The Flood, Grace, Judgment, Salvation
Genesis Lesson #041
February 4, 2004
Genesis 6:9 through 9:29 is the next toledot. In this series we are looking at things in two or three different ways. One way is by looking at the basics structure of Genesis in terms of the ten toledot sections. The word toledot is a Hebrew word from the root yalad, meaning to give birth. So it has the idea of generation or record and it is used as a structural marker in the book of Genesis in order to mark out different sections over the history of the book. The beginning of each toledot section could generally be paraphrased, "This is what happened to the descendants of …"
The first section of Genesis is the creation narrative in 1:1 to 2:3. The second section or the first toledot is 2:4 to 4:26, consisting of 72 verses. This is the period that covers the creation of man and the woman, the institutions of volition and marriage, as well as the fall, the curse, and the first murder. That whole section is covered in only 72 verses. The second toledot begins in 5:1 and extends down through 6:8, and this covers 40 verses. The vast majority of that is the genealogy of the descendants of Adam through Seth. We are in the third toledot, the records of the descendants of Noah, 6:9 to 9:29, which covers the flood episode. In the first eleven chapters of Genesis, which is really the introduction to the book—the book itself focuses on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—this is the longest section, 89 verses devoted to Noah. That means that in terms of proportion this is not just some secondary story that just got inserted into the text. Under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit the writer is emphasizing what took place in Noah's life. This will be emphasized when we come later on to look at how this is used in 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." What we see in Hebrews 11 is the spiritual/doctrinal application for the believer in the Church Age. This does not in any way take away from the historicity of Noah, but says that Noah is clearly an example, that it is by means of doctrine (what he believed), because of his trust in God's revelation, he became a picture of salvation and deliverance. This is an important, critical episode in the Old Testament and cannot be skipped over. The fourth toledot comes up in 10:1 and goes down through 11:9, "This is what happened to the generations of Shem, Ham and Japheth." That is also known as the table of nations. The fifth toledot gives the descent of Shem, 11:10-11:26, and that ends the introduction. Chapters 1:1 to 11:26 forms the first section of this book, the introduction.
Then we get into the major part of the book, and the first toledot is the toledot of Terah, Abraham's father, and that is 11:27 to 25:11. That covers 377 verses, and so it can be seen that at this point the emphasis shifts. Everything up to that point is under 100 verses and now it jumps to 377. The seventh toledot is that of Ishmael, 25:12-18, so the descent of Ishmael is relatively insignificant by comparison. Then eighth toledot of Isaac is 25:19 to 35:29, 354 verses. The ninth toledot is that of Esau, 36:1 to 37:1, 43 verses. The final toledot is that of Jacob, which includes the 12 sons, especially Joseph, and that is covered 37:2 to 50:26, 414 verses.
If we just look at proportionality, we see that in the first section Noah gets the largest chunk of verses, and in the second section which deals with the patriarchs of Israel it is the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that have the lion's share of the verses. So this tells us that Noah is not to be taken lightly. This is a very important section in the book of Genesis.
One of the ways that we look at the structure here is to see that the author puts it together in a literary form known as a chiasm. This is a way of structuring material so that what comes in the middle of the chiasm is emphasized. So here we are just going to get a brief outline and structure of Genesis 6:9-9:29. The main idea is the contrast between Noah's righteousness and its consequences and the world's corruption and its consequences. We see that volition has consequences. You make good decisions from a position of strength, trust in God, and there is blessing. If you make wrong decisions on the basis of negative volition and the result is cursing. That is the theme in Genesis: blessing and cursing.
The first part, 6:11-13, is God resolves to destroy the corrupt race. The emphasis is on the corruption of the human race. The Hebrew word for corruption there is used three times in that section. In the next section Noah builds an ark according to God's specifications, 6:14-22. In the third paragraph the Lord commands the remnant—Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives, to enter the ark along with the animals—in 7:1-9. The fourth paragraph, 7:10-16, is the beginning of the flood, and in the fifth paragraph the flood prevails for 150 days and the mountains are covered by the waters, 7:17-24. Then we come to the center point: God remembers Noah in 8:1.
