Did the ancients think the world was flat?
Many people were primitive in those days and might have thought the world was flat. This does not mean the Bible or even Moshe felt the same. For starters, it is speaking from a human perspective, much like Joshua is speaking from a human perspective when he commands the sun to stand still. We wouldn't say that Joshua is literally saying the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around the earth. How much more so, should we understand other parts of Scripture in this light. That the ancient pagans felt the world was flat but that had they reached the top (studies have shown that it was possible to build a tower to the hight the Bible describes) would have realized that the world is round. Indeed, it is mentioned in the Bible, in Job, that the world is a circle and hangs on nothing, round.
Was the story of the tower of Babel literally?
Is it possible that people really felt they could reach heaven? Could this be another example of hyperbole? A parable. It is not a literal story since the tower of Babel “reached into the heaven” is not understood literally. Some historians think it was possible for the tower to reach the height as described in the Bible. Nevertheless, they strived against G-d's command. Genesis 1:28 tells us that G-d commands us to replenish the earth. Abraham Ibn Ezra felt that the builders wanted to rebel against this command. Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch felt it was a community, not for a spiritual purpose though. Thus G-d punishes them with “confusion of speech” (Genesis 11:9). But this barrier, the inability to communicate with a different language provided much societal alienation. It makes for linguistic and cultural diversity or, is it possible that G-d never punished them. Perhaps the confusion of languages was the natural result of their behavior? Perhaps it is wrong to have “one language and one way of speaking.”
Historians think differences in languages are a result of different cultures. People came from Africa and spread around the globe, each with his own unique language and culture. Nevertheless, will the day arrive when the world reverts to “one language and one speech” and people stop erecting Towers of Babels? The prophet Zephaniah says, “a pure language that they may all call upon the name of G-d to serve Him unitedly” (Zephaniah 3:9).
All things considered, it seems that the generation of the Tower of Babel was not punished in the same way Noah's generation was punished. G-d leniency stemmed them because their society was relatively peaceful compared to Noah's generation which was full of violence and corruptness. Perhaps language diversity is a good.