When I was a kid I was told a different version of the Tower of Babel story from the one in Genesis. I haven't found a source for it and I was wondering where it might have come from.

In this version, the people began to build a tower up to the heavens as an act of rebellion against God. Sometimes, as they were carrying a brick up to the top of the tower, someone would lose his grip and drop it over the edge. Other times, a man would lose his footing and fall off and be hurt or even die. At first, God did nothing and let them try to build their tower. It was only when they were more upset at losing a brick over the edge of the tower than they were at the loss of a man's life that he intervened.

What is the source for this version of the story, if any? I had a look at alternative sources in the wiki article and couldn't find anything that matched up.

  • Welcome to MiYodeya and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 3:02
  • 1
    Why do you feel this is a different version, and not just additional details on the "base" story?
    – Zev Spitz
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 14:46
  • Mentioned (unhelpfully without a reference) at jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2279-babel-tower-of as: The Tower had reached such a height that it took a whole year to hoist up necessary building-material to the top; in consequence, materials became so valuable that they cried when a brick fell and broke, while they remained indifferent when a man fell and was killed.
    – Henry
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 15:20
  • @ZevSpitz That's a good question -- I don't know. I probably heard this story when I was 6 or 7 years old and the schooling I had after that wasn't what you'd call "rigorous". Would you describe it as additional details on the story in Genesis or an alternative? Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 16:25
  • Additional detail, like all other Midrashic commentary. I would add that I don't think there was a progression -- initially valuing human life, then valuing the bricks over human life. Rather, the goal of the tower was of such monumental importance to them as to take precedence over human life; and this was the case from day one.
    – Zev Spitz
    Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 19:40

1 Answer 1


Found it in R. Yaakov Culi's Me'am Lo'ez

Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 24 says

If a man fell and died they paid no heed to him, but if a brick fell they sat down and wept, and said: Woe is us ! when will another one come in its stead? And Abraham, son of Terah, passed by, and saw them building the city and the tower, and he cursed them in the name of his God, as it is said, "Swallow up, O Lord, divide their language" (Ps. 55:9)


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