The Talmudic tradition that there are seventy nations in the world is based on the list of Noah's descentants (<ref>R' Bachya)</ref>. This tradition of seventy nations is deep-rooted. According to the Midrash each of the seventy nations is placed under the protection of a special angle, except Israel, whose Protector is G-d Himself.
This tradition of seventy nations is deep-rooted. According to the Midrash each of the seventy nations is placed under the protection of a special angle, except Israel, whose Protector is G-d Himself. ==Why Seventy Nations?==
Just as there were seventy nations (<ref>cf. Targum Yonasan to 11:7)</ref>, the words of the Torah engraved on the Tablets on Mount Ebal (<ref>Deut. 27:2ff) </ref> were written in seventy languages (<ref>Mishna, Sotah 7:5) </ref> so that all the nations might read it. For the same reason, G-d's voice at Sinai divided itself into seventy languages (.<ref>Shabbos 58b).</ref>
The seventy bullocks sacrificed on Tabernacles were offered to atone for the seventy nations. 'Woe to the nations!' says Rav Yochanan; 'for they suffered a loss [by having destroyed the Temple] and do not realize the extent of the loss. While the Temple existed the altar atoned for them, but now [that it is destroyed] who will atone for them?' (<ref>Sukkah 55b)</ref>
The seventy members of the Sanhedrin also corresponded to the seventy nations of the world. (<ref>Targum Yerushalmi to Gensis 28:3).</ref>
According to many commentators (<ref>Radak, Ralbag, Chizkuni, Malbim) </ref> this concept seems to underlie Deut. 32:8 which says that G-d 'established the boundaries of nations [i.e. the seventy nations]... according to the number of te children of Israel' -- namely the seventy who descended to Egypt with Yakov (<ref>Gensis 46:27)</ref>
== Rabbinic View ==According to the Rabbis, each of the seventy nations is placed under the protection of a special angel, except Israel, whose protector is G-d Himself (Gen. R. xxxvii.). On the Feast of Tabernacles, it is said in a haggadah, seventy sacrifices were offered, one for each nation. "Wo to the nations!" says R. Johanan; "they had suffered a great loss without realizing what they had lost. While the Temple existed the altar [the sacrifices] atoned for them; but now who will atone for them?" (Suk. 55a; Pesik.. 193b, 195b). There was a discussion between R. Eleazar and R. Johanan with regard to the languages spoken before the Dispersion. According to the former, each nation had its own language, though it understood all the others; while the latter held that only Hebrew was spoken (Gen. R. xi. 1). An interesting appreciation of the qualities of various languages is that given by Jonathan of Bet Gubrin. "There are," he says, "four fine languages that ought to be used by the whole world: Greek for poetry; Latin for war; Aramaic for the dirge; and Hebrew for general speech." Some add that the characters of the Assyrian language should be borrowed, but not the language itself, which is not an original one (Yer. Meg. i. 71a). According to a haggadah, the angels understand all languages except the Aramaic, and therefore it is recommended not to pray in that language (Shab. 12b). Gabriel, however, is an exception to the rule, for to his teaching the haggadah attributes Joseph's knowledge of all the seventy languages. "The astrologers," it is related in the haggadah, "said to Pharaoh: 'What! Shall a slave who was bought for twenty pieces of silver rule over us?' Pharaoh replied: 'But I find him endowed with kingly attributes!' 'If that is the case,' they answered, 'he must know the seventy languages.' Then Gabriel taught him all the seventy languages" (Sot.ah 36b; "Yalk. Re'ubeni," section "Miketz," p. 71b). The word of G-d was pronounced on Mount Sinai in seventy languages (Shab. 88a; Ex. R. v.; comp. Acts ii. 5). The Torah was written in seventy languages in order that the nations should not be able to plead ignorance as their excuse for rejecting it (Tosef., Sot.ah, viii.). Among the seventy languages the most noble is Hebrew, for in it was pronounced the creative word of G-d (Gen. R. xviii., xxxi.; Yalk.., Gen. 52). The Jewish law required that every member of the Sanhedrin should have sufficient knowledge of the seventy languages to be able to do without an interpreter (Sanh. 17a; comp. Meg. 73b; Men. 65a).
The majority == Rabbinic View of Palestinian and Babylonian scholars considered the ethnological table to be a simple historical narrative, enumerating, without any pretense to completeness, the descendants of Noah, and indicating the places they had chosen for their respective residences. This is clearly expressed by R. Huna of Sepphoris, who, interpreting Canticles vi. 8 as an allusion to the nations and their languages, says: "Sixty and eighty are one hundred and forty. Of these, there are seventy nations, each of which possesses a separate language but not a separate script, and seventy other nations, each of which possesses both a separate language and a separate script; as to the nations which possess neither a separate language nor a separate script, they are numberless" (Cant. R. l.c.). In a later midrash, the "Midrash ha-Gadol," it is inferred from Cant. vi. 8 that there were only sixty original nations, eliminating from the ethnological table the ten nations descended from Japheth, Gomer, Javan, Ham, Cush, Raamah, Shem, Mizraim, Aram, and Joktan. As to the languages, the "Midrash ha-Gadol" counts seventy-two, as do the Christian authorities. "The total number of the countries that the children of Noah divided among their descendants was 104; of islands, 99; of languages, 72; and of scripts, 16. To the share Table of Japheth fell 44 countries, 33 islands, 22 languages, and 5 scripts; Ham received 34 countries, 33 islands, 24 languages, and 5 scripts; Shem, 26 countries, 33 islands, 26 languages, and 6 scripts."Nations ==
The majority of Palestinian and Babylonian scholars considered the ethnological table to be a simple historical narrative, enumerating, without any pretense to completeness, the descendants of Noah, and indicating the places they had chosen for their respective residences. This is clearly expressed by R. Huna of Sepphoris, who, interpreting Canticles 6:8 as an allusion to the nations and their languages, says: "Sixty and eighty are one hundred and forty. Of these, there are seventy nations, each of which possesses a separate language but not a separate script, and seventy other nations, each of which possesses both a separate language and a separate script; as to the nations which possess neither a separate language nor a separate script, they are numberless" (Cant. R. l.c.). In a later midrash, the "Midrash ha-Gadol," it is inferred from Cant. vi. 8 that there were only sixty original nations, eliminating from the ethnological table the ten nations descended from Japheth, Gomer, Javan, Ham, Cush, Raamah, Shem, Mizraim, Aram, and Joktan. As to the languages, the "Midrash ha-Gadol" counts seventy-two, as do the Christian authorities. "The total number of the countries that the children of Noah divided among their descendants was 104; of islands, 99; of languages, 72; and of scripts, 16. To the share of Japheth fell 44 countries, 33 islands, 22 languages, and 5 scripts; Ham received 34 countries, 33 islands, 24 languages, and 5 scripts; Shem, 26 countries, 33 islands, 26 languages, and 6 scripts." == Other Views of the Table of Nations ===
The haggadic assumption that there are seventy nations and languages in the world is based upon the ethnological table given in Genesis 10, where seventy grandsons of Noah are enumerated, each of whom became the ancestor of a nation. The earlier Christian writers also took this table as determining the number of existing nations and languages; but reckoning with the Septuagint, which counts seventy-two grandsons of Noah, there must be seventy-two nations and languages (see Augustine, "De Civitate Dei"; Anio, in his commentary on the second book of Berosus; comp. Azariah dei Rossi, "Me'or 'Enayim, Imre Binah," xlviii.). The Haggadah seems to have followed in this case the theory of the Hellenists, who regarded the ethnological table as a scientific and complete division of mankind into three races, distributed among three separate zones. This theory is expounded in the Book of Jubilees; "and at the beginning of the thirty-third jubilee they divided the earth into three parts between Shem, Ham, and Japheth, according to their inheritance" (ch. viii.).
Others include the Philstines but omit Nimrod from whom a separate nation did not descend.
Yalkut Shimoni<ref>Yalkut Shimoni 61 </ref> attributes 15 nations to Yafet, 32 to Cham, and 27 to Shem, totalling 74. However, Shem, Arpachshad, Shelach and Ever were too righteous to be counted among the general, leaving thetotal again at 70.
==Identifications==
The sons of Shem were not identified by the Rabbis because they were known, and of the Canaanite nations only the following places are given: Arthasia (city in Phenicia); Gebalene (in Idumea); Acra (in the Lebanon); Aradno (in Phenicia); Emesa (in Syria); Epiphania (in Syria); Callirhoe (to the east of the Dead Sea); Sidon; Tripoli (Phenicia); Cyprus.
 
