“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. . . . 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. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city” (Gen. 11:1, 6-8).
The divine record of the confusing of the languages due to the purpose of building a city and a tower for making “a name” (Gen. 11:4) for themselves shows some interesting details about the power of a common language. The principles of this power can be seen in the importance of knowing the word of God and the blessings from it. Consider three principles of this power.
The Power of Understanding. The text specifically states concerning the confounding of the languages that its purpose was that “they may not understand one another’s speech” (Gen. 11:7). Understanding is an essential product of a common language. If one cannot understand what another is saying, then confusion arises and no edification. Moses wrote concerning the curses that would befall the nation if it disobeyed the Lord, “The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;” (Deut. 28:49). The nation of Israel would be held captive by more than the power of military might. They would be held captive by the power of a lack of understanding of what is being said around them. Anyone who has ever visited a place whose language is not his own native language knows how helpless one becomes if he does not know the language.
The Power of Unity. Having one language and one speech (cf. Gen. 11:1) was a means toward the unity of the people. Moses wrote of the Lord’s word, “Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language” (Gen. 11:6). Unity was achieved from understanding and conforming to that understanding. Consider the words of Paul about unity. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). While Paul is not specifically addressing a common language like Greek, English, etc., he is addressing the importance of a common communication that produces and maintains unity. Hence, the principle of holding to division of teachings can never produce a unity of people.
The Power of Utility. A common language was a tool that made useful the activities of men. Moses again wrote, “this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Gen. 11:6). Clear communication produces a utilitarian effect. Consider how frustrating it is when a project is hindered by poor or ineffective communication. The construction of the city and tower ended with the scattering of the people to regions where they would hold to their own language. The miraculous power of speaking in the different tongues or languages brought about the understanding and unity of converts (cf. Acts 2:8-41). All languages become spirituality useful when in the one faith (cf. Eph. 4:5).
“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom” (Prov. 18:1, KJV).
Another translation gives the wording, “He that separateth himself seeketh his own desire, and rageth against all sound wisdom” (Prov. 18:1, ASV). In addition, another translation gives the wording, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1, ESV). It should be seen from this that the translation is difficult. Even commentaries differ on whether the passage is teaching a good principle like separating oneself from the world to seek the wisdom from God or is the passage teaching a bad principle like being aloof from God believing that he is smarter than the wisdom of God. When looking into the Hebrew text, the first word of the verse centers on desire. This same word is found in Genesis 3:6 with reference to how the woman desired the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, it appears that Proverbs 18:1 is indicating a prohibitive thought and not a pleasing one. Seeking to make oneself what he is not is a danger among men throughout time. Presumptuous pride personified in elitism is unbiblical and ugly to the core. Consider three matters that hold true with this selfish ambition.
Self-absorbed. The very next passage in Proverbs 18 states, “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself” (Prov. 18:2). Another translation states, “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but only that his heart may reveal itself” (Prov. 18:2, ASV). There is no question that this passage is destructive in its import. The self-confident fool cares nothing for true understanding. He only delights to tell anyone who would listen all that he knows. He himself is his greatest topic of discussion. He would fit well in the “me-generation.” The whole world revolves around him and his feelings, wishes, thinking, etc. True biblical love is the opposite of this. Paul wrote of agape love, “charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (1 Cor. 13:4) and “seeketh not her own” (1 Cor. 13:5).
Self-assessed. Solomon wrote further in Proverbs, “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him” (Prov. 18:17). Again, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand” (Prov. 19:21). The self-absorbed evaluate things according to their own eyes. Solomon wrote of the fool, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise” (Prov. 12:15). Faulty standards make for confusion and corruption. This type of person is illustrated in Luke 18:11-12.
Self-approved. Solomon wrote, “It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory” (Prov. 25:27). Again, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Prov. 26:12). Paul warned of those in Corinth who evaluated things improperly and thus were not wise (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12). He closed the thought-provoking paragraph with the words, “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Cor. 10:18). Elitism blinds and ultimately dooms the soul. May God help all to see such dangers and act wisely.