OT Survey 113 Seminar 5 Noah
Andrew Hodge 22nd April 2006
Old Testament Survey OTE 113
Jensen, Irving L. Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament 1978, Moody Press, Chicago (currently unavailable); Genesis 6-9; Hebrews 11:7; Henry M. Morris The Genesis Record Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1976 pp 83-244
Describe the background of Noah’s day:
Because of the destruction of the Flood, there is no archaeological evidence to assist in determining what life was like in Noah’s day.
The brief Biblical record is the only reliable document - authored by God Himself - that exists. There are many stories and traditions concerning the origin and judgment of mankind and the earth which are remarkably similar, sharing a common memory of the event eg the Gilgamesh Epic and the Creation account of the early Babylonians, the Mother-Earth and Wagyl stories of the Australian aborigine, the Mother-Child stories of heathen deities.
Noah’s environment was different from today’s in that the water cycle, among others (see below), was not via the atmosphere but via the earth instead. A mist went up to water the ground (implying that there were warm enough temperatures during the day to vaporise it, and cool enough temperatures at night to condense it), the water cycling through underground aquifers to complete the circle.1 A single river ‘went out of Eden to water the garden’ (v 10) which must have been very large for it became four named rivers after it left the garden.
There was a single large land mass abundantly covered with vegetation and, in due time, populated by a large quantity of animal life and a large number of humans. Assuming Ussher’s chronology, there were a conservative seven billion humans on earth at the time of the Flood.2
In order for the multiplication of humanity to start, sons had to marry their sisters which is not a genetic problem because of the relative purity of the gene pool at that time. Incest was subsequently prohibited when the incidence of mutations had risen to an unacceptable level - in the time of the Mosaic law.
The relatively mild environment and the very short time available for the sin of Adam to have corrupted the gene pool by mutations meant long lives, with long periods of time before reproductive maturity developed. Bacteria which normally provide benefit to the plant and animal kingdoms had had little time to mutate to disease-producing threats.
If the environment included a vapour canopy (suggested by “the waters above the earth”) there would have been few weather excesses such as storms; a consequent high atmospheric pressure would raise the partial pressure of oxygen (and therefore the ease with which cells ‘obtained’ oxygen for energy), and protection from harmful solar radiation - a greenhouse effect.
1Henry M. Morris The Genesis Record Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1976 p 88 Gen 2:10-14
2ibid p 144 Gen 4:13-15
Some social insight is gained from the list of occupations of the descendants of Cain (Genesis 4:20-22): nomadic cattle herders, makers and players of complex string and wind instruments, mining and refining of ores and working of the metals to make brass (?bronze) and iron implements. It can be assumed that in order for these technologies to be understood by others and handed down that written language was already in use (possibly confirmed by Genesis 5:1). It appears to have taken longer after the Flood to redevelop these techniques and technologies than it did to acquire them pre-flood. This is likely to indicate how intelligent the pre-flood humans were. It does not say much for us today in the end times after so many more mutations and effects of our own sin. How proud we are of our puniness!
In spite of their intelligence the descendants of Cain used their technologies for continued rebellion against God (eg building cities3, and pride with warfare Gen 4:23-24).
During the period from Fall to Flood there appears to be no organised system of laws or government to control human behaviour. Although Adam would have instructed his children concerning his own history of the Curse, the promise of a coming redeemer and the intermediate necessity of approaching God with blood sacrifice, there is no designated world human ruler.
Can we assume Adam took on this role for his 930 years? If he did, he was singularly ineffective (Jude 10-11, Gen 6:5), although Lamech’s sin does not appear until about the time of Adam’s death4. After the Flood, God instituted systems of formal government (Genesis 9:6).
Lamech’s bigamy, boasting about his capacity to kill, and all in front of his wives suggests that sexual laxity was well advanced (Genesis 6:1-5, Matt 24:38).
When Genesis 4 gets around to describing the line of Seth ie the line of the promised Seed of the woman, the tone is considerably different for “then began men to call upon the name of the LORD” (vv 25-26) possibly signifying the beginning of public corporate worship and prayer (God not being as personally available as before?? At the gate of the Garden between the cherubim???). Note that, in common with God’s choice down through history, this line does not always pass through the eldest son.
Noah, the last in line of the ten pre-flood patriarchs, is born in 1056 after Creation, only 14 years after the death of Seth (1042), the second in line.
