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Were There Different Languages Before The Tower of Babel?

If you've read the book of Genesis, you might notice a reference to other languages in the last few verses of chapter 10, before you start reading the story of Babel in chapter 11. This could be very confusing and cause someone to question, "Were there different languages before the Tower of Babel?" When you know and understand the proper context for both of these chapters, the answer to this question becomes more clear and makes a lot of sense. 

Were There Different Languages Before The Tower of Babel?

Were There Different Languages Before The Tower of Babel?

The simple answer to this question is no. There were no different languages before the Tower of Babel, just like we were led to believe from the time we were small children hearing this story. The simplest way to answer this question is two-fold:

  1. Genesis 10 and Genesis 11 are better when read together rather than separately. If you're a one-chapter-a-day kind of person, this could leave you confused and triggered if you simply read chapter 10 and then walked away without reading chapter 11. 
  2. The literary style is different for each of these chapters, and it's important to keep that in mind when looking at the entire situation as a whole. 

Genesis 10 is a Genealogical Account, Genesis 11 is a Historical Narrative:

Genesis 10 is a genealogical account of the generations of Noah. This means that it is giving a full account of a broad timeline spanning multiple years. The generations of Noah spoken of in Genesis chapter 10 are believed to span from approximately the year 2500 BC through 2100 BC. After Genesis 10 finishes going through all the generations of Noah and their genealogical timeline, verses 30-31 read, "The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east. These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations." 

When you see "languages" in that passage, without the context of the overall timeline and how it fits within chapter 11 and its context, it can be very confusing. Genesis 11 is a historical account that is happening around 2100 BC. So while Genesis 10 is spanning this entire 400-year period, Genesis 11 is telling a historical account of an event that happened at the very end of that 400-year period. 

Were There Different Languages Before The Tower of Babel?

What Language Was Spoken Before the Tower of Babel?

We all know that there was one language spoken before the Tower of Babel, but which language was spoken? Hebrew is believed to be the common language of the people before the languages were confounded at the Tower of Babel. There is some confusion as to the exact dialect of Hebrew and what it actually looked like, but it was some form of Hebrew that was then broken into at least 72 languages after the Tower of Babel took place. 

The Tower of Babel Contradiction in The Previous Chapter? 

Many people look at the reference to different languages in Genesis 10, and then the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 to be a contradiction and a sign that the bible could not be true and trustworthy. If you read the bible with the intention to find fault in it, there is generally a good reason as to why things are as they are. When you understand the context for both chapters and what message each chapter is trying to get across, it's easy to see that these chapters are meant to be read together and not separately. When read together they make sense and complement, rather than contradict each other. 

Were There Different Languages Before The Tower of Babel?

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