First, in Noach, pasuk Chof perek Yud, it says:

אֵ֣לֶּה בְנֵי־חָ֔ם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֖ם לִלְשֹֽׁנֹתָ֑ם בְּאַרְצֹתָ֖ם בְּגֽוֹיֵהֶֽם׃

Then again a few pasukim later, pasuk Lamed Aleph:

אֵ֣לֶּה בְנֵי־שֵׁ֔ם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֖ם לִלְשֹֽׁנֹתָ֑ם בְּאַרְצֹתָ֖ם לְגֽוֹיֵהֶֽם׃

So everyone is split according to their own language.
But in the next perek it says one language:

וַיְהִ֥י כָל־הָאָ֖רֶץ שָׂפָ֣ה אֶחָ֑ת וּדְבָרִ֖ים אֲחָדִֽים׃

So which one is it?

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    Not an answer, but it's interesting to note that Yonasan (pseudo) doesn't render lilshonosam in 10:31 (though he does in :5 and :20).
    – msh210
    Oct 30, 2011 at 23:40
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    It is interesting the the first two use lashon while the second uses safah. Perhaps, while they used different tongues, they were still intelligible to one another. Oct 30, 2011 at 23:53
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    To put it another way, this might be implying that language did evolve in different directions before Babel, but that is not to the exclusion of a shared mode of communication between all of mankind. In that case, God's interference at Babel would have been to remove this common language, not necessarily to create many new ones. Although these are just my musings, a cursory glance at the psukim doesn't reveal any contradiction. Oct 30, 2011 at 23:58
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    Hod you cant say that on your own there has to be a mesorah for it so if you could find one a pirush who says it and post it It would be appreciated Oct 31, 2011 at 2:43
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    What @Hod said (about the Torah not being in chronological order) is common knowledge, no? In this case, I see where Daat Mikra says this, and I believe I've seen the same explanation elsewhere too.
    – Alex
    Oct 31, 2011 at 14:16

4 Answers 4


Rabbeinu BeChaye says that the Passuk is telling us that these 10 sons of Cham (if you count them you'll see 11, but one merged with one of his brothers) became the 10 Canaanite nations. Their names here are the names given at birth, but the names we are more familiar with were given once their languages got split up, after the Great Separation. Bereshit 10:14 is telling us that the new names they got were based on the languages that they started speaking after the Tower of Bavel.

Why is it telling us this? We should know that the Land of Israel was deliberately given to slaves (the sons of Canaan were the slaves of Shem) because slaves cannot own anything, and therefore have no claim on the Land of Israel. (Rashi to Bereshit 12:6 tells us that the Canaanites conquered the land from the sons of Shem)

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    how does this answer the question Oct 31, 2011 at 2:45
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    that "according to their languages" is referring to the future.
    – Menachem
    Oct 31, 2011 at 2:47

Excellent question!
Radak to 10:5 (איש ללשונו כי לא היו כולם בני לשון אחת אחר הפלגה) and RDZ Hoffman to 10:31 (ללשנתם – ביטוי זה מופיע כאן ברשימת העמים על שם העתיד לבוא, אחר פיזורה של האנושות על פני הארץ, המתואר להלן.) address this, and they say that it is speaking about in the future. (In my opinion, this works especially well with Ibn Ezra's understanding of the story of the Dor Haflaga.)


Rabbenu Hayyim Paltiel to Genesis (11:1) suggests that originally everyone spoke all seventy languages. Later, they each lost the ability to speak all but a a single language. Accordingly, originally there were multiple languages, but the Torah nevertheless says that they were of "one language", since they could all speak with each other.


They had their own languages but also universally spoke Hebrew. The Confusion removed comprehension of the latter from all but Ever's descendants. I'll find the source for this b'n.


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