We know what happened at Babel, but when did it happen?  It is commonly believed that Nimrod was the ring-leader of the builders, and if this is true then the confusion of languages probably happened in his lifetime.  It is also generally believed that the confusion began in the days of Peleg (although this is disputed). 

Now, determining approximately when the confusion occured will tell us a couple of things.  For one thing, it will help us figure out roughly how many families the languages were likely divided into.  Also, it sets a limit to how early ancient civilizations could have been founded.  Besides, it would just be a fun thing to discuss.

So, any thoughts?

Tags: Babel, Nimrod, Peleg, confusion, dispersion, languages, timeline, tower

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Good topic.

No matter what view one takes of the words in Genesis 10:25 - "In his days was the earth divided" it still provides a clue to help us determine the context for the Babel Intervention.

The Babel Event refers to confusion of tongues (Gen. 11:1-9), because that is what happened. And as a result God effectively scattered men. The Peleg Event refers to dividing the EARTH in a significant fashion by means of major channels of water, or so I believe. But even if we see the Peleg Event as some significant Dispersion Event, it still provides a context for Babel either way.

Of course we all understand that there is not a single chronological line through chapters 10 and 11 of Genesis, right?

There is one "timeline" in the sons of Japheth first of all (10:1-5).

There is a second "timeline" in the sons and descendents of Ham (10:6-20). The line of Ham receives the most extensive treatment in chapter 10.

There is a third parallel timeline in the sons and descendents of Shem (10:21-31).

Then finally in chapter ten all three lines are unified under a single theme:

These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood. Genesis 10:32

This verse is stating quite simply the reason all of these names were listed. Then chapter eleven tells of mankind's joint effort to abrogate this divine purpose, and it tells of God's act of intervention to undo the plans of men.

So, chapters 10 and 11 are not successive chronologically, but they are parallel. In fact it appears there are several lines that are parallel - the three sons of Noah and their descendents.

Where in chapter ten did Babel occur?

I think we are all agreed that the lifetime of Peleg was from 1756 to 1995 AM, i.e., a lifespan of 239, from 100 years after the Flood to 339 years after the Flood. In my way of thinking then, the Babel time frame would be near the end of Peleg's lifetime.

Babel took place when there was a substantial human population it seems, and after what was a reasonable time for men to disperse in God's mind.

There is no definitive indication of whose lifetime encompassed the time frame of Babel. Many have long asserted that Nimrod was the founder of Babylon (Babel). This tradition seems to be long-standing and quite accurate, especially when it is expressly stated that Nimrod was indeed the founder of Babel (10:10). So, just out of curiosity, what would be the likely time frame if Nimrod was the "ringleader" of this coup against God?

So, this Nimrod, the founder of Babel - how far was he from the Flood? We know for certain the dates of Peleg, because of information provided in chapter eleven on the numbers in the lives of the Messianic Line. But no such information is provided by way of numbers in the family of Ham.

Nimrod was how many generational steps from the Flood? Ham -> Cush -> Nimrod, three generations, or two, depending on your method of counting. So, say Ham fathered Cush as his firstborn then Cush fathered Nimrod has his first born, that would seem to put the birth of Nimrod at not any sooner than 40 or 50 years after the end of he Flood (1697-1707 AM) - the earliest possible time for Nimrod.

But on the other end of the scale, Cush may not have been the first born. Maybe his was a middle son, or last son, like Ham was. Maybe Cush and Nimrod were late additions. If Cush was born fifty or even years after the Flood, and Nimrod also, 50 or 75 years later, then that brackets Nimrod's birth sometime between 1697 and 1807, and so the Babel event, if it happened in the lifetime of Nimrod, but after his kingdom had been established for a while, where would that be dated?

At the earliest, if Nimrod was born in 1697, then we should give him 20 years to move out of childhood, and another 20 years to gain a following and build a city - maybe Babel could have taken place as early as 1737, up to 1847 or even later, if we put Babel within the lifetime of Nimrod.

How does this fit with Peleg? As we all agree, the lifetime of Peleg was from 1756 to 1995 AM, i.e., from 100 years after the Flood to 339 years after the Flood. A reasonable guess for the Babel event could place it before Peleg was born, up to as late as a century before Peleg's death. Although Nimrod is declared to be the founder of Babel, is it necessary to insist that he was the ringleader of the tower building effort?

To place Babel before the birth of Peleg (1756 AM) does not provide enough time for population growth. Moving it to late in the lifetime of Peleg gives over 300 years for population to grow (More than the period of the history of the US Republic).

