Genesis 11:1-9

From Reconciling understandings of Scripture and Science
(Redirected from Confusion of Tongues)
Jump to navigationJump to search

BibleOld TestamentGenesis

The Confusion of Tongues


1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
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.
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Venite igitur, descendamus, et confundamus ibi linguam eorum, ut non audiat unusquisque vocem proximi sui. . . Et idcirco vocatum est nomen ejus Babel, quia ibi confusum est labium universae terrae: et inde dispersit eos Dominus super faciem cunctarum regionum.

Origin of the Phrase

The "confusion of tongues" or "confusion of languages" is a traditional term for the story of Genesis 11:1-9, from Latin confusio linguarum based on the Vulgate translation. Gustave Doré's famous etching of it is here.

Languages of the World? Earth? Land? Area?

"All the earth" is the King James Version's translation of כָל־הָאָ֑רֶץ .אָ֑רֶץ  (eretz) is a general word for land, also translated earth, country etc. — anything from the entire earth to ground. So its meaning here must be determined from the context.

Languages prior to the Flood

In Genesis 10:5, 20, and 31 we learn that the descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah who spread out over the land after the Flood (Genesis 9:19), already have languages in their lands and countries.

Note that different languages had already developed — Genesis 10:5 From these the maritime nations branched out. [These are the descendants of Japheth] by their lands—each with its language—their clans and their nations.; v.20 These are the descendants of Ham, according to their clans and languages, by their lands and nations.v.31 These are the descendants of Shem according to their clans and languages, by their lands, according to their nations. (all from JPS Tanakh)

See also Deuteronomy 32:8.