on Genesis 11 :1
The whole earth was of one language - The whole earth - all mankind was of one language, in all likelihood the Hebrew; and of one speech - articulating the same words in the same way. It is generally supposed, that after the confusion mentioned in this chapter, the Hebrew language remained in the family of Heber. The proper names, and their significations given in the Scripture, seem incontestable evidences that the Hebrew language was the original language of the earth - the language in which God spake to man, and in which he gave the revelation of his will to Moses and the prophets. "It was used," says Mr. Ainsworth, "in all the world for one thousand seven hundred and fifty-seven years, till Phaleg, the son of Heber, was born, and the tower of Babel was in building one hundred years after the flood, Genesis 10:25; Genesis 11:9. After this, it was used among the Hebrews or Jews, called therefore the Jews' language, Isaiah 36:11, until they were carried captive into Babylon, where the holy tongue ceased from being commonly used, and the mixed Hebrew (or Chaldee) came in its place." It cannot be reasonably imagined that the Jews lost the Hebrew tongue entirely in the seventy years of their captivity in Babylon; yet, as they were mixed with the Chaldeans, their children would of course learn that dialect, and to them the pure Hebrew would be unintelligible; and this probably gave rise to the necessity of explaining the Hebrew Scriptures in the Chaldee tongue, that the children might understand as well as their fathers. As we may safely presume the parents could not have forgotten the Hebrew, so we may conclude the children in general could not have learned it, as they did not live in an insulated state, but were mixed with the Babylonians. This conjecture removes the difficulty with which many have been embarrassed; one party supposing that the knowledge of the Hebrew language was lost during the Babylonish captivity, and hence the necessity of the Chaldee Targums to explain the Scriptures; another party insisting that this was impossible in so short a period as seventy years.
on Genesis 11 :1
- The Confusion of Tongues
1. נסע nāsa‛ "pluck out, break up, journey." מקדם mı̂qedem "eastward, or on the east side" as in Genesis 2:14; Genesis 13:11; Isaiah 9:11 (12).
6. החלם hachı̂lām "their beginning", for החלם hăchı̂lām, the regular form of this infinitive with a suffix. יזמוּ yāzmû as if from יזם yāzam equals זמם zāmam.
7. נבלה nābelâh usually said to be for נבלה nābolâh from בלל bālal; but evidently designed by the punctuator to be the third singular feminine perfect of נבל nābal "to be confounded," having for its subject שׂפה śāpâh, "and there let their lip be confounded." The two verbs have the same root.
9. בבל bābel Babel, "confusion," derived from בל bl the common root of בלל bālal and נבל nābel, by doubling the first radical.
Having completed the table of nations, the sacred writer, according to his wont, goes back to record an event of great moment, both for the explanation of this table and for the future history of the human race. The point to which he reverts is the birth of Peleg. The present singular passage explains the nature of that unprecedented change by which mankind passed from one family with a mutually intelligible speech, into many nations of diverse tongues and lands.
The previous state of human language is here briefly described. "The whole land" evidently means the whole then known world with all its human inhabitants. The universality of application is clearly and constantly maintained throughout the whole passage. "Behold, the people is one." And the close is on this point in keeping with the commencement. "Therefore was the name of it called Babel, because the Lord had there confounded the lip of all the land."
Of one lip, and one stock: of words. - In the table of nations the term "tongue" was used to signify what is here expressed by two terms. This is not undesigned. The two terms are not synonymous or parallel, as they form the parts of one compound predicate. "One stock of words," then, we conceive, naturally indicates the matter, the substance, or material of language. This was one and the same to the whole race. The term "lip," which is properly one of the organs of articulation, is, on the other hand, used to denote the form, that is, the manner, of speaking; the mode of using and connecting the matter of speech; the system of laws by which the inflections and derivations of a language are conducted. This also was one throughout the human family. Thus, the sacred writer has expressed the unity of language among mankind, not by a single term as before, but, with a view to his present purpose, by a combination of terms expressing the two elements which go to constitute every organic reality.
on Genesis 11 :1
11:1 And the whole earth was of one language - Now while they all understood one another, they would be the more capable of helping one another, and the less inclinable to separate.