All things considered, it seems that the demands of the events call for some substantial numbers by way of population. I would favor as late a date as possible for the Babel Intervention. That Nimrod's "kingdom" had been established for some time, and that a good many people had gathered under his charismatic leadership when the effort to build this tower began. And it seems to have been in progress for sometime when God came down to stop it.

I would favor putting the Babel Intervention and subsequent scattering of thousands of people in those defined families and tribes as taking place near the end, the last quarter of Peleg's life.

After Babel for several years, my guess is that there was ready access to move from Asia to the Western Hemisphere, eastward, and from Asia to Europe, and maybe even westward to North America. But even after more and more of these land routes disappeared, men still scattered because of what God did to drive them to the ends of the Earth.

I think you're right David; knowing when the Tower incident occurred should help us figure out some things. I always assumed (because I like the earth being divided passage to refer to languages and people) that Peleg was born about the time of the Tower or a little afterward. This was also because I thought the Tower was the main event that sparked the dispersion of mankind around the world. However, Usser has Peleg being born five years before the tower. He also wrote that Noah divided the land among his grandchildren (about the time of Peleg's birth) but that some conspired to keep this dispersal from happening (the Tower builders). According to Usser, the Tower of Babel was begun about a hudred years after Noah and family officially got off the Ark. About two hundred fifty years after the Tower Abraham was born. Anyway, I thought I'd throw those Usser things out there for starters. 

Hi David,

Genesis 20:1-5 Japheth's son, Javan's children was divided into their lands, every one according to his language.

Thus Japheth's grandchildren which was the third generation from the flood was divided.

Shem's son; Arphaxad begat, Salah who begat; Eber, who was the father of Peleg.

Thus Peleg was Shem's great-great grandson which would have put several years between the tower of Babel and Peleg.

Thus the division of the people by confusing their language is not the division of the earth in the days of Peleg.

 

God Bless,

I take a distinctive view on Babel.  My starting point is a concept which is spelt out in Judges 2v7-10 but which seems to apply in some measure throughout the history of God's people - that when a major work of God occurred, the population of the day generally remained faithful to God during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses, but the next generation after that fell back into evil ways.  Applying that to the Flood, I find it difficult to see Nimrod assuming full control during the lifetime of Noah and his sons, though I expect he was building up a reputation as a great hunter and positioning himself as the leader in waiting.  So I take Nimrod's period of rule to be during the sixth century post-Flood.  It can't be much later than that because Ham's grandchildren wouldn't have lived much beyond that, assuming similar longevity to the line of Shem.

I've just noticed while checking this that Genesis 10v7 lists Cush's sons and Nimrod is not among them.  Therefore it is possible that the use of "father" in verse 8 should be read as ancestor and there was a generation or two between Cush and Nimrod.  Alternatively Nimrod might be an alternate name for one of the sons listed in verse 7.

Anyway, you will have spotted that I have a problem regarding the division in the days of Peleg, which I do take to be the Babel event, because Peleg in Ussher's chronology was already dead by the sixth century post-Flood.  I get round this by invoking a possibility outlined in the Genesis Flood but largely discarded nowadays: that in the genealogy of Shem's line the ages given at birth of son refer to the firstborn, and the named son (if not the firstborn) might have been born later.  This certainly seems to be the case with Abraham, who was not born when Terah was 70 (assuming Stephen in Acts was not mistaken in his remarks about Abraham).  Specifically I suggest that Peleg was not Eber's firstborn but a child of his middle or old age.  That is my explanation for the division being assigned to the time of Peleg - that there has to be a point when Peleg was the principal representative of the Messianic line - in the Ussher scheme he can't be because he pre-deceased his ancestors.

(Regardless of the above, I definitely reject Ussher's chronology for Babel because there is no way that the total population c.100 years after the Flood would have been greater than that of a village.  God didn't set a timeframe for repopulating the world, we should surely assume that He would have been premature in acting when the population was so small).

Building on this, since I assume Noah to have remained head of the post-Flood community for 350 years, I consider it likely that he would have got a gradual dispersion of the population going once numbers were sufficient.  At the very least there would have been exiles from the population, just like Cain was in pre-Flood times.  But also I believe that Shinar/Sumer, though great for agriculture, was poor in mineral wealth and the people would have needed to explore to find such things as metals.  In historical times that area traded as far afield as the Indus valley.  The one skill we can surely certainly ascribe to Noah's descendants is proficiency at boat building !

