Nations and Languages
Exodus 4:10 - Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
Exodus 6:12 - But Moses said to the Lord, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?”
Acts 17:24 - “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.
Acts 17:26 - From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
2 Peter 2:5 - if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;
Why is the world made up of different peoples, or nations, speaking different languages? Many take the position that our world experienced unity, with just one people speaking the same language until God cursed them for building the Tower of Babel.
did god curse the nations?
Genesis 10 lists many different nations. Verse 5 says each nation had a different language. Then Genesis 11, the next chapter, describes the world united, speaking the same language. Critics of the Word seize on this and say the Bible contradicts itself when it says there were different languages in Genesis 10 and only one in chapter 11.
"Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech" (v. 7).
Examine this in the light of God's Word. Notice that God did not say, "Let us go down and curse them." Instead He said, "Let us go down and confuse their language."
Who is confused?
The Old Testament translates two Hebrew words "language." In Genesis 10, the Hebrew word for tongue (lashone) is translated "language" three different times (vv. 5, 20, 31). In chapter 11, the Hebrew word for lip (saphall) is used four different times and is translated "language" (vv. 1, 6, 7, 9).
Could it be the detractors who are confused, and the Biblical record has it just as it happened? Some scholars conclude that there is no difference between a tongue language and a lip language. Other scholars see it differently.
tongue or Lip Language
Did Moses, the author of Genesis and Exodus, see a difference in tongue language and lip language? Notice how he used the words in other places.
In Exodus 4:10, Moses used tongue to refer to communicating with the Hebrews. But when he referred to talking to the Egyptians, he used the word lip for "language" (6:12, 30). He knew that talking to Pharaoh would be more difficult than talking to the Hebrews.
Moses had been gone from Egypt for 40 years. He clearly identified with the people of God. He also knew that his command of the Egyptian language would not be easy; speaking two languages would be difficult for him.
So he used a different word than the one he used when he talked about speaking to the Hebrews, God's people, in his native tongue.
In recording the story of Babel, Moses apparently saw a difference between a lip language, which the people were forced by the Babylonians to use, and their native languages. Everybody was speaking one language because they were forced to do so by the Babylonian conquerors.
In the last century, Japan annexed Korea and tried to force them to speak Japanese instead of Korean. This was a part of imposing Japanese authority over the people.
When God decided to confuse the language, He caused the people to be unable to speak the Babylonian lip language they had been forced to learn. The people returned to their national tongue language.
Can you imagine waking up in the morning speaking a different language, unable to converse or even understand your neighbors around you?
what is the issue?
Is the confusion of language important? Yes, it is. It is extremely important to know who are the bad guys and who are the good guys. Confusing the language at Babel was an act of judgment on evil.
God sent judgment on the Babylonians for their sins. They went to war under the leadership of the king of Babylon and conquered the nations. In order to control the conquered nations, they forced the conquered people to learn their language. Their totalitarian control was evident when God said,
"Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them" (Genesis 11:6).
The confusion of the language allowed the various nations to return to freedom from the Babylonian oppressors. God sent judgment on the Babylonians for unifying the world under Satanic authority. He was not condemning the different ethnic groups who spoke different languages.
Relationships along language and ethnic lines were good; they had their foundation in the family. Babylonian unity was founded on loyalty to the king. Relationships between the subjects of the king were impersonal and weak, without love and concern.
ln the New Testament, Jesus associated with and ministered to all ethnic groups. The early church understood this because Peter said:
God, who made the world and everything in it . . . has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth (Acts 17:24, 26).
PENTECOST Is THE ANSWER TO BABEL
Most Bible scholars see Pentecost as the answer to the problem of Babel. At Pentecost, the people of God were given the ability to speak the different tongues of the nations of the world. The gift of speaking in tongues is still available today.
The unity of the church cannot be obtained by forcing everybody to become like us and speak our language. The unity of the church recognizes and respects ethnic and cultural differences.
Pentecost shows respect for the different languages spoken by the peoples of the World. Discipleship training that follows the Biblical pattern shows respect for individual and cultural differences. We make disciples of the nations, but we respect their own cultures.
Our message must be given in the language spoken by people. This makes us more effective in evangelizing and disciplining the nations.
- Explain how different peoples and nations arose, each speaking different languages.
2. What was the purpose of the Tower of Babel?
3. Did God curse the world because of the building of the tower?
4. When the Bible speaks of people speaking the same language, does this mean they could speak only one language?
5. How did God confuse the languages?
6. Do you know anyone who accepts individual differences in people, but does not accept ethnic differences?
7. If an individual, or a group of individuals, are different from you, does that mean that God has cursed the individual or group?
8. Does Pentecost teach us to make the gospel available in all the languages of the world?
Babylon reigned from 625, after the fall of Assyria, until 536 BC.