Lesson 3

The Origin of Languages/Beginning of Nations

I. After the Flood

After the flood, God had commanded Noah and his sons to replenish the earth. Inherent in this command was the fact that the human race should spread out gradually over the face of the entire earth to repopulate it. Once again, however, the overwhelming majority of humanity disobeyed the voice of God. Instead of spreading out over the earth, mankind located in one specific area and decided to stay there and build a city.

A. The Tower of Babel

"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 throughly. 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" (Genesis 11:1-4).

1. The Self-centeredness of the People

Notice the self-centeredness of these people, and their disregard for God's commandment. He wanted them to scatter over the whole earth to replenish it, but they wanted to build a city and a tower as a center of humanity, to prevent mankind from scattering! In other words, their desire was just exactly the opposite of God's Word.

2. Different Languages Introduced

Up until this time, everyone on the earth spoke the same language. Essentially, there was only one nation upon the face of the earth. This made their goal of constructing a great city all that much more possible. But the Lord observed their disobedience, and 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" (Genesis 11:6-7).

By introducing different languages among the people, the Lord stopped their sinful effort. They could no longer communicate sufficiently to complete such an ambitious project, and they began to spread over the face of the earth, each person finding his place with those with whom he could talk.

B. The Judgment of God in Dispersing the People

The judgment of God on the effort of men was the origin of languages and the beginning of nations. The earth was repopulated by the sons of Noah in the following fashion:

1. Shem's Sons

Shem's sons were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. The major nations which sprang from these sons were the Persians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Hebrews, Lydians, Armenians, and Syrians. They settled in Assyria, Syria, Persia, Northern Arabia, and Mesopotamia.

2. Ham's Sons

Ham's sons were Cush, Mizraim, Phut, and Canaan. The principal nations to spring from these men were the Ethiopians, Egyptians, Libyans, and Canaanites. Ham's sons settled the continent of Africa and Arabia.

3. Japheth's Sons

Japheth's sons were Comer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. These men gave birth to the Russians, Germans, Britons, Scythians, Medes, lonians, Athenians, Iberians, Muscovites, and Thracians. The settlement of Japheth's sons was in Asia Minor, Armenia, Caucasus, and Europe.