So I hold that there had been some dispersal pre-Babel, that Genesis 11 is referring to a substantial part of the population but not the whole of it (or there may have been a reversal of such dispersion as had occurred, once Nimrod took control).  I think that the oldest megalithic remains around the world - many of which are now below sea level - should be ascribed to the period when Noah and his sons were in charge in Shinar.  The "lost civilisation" beloved of various maverick writers was the Shinar community and its offshoots.

I could go into more detail but I'll hold that back.  I'll be very interested to see comments on my pet theory.

Hi Colin,

What does Judges 2:7-10 have to do with the tower of Babel?

Shem and his family had moved on long before the tower of Babel and stayed pure as you find in his descendants a man named Abram. 1 Chronicles 1:27

As far a Peleg he was fifth generation from the flood but the languages was changed during Japhets grandchildren generation.  They were 3rd generation from the flood.

Now if you got information that is better than the 10th chapter of Genesis please present it.

God Bless,

Colin Newton said:

I take a distinctive view on Babel.  My starting point is a concept which is spelt out in Judges 2v7-10 but which seems to apply in some measure throughout the history of God's people - that when a major work of God occurred, the population of the day generally remained faithful to God during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses, but the next generation after that fell back into evil ways.  Applying that to the Flood, I find it difficult to see Nimrod assuming full control during the lifetime of Noah and his sons, though I expect he was building up a reputation as a great hunter and positioning himself as the leader in waiting.  So I take Nimrod's period of rule to be during the sixth century post-Flood.  It can't be much later than that because Ham's grandchildren wouldn't have lived much beyond that, assuming similar longevity to the line of Shem.

I've just noticed while checking this that Genesis 10v7 lists Cush's sons and Nimrod is not among them.  Therefore it is possible that the use of "father" in verse 8 should be read as ancestor and there was a generation or two between Cush and Nimrod.  Alternatively Nimrod might be an alternate name for one of the sons listed in verse 7.

Anyway, you will have spotted that I have a problem regarding the division in the days of Peleg, which I do take to be the Babel event, because Peleg in Ussher's chronology was already dead by the sixth century post-Flood.  I get round this by invoking a possibility outlined in the Genesis Flood but largely discarded nowadays: that in the genealogy of Shem's line the ages given at birth of son refer to the firstborn, and the named son (if not the firstborn) might have been born later.  This certainly seems to be the case with Abraham, who was not born when Terah was 70 (assuming Stephen in Acts was not mistaken in his remarks about Abraham).  Specifically I suggest that Peleg was not Eber's firstborn but a child of his middle or old age.  That is my explanation for the division being assigned to the time of Peleg - that there has to be a point when Peleg was the principal representative of the Messianic line - in the Ussher scheme he can't be because he pre-deceased his ancestors.

(Regardless of the above, I definitely reject Ussher's chronology for Babel because there is no way that the total population c.100 years after the Flood would have been greater than that of a village.  God didn't set a timeframe for repopulating the world, we should surely assume that He would have been premature in acting when the population was so small).

Building on this, since I assume Noah to have remained head of the post-Flood community for 350 years, I consider it likely that he would have got a gradual dispersion of the population going once numbers were sufficient.  At the very least there would have been exiles from the population, just like Cain was in pre-Flood times.  But also I believe that Shinar/Sumer, though great for agriculture, was poor in mineral wealth and the people would have needed to explore to find such things as metals.  In historical times that area traded as far afield as the Indus valley.  The one skill we can surely certainly ascribe to Noah's descendants is proficiency at boat building !

So I hold that there had been some dispersal pre-Babel, that Genesis 11 is referring to a substantial part of the population but not the whole of it (or there may have been a reversal of such dispersion as had occurred, once Nimrod took control).  I think that the oldest megalithic remains around the world - many of which are now below sea level - should be ascribed to the period when Noah and his sons were in charge in Shinar.  The "lost civilisation" beloved of various maverick writers was the Shinar community and its offshoots.

I could go into more detail but I'll hold that back.  I'll be very interested to see comments on my pet theory.

As far as the witnesses go, I think Shem (who was certainly on the Ark) was still alive when Isaac was, maybe even when Isaac married so there were people who knew the truth. I believe that there were other people, Nimrod perhaps among them, who distorted the truth, coming up with their own version. We must remember that the Sumerians, Egyptians, Indus valley people and early Chinese were settled within just two or three hundred years after the flood.  

