In what way does confounding the language of the people, and scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth (Bereshit 11:7-9) help to correct the wrong?

Bereshit 11:4 teaches that people wanted to make themselves a name and (verse 6) that they were one people and had one language and that this was the thing they begane to do, and from their on nothing would be withholden from them, which they purposed to do.

Can't they still try to make a name for them now they live seperated and have their own language?


2 Answers 2


Sanhedrin 109a deals with this incident. The following is R’ Yirmiya ben Elazar’s explanation there, as explained by Rashi and Maharsha.

There were three groups of people at the Migdal Bavel:

  1. Those that wanted to attack HaShem
  2. Those that just wanted to live up in Shamayim
  3. Those that wanted to worship Avodah Zarah on top of the tower


  1. Those that wanted to attack HaShem showed that they no longer wanted to be in His image; therefore, they lost it entirely and were turned into elephants, monkeys, and various types of demons.
  2. Those who wanted to live on top showed that they didn’t want to populate the world; therefore, they were scattered.
    1. Those who wanted to worship Avodah Zarah had their language changed so that they couldn’t influence others to do the same.

The Gemara also records and rejects R’ Shila’s academy’s opinion, that they wanted to climb to the firmament and pole holes in it so that they wouldn’t need to rely on HaShem for rain nor fear another Mabul.

Finally, there is R’ Nassan’s opinion, that they all wanted to worship idolatry. Perhaps according to these latter two opinions, by scattering them and changing their languages, like in the former opinion, they would be incapable of influencing each other in their wicked ways.


Rav Hirsch stated that the more the community pressured everyone to think alike, the more the people resisted and tried to follow their own way of thinking. Hashem made the miracle of forcing the actual change in language to follow these ways of thought in order to have it happen so rapidly. Rav Hirsch does not deal with archeology or anything else other than the meaning in his commentary.

When they were one community, then trying to make a name for themselves was an attempt to rebel against Hashem and replace Him with the head of the government. Once they were dispersed and speaking other languages, then even if each one individually, tried to make a name for itself, it would not be an attempt to defeat the purpose of filling up the world, but would instead actually cause a further dispersal into multiple civilizations.

Note that I.L. means that the translator (the grandson of Rav Hirsch, Rabbi Isaac Levi) added an explanation to the translation of Rav Hirsch's commentary.

Rav Hirsch says that the pasuk means

"Safa Achas" means the phonetic sameness of speech (the sound of the language I.L) which is fundamentally based on organic causes. "Devarim Achadim" is the sameness of the formation of words and sentences which is brought about by spiritual mental agreement in the way that things and their relations are looked at.

Rav Hirsch points out in Noach 2:7, that the words used for matters like "justice", "virtue", or "charity" in different languages can have completely different connotations. It would appear that even though everyone thought that they were speaking the original language (from the time of Adam), Hashem changed what they were saying to have the connotation that they really wanted and made them into the differing languages.

For example, think for a minute that the word to "have" was missing from our vocabulary. In Hebrew it does not exist. "To have" has the conception of corporal holding fast, "habere", "avere" to desire something, and when one has seized it, then one "has it". Let us imagine that this conception was not there, a man could only consider that to be his which really appertains to him, like לו in Hebrew. ... Then the first person who introduced the idea of "have" (I have it, whether or not it pertains to me or not I.L.) would indeed have brought about the greatest revolution; he would have changed the idea of right to the idea of "grab".


The attempt by the community by this building to do away with the individuality of the individual was broken by the awakening consciousness of the independent value of the individual, apart from his value as a unit of the community.

So that the disunion did not arise out of a number of languages but the other way round. It was the discord which first begot the disruption of the language, so that at the beginning, the Safa Achas could still have remained ... without the climatic change, even before the scattering which ensued in the safa achas there was no longer devarim achadim. This variance in opinions drove people completely away from one another, where then the climactic differences of the regions had the influence of making them and their languages completely and organically different.

Rav Hirsch points out that normally these developments would take place over a long period of time. However, Hashem caused them to occur almost instantaneously so that the entire development of the "Migdal Bavel" would collapse and cause the immediate dispersion of the various peoples.

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