Go to, let us go down, [and] there confound their language,
&c.] These words are not spoken to the angels, as the Targum and Aben Ezra; for, as Philo the Jew observes F8, they are said to some as co-workers with God, which angels could not be in this work of confounding the language of men; it being above the power of creatures so to work upon the mind, and on the faculty of speech, as to make such an alteration as was at the confusion of tongues, when men were made to forget their former language, and had another put into their minds, and a faculty of speaking it given; or, however, the first language was so differently inflected and pronounced, that it seemed another, and various; all which could not be done but by him who is almighty, even that Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, said ( Genesis 11:8 ) to confound man's language; and the first of these speaks to the other two, with whom he consulted about doing it, and with whom he did it. Not that every man had a new and distinct language given him, for then there could have been no society and converse in the world, but one was given to each family; or rather to as many families as constituted a nation or colony, designed for the same place of habitation; how many there were, cannot be said with any certainty. Euphorus, and many other historians F9, say they were seventy five, according to the number of Jacob's posterity that went down into Egypt; others say seventy two: the Jewish writers generally agree with the Targum of Jonathan in making them seventy, according to the number of the posterity of Noah's sons, recorded in the preceding chapter; but several of them spoke the same language, as Ashur, Arphaxad, and Aram, spoke the Chaldee or Syriac language; the sons of Canaan one and the same language; and the thirteen sons of Joktan the Arabic language; Javari and Elisha the Greek language; so that, as Bochart F11 observes, scarce thirty of the seventy will remain distinct: and it is an observation of Dr. Lightfoot
``the fifteen named in ( Acts 2:5-11 ) were enough to confound the work (at Babel), and they may very well be supposed to have been the whole number.''The end to be answered it was,
that they may not understand one another's speech;
or "hear" F13, that is, so as to understand; the words were so changed, and so differently pronounced from what they had used to hear, that though they heard the sound, they could not tell the meaning of them: hence, as Jarchi observes, when one asked for a brick, another brought him clay or slime, on which he rose up against him, and dashed his brains out.
F8 De Confus. Ling. p. 344.
F9 Apud Clement. Alexandr. Strom. l. 1. p. 338.
F11 Phaleg. l. 1. c. 15. col. 55.
F12 See his Works, vol. 1. p. 694.
F13 (wemv) "audiant", Pagninus, Montanus