Genesis 11:6
Parallel Verses
English Standard Version
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.

King James Bible
And the LORD 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.

American Standard Version
And Jehovah said, Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do: and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And he said: Behold, it is one people, and all have one tongue: and they have begun to do this, neither will they leave off from their designs, till they accomplish them in deed.

English Revised Version
And the LORD said, Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do: and now nothing will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do.

Webster's Bible Translation
And the LORD 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.

Genesis 11:6 Parallel
Commentary
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

"Jehovah came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men had built" (the perfect בּנוּ refers to the building as one finished up to a certain point). Jehovah's "coming down" is not the same here as in Exodus 19:20; Exodus 34:5; Numbers 11:25; Numbers 12:5, viz., the descent from heaven of some visible symbol of His presence, but is an anthropomorphic description of God's interposition in the actions of men, primarily a "judicial cognizance of the actual fact," and then, Genesis 11:7, a judicial infliction of punishment. The reason for the judgment is given in the word, i.e., the sentence, which Jehovah pronounces upon the undertaking (Genesis 11:6): "Behold one people (עם lit., union, connected whole, from עמם to bind) and one language have they all, and this (the building of this city and tower) is (only) the beginning of their deeds; and now (sc., when they have finished this) nothing will be impossible to them (מהם יבּצר לא lit., cut off from them, prevented) which they purpose to do" (יזמוּ for יזמּוּ from זמם, see Genesis 9:19). By the firm establishment of an ungodly unity, the wickedness and audacity of men would have led to fearful enterprises. But God determined, by confusing their language, to prevent the heightening of sin through ungodly association, and to frustrate their design. "Up" (הבה "go to," an ironical imitation of the same expression in Genesis 11:3 and Genesis 11:4), "We will go down, and there confound their language (on the plural, see Genesis 1:26; נבלה for נבלּה, Kal from בּלל, like יזמו in Genesis 1:6), that they may not understand one another's speech." The execution of this divine purpose is given in Genesis 11:8, in a description of its consequences: "Jehovah scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city." We must not conclude from this, however, that the differences in language were simply the result of the separation of the various tribes, and that the latter arose from discord and strife; in which case the confusion of tongues would be nothing more than "dissensio animorum, per quam factum sit, ut qui turrem struebant distracti sint in contraria studia et consilia" (Bitringa). Such a view not only does violence to the words "that one may not discern (understand) the lip (language) of the other," but is also at variance with the object of the narrative. When it is stated, first of all, that God resolved to destroy the unity of lips and words by a confusion of the lips, and then that He scattered the men abroad, this act of divine judgment cannot be understood in any other way, than that God deprived them of the ability to comprehend one another, and thus effected their dispersion. The event itself cannot have consisted merely in a change of the organs of speech, produced by the omnipotence of God, whereby speakers were turned into stammerers who were unintelligible to one another. This opinion, which is held by Bitringa and Hoffmann, is neither reconcilable with the text, nor tenable as a matter of fact. The differences, to which this event gave rise, consisted not merely in variations of sound, such as might be attributed to differences in the formation in the organs of speech (the lip or tongue), but had a much deeper foundation in the human mind. If language is the audible expression of emotions, conceptions, and thoughts of the mind, the cause of the confusion or division of the one human language into different national dialects must be sought in an effect produced upon the human mind, by which the original unity of emotion, conception, thought, and will was broken up. This inward unity had no doubt been already disturbed by sin, but the disturbance had not yet amounted to a perfect breach. This happened first of all in the event recorded here, through a direct manifestation of divine power, which caused the disturbance produced by sin in the unity of emotion, thought, and will to issue in a diversity of language, and thus by a miraculous suspension of mutual understanding frustrated the enterprise by which men hoped to render dispersion and estrangement impossible. More we cannot say in explanation of this miracle, which lies before us in the great multiplicity and variety of tongues, since even those languages which are genealogically related - for example, the Semitic and Indo-Germanic - were no longer intelligible to the same people even in the dim primeval age, whilst others are so fundamentally different from one another, that hardly a trace remains of their original unity. With the disappearance of unity the one original language was also lost, so that neither in the Hebrew nor in any other language of history has enough been preserved to enable us to form the least conception of its character.

(Note: The opinion of the Rabbins and earlier theologians, that the Hebrew was the primitive language, has been generally abandoned in consequence of modern philological researches. The fact that the biblical names handed down from the earliest times are of Hebrew extraction proves nothing. With the gradual development and change of language, the traditions with their names were cast into the mould of existing dialects, without thereby affecting the truth of the tradition. For as Drechster has said, "it makes no difference whether I say that Adam's eldest son had a name corresponding to the name Cain from קנה, or to the name Ctesias from κτᾶσθαι; the truth of the Thorah, which presents us with the tradition handed down from the sons of Noah through Shem to Abraham and Israel, is not a verbal, but a living tradition - is not in the letter, but in the spirit.")

The primitive language is extinct, buried in the materials of the languages of the nations, to rise again one day to eternal life in the glorified form of the καιναὶ γλῶσσαι intelligible to all the redeemed, when sin with its consequences is overcome and extinguished by the power of grace. A type of pledge of this hope was given in the gift of tongues on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church on the first Christian day of Pentecost, when the apostles, filled with the Holy Ghost, spoke with other or new tongues of "the wonderful works of God," so that the people of every nation under heaven understood in their own language (Acts 2:1-11).

From the confusion of tongues the city received the name Babel (בּבל i.e., confusion, contracted from בּלבּל from בּלל to confuse), according to divine direction, though without any such intention on the part of those who first gave the name, as a standing memorial of the judgment of God which follows all the ungodly enterprises of the power of the world.

(Note: Such explanations of the name as "gate, or house, or fortress of Bel," are all the less worthy of notice, because the derivation ἀπὸ τοῦ Βήλου in the Etymol. magn., and in Persian and Nabatean works, is founded upon the myth, that Bel was the founder of the city. And as this myth is destitute of historical worth, so is also the legend that the city was built by Semiramis, which may possibly have so much of history as its basis, that this half-mythical queen extended and beautified the city, just as Nebuchadnezzar added a new quarter, and a second fortress, and strongly fortified it.)

Of this city considerable ruins still remain, including the remains of an enormous tower, Birs Nimrud, which is regarded by the Arabs as the tower of Babel that was destroyed by fire from heaven. Whether these ruins have any historical connection with the tower of the confusion of tongues, must remain, at least for the present, a matter of uncertainty. With regard to the date of the event, we find from Genesis 11:10 that the division of the human race occurred in the days of Peleg, who was born 100 years after the flood. In 150 or 180 years, with a rapid succession of births, the descendants of the three sons of Noah, who were already 100 years old and married at the time of the flood, might have become quite numerous enough to proceed to the erection of such a building. If we reckon, for example, only four male and four female births as the average number to each marriage, since it is evident from Genesis 11:12. that children were born as early as the 30th or 35th year of their parent's age, the sixth generation would be born by 150 years after the flood, and the human race would number 12,288 males and as many females. Consequently there would be at least about 30,000 people in the world at this time.

Genesis 11:6 Parallel Commentaries

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Behold.

Genesis 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand...

Judges 10:14 Go and cry to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

1 Kings 18:27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing...

Ecclesiastes 11:9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth; and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart...

the people.

Genesis 11:1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

Genesis 9:19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth covered.

Acts 17:26 And has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed...

imagined.

Genesis 6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth...

Genesis 8:21 And the LORD smelled a sweet smell; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake...

Psalm 2:1-4 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing...

Luke 1:51 He has showed strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

Cross References
Genesis 11:1
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.

Amos 4:7
"I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither;

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