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The Whole Earth Had One Language
Genesis 10 – 11:9
Dr. Tony Chute, Lead Pastor
Overview: God’s command for Noah to multiply and fill the earth finds its initial fulfillment in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10. This list of seventy names emerging from the sons of Noah describes the beginnings of diverse languages, distinct cultures, and divided nations. However, the following chapter reveals that the dispersal of the nations was an act of divine judgment rather than the result of human obedience. At a time when the whole earth had one language, a sizable rebellion occurred when people determined to gather rather than scatter, showcasing their disobedience by building a tower to reach the heavens. This combination of advanced technology and collective folly warranted intervention from the Lord, who came down from heaven and confused their language, thus leading to their dispersion. The original audience of Genesis would have recognized these people as their ancestors, neighbors, and enemies—people whom they were called to reach not by exalting themselves but by exalting the Lord.
01. The people and nations of the world may have different languages, cultures, and customs, but all have the same Creator, and all need the same Savior.
02. The people and nations of the world may be divided by languages, cultures, and customs, but all the redeemed will be united together around the throne of Jesus.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION & DISCOVERY
1. Read through the Table of Nations in its entirety with a map of the ancient world handy (check the maps in your Bible or online). Where did the descendants of the sons of Noah migrate? What is the significance of migrating eastward? What stands out to you with respect to each clan or nation?
2. What is the significance of individuals like Nimrod and Peleg? How are they both connected to the Tower of Babel in 11:1-9? What other information can we glean from names in this list? How does Babylon function in the Bible as a symbol of worldliness and rejection of God’s authority? See Isaiah 14, Daniel 1-5, and Revelation 18 for further insight.
3. How does Genesis 11 reveal yet another act of sinfulness on the part of humanity? Why did people decide to gather rather than scatter through the earth? What was the ultimate goal of building a tower to reach the heavens? In what way was this project not realistic? In what way was this project indicative of human disobedience and pride? How do modern cities and nations demonstrate such pride in their accomplishments?
4. What truths can we glean from knowing that humans come from the same family? How can we value our culture and national heritage properly without overstepping the boundaries of sinful worship of culture and national heritage?
5. How does the dispersion of the nations in Genesis 11 find a reversal of sorts in Acts 2? What can we do today to increase the spread of the gospel to all nations? What challenges do we face as we try to communicate the gospel through language and cultural barriers? What joy do you find in your heart as you consider the fact that every tribe, nation, and language will be represented in heaven?
For Further Reading: John Stott and Christopher Wright, Christian Mission in the Modern World (IVP; updated and expanded, 2015).