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And the Lond said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may 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.” There is a merciful condescension to be perceived in all parts of the sacred writings, in stooping to our conceptions, by the use of familiar terms, and of language continually on our own lips. Had the inspired penmen been commissioned, at all times, to represent things as they really are, we should have derived no benefit from their communications: we should have had words, but not ideas: we should have been incessantly floating on the surface of uncertainty, bewildered and lost, in the lof. tiness of the subject. But God speaks to us, as though he were “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh:” he enters into all our passions: he uses our language: he brings down heavenly subjects to the standard of our comprehension. In travelling through the land of scripture discovery, we are at home; we are surrounded by objects,and encompassed with imagery, perfectly familiar to us; and “a wayfaring man, though a fool, cannot err therein.” The consequence is, that this volume is found to speak to the heart: it “approves itself to every man's conscience:” it possesses an irresistible influence over his life, while it descends to the level of his understanding. Because we have no conception of
pure spirit—spirit distinct from matter—or of its powers—or of its agency—or of its operations—the Deity is represented as acting like a man. We read of his penetrating eye; his powerful hand; his majestic voice; his trackless footsteps; his melting bowels; his compassionate heart. He is angry: he relents: he loves: he entreats. He ascends and descends; he rides upon the clouds; he walks through the earth. He is a father —and he has a father's heart. He manifests paternal anxiety—paternal affection—paternal superintendence— paternal displeasure—paternal forgiveness. Every one feels the force of the image; every one sees in himself the ungrateful, perverse child; every one understands, his relation to God, and acknowledges the obligations under which he is laid to him. The imagery renders every thing luminous: while the representation of facts as they are—a Being without passions, and without any resemblance to any one object with which we are. acquainted—would overwhelm the mind with perplexity, and overshadow the subject with impenetrable darkness. Of the class described, is the passage before us: in it are many bold figures of speech; for the Eternal fills all space with his presence, and can neither ascend nor descend; and when such language is used, it is in accommodation to our conceptions, and to our modes of speaking. The work was displeasing to God; and the source of his displeasure was, that it opposed his express command, “replenish the earth:” which could not be done while they continued in one place. In order to scatter them abroad, he compelled them to relinquish their project, by confounding their language: from which circumstance, the city and tower took the name of Babel, which signifies confusion.
The conFusion of LANGUAGE, became the means of the destruction of BABEL: and from its importance and consequences, is an event worthy the place which it occupies, in the Mosaic history. As to the manner in which it was effected, as in every subject so remote and undetermined by the historian himself, there is a diversity of sentiment. Some suppose that the words only imply a misunderstanding among the builders; and that he set them at variance, by causing a division of counsel. Others understand by them a temporary confusion of speech; causing them to misapply terms, and misconceive each other in the use of the same language. Others are of opinion, that a variety of inflexions were introduced, and perhaps some new words; which disturbed and perverted the former manner of expression. But the plain and express terms of the history go beyond these hypotheses; it is evident that the inspired historian designs to exhibit a complete confusion of tongues; which will account for the endless diversity of languages, and the source of the division of mankind into different and distinct nations. There are languages which have no visible connexion with any other tongue whatever; and the Chinese is an exemplification of our assertion. This could never have been, had the confusion consisted of a mere variation of dialect; and we wish it to be understood, as our decided opinion, that at the destruction of Babel, new languages were framed; and this by the miraculous and immediate interposition of divine power.
THE DisPERsion of THE PEOPLE, which followed, we do not imagine was a disorganization of the whole mass of mankind, as a tempest terrifies and scatters a multitude: but simply a division of them; as at the quiet separation of an orderly assembly, every maa
falls into his respective party and seeks his home. Every man it is probable, betook himself to the company that spake his own new language; and consented, with them to separate from others. We think that this is implied by the language which Moses adopts in speaking of the division of the earth by the several bands. Of the sons of Japheth, it is said—“By these, were the isles of the Gentiles divided.” Respecting the descendants of Ham, he concludes, “These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, in their nations;” unquestionably referring to their situation after their dispersion. The same language is used in relation to Shem. Nothing here wears the appearance of hurry and disorder: on the contrary, the inference appears to us to be, that the dispersion of the people was regular, and the division of the earth performed without confusion. With respect to The origiN of NATIONs, at this distance of time from the great event, little can be said with certainty. A mere outline of the largerdivisions can only be made; and this, with scarcely any degree of precision. She Mappears fortheremainder of his days,to have hovered about the plains of Shinar. From his descendants sprang theinhabitants of Persia,” Nineveh,f Chinai Mesopotamia, and Phrygia; comprehending the countries westward of Assyria, as far as the Mediterranean.| HAM, probably, dwelt in Egypt. His descendants occupied Shinar,S Arabia," Ethiopia,” Africa,ff Phenicia, and the land of Canaan... When JAPHETH left Babel, it is uncertain where he settled. His descendants dwelt in Phrygia,” the eastern part of Asia . Minor,t Cappadocia, and Galatia. Most of these divisions, after all, must be considered as conjectural.$ So far we have followed the Mosaic history: we shall produce, 2. THE TESTIMONY of OTHER ANTIENT writeRs, The confusion of tongues “is mentioned by profane historians, who write, that mankind used the same language till the “overthrow of the tower of Babylon.”| The fable of the attempt of the giants to climb the heavens; probably owes its origin to some traditions relative to this fact. It was a common mode of speaking in many nations and in the East especially, when things exceeded the ordinary height to say, that “they reached to heaven." When, therefore, it was said, “Let us build a city, and a tower, whose top may reach to heaven,” no more was intended, than Let us build a tower exceedingly high.” But when the design descended, by tradition, in its native boldness of expression, to nations unacquainted with the Mosaic history, and with eastern language; who were, also, fond of the marvellous, and skilful in fable; they raised the story of the giants' war with heaven, and celebrated this imaginary contest in verse, as harmonious as majestic.” Josephus quotes one of the Sybils, in the following words: “When all mankind spoke the same language, some of them elevated a tower immensely high, as if they would ascend up into heaven, but the gods sent a wind, and overthrow the tower;
* From Elam. f From Ashur. # From Arphaxad. | From Aram. § From Nimrod. 1 From Cush. ** From Mizraim, if From Piut. # From Canaan,
* From Gomer. # From Ashkenaz. # From Togarmah. $ See, on this perplexed subject, the laborious researches of the writers of the Anc. Univ. Hist. vol. i., book i, chap. 2, $6. | Anc. Univ. Hist. vol. i., book i, chap. 2, §5, p. 439. of Consult Homer, in various places; and read IDeut. i. 28, also ix, 1. ** Homer, Odys. 30. Ovid. Met. lib. i. Virg. Georg, i, &c. See also note 2, at the end of the volume.