The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 10: The Tower of Babel
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To repeople the desolate earth, which the Flood had so
lately swept from its moral corruption, God had preserved
but one family, the household of Noah, to whom He had declared,
"Thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation."
Genesis 7:1. Yet in the three sons of Noah was speedily developed
the same great distinction seen in the world before the
Flood. In Shem, Ham, and Japheth, who were to be the founders
of the human race, was foreshadowed the character of their
Noah, speaking by divine inspiration, foretold the history of
the three great races to spring from these fathers of mankind.
Tracing the descendants of Ham, through the son rather than
the father, he declared, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants
shall he be unto his brethren." The unnatural crime of Ham
declared that filial reverence had long before been cast from
his soul, and it revealed the impiety and vileness of his
character. These evil characteristics were perpetuated in Canaan and
his posterity, whose continued guilt called upon them the judgments
On the other hand, the reverence manifested by Shem and
Japheth for their father, and thus for the divine statutes, promised
a brighter future for their descendants. Concerning these sons
it was declared: "Blessed be Jehovah, God of Shem; and Canaan
shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall
dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant."
The line of Shem was to be that of the chosen people, of God's
covenant, of the promised Redeemer. Jehovah was the God of
Shem. From him would descend Abraham, and the people of
Israel, through whom Christ was to come. "Happy is that people,
whose God is the Lord." Psalm 144:15. And Japheth "shall dwell [p. 118] in the tents of Shem." In the blessings of the gospel the
descendants of Japheth were especially to share.
The posterity of Canaan descended to the most degrading
forms of heathenism. Though the prophetic curse had doomed
them to slavery, the doom was withheld for centuries. God bore
with their impiety and corruption until they passed the limits of
divine forbearance. Then they were dispossessed, and became
bondmen to the descendants of Shem and Japheth.
The prophecy of Noah was no arbitrary denunciation of
wrath or declaration of favor. It did not fix the character and
destiny of his sons. But it showed what would be the result of
the course of life they had severally chosen and the character
they had developed. It was an expression of God's purpose
toward them and their posterity in view of their own character
and conduct. As a rule, children inherit the dispositions and
tendencies of their parents, and imitate their example; so that the
sins of the parents are practiced by the children from generation
to generation. Thus the vileness and irreverence of Ham were
reproduced in his posterity, bringing a curse upon them for
many generations. "One sinner destroyeth much good." Ecclesiastes
On the other hand, how richly rewarded was Shem's respect
for his father; and what an illustrious line of holy men appears
in his posterity! "The Lord knoweth the days of the upright,"
"and his seed is blessed." Psalm 37:18, 26. "Know therefore that
the Lord thy God He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth
covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His
commandments to a thousand generations." Deuteronomy 7:9.
For a time the descendants of Noah continued to dwell among
the mountains where the ark had rested. As their numbers increased,
apostasy soon led to division. Those who desired to
forget their Creator and to cast off the restraint of His law felt
a constant annoyance from the teaching and example of their
God-fearing associates, and after a time they decided to separate
from the worshipers of God. Accordingly they journeyed to the
plain of Shinar, on the banks of the river Euphrates. They were
attracted by the beauty of the situation and the fertility of the
soil, and upon this plain they determined to make their home.
Here they decided to build a city, and in it a tower of such
stupendous height as should render it the wonder of the world. [p. 119] These enterprises were designed to prevent the people from
scattering abroad in colonies. God had directed men to disperse
throughout the earth, to replenish and subdue it; but these Babel
builders determined to keep their community united in one body,
and to found a monarchy that should eventually embrace the
whole earth. Thus their city would become the metropolis of a
universal empire; its glory would command the admiration and
homage of the world and render the founders illustrious. The
magnificent tower, reaching to the heavens, was intended to stand
as a monument of the power and wisdom of its builders,
perpetuating their fame to the latest generations.
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