Why G-d had to confuse people's languages in the land of Shinar and scatter them across the Earth with diverse languages? What moral does Genesis 11:5–8 coveny to mankind execept the fact that "in order to initate a huge project and achieve its result, there should be no communication gap". And if this was good then why God scattered them?

It seems that Genesis 11:5–8 is revealing as if God was helpless and was left with only one option i.e. confusing people's tongue and not letting them understand each other. Had there been just one language, may it be Hebrew or Arabic or any other language mankind used to speak then mankind would have been living peacefully and prosperously. Why would it be not acceptable to God?

Please explain with clarity. Thanks

  • 6
    This question makes some assumptions -- that the large project was good, that God was helpless, and that people who speak a common language automatically live in peace and prosperity. Sep 14, 2012 at 15:32

4 Answers 4


Ralbag suggests a fascinating approach to understanding the incident. He explains that these people did not sin in any way. They were not dispersed as a punishment. Instead, they were dispersed in order to assure the preservation of humanity. Concentration of the entire human race in a single location created the possibility of sudden extinction. A localized natural disaster could destroy the entire species. Through dispersing humanity the impact of a localized natural disaster was diminished. Should a specific location experience a devastating disaster, only a portion of humanity would be destroyed. The remainder would survive. Ralbag makes another important point. He discusses the manner in which the Dispersion was brought about. Hashem awakened in families the desire to differentiate themselves. This led to the establishment of different customs and eventually completely unique languages.

See רלבג עה"ת ספר בראשית פרק יא פסוקים ב-ט


The way you've written your question shows that you haven't interpreted the text correctly.

Genesis 11:6-7 reads:

And the Lord said: 'Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do; and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do.

Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.'

The answer to your question is that this was intended to break up the project by preventing the people from communicating with each other.

The assumption that the project was good is not necessarily correct. Wikipedia says:

The first century Jewish interpretation found in Flavius Josephus explains the construction of the tower as a hubristic act of defiance against God ordered by the arrogant tyrant Nimrod.

From a mythological standpoint, the story of the Tower of Babel can be seen as an explanation for the diversity of languages spoken by people around the world.

  • The people in Shinar intended to build the Tower of Babel to reach God. Right? Correct me if i am wrong. Anf if i am right the project would have been a never-ending project. So was the inetion good or bad?
    – Maxood
    Sep 14, 2012 at 17:01
  • See my edit referencing Wikipedia. Also fixed the incorrect Biblical reference (the link was to the Torah, but the quoted text was from the KJV).
    – bwDraco
    Sep 14, 2012 at 17:04
  • 2
    @Maxood Although it would have been a never-ending project, it was not to reach G-d, but to supplant G-d. Look at the wikipedia page under Midrash to see how our tradition tends to interpret it. Sep 14, 2012 at 17:09
  • 1
    @maxood, our tradition does, indeed, teach what Charles said. But also consider another reason the project could have been disastrous: what if, after extending very high, and still not "reaching" G-d, they abandoned the project anyway, but only after concluding that there was no G-d?
    – Seth J
    Sep 21, 2012 at 1:26

Sforno suggests that we begin by understanding the motivations of these people. Why did they wish to create a single monolithic society? Sforno seems to say that the objective was to empower a single ruler over all of humanity. This would be accomplished through two steps.

  • A great capital city would be built.
  • The people would share a single religion, culture and language.

Sforno explains that Hashem opposed the creation of a universal form of idolatry. The pervasiveness of the shared religious beliefs discourages any individual from seeking an alternative theology. This is for two reasons.

  • The psychological pressure to conform to a universal theology would be tremendous.
  • Anyone challenging a universal set of beliefs would be a pariah and could not hope to find refuge anywhere. He would be hunted down and destroyed.

These factors precluded the development of a person like Avraham who would seek the truth.

In contrast, the existence of multiple religions contributes in finding Hashem. First, in a world with multiple religions, it is natural for a person to question the credibility of the various perspectives. Second, the development of multiple cultures and societies would provide the opportunity for a dissenter to find refuge. When rejected from one society, he could find refuge elsewhere. In short, the Haflagah contributed to the development of Avraham. As a result of these considerations, Hashem caused the Dispersion. This, in turn, produced a variety of cultures and religions.

ספורנו עה"ת ספר בראשית פרק יא פסוק ד (ד) ויאמרו הבה נבנה לנו עיר. זאת הית' עצת שרי הדור להמליך את נמרוד על כל המין האנושי: ומגדל וראשו בשמים ונעשה לנו שם. נעשה שם שתהיה במגדל ויצא בכל המין האנושי שם גובה מקומה וגודל עירה באופן שתחשב אלהי האלהים אצל כל בני האדם ואליה ידרשו כלם. והכונה בזה היתה שהמלך על אותה העיר ימלוך על כל המין האנושי בהיות שם דרישת כלם:

ספורנו עה"ת ספר בראשית פרק יא פסוק ו (ו) הן עם אחד. כי אמנם הבטול המפר עצות ומניא מחשבות הוא המחלוקת הקורה אם לסבת הדתות ואם לסבת הלשונות. והנה אלה היו עם אחד בענין הדת כי היו כלם מסכימים בדעת אנשי הצא"בה ועם זה היה כלם מסכימים בלשון: וזה החלם לעשות. וגם כן נמצאה לכלם עתה זאת ההתחלה שעשו בהסכמת כלם: ועתה לא יבצר מהם. אם כן אין מונע להם מהשלים כונתם ותהיה אותה עו"ג אשר יבחרו כללית לכל מין האדם ולא יפנה אחד מהם לדעת את הבורא ית' ולהבין כי יוצר הכל הוא. והפוך זה יקרה כשתהיה מחלוקת בענין האלהות כי כל אחד יחשוב שיש אלהי האלהים שכל האלוהות מסכימי' לדעתו ובו ישלם סדרם וסדר המציאו' כאמרו כי ממזרח שמש ועד מבואו גדול שמו בגוים:

  • @Caleb Thanks for the formatting additions!
    – RCW
    Sep 21, 2012 at 2:56

I believe that what these people were after is to "build a name for them selves" apart from God, or as someone here said, in defiance of Him.

So the question is not if God was helpless, the point is that they were alienated, as godless men ever since Adam's sin are, and as such they commited to "reach the sky".

And since even the ability to communicate in unity & harmony is really a blessing from God, He did not need to do anything agressive to disperse them.

He simply withdrew His own blessing, which is inherent to Him and to those He favours.

Because He wishes to bestow blessings thru communion with Him, not outside of it.

  • In a way, I think that all curses put on people, punishments etc. can be simply viewed as a denial, or withdrawing of blessing. I believe that a blessing - lack of curse - is a "family property" in a house of God. So withdrawing it is not necessarily an act of agression. It can be viewed as a statement of Lord - "Okay, you don't want me and my blessings in your life so away I go"
    – tonino.j
    Nov 15, 2012 at 5:28
  • Why the downvote?
    – tonino.j
    Nov 15, 2012 at 9:56
  • Word for "tower" used here in bereshit 11:4 is the same used in psalms for God. And these people were after a Name for themselves. So they were trying to acquire divinity thru the effort of their own strength, as a fruit of their labor. That is an ultimate form of vanity according to bible. It is paradigmatically idolatry. You say "I don't need God, I'll produce itmyself." It actually means an ultimate, insane vanity, which negates one's need for God. It equals to child saying to a parent:You don't exist for me anymore.I won't carry your family name anymore" and then expect sustenance.
    – tonino.j
    Nov 15, 2012 at 11:27

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