Pre-Babel Confusion?

From Issue: R&R Volume 23 #7

I am amazed (and troubled) at how far some will go in order to accept the concept of the vast ages of time associated with evolutionary geology. It seems that, for many “Bible believers,” the overriding factor in interpreting God’s Word is no longer, “What does the Bible say?,” but rather, “What do evolutionary dating methods indicate?” Sadly, for many people the deceptive evolutionary geologic timetable has become the father of modern biblical exegesis. Instead of the Universe and everything in it being created in six days (Genesis 1-2; Exodus 20:11), we are told it actually took billions of years—years that can be “found” in supposed “gaps” between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, or between each of the creation days. And even though the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 match up remarkably well with the genealogy recorded in Luke 3, and although Jude confirmed through inspiration that Enoch was indeed the seventh from Adam (Jude 14—just as Genesis 5 tells us), we are informed that many millions (or billions!) of years can be inserted (and should be, according to some evolutionary sympathizers) between Adam and Abraham.

As if we had not “heard it all,” some now are teaching that there was a great gap of time between Genesis 10 and 11. Supposedly, since Moses recorded that the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth spoke different languages in Genesis 10 (vss. 5,20,31), and since Genesis 11:1 states that “the whole earth had one language and one speech,” there must have been a gap between Genesis 10:32 and 11:1! It is alleged that enough time must have passed in order for the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth to begin speaking one language.

If you have ever read Genesis 6-11, you likely have questioned why the order of events seemed to indicate that the Earth’s population went from speaking one language (by the eight persons on the ark), to speaking a variety of languages and dialects (10:5,20,31), to then using one language again (11:1). It may be that you have asked the same question that I heard asked recently: “How can there not be a gap between Genesis 10 and 11?”

The reason that no gap of time exists between Genesis 10 and 11 is because the events recorded in these two chapters were not written chronologically. As Victor Hamilton remarked in his commentary on Genesis, “We have here the unusual order of effect (ch. 10) before cause (ch. 11), or result preceding explanation” (1990, p. 347).

The simple fact is, Bible writers did not always record information in a strictly chronological sequence. Genesis 2:5-25 does not pick up where chapter one left off; rather, it provides more detailed information about some of the events mentioned in chapter one. Several of the events in Genesis 38 involving Judah and Tamar occurred while the things recorded in chapter 39 and following were taking place. Making the (erroneous) assumption that the entire Bible was written chronologically, hinders the trustworthiness of the text. How will one explain the differences in the arrangement of the temptations of Jesus recorded by Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke (4:1-13) if we always must conclude that things are written in sequential order? If Jesus only cleansed the temple once, how does a person explain why John mentioned this event as having occurred early in Jesus’ ministry, while the other gospel writers placed it later in His ministry (John 2:12-17; cf. Matthew 21:12-17)? Obviously, the gospel accounts were not arranged to represent a strict chronology of Jesus’ life. Similarly, Moses jumped ahead of himself at times, inserting parenthetical material like that found in Genesis 10.

Aside from the languages mentioned in Genesis 10, there is another “clue” in the text that reveals the events recorded in chapter 11 occurred before the descendants of Noah began speaking different languages and spreading throughout the Earth. In 10:25, it mentions a man named Peleg (meaning “division”) who received such a name because “in his days the earth was divided.” This is an apparent reference to the confusion of languages at the tower of Babel described in chapter 11. The “earth” (viz., the people; cf. 11:1) was divided when God confused the languages (11:7-8). Thus, the division in Peleg’s day is linked contextually to the linguistic segregation at Babel (Genesis 11: 1-9;).

When Genesis 10 and 11 are read with the understanding that not all events are recorded chronologically, one can see clearly how the events revealed in these two chapters are entwined tightly with one another—so tightly in fact that those who seek to place a great gap of time between them are doomed to fail. Linguistically speaking, there was no “pre-Babel confusion.”


Hamilton, Victor P. (1990), The Book of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).


A copied sheet of paper

REPRODUCTION & DISCLAIMERS: We are happy to grant permission for this article to be reproduced in part or in its entirety, as long as our stipulations are observed.

Reproduction Stipulations→