Compare Noah to his contemporaries:
Genesis 4 gives an account of the evil of Lamech in the line of Cain; Genesis 5 gives a brief description of his very different contemporary, Enoch. Talking of the followers of Cain (Jude 11), Enoch thunders out a prophecy of judgment on them for their godlessness (Jude 14-15). The context of Jude is of the final judgment of Christ in the Great White Throne, rather than the Flood; a further revealing of what the Promised Seed of the woman would do.
Enoch may have had the Cainitic Lamech in mind when he prophesied; even if not, the society into which Noah was born some 69 years after the translation of Enoch was more evil than ever, prompting God to destroy. This implies that the Godly line of Seth had not influenced the majority of the world for good. This exact situation applies today, although cleansing is to be by fire rather than water (2 Peter 3:10).
Christ encourages us to remember the corruption present in Noah’s day for the earth’s evil would be the same when He would return (Matthew 24:37-39). It can be assumed that because none apart from the eight were on the Ark, all of Noah’s contemporaries were inherently godless and did not find God’s grace, and that all of the rest of his family, close and extended, his community and all of those who failed to respond to his and Enoch’s (and Methuselah’s?) preaching perished. All had persistently resisted the pleading of God’s Spirit (6:3).
See Appendix 1.
3 A. Butterworth, personal communication Apr 2006
4Henry M. Morris The Genesis Record Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1976 p 152 Gen 5:1-2
Answer what Noah’s relationship was toward his peers, God and the earth:
Noah’s father, the Sethitic Lamech, prophesied that his son would bring the comfort he was seeking, in view of the toil required for the curse on the fruitfulness of the ground. Noah means “rest”, Lamech perhaps hoping that the effects of the curse would be removed. The Flood itself did not do this, but as a progenitor of Christ, Noah fulfilled his place in the succession, and in his obedience to God and built the Ark. This is a type of Christ, in Whom true rest and comfort is found.
Lamech died 5 years before the Flood, and it must be assumed that, as he had ‘sons and daughters’, all Noah’s brothers and sisters perished in the Flood.
During Noah’s preflood lifetime, an event occurred which in context seems to be the last straw for God to determine to destroy the earth. The ‘sons of God’ cohabited with the daughters of men, producing ‘mighty men, which were of old, men of renown’ (Genesis 6:4). This verse does not claim that these progeny were particularly evil, as the Hebrew word used for ‘giants’ (nephilim), ‘mighty men’ (gibbor) or ‘renown’ (shem) do not have this connotation. However, the next verse states that “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth….continually” and in verse 6 “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” A far cry from the image of God in which man had been made and which he should have chosen to continue in.
It has been suggested, among others, that the ‘sons of God’ were fallen angels who somehow acquired the ability to physically cohabit with any human female of their choice, producing a cohort of evil giants. Whatever the difficulties of determining who the ‘sons of God’ were, their presence appears to accelerate the spiral of humanity downwards into such a state of evil that destruction is the only remedy. It could be presupposed that Satan was behind this, although Genesis 6:5,12,13 lay the blame squarely at the feet of men, and God expects to destroy mankind in the flood, not Satan.
The only individual to be singled out of this morass of evil is Noah, on account of his righteousness and upright living (6:9). No one else in Noah’s line is described in this way, implying that the immediately extant line of Seth, and all of Noah’s preflood children were corrupt, ie were not in a state where they were capable of receiving God’s grace (6:3). There was therefore no reason from God’s point of view in allowing mankind to continue to multiply, producing only offspring that would not accept the grace of God eg for salvation.
The corruption needing destruction was a moral and spiritual one confined to mankind. Nevertheless God would include nearly all animal life (including many but not all of aquatic animals) and all plant life in the coming destruction presumably because God had given man dominion over them and was therefore responsible for them - they had to be included because they ‘belonged’ to man, in a similar way to the killing of Achan’s family as a result of his personal sin. God did not remove man’s overall responsibility for He insists on including selected animals (and plants for food) in the cargo of the Ark so that proper dominion could be re-established post Flood.
Discuss how Noah found “grace in the eyes of the LORD”:
As noted above, Noah was the only son of Lamech his father to survive the Flood. This implies that only Noah was selected by God for the privilege of preserving the human race. Why? Wasn’t Lamech in the ‘Godly line’ of Seth and he and his other offspring suitable for this task?
God also chose to preserve only three of Noah’s sons. Why? At least one of them was far from Godly.
