Here’s another just-so story: why do we have so many languages?

This is particularly important when you’re working with the literal chronology of the Bible, where there are nine generations (and about 300 years) between the Flood and the story of Abraham and his family that makes up the rest of Genesis. Books written in English 300 years ago (1712) may be stylistically quite similar, but I can still understand them. Heck, with some marginal notes, I could read Chaucer (600 years ago) in its original. Go back 1500 years, and the spread of languages is as far apart as French and Spanish (or more relevant to my subject, Japanese and Okinawan), where the languages are mutually unintelligible but it’s easy to learn one if you know the other.

If your time scale is this small, then you need some divine intervention, and that’s the Tower of Babel. It’s become one of the classic models of human arrogance, and there was only one thing that I noticed new about it. Once again, God uses first-person plural, only this time it’s the LORD God, not Elohim God from chapter 1. That sort of rules out a typo due to the plural verb and leaves you with the idea of a celestial hose again – those sons of God, maybe.

After that we get a brief series of begats that lead us up to one of the biggest characters in the Bible – Abram. No, not Abraham. Not yet, anyway, and when I first read this back at age 8, it took me a long time to figure out Abram’s secret identity.

The little bits about their family are interesting, as they lay some groundwork for characters who return later, like Lot. The off-hand note about Haran dying before Terah (v 28) is what inspired that midrash I mentioned in the last post, where Haran is murdered by Nimrod. This idea also explains why Terah decides to uproot his entire family from Ur in Mesopotamia and head west to Canaan. They stop at a place called Haran… not to be confused with Terah’s son, Haran… or the father of Nahor’s wife, Haran… well, they’ve broken the One Steve Limit, that’s for sure.

Japanese learned this time: idou “move, travel” (v 2), renka “brick” (v 3), kuwadateru “to attempt” (v 6), samatageru “to hinder” (v 6), and kensetsu “construction” (v 8).