From Eternity Past


Chapter 10—When Languages Were Changed

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

To repeople the desolate earth God had preserved but one family, the household of Noah. To him He declared, “Thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation.” Genesis 7:1. Yet in the three sons of Noah—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—were foreshadowed the character of their posterity. EP 69.1

Noah, speaking by divine inspiration, foretold the history of the three great races to spring from these fathers of mankind. Tracing the descendants of Ham through the son rather than the father, He declared, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” The unnatural crime of Ham revealed the vileness of his character. These evil characteristics were perpetuated in Canaan and his posterity. EP 69.2

On the other hand, the reverence manifested by Shem and Japheth for divine statutes promised a brighter future for their descendants. Concerning these sons it was declared, “Blessed be Jehovah, God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall 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 “shall dwell in the tents of Shem.” In the blessings of the gospel the descendants of Japheth were especially to share. EP 69.3

The posterity 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 forbearance. Then they became bondmen to the descendants of Shem and Japheth. EP 69.4

The prophecy of Noah did not fix the character and destiny of his sons. But it showed what would be the result of the course 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 vileness and irreverence of Ham were reproduced in his posterity, bringing a curse upon them for many generations. EP 70.1

On the other hand, how richly rewarded was Shem's respect for his father, and what an illustrious line of holy men appears in his posterity! EP 70.2

For a time, the descendants of Noah continued to dwell among the mountains where the ark had rested. As their numbers increased, apostasy led to division. Those who desired to forget their Creator and cast off the restraint of His law felt a constant annoyance from the teaching and example of their God-fearing associates. After a time they decided to separate. Accordingly they journeyed to Shinar on the banks of the Euphrates, attracted by the beauty of the situation and the fertility of the soil. EP 70.3

Here they decided to build a city and in it a tower of such height as should render it the wonder of the world. God had directed men to disperse throughout the earth, but these Babel builders determined to keep their community united and to found a monarchy that should embrace the whole earth. Thus their city would become the metropolis of a universal empire. Its glory would command the admiration and homage of the world. The magnificent tower, reaching to the heavens, was intended to stand as a monument of the power and wisdom of its builders. EP 70.4

The dwellers on the plain of Shinar disbelieved God's covenant that He would not again bring a flood upon the earth. One object in the erection of the tower was to secure their safety in case of another deluge. And as they would be able to ascend to the region of the clouds, they hoped to ascertain the cause of the Flood. The whole undertaking was to exalt the pride of its projectors and to turn future generations away from God. EP 70.5

When the tower had been partially completed, suddenly the work that had been advancing so prosperously was checked. Angels were sent to bring to naught the purpose of the builders. The tower had reached a lofty height, and men 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 confounded so that the directions delivered were often the reverse of those that had been given. All work came to a standstill. The builders were wholly unable to account for the strange misunderstandings among them and in their rage and disappointment reproached one another. Lightnings from heaven as an evidence of God's displeasure broke off the upper portion of the tower and cast it to the ground. EP 71.1