God also chose to preserve Noah’s wife and his sons’ wives. Why? Were they particularly Godly? Did He just want additional baby factories or workers for the Ark?
Enoch’s “walk with God” was not the same as Adam’s with God in the garden, but may be similar to Noah ‘s “finding grace” in the eyes of the LORD in that Noah also ‘walked with God’ (6:9). Enoch maintained his relationship to God by faith (Hebrews 11:5) as we should do today (2 Corinthians 5:7, Colossians 2:6) rather than face-to-face daily meetings as with Adam and Eve (which make the relationship with God too ‘easy’). Neither Enoch nor Noah were reclusive in their ‘walk’, for they had fruitful families as well as public ministries. It is prophetically intriguing that Enoch named his son Methuselah (“When he dies, it shall be sent”), who died in the same year as the Flood.
Noah’s personal history is not nearly so detailed as Adam and Eve’s. He did not have a face to face evening meeting with his Creator (although God spoke to him on at least 7 occasions - see below), his faith is not specifically mentioned and his degree of faith has to be inferred from his actions. The Godly line of Seth had remained intact through Noah’s named ancestors, many of whom were still alive as Noah grew up. Why pick Noah? Did Noah deserve God’s grace because he was ‘just and perfect’? No. God does not call the equipped; He equips the called. Trite but a propos in this situation. In terms of faith, Noah stands head and shoulders above Adam (who is not mentioned in the Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11). Noah perhaps had the unfortunate distinction of being born in a time which required a Man to stand up and be counted.
Why did Noah remain upright when everyone and everything around him was in such depravity? He proves after the flood that he can be involved in sin (he must bear some responsibility for the action of Ham/Canaan).
The answer to these questions lies in Genesis 6:9 “These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfecta in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” (Also in 7:1 which speaks of his righteousness).
In my view Noah is a sinner with a closer relationship with God than his peers, to whom God gives grace because he is capable of accepting it. Once received, God’s grace gives Noah the will and power to be obedient to God’s commands without question (Genesis 6:22, 7:5, 7:9, 7:16). Noah goes ahead with building the Ark “being warned of God of things not seen as yet” and for “the saving of his house” (Hebrews 11:7) which expresses Noah’s basis for faith (Hebrews 11:1) and is subsequently told by God what role the ark would play, and how He was going to destroy the earth (Genesis 6:13-14 cf 17-21). It may be going a bit far to call Noah a ‘sinner saved by grace’ in the NT sense; perhaps better to parallel his experience with Abram in that “it was counted to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6 cf 7:1) which ultimately results in the same ‘saved’ situation.
Also in my view, Noah’s ‘walk with God’ was initiated and sustained by God Himself, probably with the purpose of sparing a ‘remnant’ - in this case just one individual - through whom mankind would be rescued. A further purpose was Noah’s opportunity for the preaching of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) with apparently little response (the others on the Ark? He presumably needed substantial help to build the Ark - his sons?). He had to cope with a lot of opposition (1 Peter 3:20).
Explain how he demonstrated his faith:
See above. Hebrews 11:7 “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”
Noah is the only member of the “Hall of Fame” that has his quality of faith expressed at the beginning and the end of his entry.
As mentioned above, he obeyed God’s commands without demur, with success, and in addition condemned the world by his faith expressed in his testimony of life, in building the Ark and in his preaching.
Discuss Noah’s post-flood relationship with God, his family and the earth:
God established a Covenant with Noah before the Flood (6:18) but its details are not specified until afterwards (9:9-17).
It can be reasonably supposed that the seven on the Ark other than Noah were allowed to be there by reason of God’s grace based on Noah’s righteousness, but it was also by their own decision, because they had to voluntarily decide to leave behind everything that was pleasurable but ungodly. I wonder if they had their doubts in the seven days it took to start raining.
The land mass prior to the Flood had a uniform climate which meant that the animal life was uniformly distributed. It is supposed that geographical features would not have separated ‘kinds’ from the location of the Ark, nor prevented easy return when the time came to board. This situation greatly changed during the Flood with major alterations in both climate and geography.
The animals that embarked probably carried the genes necessary to allow further migration when they disembarked. All the characteristics and all the qualities of all the current land animals, insects and birds were contained in the genetic pool carried on the ark.
