behold, and a
thing almost incredible wherein are many springs throwing out
abundantly a kind of black substance, like unto tar and pitch,
which serveth all the countries thereabout to make staunch their
barks and boats; everyone of which springs makes a noise like
a smith's forge, which never ceaseth night nor day, and the
noise is heard a mile off, swallowing up all weighty things that
come upon it; the Moors call it "the mouth of hell."''
Curtius relates F13, that Alexander, in his march to Babylon, came to a
city called Mennis, where was a cavern, from whence a fountain threw
out a vast quantity of bitumen or pitch; so that, says he, it is plain,
that the huge walls of Babylon were daubed with the bitumen of this
fountain; and he afterwards speaks of the walls, towers, and houses,
being built of brick, and cemented with it; and so Diodorus Siculus
says F14 from Ctesias, that the walls of Babylon were built of bricks,
cemented with bitumen; and not only these, but all Heathen authors that
write of Babylon, confirm this; and not only historians, but poets, of
which Bochart F15 has made a large collection; as well as Josephus F16
speaks of it, and this sort of pitch still remains. Rauwolff says F17
near the bridge over the Euphrates, where Babylon stood, are several
heaps of Babylonian pitch, which is in some places grown so hard, that
you may walk over it; but in others, that which hath been lately
brought over thither is so soft, that you may see every step you make
F8 Apud Euseb. Evangel. Praepar. l. 1. p. 35.
F9 Elmacinus, p. 14. apud Hottinger. Smegma, p. 263, 264.
F11 Clio sive, l. 1. c. 179.
F12 Cartwright's Preacher's Travels, p. 105, 106.
F13 Hist. l. 5. c. 1.
F14 Bibliothec l. 2. p. 96.
F15 Phaleg. l. 1. c. 11.
F16 Antiqu. l. 1. c. 4. sect. 3.
F17 Travels, par. 2. ch. 7. p. 138.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Genesis 11:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=ge&chapter=011&verse=003>. 1999.