According to the Rabbis, each of the seventy nations is placed under the protection of a special angel, except Israel, whose protector is G-d Himself (Gen. R. xxxvii.). On the Feast of Tabernacles, it is said in a haggadah, seventy sacrifices were offered, one for each nation. "Wo to the nations!" says R. Johanan; "they had suffered a great loss without realizing what they had lost. While the Temple existed the altar [the sacrifices] atoned for them; but now who will atone for them?" (Suk. 55a; Pesik.. 193b, 195b). There was a discussion between R. Eleazar and R. Johanan with regard to the languages spoken before the Dispersion. According to the former, each nation had its own language, though it understood all the others; while the latter held that only Hebrew was spoken (Gen. R. xi. 1).
 
An interesting appreciation of the qualities of various languages is that given by Jonathan of Bet Gubrin. "There are," he says, "four fine languages that ought to be used by the whole world: Greek for poetry; Latin for war; Aramaic for the dirge; and Hebrew for general speech." Some add that the characters of the Assyrian language should be borrowed, but not the language itself, which is not an original one (Yer. Meg. i. 71a). According to a haggadah, the angels understand all languages except the Aramaic, and therefore it is recommended not to pray in that language (Shab. 12b). Gabriel, however, is an exception to the rule, for to his teaching the haggadah attributes Joseph's knowledge of all the seventy languages. "The astrologers," it is related in the haggadah, "said to Pharaoh: 'What! Shall a slave who was bought for twenty pieces of silver rule over us?' Pharaoh replied: 'But I find him endowed with kingly attributes!' 'If that is the case,' they answered, 'he must know the seventy languages.' Then Gabriel taught him all the seventy languages" (Sot.ah 36b; "Yalk.. Re'ubeni," section "Mik.k.ez.," p. 71b).
 
The word of G-d was pronounced on Mount Sinai in seventy languages (Shab. 88a; Ex. R. v.; comp. Acts ii. 5). The Torah was written in seventy languages in order that the nations should not be able to plead ignorance as their excuse for rejecting it (Tosef., Sot.ah, viii.). Among the seventy languages the most noble is Hebrew, for in it was pronounced the creative word of G-d (Gen. R. xviii., xxxi.; Yalk.., Gen. 52). The Jewish law required that every member of the Sanhedrin should have sufficient knowledge of the seventy languages to be able to do without an interpreter (Sanh. 17a; comp. Meg. 73b; Men. 65a).
==See also==
*[[The Geography of the Seventy Nations]]
*[[Attributes of the Seventy Nations]]
 
==Reference==
<references />

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