Dispersion from Babel
Take time to look up the Bible verses if you want to really benefit from this study
As the Omniscient (All-knowing) LORD viewed man’s plans and work at Babel, He knew they would stop at nothing in their rebellion against Him and in their pursuit of sinful practices – “and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Genesis 11v6).
Notice the “us” in Genesis11v7 is not referring to God speaking with the angels; it refers to the Three Persons of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) speaking amongst each other. Man’s disobedience is rebellion against the Thrice-Holy God.
God scattered the people because of their sin. He did this by giving them different languages (Genesis11v5-9). Each family group could not understand the other family groups. Thus, the work had to cease and they were forced scatter over the earth as God wanted.
To help you understand what it was like at Babel that day, picture yourself working on the building site, joking with your workmates and taking instructions from your supervisors. Then, all of a sudden everyone around you starts speaking in different languages and the only people you understand in the whole wide world are your family.
Genesis 10v32 seems to indicate that the dispersion of people across the earth was generally along extended family lines. This was the result of the sudden creation of new languages described in Genesis11v1-9. In such a breakdown of communication tempers would flare, suspicions abound, and hostilities would rapidly drive groups that spoke different languages away from each other. However, all the people within each family group or ‘clan’ would have spoken the same language. Thus, the family groups had to spread out.
These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.Genesis 10v32 KJV
The earth was divided in the days of Peleg (Genesis 10v25). This refers to the scattering of the people from Babel. Peleg was born about 100 years after the Flood (cp. Genesis 11v10-19).
As each family group moved apart from the others, some groups would have been more skilled than others.
The seeds of rebellion against God – false worship and sinful practices, including astrology – were taken with the people as they scattered from Babel.
Map showing Dispersion from Babel
Genesis 10v32 is a key verse that sums up how the descendants of Noah were divided after the Flood at the time of their dispersion from Babel (cp. Genesis 9v18-19). They were divided along extended family lines.
Genesis chapter 10 makes it very clear that people were divided “after their families, after their tongues (languages), in their lands, and in their nations” (Genesis 10v5, 20, 31). God gave each family group or ‘clan’ a different language, causing them to spread out to fill the earth with people.
The descendants of Japheth are listed in Genesis 10v1-5; the descendants of Ham are listed in Genesis10v6-20; and the descendants of Shem are listed in Genesis 10v21-31. The map above gives a basic idea of the direction in which the families descended from Shem, Ham, and Japheth went.
The genealogy of Shem is given in more detail (Genesis 11v10-32) because it is from this line that Christ the Messiah is descended.
Please note that Eber (Genesis 11v14-17) was the father of the Hebrews through Abraham. Shem is described as “the father of all the children of Eber” (Genesis 10v21), although Eber (Heber) was Shem’s great grandson.
Curse of Ham
Some people believe that the skin colour of ‘black’ people is the result of a curse on Ham and his descendants (Genesis 9v18-27). However, this is nowhere taught in the Bible. False teaching about Ham has been used to justify slavery and other non-Biblical racist attitudes. Please note:
It was Canaan that God cursed, not Ham (Genesis 9v25-27)
Not all the descendants of Ham went down into Africa. The descendants of Canaan went to inhabit the land of Canaan (Genesis 10v15-19) and God would later give the land of the Canaanites to Israel (cp. Deuteronomy 7v1; Joshua 3v10; 24v11).
Were all Present-day Languages Spoken at Babel?
To answer this important question, we must consider some facts about language:
Language has not evolved from animal grunts. God created Adam and Eve with the ability to understand and communicate in one language. All people spoke this one language up until the time of Babel when God miraculously and suddenly programmed each family group with a different language.
Different languages originated at Babel. God did not give all the many languages spoken in the world today at Babel for there were not thousands of separate family groups or ‘clans’ then (cp. Genesis chapter 10).
Each of the different languages created suddenly by God at Babel could each subsequently give rise to many more. Language gradually changes, so when a group of people breaks into several groups that no longer interact, after a few centuries they may each speak a different (but related) language. Today we have thousands of languages, but less than 20 language families.
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