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The English Language and the Tower of Babel

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I just started to read the Bible. I have a few questions concerning the "tower of Babel" story in Genesis 11. Does this story explain the fact that the world has so many different languages today, or am I getting something from it that was not intended? In any case, I wonder (and, perhaps, worry) that if it was God's will for us to not be able to speak a common language, could it be considered "wrong" for so many people from countries all around the world to learn English (or, for that matter, for anyone from anyplace to learn any language)? It seems like English is rapidly becoming a global language, and it seems to state in Genesis 11 that God doesn't want "one people" to be speaking the same language. Is this a valid concern, or do you think I'm taking my Bible study a bit too literally? Or am I missing the point behind Genesis 11 entirely?  I really enjoy ichthys.com! Thanks for everything that you do!


Thanks for your question. I don't think you are taking the Bible too literally at all. If we really do read the Bible on God's terms, we will continually have "questions" - that is part of the process of the building and the winnowing of our faith. This much I know from experience - if we trust Him, He eventually helps us through everything, even things we "know" at the outset are "impossible" (for nothing is impossible with Him).

As to the specifics of your question, yes, the common language was a big problem, because it provided the opportunity for mass coercion on a global scale. I have written on this point pretty extensively and you can find what I have said in detail at this link (The Tower of Babel), but let me say a few things here anyway. I think that you are absolutely correct that the growth of English (and a one-world system of culture and technology that, while not nearly seamless, speeds the process of internationalization) is certainly creating the conditions without which the events of the apocalypse would not be possible. Therefore the spread of English as the "lingua franca" worldwide is definitely one of the "signs of the times" which we are supposed to read and interpret (and the parallel you see with the tower of Babel is right on). As a teacher and student of other languages, I feel the need to point out that it is possible to see things for what they really are in a spiritual light, and still operate "in the world" for Christ's sake. That is to say, I certainly would not want to pronounce the learning of English as "evil" or anything of the sort (not to mention learning other languages, which activity is fun and useful - and can be very beneficial in His service as well). So if we avoid that extreme (and also the other one of thinking that homogenizing mankind would somehow be a good thing), we would do well.  For more on this subject, please see The Coming Tribulation series.

But I want to commend your efforts in the scripture. Keep it up! Only by seeking God do we find Him, find His Son, find what He wants from us and has for us - and all who seek in truth, in truth do find Him.

Yours in Him,

Bob L.

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