We're in the middle of discussing the conflict at the Tower of Babel. Yesterday we discussed Nimrod, one of Noah's son's descendants. In addition to Nimrod, who (in a sense) founded the Assyrians, Ham’s other offspring will become such people groups as the Philistines (10:14), the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, and the Canaanites (10:16, 18), all of which will be enemies of God’s future people the Israelites. After the flood Ham’s crime against his father (exposing his nakedness) leads to a curse and his sons represent the seed of the serpent—those that are faithful to themselves and not to God—and already the signs of conflict with the seed of the woman are developing (per Genesis 3:15).
This explains the results of the wicked line of Ham, but what of the righteous line of Shem?
The simplest answer is that they eventually join with the wicked sons of Ham and even participate in the construction of Babel. Shem’s descendants are listed last in the table of nations. We find out from his list of descendants that the “the earth was divided” during the time of his great grandson, Peleg, whose name means “division” (10:25). A few verses later we are told that the territory of Shem’s sons “extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east” (10:30, emphasis added). The table of nations then ends with a summary of Shem’s descendants and of Noah’s descendants in general.
Immediately after this, the story of Babel is recounted. Remember that though there is a chapter break between Genesis 10 and 11, the narrative is continuous. So in context the move from the list of nations to the construction of Babel reads as follows:
The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east. These are the sons of Shem… .These are the clans of the sons of Noah according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood. Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. (Gen. 10:30-11:2)
When we read the account of Babel in context it becomes more plain that these “people” who migrated “from the east” at least included the sons of Shem: they are the ones specifically named as having settled in the east. The way the text is structured, it’s as if the narrator is saying at the end of chapter 10, “These are the nations. Now let me tell you how and why they where separated after the flood” (as mentioned in 10:32). According to 11:1, the whole earth speaks the same words and they are sticking together. Apparently, all of Noah’s sons’ descendants—all 70 nations—are somehow represented at Babel.
But these people do not just journey together, sharing the same language. They also share the same belief or ideology. This fact is easily overlooked because the phrase “had one language” obscures the Hebrew, making it sound as if the writer of the text is trying to doubly emphasize the language issue. However, as James Jordan explains, “the word translated language in this verse actually means lip. The phrase ‘same words’ refers to language, but the phrase ‘same lip’—literally ‘one lip’—refers to religion,” in addition to carrying the idea of spoken language. The people of the earth, all descended from Japheth, Shem and Ham, gathered in Shinar with one language and one religion, one belief, one ideology. In essence, the righteous joined with the wicked for self-exaltation in a united rebellion against God at Babel (11:4).
I'll wrap up this discussion of the conflict at Babel tomorrow, but think on this: How easy is it for the righteous to join with the wicked? Is it not possible for this to happen and the righteous not even be aware of it?
See Jordan, Primeval Saints, 55.
 Ibid., p. 55. In a footnote Jordan lists other instances of “same language” meaning same lip: Zephaniah 3:9; Psalm 81:5; Job 27:4; 33:3; Psalms 12:2-4; 16:4; 40:9; 45:2; 51:15; Isaiah 6:5; 6:7; Malachi 2:6-7. Also, a margin note in the New American Standard Version of the Bible notes that “same language” could read “same lip.”