In 8:1b-5 we see the recession of the flood for 150 days and the mountains become visible, so we back out of this flood now, and from 8:1b there is a mirror reflection of what goes before. So you can't come along and say this was cobbled together from two or three different sources. This shows that there is an integral unity in the text demonstrating that there was one author who put this together and it is a masterful literary construction. In 8:6-14 the earth dries out, and that mirrors 7:10-16 where the flood begins. Then God commands the remnant to leave the ark, 8:15-19, and this parallels 7:1-9 when God commanded the remnant to enter the ark. Next, Noah builds an altar according to God's specifications, 8:20, and this is parallel to Noah building an ark according to God's specifications. Then the final paragraph in 8:21, 22, the Lord resolves to not destroy mankind by water, and that parallels 6:11-13 where God resolves to destroy the corrupt race. The focal point of the Narrative is 8:1, God remembers Noah. That is what the author is drawing our attention to. Remember in Hebrew narrative God is always the hero. We tend to look at it in terms of individual human heroes, but in Hebrew narrative God is always the hero, not the individual human.
The key idea of this section is God's grace which precedes judgment, His judgment on mankind, and His salvation or deliverance by grace. So the flood episode teaches grace, judgment, and salvation. Those are the doctrinal emphases in this section.
The first thing to point out in the introduction to the toledot is the principle of grace before judgment.
1) Before every divine judgment throughout human history God always gives mankind a period of grace in which to be saved. He does it in terms of nations, He does it in terms of individuals, He does it in our own personal spiritual lives. Before He lowers the boom in divine discipline He will precede that with grace to give us an opportunity to rebound, to confess our sins, to start getting back in fellowship ands walking by the Holy Spirit. At this particular time there was a 120-year period time of intense evangelism before the judgment of the flood. Actually, what happens throughout history is that God gives grace and man rejects it.
2) There never has been a time in history when mankind did not have the opportunity to believe in Christ. Whatever the dispensation was, if it was the antediluvian civilization there was a period of time there for them to respond to the gospel as it was in that dispensation. Remember, in the Old Testament period the gospel always anticipated deliverance, it looked forward to the promised seed of the woman, and that was the focal point of salvation. Just because we don't know how the gospel got around, just because we don't have historical records, doesn't mean the gospel did not make its way to many different nations. In fact, from the little bit of evidence that we do have in the New Testament era we know that the gospel has made it to a lot of places.
3) God's grace before judgment prior to the fall. God granted the human race 120 years of warning, according to Genesis 6:3—120 years of hearing Noah proclaim the gospel. And remember, Methuselah doesn't die until just before the flood. So there were others in that line who were believers who were also proclaiming the gospel. Noah was not the only one, but all of the others were older and they would have died physically prior to the flood. And as Hebrews 11:7 points out, not only proclaimed the gospel verbally but the fact that he and his sons were building the ark was a visual statement of condemnation on that antediluvian civilization.
4) In the Old Testament the prophets warned the Jews about the approaching judgments of 722 B.C. when the Assyrians took out the northern kingdom of Israel, and they warned the southern kingdom about the judgment of Babylon coming in 586 B.C. In fact, 100 years earlier Isaiah was prophesying about the approaching of the Babylonian defeat.
5) Jesus warned the Jews in Matthew 24 about the coming judgment for rejecting Him as Messiah. They were warned about the Roman armies coming and destroying Jerusalem.
6) Every person has adequate testimony to the existence of God prior to death. Romans 1:20 says: "So that they are without excuse." That tells us that every human being has common grace that presents clear evidence that God exists. His invisible attributes are made clear in the heavens, but man rejects that and suppresses the truth by means of unrighteousness.
7) In the Tribulation period the gospel will be proclaimed as never before in human history and there will be numerous warnings, grace even in the judgments.
