6

First, in Noach, pasuk Chof perek Yud, it says אֵלֶּה בְנֵי חָם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לִלְשֹׁנֹתָם; then again a few pasukim later, pasuk Lamed Aleph, אֵלֶּה בְנֵי שֵׁם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לִלְשֹׁנֹתָם. So everyone is split according to their own language.
But in the next perek it says וַיְהִי כָל הָאָרֶץ שָׂפָה אֶחָת וּדְבָרִים אֲחָדִים, one language, so which one is it?

  • 1
    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 '11 at 23:40
  • 2
    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. – Ariel Allon Oct 30 '11 at 23:53
  • 1
    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. – Ariel Allon Oct 30 '11 at 23:58
  • 1
    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 – simchastorah Oct 31 '11 at 2:43
  • 1
    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 '11 at 14:16
5

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)

  • 1
    how does this answer the question – simchastorah Oct 31 '11 at 2:45
  • 2
    that "according to their languages" is referring to the future. – Menachem Oct 31 '11 at 2:47
3

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.)

3

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.

2

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.

-1

As noted earlier the differences of שפה on the Perek 11 as opposed to ללשנתם in the previous perek, could explain this question. As you know, the meaning of שפה is ambiguous and the term can also be translated as "lip" and most likely "speech" (as in Yov 12:20, for example).

Having this in mind, you can read the pasuk as follows (my translation):

ויהי כל הארץ שפה אחת ודברים אחדים

Now the whole earth was of one speech and veiled deeds.

'Speech' in this sense may refer to their common plan in defiance against Hashem whom they hoped to overcome. Not their language, which they already had according to their nations (10:5,20,31).

This will explain the words of Tzefaniah when he says that in the future, the nations no longer will rise up against Hashem to challenge Him as occured before, but they will render praises to Him.

Tzefaniah 3:9

כי אז אהפך אל עמים שפה ברורה לקרא כלם בשם יהוה לעבדו שכם אחד

On regarding my translation of ודברים אחדים as veiled deeds I derive it from Midrash Bereshis Rabbah 38:6 as follows:

ר’ אלעזר ורבי יוחנן ר’ אלעזר אומר: ודברים אחדים, דבורים אחדים.

Hope this helps!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .