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How high was Migdal (the tower of) Bavel?

From the Chumash we know that the tower was built in a valley which suggests that its purpose was more symbolic than pragmatic. To that effect I am wondering if anything else would stick out as being purely symbolic and more specifically what the height of the tower was. (If the tower was not tall then that would be another suggestion of symbolism.)

  • +1 That does sound like something a Midrash might expound upon. – Double AA Oct 16 '12 at 19:05
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    Note that Ibn Ezra doesn't understand it as a valley, but as a plain. He suggests that it might have been termed a "valley" because it had mountains around it. – Shimon bM Oct 17 '12 at 2:21
  • @ShimonbM Makes much sense – ezra Oct 12 '18 at 17:00
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According to Sefer Hayovelim the height was 13 parsa, 5433 amos and 2 zratot. (Source)

This would come out to about 52.5 km.

There are sources (such as) that take only the amos, because 50 km is unbelievable, and it doesn't really work out with the way the verse is built (חמשת אלפים וארבע מאות ושלושים ושלוש באמה עלה גבהו, ושתי זרתות ושלוש עשרה פרסה). That's about 2.6 km (still pretty high).

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    +1 Just for comparison Mount Everest rises about 8.8 km above sea level. – Double AA Oct 16 '12 at 20:06
  • It seems from the link that orthodox Jews don't deem Sefer Hayoveilim authoritative with the exception of ethiopion Jews (though probably the converted ones by the Rabanut change their views to those of mainstream Jews). but voters are always interested in an answer that from broader horizons that don't necessarily reflect the Talmud and Medrash. – user15464 Oct 26 '18 at 15:40
  • @user15464 then you should go to the christian stakc eexchange – bluejayke Nov 9 '18 at 21:33
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Midrash Sefer Hayashar says that a third of the tower was swallowed by the ground, a third consume by fire and a third remained.

והשלישית ממנו נשאר עד היום הזה ויהי ממנו אשר תלוי ברוח השמים ויהי מהלך צלו שלשת ימיםה
The third that remained until this day, its shadow was the length of 3 days travel. (the shadow represents the height of the tower which a human cannot transcend because of gravity so a practical way of knowing the height is saying the shadow length when the sun is up in the sky at a 45 degree angle)

A person can walk about 10 parsa (40 km) see Pesachim 93b) in one day which means a third of the tower is 30 parsa (about 120km)high. This would mean the height of the original tower might have been around (90 parsa) 360 km.

See here How wide was the Migdal Bavel? for Rabbi Yonasan Eibeshitz who says this Midrash can't be literal, rather the tower was 5 mil high (about 5km) an from there they launched a spaceship above where air was thin using gun powder. From Rav Yonasan Eibeshits commentary:

וכבר חיבר איך לעשות ספינות לילך לכדור ירחי אבל העיקר שיגיע ספינה זו למעלה מאויר העכור וזה היה כוונת דור הפלגה

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    R' Yonasan Eibeshitz was talking about launching rockets? That's pretty ahead of his time. – ezra Oct 12 '18 at 17:01
  • Combining this Sefer HaYashar with the one cited in the linked answer doesn't seem to satisfy the equations set up here. Another point in favor of R' Yonasan Eibeshitz? As if a tower whose base is larger than the entire surface area of the Earth wasn't enough? – DonielF Oct 12 '18 at 22:12
  • No, the shadow of this portion of the tower was 3 days' travel, not the height itself. We would need to know the precise coordinates of the tower to be able to do anything with this, that we could get the solar angle and solve for height. – DonielF Oct 12 '18 at 22:15
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    @Ezra in his commentary he mentions an actual ship with masts that gets launched into space ,nothing near our space ships today. – sam Oct 26 '18 at 14:35
  • @sam if they could build a tower even 5km high (360km according to Midrash) they might have had access to technology even better than what is available today (we're just reaching a point where a 1km high building is being planned in china and saudi arabia) that was forgotten, so a rocket launcher is perfectly feasable , Rav yonasan is just explaining according to what people new existed in those days, – user15464 Oct 27 '18 at 19:40
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Pirke De’Rabbi Eliezer (ch. 24) gives the height dimension as being “seven(ty) mil”:

רבי פנחס אומר לא היו שם אבנים לבנות את העיר ואת המגדל מה היו עושין היו מלבנים לבנים ושורפין אותן כיוצר חרש עד שבנו אותו גבוה שבעים מיל

(Note: the Hebrew edition reads “seventy” while the English ed. by Gerald Friedlander, provided also at the above link to Sefaria, has “seven”. In a note (pg. 176 n. 2, of the book) he remarks that “first editions read ‘seventy’. See Book of the Bee, p. 41.” Additionally, Dr. Michael Higger who also published the PRE from manuscripts (Horeb, Vol. 9, pg. 157) keeps “כשבעה מילין” [and interestingly omits mention of variant readings].)

Somewhat ambiguous is the phrasing of Eliyahu Rabbah (pg. 118) that seems to say there was a twenty-one mil distance between the top and bottom of the tower after having been knocked down:

מי בעט בו במגדל ראשון, ונתן ראשו במקום אחד וגופו במקום אחר ועשרים ואחד מיל בין זה לזה

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