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Now Read: Genesis 6-9
Last time we saw the stark contrast between the line of Cain (epitomized by Lamech) and the line of Seth (epitomized by Enoch) and the path of the two choices that we all have before us to either seek after the Lord, or to follow after our own sin and wickedness.
The end of Chapter 5 concludes the line of Seth, and introduces us to a man that everyone, be they Biblical scholar or ardent atheist, has at least heard of: Noah. The introduction of Noah leads us into an epic story of God unleashing His unrestrained wrath upon the world, and the one man that He chose to save from it.
That story is the infamous Flood of Noah.
The Introduction – 6:1-7 – The Wickedness of Man
The stage is set with a progression of the rising wickedness of mankind.
“Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.” (6:1-2) There is an interesting distinction being made here between “sons of God” and “daughters of men”. There is some debate among scholars as to what exactly this means. To me the most reasonable interpretation of this is that the men who were supposed to be following after God (sons of God, a possible reference to the line of Seth) began to marry women who were from families that were not following after God (daughters of men, perhaps a reference to the line of Cain). This is a common theme throughout the Old Testament, where the sons of Israel would take non-Hebrew wives and in turn begin to worship the gods of their wives. This is also why in the New Testament we told in marriage not be “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) by marrying an unbeliever. The sin of the unbeliever is much more likely to drag the believer along with it. Furthermore, the sons of God taking wives of “whomever they chose” sounds awfully close to “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” from the book of Judges (Judges 21:25) as the people abandoned God and followed their own sinful ways.
But then things go from bad to worse. “Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” (6:4) The result of these poorly chosen marriages were children that were “Nephilim”, men of great size and strength (perhaps similar to the infamous Goliath. They are described as “mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” In the context of the rest of the passage I think we are to assume that one of the things they were renowned for, aside from their size, was their wickedness and violence (6:13). The “sons of God” chose their wives poorly, and not only were they drawn away from God into sin, but their children fell so deep into wickedness they became renowned for it.
Finally, the progression reaches its peak, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (6:5) It’s not just that they did bad things, but every intent of their thoughts was only evil continually. There was not even the slightest hint of goodness, ever. Literally everything about them was vile, and disgusting, and wicked to their very core. And God would not tolerate it any longer.
The stage has been set for God to poor out his wrath, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land” (6:7)
The Build-up – 6:8-22 – God Prepares Noah
But, there was one man who stood apart from the rest. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord … Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” (6:8-9) Noah walking with God is a clear reference to Enoch, from Chapter 5, who was differentiated from the rest of his line by his “walk with God” and that when the end of his life came God took him, sparing him the pain of death. Noah is identified as a righteous man, of the likes of Enoch, whom God chose to be the sole survivor of the human race (along with his wife, sons and their wives). God instructs Noah on how to build an ark, not only to save him and his family, but to save two of every kind of animal, so that they could repopulate the earth.
The Climax – 7:1-24 – The Deluge Arrives
The wrath of God descended upon the earth.
We should not think that the flood was merely, “a lot of rain.” What is described here is so much more than that. “The fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.” (7:11) This was not simply rain. This was violent. This was brutal. This was the pure, holy, powerful wrath of the Almighty being unleashed. This was the eruption of a million geysers, volcanoes, and tsunamis. This was the opening up of the heavens letting down the “floodgates” of a million bursting damns. We should not think of the people watching as the waters slowly rise to the point of their drowning. No, envision them being violently washed away by the powerful rush of a thousand oceans, carrying away entire cities in a matter of moments. Envision the waling terror and screams as their wickedness was violently extinguished from the face of the earth.
This is what was going on outside the ark. God was not simply drowning the earth … He was pummeling it.
And then, if violence of the floodgates wasn’t enough, the waters continued. I’m sure nothing survived that very first day of God pouring his wrath down upon the earth, but He continued to wash the filth of sin away. For forty days and forty nights (7:12) the rain fell until the “The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.” (7:18) This almost seems like a return to the creation of the world where, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) It’s as if creation is getting a fresh start, going all the way back to the beginning when the waters covered everything, and just as God’s Spirit moved over the waters, so now hope for the future of mankind floats over the surface of the water in an ark.
The Slow-down – 8:1:22 – The Waters Subside
“But God remembered Noah …” (8:1)
This is the pivotal moment, in the middle of the story, where God’s work shifts from one of destruction, to one of renewal. The increasing pace of the story now slows down, as the waters slowly begin to subside.
Finally, after nearly a year of waiting in the ark, Noah and his family, and the creatures with them set foot once again on dry ground. They walked out onto a cleansed earth, a fresh start for them, and for mankind as a whole.
Noah then built an altar, to give thanks to the Lord for sparing him and his family from God’s wrath unleashed upon mankind (8:20).
The Conclusion – 9:1-17 – The Rainbow Covenant
After the epic flood, God then made a sacred covenant with Noah, “I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth … This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.” (9:11-13)
God makes a promise, not only to Noah, but to “all flesh” that He would never destroy the earth by flood again, giving us the rainbow as the sign of that promise.