I don't think we had to wait too long for Babel, and I don't think 100 years is too soon to have a significant group of people.  I think it is significant that Genesis 10 does indicate that the divisions were by families, languages and nations.  Also you want to look at the traditional names for nations in Hebrew - Cush, Mizraim, etc are the names the Jews gave to egypt, ethiopia, etc.  I think that those divisions may have been by language, and each one became a nation.  Some of those languages are lost to us now.  I don't think every name in that chapter was a different language, but many of them could have been.

 

Anyway, my two bits.

 

Colin, Jim, Aaron, etc.

I think we do all agree that Peleg lived from about 101 to 340 years after the flood. What is less clear is whether Nimrod was Cush's son. We know that Cush begat Nimrod, but he is listed separate from the other five. It is even possible that Nimrod came after the Babel tower, but that the first place he ruled was Babel.

About the population, we know that there were 16 sons in the first generation born after the flood, plus the daughters; there could have been 2500 people in the fourth generation.

By the way, like Steven said, Shem lived long enough to see Isaac and Ishmael according to Genesis 11, and thus long enough to see the founding of Egypt, which had a unique language and could not have been founded before Babel.

Hi David,

The only reason I can come up with for Nimrod being listed by himself would be that he had a different mother than the other son's listed.

God Bless,

David Thomas Posey said:

Colin, Jim, Aaron, etc.

I think we do all agree that Peleg lived from about 101 to 340 years after the flood. What is less clear is whether Nimrod was Cush's son. We know that Cush begat Nimrod, but he is listed separate from the other five. It is even possible that Nimrod came after the Babel tower, but that the first place he ruled was Babel.

About the population, we know that there were 16 sons in the first generation born after the flood, plus the daughters; there could have been 2500 people in the fourth generation.

By the way, like Steven said, Shem lived long enough to see Isaac and Ishmael according to Genesis 11, and thus long enough to see the founding of Egypt, which had a unique language and could not have been founded before Babel.

No Lou, you are not stupid, just persistent.

No Pre-Flood cities survived the Flood. All the cities and lands mentioned in chapters 10 and 11 arose in the centuries FOLLOWING the biblical Flood.

You say "such a short time." Just how long do you think it would take for a million people to arise from the three ancestors that came off the Ark? A thousand years? 500? Given the Global extent of the Flood, and given that fact that only eight people survived the Flood, and of them only three couples were responsible for the re-population of the Planet, what would be your estimate?

It is clear in the dispersion passage (10 and 11) that we are being told that all people that would spread out over the earth were descendants of the three sons of Noah. It is explicitly and directly stated in 10:5.

So what would you think to be a reasonable time for the population of the earth to reach a million? Or 10,000? Have a stab at it.

What would the rest of us think? What do we suppose the entire population of the world to have been at the time of Babel?

Henry Morris calcs are for a 6 member family, in 15 generations(35 years per generation)....98,300.  I believe that there would have been much less than 15 from flood to Babel (239 years).  We cannot assume these numbers are all men either.

My argument is not about the amount of people per se, Were there enough animals and laborers  to support the building of these cities at this time in history, Its clear to me that Babel was built or tried to be built---some of the people did not stay on the area right after the flood, and indeed went to the coastlands to the gentile isles, these men after Noah were not "gentiles" so who were these (gentiles) and it says they (Noahs offspring) took over these lands.  So we can't assume they all went to Babel? They were going all over some to the east to the plain of Shinar?   Apparently those that were at Babel were all from the same language, does that assume same tribe or people or family?  Heck I don't know for sure. So in V10 we have the first mention of gentiles?  This seems to be early for gentile?  But maybe not?

In 400 years we have Abraham and 26 city centers.  Obviously this is true, per scripture... But we also have the coastland and isles of the gentiles, who were these, and our Noah family line also migrated towards this area, soon after the flood?  This implies to me way before the days of Peleg and Babel?

I also am not arguing about pre-flood cities being destroyed, I said that there were cities that existed pre-flood. was there not? I guess I am saying that civilization started pre-flood too.  Or was everyone a hunter gather, or farmer.

So could Babel had been down further down the road? Shortly after Egypt and other cities exist..

Ok Lou, you're gonna have to elaborate some on these statements:

"some of the people did not stay on the area right after the flood, and indeed went to the coastlands to the gentile isles"

What/where are these "gentile isles" mentioned.  Not in verse 10 of Gen 10.  Please advise.  By the way, the term 'gentile' didn't really have meaning, that I know of, until Israel was recognized as a nation (post exodus?) and it refers to anyone who is not a jew.

All people had the same language prior to Babel.  The different languages became a reality at Babel.

"In 400 years we have Abraham and 26 city centers."

Where do you get the idea of 26 city centers?  What scripture are you referencing to get this concept?

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