There is so much going on in the Great Flood in Genesis 6-9. Most of us grew up hearing it told as a story. Many of us preachers have focused on themes, such as, Noah building the ark according to exact measurements and how we are to follow God down to the inch. Not that our Creator doesn’t demand obedience, but the writer is straining to show us something more. This account is supposed to take our minds back to creation (Gen. 1), but in reverse.
- Out of the chaotic watery depths the Creator brought forth dry land (1:9-10) and separated the waters of the heavens and the earth (1:6-8). The Flood unleashed the waters of the deep and the floodgates of the sky (7:11-12) in order to bring the earth back to its watery chaotic state (7:17-20).
- The good earth God created, with its vegetation, plants, fruit trees and animals (1:11-12, 21-25) was destroyed as the chaotic waters rose (7:21-24).
Why the reverse? It goes back to the Garden of Eden and humans eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil (3:6). They became like God, knowing good and evil (3:22) and were cast out. By Genesis 6, humans stopped trusting in God completely, with the exception of one. They no longer trusted the Creator for good and chose what was evil all the time (6:5). God was grieved in His heart (6:6).
Stop for a moment and ponder this thought. So many want to make the Flood about a God who destroys. God grieves over human sin. The Creator doesn’t delight in judgment of His good creation and good earth. This will not relieve God’s sorrow.
We are first introduced to Noah in Genesis 5:29. He is given a Hebrew name that sounds like the phrase “bring us relief.” He is the one who will bring comfort, not only to humankind, but also God. Through Noah the seed of Eve will continue that will ultimately crush the head of the snake (3:15) and redeem humankind.
Genesis 6:8, Noah, however, found favor in the sight of the LORD.
The author uses a play on words. Noah (וח) is a reversal of the Hebrew word for favor (חו). He was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries and walked with God (6:9). We are meant to focus on Noah, one who would be saved, rather than those who will be lost. Repeated words are used to draw our attention – he did everything that God had commanded him (6:22; 7:5, 9, 16). Noah trusted God and obeyed.
When the Flood recedes, we discover a new creation. We are taken back again to Genesis 1.
- Genesis 8:17, “Bring out all the living creatures that are with you – birds, livestock, those that crawl on the ground – and they will spread over the earth and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” (compare to Genesis 1:20-25)
- Genesis 9:1, God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (compare to Genesis 1:28a)
- Genesis 9:2-3, “The fear and terror of you will be in every living creature on the earth, every bird of the sky, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are placed under your authority.” (compare to Genesis 1:28b)
- Genesis 9:6, Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man, for God made man in His image. (compare to Genesis 1:26)
Unfortunately, we find out human beings are still fallen. We are led back to Genesis 3.
- God planted (ויטע) a garden (2:8) in creation and here Noah is planting (ויטע) an orchard (9:20) in this new creation.
- Adam and Eve ate of forbidden fruit, became naked (עירס) and ashamed (3:6-7), so Noah used the fruit of the orchard to become drunk, become naked (עןרה) and ashamed (9:21).
- Shem and Japheth covered their fathers nakedness with a cloak (9:23) and God made coats of skin to covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve (3:21).
Even after a complete reset, human beings are still not satisfied with the good gifts of the Creator. But we do find hope. God made a covenant with Noah to never destroy the earth by a flood. As a sign a rainbow was placed in the clouds (9:12-17). (There are many similarities of this covenant and God calling Abraham Gen. 12:1-7). God’s covenant represented a new act of God. Noah shows us, even a man who found favor in the sight of God, will eventually fall short of God’s glory. We cannot do it of our own. Humans need a new heart – one that will follow God. Years after Noah, we find this prophecy:
Ezekiel 36:26-28, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances. Then you will live in the land that I gave your fathers; you will be My people, and I will be your God.”
On that day, the Spirit of God will come to reside within those who turn to God. Like the covenant God made with Noah, so God made a new covenant to bless all the nations of the earth (Jer. 31:31-34). A Messiah would rise up from among Israel and establish this new covenant with His own blood (Lk. 22:20). The Spirit would come (Acts 2) to give us a new heart. Paul uses language from the Flood narrative to describe this transformation:
II Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
We still anticipate the new heavens and the new earth, as its final installment and return to Garden (Gen. 21-22). But we, like Noah, are saved through the symbol of water (I Pet. 3:20-21) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Until then, we are to walk with God as new creations of a coming world.
*All Scripture quotations come from The Holman Christian Bible.
*Resources for this blog: John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative.