Beginning of the End


When Languages Were Changed

This chapter is based on Genesis 9:25-27; 11:1-9.

God had preserved only one family, the household of Noah, to repopulate the deserted earth. To him God declared, “I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation” (Genesis 7:1). Yet in the three sons of Noah—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—the character of their descendants was foreshadowed. BOE 48.1

Noah, speaking by divine inspiration, foretold the history of the three great races that would be fathered by these three men. Tracing the descendants of Ham through the son rather than the father, He declared, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.” The unnatural crime of Ham revealed the corruption of his character. These evil characteristics continued in Canaan and his descendants. BOE 48.2

On the other hand, the reverence shown by Shem and Japheth for God’s laws promised a brighter future for their descendants. Concerning these sons it was declared, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant.” The line of Shem was to be that of the chosen people. From him would descend Abraham, and the people of Israel, through whom Christ was to come. And Japheth will “dwell in the tents of Shem.” The descendants of Japheth were especially to share in the blessings of the gospel. BOE 48.3

The family line of Canaan descended to the most degrading forms of heathenism. Though the prophetic curse had doomed them to slavery, God bore with their corruption until they passed the limits of divine restraint, then they became slaves to the descendants of Shem and Japheth. BOE 48.4

The prophecy of Noah did not determine the character and destiny of his sons. But it showed what would be the result of the path they had chosen and the character they had developed. As a rule, children inherit the dispositions and tendencies of their parents and imitate their example. Thus the corruption and irreverence of Ham were reproduced in his posterity, bringing a curse upon them for many generations. BOE 48.5

On the other hand, how richly rewarded was Shem’s respect for his father, and what a noble and honored line of holy men appears in his descendants! BOE 49.1

For a time, the descendants of Noah continued to live among the mountains where the ark had rested. As their numbers increased, apostasy led to division. Those who wanted to forget their Creator and throw off the restraint of His law felt constantly annoyed by the teaching and example of their God-fearing associates. After a time they decided to separate. So they moved to Shinar on the banks of the Euphrates River, attracted by the beauty of the landscape and the fertility of the soil. BOE 49.2

Here they decided to build a city and in it a tower so high that it would be the wonder of the world. God had directed people to disperse throughout the earth, but these Babel builders determined to keep their community united and to establish a kingdom that would embrace the whole earth, so their city would become the capital of a universal empire. Its glory would draw the admiration and praise of the world. The magnificent tower, reaching to the heavens, was meant to stand as a monument of the power and wisdom of its builders. BOE 49.3

Those who settled on the plain of Shinar did not believe God’s covenant which promised that He would never bring a flood upon the earth again. One purpose in erecting the tower was to secure their safety in case of another flood, and because they would be able to go up to the region of the clouds, they hoped to learn the cause of the Flood. The whole project was to exalt the pride of its developers and to turn future generations away from God. BOE 49.4

When the tower had been partially completed, suddenly the work that had been going along so well was stopped. Angels were sent to block the plan of the builders. The tower had reached a great height, and the workers were stationed at different points, each to receive and report to the one next below him the orders for needed material. As messages were passing from one to another, the language was confused so that the directions delivered were often the opposite of those that had been given. All work came to a standstill. The builders were completely unable to account for the strange misunderstandings among them. In their rage and disappointment they blamed one another. As an evidence of God’s displeasure, lightnings from heaven broke off the upper portion of the tower and threw it to the ground. BOE 49.5