The Empires of the Bible from the Confusion of Tongues to the Babylonian Captivity
CHAPTER I. THE ORIGIN OF NATIONS
“These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.” Genesis 9:19. 1 EB 1.1
THE Bible reveals the origin of nations as well as the origin of the world, of man, of sin, and of salvation. In all these things the Bible record is correct, because it is the word of God. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” EB 1.2
2. In the tenth chapter of Genesis there is a catalogue of the sons and sons’ sons of Noah, and the catalogue and chapter close with these words: “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.” In this chapter there is given us the origin of nations; and from these have come all the races and nations of men. That this has been doubted or disputed, does not affect the fact. The record bears every fair and genuine test that is put upon it; and every such test, however searching, only serves more clearly to demonstrate the perfect truthfulness of the record made by Moses thirty-four hundred years ago, and that still stands in the book of Genesis. EB 1.3
3. On this Professor George Rawlinson says: “That precious document the ‘Toldoth Beni Noah,’ or ‘Book of the Generations of the Sons of Noah,’ well deserves to be called ‘the most authentic record that we possess for the affiliation of nations.’” “The Mosaical narrative conveys the exact truth—a truth alike in accordance with the earliest classical traditions, and with the latest results of modern comparative philology.” 2 EB 1.4
4. And again: “The ‘Toldoth Beni Noah’ has extorted the admiration of modern ethnologists, who continually find in it anticipations of their greatest discoveries.... On the whole, the scheme of ethnic affiliation given in the tenth chapter of Genesis is pronounced ‘safer’ to follow than any other; and the ‘Toldoth Beni Noah,’ commends itself to the ethnic inquirer as ‘the most authentic record that we possess for the affiliation of nations,’ and as a document ‘of the very highest antiquity.’” 3 EB 2.1
5. Says M. Francois Lenormant: “In the tenth chapter of the book of Genesis, Moses gives us a table of the nations known in his time as affiliated to these three great chiefs [Shem, Ham, and Japheth] of the new race of post-diluvian humanity. This is the most ancient, the most precious, the most complete document which we possess on the distribution of the ancient nations of the world.... This document furnishes an inestimably valuable basis for the researches of ethnography, that is, the science which investigates the relationships of nations with each other, and their origin. The attentive study of historical tradition, the comparison of languages, and the examination of the physiological characteristics of different nations, lead to results in complete accordance with the inspired volume.” 4 EB 2.2
6. “In the Bible, this subject [of the origin and affinity of races], like all other scientific questions, is rather touched upon incidentally as connected with the history of mankind, than in any formal and exact manner; yet the information thus afforded is of inestimable value, being, in fact, the only trustworthy clue to guide the investigator through the labyrinth in which later complications, and especially recent speculations, have involved the whole matter. Infidelity has striven hard to impugn the statements of Scripture on this ground especially; and it is therefore satisfactory to know that the most candid and general researches strongly tend to corroborate the positions of Holy Writ relative to all the main points involved in the discussion.” 5 EB 2.3
7. Until the building of the tower of Babel, the descendants of Noah all dwelt together relatively in the same region, “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” 6 Then at the building of the tower, God confounded their language so that they could not understand one another’s speech. “So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” 7 EB 3.1
8. In an inscription of the great Nebuchadnezzar there is a curious and striking reference to this story of Babel and the confusion of tongues. He tells how he had repaired and embellished the tower in honor of one of his gods, saying:— EB 3.2
“The first, which is the house of the earth’s base, the most ancient monument of Babylon, I built and finished it; I have highly exalted its head with bricks covered with copper. We say for the other, that is, this edifice, the house of the Seven Lights of the Earth, the most ancient monument of Borsippa: A former king built it (they reckon forty-two ages), but he did not complete its head. Since a remote time people had abandoned it, without order expressing their words. Since that time, the earthquake and the thunder had dispersed its sun-dried clay; the bricks of the casing had been split, and the earth of the interior had been scattered in heaps.” 8 EB 3.3
9. “The discovery of this inscription points out to us, among the ruins still lifting their heads around the site of ancient Babylon, the still gigantic remains of a monument which, the days of Nebuchadnezzar, was believed to be the tower of Babel. It is this that the inhabitants of the country still call ‘Birs Nimrod,’ ‘the tower of Nimrod,’ and, in the midst of the plains, it still looks like a mountain.... Our knowledge of the Assyrian tongue has revealed that the name ‘Borsippa’ meant, in that idiom, ‘the tower of tongues.’ Babylon is often designated in the cuneiform texts by a symbolical name, ideographically written, meaning ‘the town of the root of languages;’ Borsippa, by another, meaning ‘the town of the dispersion of tribes.’ These names seem almost like medals struck to commemorate the ancient tradition of the plains of Shinar.”—Lenormant. 9 EB 3.4
10. Another inscription found in that country plainly refers to the confusion of tongues. The writing is much mutilated, but lines enough are complete to make plain the object of the inscription, which was nothing else than to tell of an attempt at Babylon to build a “stronghold,” or tower. The lines that are complete, or nearly so, are in exact accord with Genesis 11:4-8, and read as follows:— EB 4.1
“... Babylon corruptly to sin went and
small and great mingled on the mound.
Their work all day they founded,
to their stronghold in the night
entirely an end he made.
In his anger also the secret counsel he poured out
to scatter abroad, his face he set
he gave a command to make strange their speech.
Violently they fronted against him.
He saw them, and to the earth descended,
When a stop he did not make.
Violently they wept for Babylon -
very much they wept.” 10
11. The condition of this mound, as seen in 1873, was as follows:—
“On the 17th of March, I started from Hillah to the mound of Birs Nimrud, which lies to the southwest. We had scarcely left Hillah, when we saw this splendid pile; but a marsh now extended over a large part of the intervening country, 11 and I had to travel several miles round its southern edge before I could reach the site. Birs Nimrud is one of the most imposing ruins in the country; its standing in the midst of a vast plain with nothing to break the view, makes the height of the ruins more impressive. The principal mound rises about one hundred and fifty feet above the plain; it is in the shape of a pyramid, or cone, and at its top stands a solid mass of vitrified bricks. There is a splendid view of the country from the top, the surrounding towns and ruins being visible for many miles. Sir Henry Rawlinson, who examined this site, made out that it was a tower in seven stages: the lowest stage 272 ft. each way, and 26 ft. in height; the second stage was 230 ft. each way, and 26 ft. high; the third stage was 188 ft. in length and breadth, and 26 ft. high; and the fourth stage was 146 ft. each way, but only 15 ft. high. From receptacles in the corners of one of these stages, Sir Henry Rawlinson obtained inscribed cylinders stating that the building was the temple of the seven planets, which had been partially built by a former king of Babylon, and, having fallen into decay, was restored and completed by Nebuchadnezzar. The Birs Nimrud is most probably the tower of Babel of the book of Genesis.”—George Smith. 12 EB 4.2
12. The confusion of tongues and consequent dispersion of men into nationalities occurred in the days of Peleg, the great-great-grandson of Shem. “Unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg [that is, Division]; for in his days was the earth divided.” 13 Peleg was born one hundred and one years after the flood. For Shem “begat Arphaxad two years after the flood;” Arphaxad was thirty-five years old when Salah was born; Salah was thirty years old when Eber was born; and Eber was thirty-four years-old when Peleg was born. 14 Thus we have (2+35+30+34) 101 years after the flood when Peleg was born, in whose days the families of the sons of Noah, in their nations, were divided in the earth. EB 5.1