And with this covenant God then tells Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply, and to fill the earth (9:1 and 9:7) again echoing the account from creation when God told man to “Be fruitful and multiply. And fill the earth, and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28). Thus we have come back full circle, and we can see that mankind has been given a fresh start, with a new, fresh earth that has been cleansed of sin by flood-waters, and they have a second chance to fulfill their purpose in life.
The Epilogue – 9:18-29 – The Ominous Foreshadowing
One would think that after the epic account of the flood, with mankind given a fresh start, and God’s rainbow covenant, that would be the end of Noah’s story.
But there is a very odd sub-story at the end of the story … an epilogue.
We are given the strange account Noah who, “began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent.” (9:21). Noah’s son, Ham, “saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.” (9:22). The other brothers, Shem and Japheth, “took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father, and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.” (9:23). When Noah wakes up he, “knew what his youngest son had done to him.” (9:24), and then proceeded to curse Ham (9:25) while blessing his other sons (9:26-27).
What in the world did Ham do?
Nakedness reveals our shame in our sin (Genesis 3). Ham saw his father’s nakedness, and thus saw his father’s shame. That in itself was not necessarily Ham’s fault; it’s not his fault that his father was drunk and naked. But upon finding his father naked (his shame exposed), rather than averting his eyes, and covering his father up as quickly as possible, he want and told his brothers. Ham broadcasted his father’s shame to the rest of the world. You can almost hear Ham going to his brothers, “Hey dudes! You should check out dad, he’s totally wasted and passed out naked!”
This story tells us two things.
First, Noah cursing his son Ham, and blessing his other sons (particularly Shem) foreshadows that it would be Shem’s line that would lead to Abraham, and Israel, God’s chosen nation, as well as the enmity that would exist between the people of Israel (descendants of Shem) and the Canaanites (descendants of Ham’s son, Canaan).
Second, and more importantly, it emphasizes that the flood did not do away with sin. The problem of sin had not been solved. Even Noah, who was described as righteous and walking with God (6:9) still has sin upon him. His nakedness still reveals his shame. And at the end of the story of Noah we are told that, “So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years, and he died.” (9:29). Thus showing that the pattern of his forefathers from Chapter 5 continues.
What was it all for?
The story of God unleashing His judgment upon mankind in the Flood is one of truly epic proportions.
But at the end of the Flood account God still recognizes that “the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (8:21) And in the epilogue we see a very sinful and flawed Noah who falls back into the same pattern of sin and death as his forefathers. God knows that this is man’s nature, even the mankind that will follow after Noah. And yet, even though God knows this about mankind, He still vows, “I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.” (8:21)
God recognizes that the Flood has not changed man’s nature, He recognizes that man will still continue to be wicked, but He promises to not destroy them, or the earth, like this again.
But what was it all for? If the Flood would not solve the problem of sin, why would God do it?
God needed to show us just how serious sin really is.
There were some serious consequences that came with sin. But even in the midst of those consequences, God was making provisions to redeem mankind from sin. He did not obliterate Adam and Eve immediately, but rather He clothed them. Cain murdered his brother, but God put a sign of protection over Cain. God has demonstrated himself to be a patient and merciful God. It could be tempting to think that sin REALLY doesn’t bother him that much.
Yes, God is patient, but there is a limit to His patience. Yes, God is merciful, but there is a limit to His mercy. God sent the Flood because He wanted to send a message to all generations who would follow just how serious sin really is.
Sin is serious enough, that God was willing to obliterate not only all of mankind (save Noah and his family), but also ALL OTHER LIFE ON EARTH that had been corrupted by mankind’s sin. Sin is so serious that it deserves nothing but complete, total, and even violent annihilation. Sin is so serious, it not only deserves to be destroyed, but to be destroyed with the bursting of the fountains of the deep and the opening of the floodgates of the heavens. It is so serious it deserves the full, unreserved wrath of the Almighty God being poured down upon it with a vengeance.
God needed us to recognize that. He needed us to see that so much that He needed to actually do it. He showed us what sin really deserves: it deserves to die, and to die completely.
But God is still merciful, and God has a plan.
After the Flood was over God vowed never to do it again, not because the flood solved the problem of sin, but because God had a better plan. God had a plan to send His Son, to die on the cross, and take the full wrath of God upon Himself instead.
So God made a covenant with Noah, and with all generations that would come after Him, a covenant in which He promised never to send a Flood again. Not because we don’t deserve another Flood. But because God loved us so much He has provided for us a way to come back to Him without it.
The rainbow was God’s sign to Noah of His promise to never destroy the earth with a flood again; a sign that God would solve the problem of sin once and for all, not by annihilating it, but by overcoming it.
The flood is what our sin really deserves, but the rainbow points us to our salvation in Jesus.
Next Post: Genesis 10-11 – The Tower of Babel: Man’s Will vs God’s Will
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