One of the biggest problems that we have today is a challenge to the historicity of Noah. People today want to think of this as just another myth, and ancient legend. Yet, if we look at the Bible what we will see is that throughout the Old Testament and New Testament there is clear affirmation of the historical existence of Noah and the judgment of the flood. Isaiah 54:9, "For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee." God is giving a historical warning to Israel in Isaiah 54 and He is drawing an analogy to the judgment at the time of Noah. If Noah was not a historical incident then that would invalidate the analogy. Secondly, in God's statement He is indicating that the flood was global, not some local flood that occurred down the Tigris-Euphrates drainage basin, neither was it a local flood that occurred when the Black Sea overflowed, a recent theory which has been set forth by a number of archaeologists. If you take the position that it was a local flood then eventually your whole system is going to collapse into some sort of accommodation with evolution. This must be taken as universal, otherwise you are destroying the historicity of the text and it affects numerous other doctrines.
Ezekiel 14:14, 20 also emphasize the historicity of Noah. "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD" . . . . "Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness." These two passages treat Noah as a historical individual.
Then we get into the New Testament. Jesus compared the second coming and the characteristics of the earth's civilizations at the time of the second coming to the way it was at the time of Noah, Matthew 24:37, "But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." Once again, if Noah isn't a historically accurate figure then this becomes a meaningless statement. Luke 3:36, "Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noah, which was the son of Lamech." Noah is located in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke 17:26, a parallel passage to Matthew 24:27, "And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all." 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." The writer of Hebrews treats Noah as a historical individual and the flood as a historical event. Peter has two verses: 1 Peter 3:20, "Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." At that point Peter is making a doctrinal application based on the historical veracity of the existence of Noah. 2 Peter 2:5, "And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly."
We can see from these events that the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments are grounded on certain historical events having taken place literally and actually. What we realize is that this runs counter to the assumptions of modern religious liberalism. For the last 300 years since the Enlightenment the first eleven chapters of Genesis have been under assault for their historical veracity. The idea of modern man is that you can have religious truth that is divorced from history. The Bible doesn't need to be inerrant, they say, in fact there's all kinds of historical, cultural and scientific errors but that doesn't affect the truth, the spiritual truths that are there. And that is just garbage! The Bible, more than any other philosophy or religious system in the history of the world, has such a tight connection between the doctrines of its beliefs/the Scripture and the historical foundation, that if you destroy the historical validity of these doctrines the doctrines themselves are destroyed. You can't have the doctrines without their historical situation. You can't separate the doctrines of the Bible from the history of the Bible. This means you can't have a biblical faith without having a historically, scientifically, biologically and philosophically inerrant Bible. You cannot have biblical faith without believing in biblical inerrancy. There has to be historical integrity. Everything in the Old Testament is based upon certain things having happened in the history of Israel, and the history of the world prior to the call of Abraham, and the same thing is true of the New Testament. In fact, Paul makes a point that if the resurrection didn't take place as it is described in the Gospels—a physical, bodily, historical resurrection of Christ—then we are the most deceived of all people, and there is no Christianity without the resurrection, there is no Christianity if the Bible is not historically accurate. That is why it is so important to go into all of these historical issues and to show why the Bible is valid, why these assaults are not true. We live in an era when the Bible is constantly under attack by people who say that these things just aren't true.
What we have to realize is that underneath all of this is the importance of the creator-creature distinction, and that really comes to play in the Noah narrative, because it is here that we see that God has the right to dictate terms to His creatures. He has the right to hold us accountable to behavioral standards. He will hold us accountable. Here we see that sin is abnormal and destructive and that the creature will eventually be judged, that God is a God who interferes in human history, and man, the rebellious creature, doesn't want a God who is going to interfere in his life. The last thing that he wants is a God that is going to judge him on the basis of our behavior, the basis of positive or negative volition. That is because man ever since the fall wants to absolve himself from any accountability. On the other side here, we see the biblical view of salvation emphasized, that God as the creator does interfere in human history, but He interferes first of all with grace, He provides a solution to the problem, and He provides salvation. That is always the issue. God's grace precedes judgment and He always gives mankind enough of an opportunity to respond.
