Polish language series: Rdz 11, wieża Babel

You will now study the Polish text of Rdz 11. The first nine verses of this eleventh chapter of the book of Genesis deal with wieża Babel (tower of Babel; literally, Babel tower). Other subjects covered in the chapter include: potomkowie Sema (descendants of Shem) and rodzina Abrama (family of Abram). In your study of verses 10-26, you will have a chance to review Polish cardinal numbers.

If you are arriving on this site for the first time, begin your study of the Polish language here.

Read Rdz 11

To read the Polish text of the Bible associated with the notes below or listen to its audio, visit Biblia Tysiąclecia and consult Rdz 11. An archived version of the text can be found here.

Wersety 1-2

  • mowa (f.), language
  • czyli, that is to say
  • jednakowy, identical, the same
  • wędrować (impf.), to journey, to trek
  • napotkać (pf.), to come across
  • równina (f.), plain

Review: mieszkaniec (m., inhabitant), wschód (m., east), kraj (m., country, land), tam (there), zamieszkać (pf., to settle).

In verse 1, you come across a new Polish noun for language: the feminine mowa; this is in addition to the masculine język that you already know. You also come across the neuter noun słowo again; you know that this is the Polish word for word itself, but it can be better understood as speech in this verse. Verse 1 can be understood as follows: mieszkańcy całej ziemi (the inhabitants of the entire earth) mieli jedną mowę (used to have one language), czyli jednakowe słowa (that is to say, the same speech). The verb used here is the imperfective mieć.

mieszkaniec miał
the inhabitant was having
the inhabitant used to have

mieszkańcy mieli
the inhabitants were having
the inhabitants used to have

Read through verse 2 with the aid of the vocabulary provided above. The verbs are all in masculine, third-person plural form of the perfective and imperfective past. W kraju Szinear means in the land of Shinar.

Wersety 3-4

  • wyrabiać (impf.), to produce
  • cegła (f.), brick
  • wypalić (pf.), to burn
  • ogień (m.), fire
  • zamiast (+ gen.), instead of
  • zaprawa (f.), mortar
  • murarski, of brickwork
  • wierzchołek (m.), peak, tip
  • sięgać (impf.), to reach for

Review: mówić (impf., to say), chodzić (impf., to walk, to go), kamień (m., stone), smoła (f., pitch, tar), zbudować (pf., to construct, to create), miasto (n., town, city), wieża (f., tower), w ten sposób (thus, in this manner), uczynić (pf., to make), znak (m., sign), rozproszyć się (pf., to scatter oneself).

I mówili jeden do drugiego, from verse 3, can be understood as meaning and they said to one another (literally, and they were saying the one to the second). In this same verse, chodźcie is the second-person plural imperative of the imperfective verb chodzić; it can be understood as meaning come on then, get to, get a move on, etc. You then find two first-person plural imperatives: wyrabiajmy (let us produce) and wypalmy (let us burn).

Farther along in verse 3, you read that they had brick in place of stone: mieli cegłę zamiast kamieni and pitch in place of mortar: [mieli] smołę zamiast zaprawy murarskieji. Zaprawa murarska is Polish for mortar.

In verse 4, you read: zbudujemy sobie miasto i wieżę (we shall build ourselves a city and tower), której wierzchołek będzie sięgał nieba (whose tip will reach the heaven). You also read: uczynimy sobie znak (we shall make ourselves a sign), abyśmy się nie rozproszyli po całej ziemi (in order that we do not scatter ourselves on the entire earth). The sense of znak as used here in the Polish seems to suggest that the tower would serve as a tall sign that guided men from getting lost and scattering themselves, although this must remain open to interpretation.

Wersety 5-9

  • zstąpić (pf.), to descend
  • budować (impf.), to build, to construct
  • przyczyna (f.), reason
  • przyszłość (f.), future
  • nic, nothing
  • niemożliwy, impossible
  • zamierzyć (pf.), to intend
  • zejść (pf.), to go down
  • pomieszać (pf.), to jumble, to stir
  • rozumieć (impf.), to understand
  • dokończyć (pf.), to finish, to complete
  • budowa (f.), building, construction

Review: zobaczyć (pf., to see), ludzie (pl., people, men), lud (m., people, nation), zacząć (pf., to start, to begin), cokolwiek (whatever, everything that), rozproszyć (pf., to scatter), stamtąd (from there), nazwać (pf., to call), dlatego (therefore), bowiem (for, because).

Although these five verses contain a good deal of new vocabulary, you may just find that you are able to work through them with minimal help. A few notes nonetheless, in case of doubt:

In the first sentence of verse 6, you read: są oni jednym ludem (they are one people) i wszyscy mają jedną mowę (and all have one language). You will recall that wszyscy is the personal masculine plural of wszystek. From the remainder of the sentence, you understand that the reason men began to build was because of unity of people and language. From the second sentence of verse 6: w przyszłości (in the future); nic nie będzie dla nich niemożliwe (nothing will be impossible for them), cokolwiek zamierzą uczynić (whatever they intend to do).

You find two second-person plural imperatives in verse 7: zejdźmy (let us go down) and pomieszajmy (let us confuse, let us stir up, let us mix up, etc.). The final portion of this verse reads: aby jeden nie rozumiał drugiego (in order that they do not understand one another; literally, in order that the one does not understand the second).

In verse 9, nazwano (from the perfective verb nazwać) is the impersonal past; it can be understood as meaning one called.

Wersety 10-26

Review: potomek (m., descendant), mieć x lat (to be x years old), urodzić się (pf., to be born), potop (m., flood), urodzenie (n., birth), żyć (impf., to live), syn (m., son), córka (f., daughter), przeżyć (pf., to live, to survive).

Should you have trouble understanding the language in this grouping of verses, you may wish to review the notes for Rdz 5; the language used in that chapter is identical to that of the current verses. Review Polish cardinal numbers.

Verse 10: ci są potomkowie Sema (these are the descendants of Shem).

Wersety 27-32

  • zemrzeć (pf.), to die
  • niepłodny, barren
  • wnuk (m.), grandson
  • synowa (f.), daughter-in-law
  • wyruszyć (impf.), to leave, to set out
  • udać (pf.) się, to go, to proceed
  • przyjść (pf.), to arrive, to come
  • osiedlić (pf.) się, to settle
  • doczekać (pf.), to live out, to reach

Review: dzieje (pl., history), wziąć (pf., to take), ojciec (m., father), żona (f., wife), imię (n., name), potomstwo (n., offspring), jednak (however).

In verse 28, you read: Haran zmarł jeszcze za życia Teracha, swego ojca (Haran died yet in the life of Terah, his father; that is, Haran died when Terah, his father, was still alive). You read where he died: w kraju, w którym się urodził (in the land in which he was born), w Ur chaldejskim (in the Chaldean Ur). You find the adjective chaldejski here, meaning Chaldean.

In verse 29, you read that Abram and Nahor took wives: Abram i Nachor wzięli sobie żony (Abram and Nahor took wives unto themselves). The instrumental imieniem (from the nominative imię) can be understood as meaning by the name.

In verse 31, you will have understood that wziąwszy means having taken. You read that Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot and his daughter-in-law Sarai, and he set out with them (wyruszył z nimi) from the Ur of the Chaldeans. Przyszli: they arrived, they came.

Terah, as you read in verse 32, died in Haran at the age of two hundred and five. Terach doczekał dwustu i pięciu lat życia is be understood as Terah lived out two hundred and five years of life. Zmarł w Charanie: he died in Haran.