Once the waters of the deep and those of the ‘waters above the firmament’ had been exhausted on the land mass, the whole was covered to a minimum depth of 15 cubits. Unless a great part of the volume of this water disappeared supernaturally, somewhere else had to be found for it. The greater part of this answer lies in the major rearrangement of the topography of the earth which allowed for seas, lakes, rivers, mountains and continents (Psalm 104:6-9). Some water evaporated which allowed the restructuring of the water cycle through the atmosphere. The loss of the ‘waters above the firmament’ also allowed more extreme weather conditions such as winds, rain and storms.
The waters of judgment and death were also the means of cleansing and deliverance, the earth’s surface being quite desolate for the time it took for plant regrowth and animal repopulation.
Post Flood there was the establishment of sharply defined seasons (Genesis 8:22), the rainbow (2:5, 9:13-14), and enmity between man and beast (9:2). Man’s lifespan went into decline (cf Genesis 5 with 11) largely caused by loss of the benefits of the water canopy, more difficult living conditions due to the changes in environment, loss of protection from solar radiation and the accumulation of mutations in all living things.
If there were upwards of 7 billion people on earth prior to the Flood, why do we not find more pre-diluvian human fossils?
Lack of competition allowed animal kinds to migrate to areas in which they were comfortable, to multiply and fill the earth. The same applied to the humans who are supposed to have used temporary land bridges between the continents (during Ice Ages?) to populate all the different land masses formed under the Flood waters.
When finally able to move out of the Ark, Noah built an altar and sacrificed each member of the additional clean animals brought to him for the ark. This was a sacrifice of thanksgiving for deliverance, and a sacrifice of propitiation, Noah not wanting God to destroy again, possibly being concerned that the changes in the weather patterns might allow this. This was an expression of Noah’s faith in that he had gone to a lot of trouble to preserve these animals for more than a year (371 days), and it was clear that the desolate earth around could do with all the help it could get.
God’s response was most favourable (8:21).
Genesis 9:1-4 describes God’s new ground rules for re-establishing man’s dominion over creation, and 9:5-7 the style of government needed. 9:8-17 gives Noah and his family the assurance that a flood would never again destroy the earth, with the sign of the rainbow - a promise still in effect.
Genesis 9:18-24 describes Noah’s shame in drunkenness and nakedness and the response of his sons to this. Noah prophesies regarding his sons, in part reflecting the sin of Canaan his grandson. In essence, although Ham and his descendants are condemned to be servants of the other two descending lines, the Semites excel in theology, the Japhethites in science and philosophy, and the Hamites in technology5.
Contrast Noah with his contemporaries: see above.
Discuss Noah’s faith in the light of God’s judgment:
There is no record that Noah questioned or complained - he simply obeyed, in the face of a monumental task at the limit of his comprehension, and in the teeth of fierce opposition for about 100 years.
In direction and presumably with encouragement, God spoke to Noah seven times (Genesis 6:13, 7:1, 8:15, 9:1,8,12,17). Most of these occasions were God giving directions for Noah to follow, but the fact that God spoke to him at all, and at the appropriate time, would have provided much assurance.
Noah’s lapse of faith in drunkenness (some decades?) after the judgment of the Flood expresses his humanity and inherent sin nature, but in no way detracts from the faith he demonstrated at the right time in the right place and to the right degree in order to be fully used by God to accomplish His purposes.
From Henry M. Morris The Genesis Record Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1976 p 174-175:
World conditions before the Flood and in our present day:
1. Preoccupation with physical appetites (Luke 17:27)
2. Rapid advances in technology (Genesis 4:22)
3. Grossly materialistic attitudes and interests (Luke 17:28)
4. Uniformitarian philosophies (Hebrews 11:7)
5. Inordinate devotion to pleasure and comfort (Genesis 4:21)
6. No concern for God in either belief or conduct (2 Peter 2:5, Jude 15)
7. Disregard for the sacredness of the marriage relation (Matthew 24:38)
8. Rejection of the inspired word of God (1 Peter 3:19)
9. Population explosion (Genesis 6:1, 11)
10. Widespread violence (Genesis 6:11, 13)
11. Corruption throughout society (Genesis 6:12)
12. Preoccupation with illicit sex activity (Genesis 4:19, 6:2)
13. Widespread words and thoughts of blasphemy (Jude 15)
14. Organised Satanic activity (Genesis 6:1-4)
15. Promulgation of systems and movements of abnormal depravity (Genesis 6:5, 12)
This list was published in 1976.
5 Henry M. Morris The Genesis Record Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1976 p 244
a perfect: or, upright