Linguistics, Communities, and Breezes

10 This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood.

The Japhethites
2 The sons of Japheth:

Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshek and Tiras.

3 The sons of Gomer:

Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah.

4 The sons of Javan:

Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittites and the Rodanites. 5 (From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.) Genesis 10:1-5

This chapter mentions a lot of names. I’m sure doctoral dissertations have been written about most of them. When the author, probably Moses, pauses and points something out about a clan or tribe, we’ll pause there too.

I draw your attention to verse five. We’ll be seeing more about this verse in a later chapter (tower of Babel), but suffice to say that God gave them their own language, not an insignificant point. Languages are complex and complicated. In some regions of the world today, you can go to a new tribe less than a mile away and the people will be speaking an entirely new language.

When I was studying Linguistics in graduate school, Noam Chomsky, Linguistics Professor at MIT, made an interesting point. The gist of what he said was, all people were born with an innate ability to learn a language. I, of course, wanted him to take a teeny step farther and make the case for a Great Designer but his atheist ideology wouldn’t allow him. The point, however, is significant.

God gave us each an ability to learn a language, and normally the language of the people who surround you. That’s why the French grow up speaking French and not Swahili or Italian unless they are surrounded by Kenyans or Italians. The ability is within each of us.

God spread the people out too. Notice Moses’ language “from the maritime peoples” meaning, they were by the sea and traveled far and wide, as far as their primitive vessels would allow, but certainly away from where the ark landed. Among these people evidently were adventurers and the curious. And the brave. They had no idea what to expect wherever they landed. Then they built their communities and nations around a common language.

What was life like in that time period? I’m sure they spent most of their time looking for food, whereas we go to the store for an hour and can purchase enough for an entire month. Or better still, we can order it from our computers and it comes to our door that afternoon or the next day.

If you watch some of the old Black and White movies, you’ll notice a slow pace in the smaller towns. No one’s in a hurry to get anywhere. They have time to sit around the barbershop and chat. Just chat.

When we visited Pakistan briefly they taught us a phrase, “Gup shup la gavo.” Gup was the word for talk. Shup is just a rhyming word, and la gavo means happening or occurring. The meaning of the phrase was simply “they were shooting the breeze.” It was a quaint phrase and they used it often.

When was the last time you solved seven or eight of the world’s problems over lunch with a friend? If it’s been awhile, make a phone call today or tomorrow.

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