Bible Studies from the Original Context

Nugget 211: The Babel at Babel


Genesis chapter 10 is the famous “Table of Nations”. Dr. William Albright, the “father” of Biblical archaeology and longtime Director of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem in the 1920s and 1930s, said of this passage, “It stands absolutely alone in ancient literature, without a remote parallel, even among the Greeks … The Table of Nations remains an astonishingly accurate document.”  This amazing ‘Table of Nations’ is where Babel (Hebrew: בָּבֶל – bah-vel) is first mentioned as being built by Nimrod grandson of Ham: “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. … And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” (Genesis 10:8, 10) The name ‘Nimrod’ (Hebrew: נִמְרֹד ) carries the meaning of ‘rebellion’ or ‘to rebel’ and since Nimrod built the kingdom of Babel, we know these seeds of rebellion were in its founder. This rebellion against God culminated in the actual ‘tower of Babel’ spoken of in Genesis 11.

A foundational truth is laid down in Genesis 11:1: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” The English word, ‘language’ is from the Hebrew: safa (שָׂפָ֣ה ) [Strong’s #8193] ) and literally means ‘lip’, but also ‘language’ and is translated as ‘language’ seven (7) times in the T’nakh. The inhabitants of the city of Babel, under Nimrod’s leadership, decided to build the city and tower.  (Gen. 11:4)  However, God had commanded Noah and his sons in Genesis 9:1, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” This is normally interpreted as a command not only to repopulate the earth but as children were born and the population increased, to spread out and to fill up the earth. The inhabitants of Babel, however, were building this city and remaining in this one place AND being ruled by one man – Nimrod. Nimrod was the first dictator. God wanted mankind to be free to develop as individuals rather than under the control of one man. In order to cause the people to scatter throughout the earth as He originally commanded, God confused the languages of the people of earth at Babel: “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.” (Gen. 11:7-8)

So the big question is, what ONE language did all the earth speak prior to the tower of Babel? It was obviously the same language that the antediluvians (those who lived before the Flood) spoke. Like all sciences, linguistics (the scientific study of human languages) has been affected by evolutionary teaching. Like all other sciences, if we want the truth, we must learn to identify and filter out the evolutionary influence upon our thinking. Language was not something that ‘evolved’.  It is a gift to mankind. God created Adam and Eve and spoke to them and they spoke to each other immediately. Before Darwin published his theory of evolution in 1881, all conservative writers, both Christian and Jewish, would say that Hebrew was the original language. I still believe this is correct. Modern linguists, influenced by evolutionary theory, do not believe this and they mock the Tower of Babel account in the Word of God. I will always stand with God’s Word and not man’s so-called theories! Some people go to the opposite extreme and that is also dangerous. Isaac Mozeson proposes his Edenic theory that all words in all modern languages of today derive from modern Hebrew words. This simply cannot be true and is not what I mean by Hebrew being the original language.

The New Testament records a somewhat “reverse Babel effect” in the book of Acts chapter 2 when Jewish pilgrims from all over the Roman empire were in Jerusalem for the feast of Sukkot (Pentecost) and heard the apostle Peter preaching his first sermon – each one in their own language: “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.” (Acts 2:5-6)

God Himself is the greatest of all communicator’s as evidenced by the apostle John’s words in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He gave mankind the gift of language. God showed both at Babel and at Pentecost that He is in control of human language! Miscommunication among people, like at Babel, can cause great division.  Miscommunication with God, however, can lead to disaster and death. God wants to communicate with us (through His Word) and He wants us to communicate with Him through prayer!  Let’s keep the lines of communication with Heaven open so that the Lord is free to communicate His plans to us! “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11

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Bible Studies from the Original Context

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