By Andrew E. Courtis
Things in the world go from bad to worse in Genesis 6. This chapter begins by describing the downward spiral mankind’s sinfulness. God declares a judgment of destruction by means of a de-creation through a flood. In His grace, God renews the earth but the effects of sin and the fall are not eradicated.
THE CORRUPTION (Genesis 6:1-8)
This section begins with the record that people were beginning “to multiply on the face of the Land” (6:1a). Though this was the mandate of God given back in the Garden (cf. Gen. 1:28), this passage goes on to describe the spread of sin and depravity in connection with procreation. This command is perverted and followed by evil outcomes (6:2-4).
The situation is summed up “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5). Human depravity here is described as comprehensive and continual. Such conduct was offensive to the holiness of God, so God declares a judgment of destruction (6:7). This act will bring about a reversal of God’s creative act, but it will not be total. By God’s sovereign grace humanity is not wiped out entirely, and this brings the attention on Noah (6:8).
THE DE-CREATION (Genesis 6:9-8:22)
Noah stands in contrast to the rest of humanity. Because Noah believed God, Noah was a righteous man that walked with God (6:9). God speaks to Noah and tells him about the Divine judgment that is about to fall by means of a worldwide flood (6:13). He commanded Noah to build an Ark and gave a series of specific instructions concerning its size and construction (6:14-16). This will be a very large vessel measuring 140 metres long, 23 metres wide, and 14 metres high.
In addition to the specific plans, God gives Noah a special promise. God tells Noah that he, his wife, sons, and their wives will enter the ark and be delivered from the judgment (6:18). Two of every kind of animal was to go on the ark, along with food supplies (6:20-21). After hearing this, Noah “did all that God commanded him” (6:22; 7:5, 9, 16). The writer to the Hebrews writes, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Heb. 11:7).
When the time of judgment arrived, God told Noah and his family to enter the ark (7:1). The text makes it clear that when they entered, “the LORD shut them in” (7:16). This reveals the sovereign hand of God that is over all the events. By entering into the ark, Noah and his family was removed from God’s judgment on the world, and would then experience deliverance. This clearly provides a picture of a future hope that will come through Jesus Christ. As Thomas Watson said, “As there was but one ark to save the world from drowning, so there is but one Jesus to save sinners from damning”.
The judgment now falls upon all on the face of the earth. The cataclysmic event is described as “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” (7:11). Rain was then pouring down for forty days and forty nights. As the water was pouring in, the ark floated (7:18) and the waters were so deep that they highest of mountains were covered with water reaching seven meters above them (7:20)! Total devastation hits the world. Only Noah and his family were left and the waters remained on the earth for 150 days (7:34-24).
THE RE-CREATION (Genesis 8:1-9:17)
This section, which describes God renewal or re-creation of the earth, repeats a number of images and themes from Genesis 1. God makes the wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided” (8:1) which alludes to Genesis 1:2. God then makes the waters abate, which alludes to Genesis 1:2-5. Birds are seen flying in the skies (8:6-12) which alludes to Genesis 1:20-23. God causes the ground to be dry (8:13-14), which alludes to Genesis 1:9-12. God places the people and animals on dry ground and commands them to be fruitful and multiply (8:15-19), which alludes to Genesis 1:24-27.
The commands and blessings issued by God to Noah in 9:1-7 clearly echo the commands and blessings given to Adam in 1:26-30. However there are noticeable differences. The dominion mankind will now have over animals will have a different dynamic before the fall (9:2-3).
God then establishes a covenant with all living creatures. He promised to never destroy the world again by means of a flood (9:11). God then graciously gives a sign, which will be a reminder of God’s promise. The sign was the rainbow (9:13).
THE CURSE (Genesis 9:18-29)
Though things were made new and there is a great sense of optimism in the text, sin was not removed from the world. Just like Adam, Noah fails miserably and reveals that sin still has its effects. After leaving the ark, Noah planted a vineyard, drank of the wine, got drunk, and was lying naked in his tent (9:20-21). Ham saw this and told his two brothers (9:22). Though the text doesn’t tell us exactly what Ham did, it is clear that he dishonoured God and dishonoured his father. Shem and Japheth discretely enter the tent and cover their father (9:23). When Noah awakes and discovers what had happened to him, he curses his Ham’s descendants and blesses the descendants of Shem and Japheth (9:25-27). As the narrative unfolds, attention will be on the line of Shem. From him will come Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and eventually the promised Messiah who will crush the serpent (cf. Gen. 3:15).
The flood narrative reveals the devastating results of sin. It provides insight into the character of God in that He hates sin and must punish it. It also reveals that He is gracious and provides a way of salvation. Though this passage gives a glimmer of hope with Noah and his family leaving the ark and entering into a re-created world, things go bad quickly. But hope is still present when a blessing is issued to Shem and as the reader continues to follow the narrative.
The New Testament picks up the themes of the flood narrative and from those references we are provided with a number of warnings concerning the coming judgment of God accompanying the return of Christ (Matt. 24:37-38; Luke 17:26-27; 2 Pet. 2:5).