God, Divine Linguist
We all know the story of Noah and the Flood. After God covered the Earth with an enormous amount of water, He promised that He’d never send a flood that large again.
I don’t know if your family has a story that’s been passed down through the generations. I know my family does. The story’s very different depending on who’s telling it; some details are lost in the moment, some are lost in translation and some are just exaggerated, because who doesn’t love a good story?
I’m sure the story of the Flood was also a family story that was passed down through the generations, changing with each retelling.
This leads us to the Tower of Babel, which was built so its inhabitants could escape any large floods. Who knows why these people thought that God would send another flood even though He’d promised not to. Maybe God’s promise was part of the story that got left out, or maybe their faith in His word weakened as the Flood became an old story. We don’t know.
The people who were living at the time of the Tower of Babel were all close descendants of Noah. Genesis 10:32 follows the list of the descendants of Noah, and describes them as “the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood.”
Language barriers weren’t a concern in those days. The Earth was described as having one speech and language. All those who lived on the Earth lived in the same area. They were very opposed to breaking up the family and scattering across the Earth, so they began to construct this massive tower so they could all live in one area and not be distributed among the different lands.
We know what happens: God said, “Ha, sorry guys, but your human plans are yet again foiled, because my divine plan is better for humanity and the long run.” He gave each family a different language, and the resulting confusion caused them to scatter throughout the world.
What if the Tower of Babel had never happened and we all spoke the same language?
Would we still have the vast differences in culture that we do today? One of my favorite parts about visiting new countries is learning about their culture and traditions and how they differ from mine.
Language adds a lot to culture. When I say “Portuguese,” what do you think of? Brazil may come to your mind. Tagalog? I think of the Philippines and my Filipino friends. Chamorro? I remember all the experiences I had in Guam.
Language is a part of culture. I don’t remember the last time I went to an authentic Mexican restaurant and didn’t hear a mariachi band in the background or watched a Samoan dance and heard the traditional words used for each routine.
Though at the time of Babel, people may have been frustrated with the situation and angry at God, He created so much beauty for our world. He created culture and language and differences among people.
Though it might not have been the preferred plan, sin wasn’t either, so God adapted his plan to our circumstances. This created a unique living environment on this Earth. Fullness in physical beauty in its likeness to Heaven and fullness in the beauty of human connection and love through traditions, culture and family heritage.
Kasondra Reel is a senior studying nursing.