How many different languages can you name? Most of us can name at least a dozen or so. Did you know that the Bible has been translated into 2,200 different languages? Most of us have never even heard of half the languages the Bible’s been translated into.
Worldwide, there are about 7,000 different languages.
Can you guess which one is the native language to the most people?
If you guessed English, you’re wrong. According to most statistics, English is only the third native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is number one and Spanish is number two. Behind English is Hindi-Urdu and then Arabic.
So how did we get the nearly 7,000 languages?
Secular linguists (people who study languages) have a number of theories on the origin of languages, but who can judge which theory is the right one?
Like the Bereans, let’s see what God’s Word has to say on the subject of languages. If you recall, the Bereans would always search the scriptures to learn what God had to say about whatever they were studying at the time.
In Genesis 6-9 we read about the Flood and that only 8 people survived; Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives. After the Flood, Noah and his family gave thanks and offered sacrifices to God for preserving them. God told Noah to go and multiply and fill the earth.
In Genesis 11, we read that Noah’s family flourished and multiplied but they did not spread all over the earth. Instead, they moved down from the mountains of Ararat and settled in the plain of Shinar and dreamed of building a great city. Verses 3 and 4 we read:
And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, looked down upon them and saw the city and the tower they were building. In verses 6 and 7 we read:
And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
So God went down and confused their language so they could not understand each other. Imagine trying to build a huge skyscraper today when no one understands what the architects, contractors, plumbers, electricians, framers, drywallers, painters, or inspectors are saying. If none of them can understand each other there’s no way they can work together to build the skyscraper.
And God scattered them over the face of the earth, and they stopped building the city as we read in verses 8 and 9:
So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
Did you know that this is where we get the word ‘babble’ from? When a baby or someone is babbling, you can’t understand them.
The people of Babel left in family groups by foot, by cart, and by boat. Because of the language barriers, each family group became isolated.
Not only was the dispersion of Babel responsible for all of the different languages, it was also responsible for the different ethnic groups, skin colors, hair textures, thickness of lips and ears and all of the many physical traits we see in the world today.
But we must always remember that no matter how different our languages and physical appearances are, we all came from Noah and his three sons. We all share the same genes and all share the same promise of the Savior, the “Seed,” which God promised to Adam in the Garden of Eden.