It's a well known concept that there were 70 nations and 70 original languages. Is there any agreement about which ones they were/are? I found this which lists the nations, but I'm interested in languages also, and knowing if there is disagreement about this issue among the commentators.


1 Answer 1


The number 70 in the time of Chazal was a "typological number" meant to convey a generic large number, much like people today use the term "millions" even if they do not actually mean that many.

Thus, you find in the Talmud many instances of the number 70 which are clearly not meant to be exactly 70:

... המנבל פיו ומוציא דבר נבלה מפיו אפילו נחתם לו גזר דינו של שבעים שנה לטובה

... א"ר אלעזר בן עזריה הרי אני כבן שבעים שנה ולא זכיתי שתאמר יציאת מצרים בלילות

... כשם שהזית משכח לימוד של שבעים שנה כך שמן זית משיב לימוד של שבעים שנה

You can find many such instances in the Tanach as well:

שִׁבְעִים מְלָכִים בְּהֹנוֹת יְדֵיהֶם וְרַגְלֵיהֶם מְקֻצָּצִים

מַה-טּוֹב לָכֶם--הַמְשֹׁל בָּכֶם שִׁבְעִים אִישׁ כֹּל בְּנֵי יְרֻבַּעַל, אִם-מְשֹׁל בָּכֶם אִישׁ אֶחָד

וְהָיָה מִקֵּץ שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה, יִפְקֹד יְהוָה אֶת-צֹר, וְשָׁבָה, לְאֶתְנַנָּה

In all of the above, 70 is meant as a general term for "many", not a specific number, so that searching for a specific list of all 70 languages is rather futile.

  • 6
    But if you count the nations enumerated in Parshat Noach, there are actually 70, each of which presumably has a language.
    – Scimonster
    Oct 26, 2014 at 12:23
  • 5
    @Scimonster to support your claim, there are exactly 70 bulls scarified on Sukkos. Which are (as commonly known) for 70 nations.
    – jutky
    Oct 26, 2014 at 12:33
  • @jutky, you are free to interpret as you wish, I think my views are still supported by an unbiased textual analysis. Oct 26, 2014 at 12:44
  • 3
    Now if you had a specific source that said the 70 nations wasn't specific ...
    – ike
    Oct 27, 2014 at 0:52
  • @Scimonster - see the Yalkut Shimoni Parsha 58 [9:19]. He counts 74 but 4 were righteous so they were not scattered, leaving us with 70. Nov 19, 2014 at 7:20

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