Covenant Reformed News
February 2016 • Volume XV, Issue 22
A Plethora of Languages and Christ’s Catholic Church
A reader from N. Ireland sent this question for consideration in the Covenant Reformed News: “Does Genesis 10:1-5 suggest a plethora of languages (dialects?) before Babel?” I am not quoting the text to which the brother refers because it gives us some of the genealogies of the sons of Noah. The reader himself can look up the verses.
What the questioner apparently assumes is that Genesis 10 precedes the confusion of languages in Genesis 11 chronologically (i.e., as regards time). However, that assumption is wrong.
It is true that the confusion of tongues at Babel is recorded in the next chapter but it is clear that the chronologies of Genesis 10 go beyond Babel chronologically, for verse 25 refers to the “division” at Babel.
In speaking of the children of Shem, Moses tells us that the covenant line that ultimately brought forth the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was from this son of Noah, not Japheth or Ham. This was in fulfilment of Noah’s prophecy in Genesis 9:25-27. In connection with the line from Shem to Eber, Genesis 10:25 states, “And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided.” Then Scripture gives us the line of Joktan, Peleg’s brother in the rest of Genesis 10. The covenant line, through Peleg, is picked up again and extended in Genesis 11:16-32 from Eber to Abraham.
So the answer to the question above is simply this: Genesis 10 records genealogies chronologically beyond the division of the people at Babel. Scripture then goes on to record for us what took place at Babel in Genesis 11.
The event of Babel was such a tremendous event and so important for an understanding of Bible history that I am going to take the liberty to go beyond the question and say a few things about Babel.
The confusion of languages at Babel was not simply a work of God in which He gave various groups of people a language that they had never had before. The word “languages” is used in Scripture to designate much more than languages. It refers to the fact that God divided all the people of the earth into races. In fact, it was most likely that the three major “races” were created by God at Babel: the Jews and Arabians from Shem; the white race from Japheth; and the yellow and black races from Ham. Each race was not only different in colour, but also different in physical and psychical characteristics.
Gradually, as the races moved in different directions, each race was also given different parts of the world for its possession. Then each race, separated geographically, was in turn divided into individual nations.
God made such differences between the people for two important reasons.
The negative reason was a blow sent to men to prevent them from forming prematurely the Antichrist. Nimrod, the obvious leader of all that lived under his rule, was bent on building a tower that would keep all the peoples of the earth together so that they could accomplish a one-nation world to make war against God (Gen. 10:8-10). That effort, in building the tower of Babel, would have meant the obliteration of the line of God’s covenant and the prevention of the birth of Christ.
Henceforth, because of Babel, the history of the world is characterized by repeated warfare between the races and the nations in the endeavour of each to build a one-rule empire, but one in which each nation wants to be superior to all the others, e.g., Babel, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. The line temporarily ends with Rome, because the new dispensation is the time of the gathering of a catholic church. When that elect church is nearly gathered, the final Antichrist will rule.
In discussing all this, Scripture describes what happened at Babel as the “deadly wound” of one of the heads of the beast which will be “healed” (Rev. 13:3). The last Antichrist succeeds, under the sovereign providential government of Christ, to unite the world in one kingdom over which he rules. Babel was God’s way of preventing Antichrist’s rule until the catholic or universal church is gathered.
That is the positive purpose of Babel. Dividing the world into races and nations, God gathered a truly catholic church from all nations and tribes and tongues. I am not speaking of the false Roman Catholic Church but of Christ’s universal church of those elected from eternity, redeemed in the cross and preserved unto glory by the sovereign mercy of the living God.
I cannot go into the beautiful doctrine of the catholic church here. It is sufficient to say that it takes an almost infinite variety of people to reveal fully the riches of God’s grace! God’s grace is so rich and full that it is like a diamond, each facet of which reveals another colour found in one beam of light. Babel has served its purpose and all the catholic church will be gathered! Prof. Hanko
Homer C. Hoeksema: “Finally, for a little while at the very end of history, the wicked world will apparently succeed in overcoming the effect of Babel’s deadly wound; but that will be only to enable the final kingdom of Antichrist to fill the cup of iniquity to the very last drop in order that the wicked may be cast out into the everlasting confusion and desolation of which Babel is a picture. The only true and lasting unity is made from all the nations of the world in our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and raised, through his Spirit, beginning on the day of Pentecost. There the difference in tongues falls away, so that in Christ Jesus the elect, new humanity, the church, is united in the bond of faith. That kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ shall have the everlasting victory. Babel is the name of the world. Babel is the world’s essential character. God confused them, and he shall confuse them in the end and forever. But they who love the Lord Jesus Christ shall inherit the everlasting kingdom” (Unfolding Covenant History, vol. 2, pp. 79-80; available from the CPRC Bookstore for £18, plus £1.80 P&P).
An attractive box set of 9 CDs entitled “The Church’s Invisibility, Unity and Catholicity,” on Belgic Confession 27, is available from the CPRC Bookstore for £10/set (inc. P&P). Free audio of these classes can be found on the CPRC website.
- Volume: 15
- Issue: 22
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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