Genesis 11:8

8 In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city.

Genesis 11:8 Meaning and Commentary

Genesis 11:8

So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence, upon the
face of all the earth
Hence that which they feared came upon them, and what they were so careful to guard against befell them, occasioned by those measures they took to secure themselves from it; for not being able to understand one another, they left off their design, and as many as spoke the same language joined together, and so parted in bodies; some went one way, and some another, and settled in different places, until at length, by degrees, the whole world was peopled by them, which was the will of God should be done, and was brought about in this way. The Heathen writers themselves ascribe this dispersion to a divine Being, as well as speaking different tongues. Eupolemus F14 says, that first the city of Babylon was built by those that were saved from the flood, who were giants; and then they built tower, so much spoken of in history, which falling by the power of God, the giants were "scattered throughout the whole earth". One would think this writer, by his language, must have read this account of Moses: some of them say the fall of the tower was by storms and tempests raised by the gods. So the Sybil in Josephus F15 says,

``the gods sending winds overthrew the tower, and gave to every one his own speech, and hence the city came to be called Babylon.''

Agreeably to which Abydenus F16, an Assyrian writer, relates, that

``the winds being raised by the gods overthrew the mechanism (the tower) upon them (the builders of it), and out of the ruins of it was the city called Babylon, when those who were of the same language, from the gods spoke a different one, and of various sounds.''

And so Hestiaeus F17, a Phoenician writer, speaking of those who came to Sennaar or Shinar of Babylon, says, from thence they were scattered; and, because of the diversity of language, formed colonies everywhere, and everyone seized on that land which offered to him. These writers indeed seem to be mistaken as to the destruction of the tower, and that by tempestuous winds; otherwise they agree with Moses in the confusion of languages, and scattering of the people at the tower of Babel: in what year this was done is not certain; it was in the days of Peleg, who was born in the year one hundred and one after the flood; and if it was at the time of his birth, as many are of opinion, both Jews F18 and Christians, it must be in the above year; but the phrase used does not determine that: the eastern writers F19 say, that it was in the fortieth year of the life of Peleg, and then it must be in the year after the flood one hundred and forty one; but others, and which is the common opinion of the Jewish chronologers F20, say it was at the end of Peleg's days; and whereas he lived two hundred and thirty nine years, this must happen in the year three hundred and forty after the flood, and so it was ten years, as they observe, before the death of Noah, and when Abraham was forty eight years of age. But of this see more in Buxtorf's dissertation concerning the confusion of the Hebrew language. It follows here,

and they left off to build the city;
it seems they had finished the tower, but not the city, and therefore are only said to leave off building that; though the Samaritan and Septuagint versions add, "and the tower"; for not understanding one another, they were not able to go on with their work, for when they asked for one thing, as before observed out of Jarchi, they had another brought them; which so enraged them, that the Targum of Jonathan says they killed one another; and, say some Jewish writers F21, they fought one with another upon this occasion, until half the world fell by the sword.

(Unlike traditions of the Flood, legends of the Tower of Babel and confusion of speech are not common. F That said, noteworthy support for the biblical account comes from Babylonia itself, where a damaged inscription reads:

``Babylon corruptly proceeded to sin, and both small and great mingled on the mound. ...All day they founded their stronghold, but in the night he put a complete stop to it. In his anger he also poured out his secret counsel to scatter them abroad, he set his face, he gave a command to make foreign their speech.'' F

This appears to have some basis in an historical event and is very close to the biblical account. Likewise, the Roman mythographer Hyginus (floruit 10 BC) writes:

``Men for many generations led their lives without towns or laws, speaking one tongue under the rule of Jove. But after Mercury interpreted the language of men--whence an interpreter is called hermeneutes, for Mercury in Greek is called Hermes; he, too, distributed the nations--then discord began amoug the mortals.'' F

Taken from p. 47, "Creation Technical Journey". Volumn Nine, Part 1, 1995, published by "Creation Science Foundation Ltd.", Brisbane, Australia.

{12} Strickling, J. E., 1974. "Legendary evidence for the confusion of tongues." Creation Research Society Quarterly, 11:97-101. {13} Sayce, A. H. (ed.), "Records of the Past" (old Series), Vol. VII, p. 131f. {14} "Journey of American Oriental Society", 88:108-111 (1968) {15} Smith, J., 1876. "Chaldean Account of Genesis", Scribners, New York. {16} Hyginus, C. Julius, Fabulae 143. Editor)


F14 Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 17. p. 418.
F15 Antiqu. l. 1. c. 4. sect. 13.
F16 Apud Euseb. ut supra, (Praepar. Evangel. l. 9.) c. 14. p. 416.
F17 Apud Joseph. ut supra. (Antiqu. 1. 1. c. 4. sect. 13.)
F18 Vid. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 75. 2.
F19 Elmacinus, p. 28. Patricides, p. 13. apud Hottinger. Smegma Oriental. p. 267.
F20 Seder Olam Rabba, c. 1. p. 1. Juchasin, fol. 8. 1. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 1. 2.
F21 Pirke Eliezer, c. 24.

Genesis 11:8 In-Context

6 “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!
7 Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”
8 In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city.
9 That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.
10 This is the account of Shem’s family. Two years after the great flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad.
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