Tower of Babel & World Languages: Unity
From the tower of Babel account, we discover the source of the many languages used across the world. We can trace all the languages back to major families. This research has been lacking until recently because of opposition from secular groups.
Genesis 11 starts with a recording of what happened in Babylon many years back. This event has drastically reshaped the world’s cultures. Genesis 10 paints a broad picture of what was happening throughout the world regarding who was filling the world and to some degree where, but this event further stamps God’s hand on history through the way the multiplicity of languages has been stamped upon the world.
The world is trying to overcome these barriers of language and culture. They are getting closer. The quest for power and money drive the machine of the world culture. God has His own purposes of having people redeemed from every language giving praise to Him.
The sin of Noah and his son was shown us (Genesis 9:20-27) to remind us about the inherent flaws of the new society that would form after the flood. God was not disillusioned. People are always in hope of discovering some utopia, a perfect society. God’s Word assures us that this ideal world will not be found after the flood and in Noah’s new world. Sin follows mankind because it has infected the nature of man.
The Tower of Babel is one of many ziggurats that were built in the early Mesopotamian plain. They each seem to have a temple on the top of them which is what the Biblical account suggests. It was not only a military lookout station but one in which they think they can commune with the gods. Most interesting is a quote from King Nebuchadnezzar about the Tower of Babel (Babylon).
Nebuchadnezzar referred to the people building it had abandoned it because “without order expressing words.” This no doubt refers to the language confusion. Words were without order.
The temple mound of Babel is still there today as shown in the Google Earth satellite picture above (bottom right). The tower deteriorates but the rubble becomes covered up with dust and dirt and forms a mound, higher than the ground around it.
The Date of the Tower of Babel
3 And they said to one another, Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly. And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.
Man felt constrained to spread out over the earth (11:4). They felt they would loose the advantage that they had gained if they spread out. They were right in one sense (11:6). We call it suburbia! It used to be called exploring or settling. “Go where no man has gone!”
Man communicated this plan with one another and got approval.
Step #1: Ready the materials.
Step #2: Build a city and tower.
Purpose: Become famous - be an attracting point.
They actually built the city and tower that reached far in the sky (11:5). But someone was watching. This was the God who made man. The LORD understood man and his capacity for evil. We see the same pattern as above.
Yahweh (LORD) came down to look at the city and tower which they had built. They really did build it. Obviously, their complex was sufficiently sophisticated to cause the LORD to take action.
The greatest problem was not this one tower but the means by which they built it. The Lord Himself concluded that their unified purpose combined with one language makes them able to do anything that they would now wish. Nothing would be impossible. The Lord took this as an evil omen.
Some might think that God didn't want any competition, but the fact is much more complicated. God wanted to bring good into the world but the intensity of evil would frustrate God's design. He instead created many smaller cultures that would be isolated from each other. They would have to then use their thoughts on defending themselves from the threats of each other.
The confusion came about by not mutually understanding each other as before. The scene was quite remarkable no doubt. We are not sure how large were the groups that still did understand each other. Was it a family or a great grandfather and on down that still understood each other? We are not sure. But whatever, each of these groups spread about.
We are not sure whether this ‘scattering’ involved anything beyond the confusion of languages. It is quite possible that something like bad weather or suspicion and a sense of protectionism came over them that they desired their own individual place. They went across the earth looking for such place.
Man was confused before he was scattered. The language barrier not only made them drop their building plans but caused them to become isolated groups according to language. The confusion was selective though. People in the same groups could understand each other. People who speak the same live together - Chinatown! Isolated groups of people formed their own cultures. This explains why cultures have slight but distorted memories of main biblical events such as the flood- they all experienced it in their early development before they were divided by language and confusion.
A mono-lingual world is difficult for a world traveler to comprehend. He gets so familiar with different currencies, dress, customs and incomprehensible languages that it seems incredible for there to be only one language and culture all across the earth. Same language, same words. Variance was despised.
Since the scriptures only state that the one language was confused, it is possible that there is one original father language.
Much work is being done on the history of languages though. They compare the words from the major language families (one such language grouping is to the right).
Some speculate that Hebrew was the original language (Edenic language). Isaac Mozeson, author of “The Word: The Dictionary that reveals the Hebrew roots of the English Language” is convinced of this. Below he writes,
“Percentage-wise and vocabulary-wise, English is more obviously a dialect of Hebrew than of Latin, Greek or French.
More impressive than the Hebrew motto of Yale College is the title of Harvard College’s first dissertation: Hebrew Is the Mother Tongue. When Noah Webster’s original dictionary traced many English words beyond German, French, Latin and Greek to their “Shemitic” origin, no one raised an eyebrow. Every learned person knew that Hebrew was the Mother Tongue.
The Oxford English Dictionary is so troubled by a biblical source for BABBLE (Babel), that it warns readers that “no direct connection with Babel can be traced” and declares the term to be of “unknown origin.””
World Language Groupings
Indo-European (Northern India/Europe)
Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to 'unconfuse' the language confusion. Our generation is bypassing it by translating and having more and more people using one of the major world languages. A person on a Chinese web page can use an automatic web page translator of this page. Watch out. The monolithic world culture hinted at in the Book of Revelation is coming.
Genesis Introduction: Introduction to Genesis | Outline and Genealogies | Genesis' Chronologies (5 & 11) | Unified Themes of Genesis