The big issue that comes along here as we look at this whole narrative on the flood is the question: Is this a local flood or is this a universal flood? One of the things we should always listen for is how somebody interprets the flood. Once you start compromising with evolution at one point you will end up compromising at many points. It basically boils down to problems of interpretation, problems of hermeneutics—people just don't want to take the Bible literally because it runs against some presupposition, some assumption that they have that science has given them accurate information about the age of the earth and the age of the universe. So our question will be approached from three different lines of evidence.
These are: Questions about the text itself; to look at particular words that are used in the text; the offer of three different arguments that are based on other grounds other than the specific words of the text.
1) The text itself. If the flood was local, why didn't Noah have to build an ark in the first place? Modern man did not build a ship equivalent to the size of the ark until 1856. It was a huge ship and it had more than enough room for the animals and the humans on board. So if the flood was local he had 120 years to walk to the other side of the mountains and missed the flood altogether.
2) If the flood was local, why did God send the animals to the ark so they would escape death. There would have been other animals to reproduce that particular kind of those who were the ones that died. They could have migrated another 100 miles and they would have been out of danger.
3) If the flood was local, why was the ark big enough to hold all the kinds of land vertebrate animals that have ever existed. If only the local Mesopotamian animals were threatened the ark could have been much smaller.
4) If the flood was local, why would birds have been sent on board. They could have flown across to a nearby mountain range.
5) If the flood was local, how could the waters rise to a height of fifteen cubits (21-22 feet) about the mountains—Genesis 7:20. We have to remember that water seeks its own level and couldn't rise to cover the local mountains and leave the rest of the world untouched.
6) If the flood was local, it would not have solved the problem of the corruption of the human race world-wide.
7) If the flood was local, people who did not happen to be living in the vicinity would not be affected by it. "As it was in the days of Noah." If the flood was local then by analogy that would mean the Tribulation would also be partial. If the flood is reduced to a local situation it has implications for how we understand the Tribulation.
8) If the flood was local, God would have repeatedly broken His promise to never flood the entire earth again. To be consistent with that it must be a universal flood.
Particular words that are in the text. Genesis 6:11 says the earth was filled with violence—not just part of the earth nut all the earth, it is a universal problem. Genesis 6:12, all flesh was corrupted, not just those is a specific locale. Genesis 6:13, the end of all flesh. Genesis 6:17, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, everything that is on the earth shall perish. Genesis 6:19, of every living thing, of all flesh. This isn't limited local terminology; it is universal terminology. Genesis 6:20, every creeping thing, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. Genesis 7:2, every clean animal by sevens. Genesis 7:4, every living thing that I have made. Genesis 7:8, everything that creeps on the ground. Genesis 7:11, all the fountains of the deep were opened, not just those in the area. Genesis 7:14, every beast, all the cattle, every creeping thing and every bird. So again and again and again the verbiage that is used emphasizes a universal flood.
But, the critics say, all doesn't mean all, every doesn't mean every. For example, "All the men of Judea went out to hear John the Baptist." Does that mean all went out to hear him? Probably not, it is just the way we talk sometimes, but for the sake of argument let's give them the benefit of the doubt this time. Let's see if we can demonstrate a universal flood from other lines of reason. Genesis 7:19-20, "And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered." When we look at this the text says that the water was fifteen cubits higher than the mountains. If we look at the evidences explained in Genesis 7:11ff the ark lasted one year, from the time they went on the ark to the time the waters dried up. When we put together the depth of the water and the time it was that high it can only be concluded that this could not have been a local flood, it would have to be a global flood based on the evidence of the time and the depth. Furthermore, a second argument that could be used. When looking at the ark's distinctive size, design and purpose, it doesn't make sense that there was a vessel of that size, that would take that long to construct, to have a local flood.
2 Peter 3:4-6, "And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." Here Peter is characterizing the taunts of the skeptics at the end times. This is a perfect characterization of the uniformitarian doctrine of geology, that all things follow the same process of deterioration to day as they did a thousand, two thousand, one-hundred thousand years ago. "For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished." Here we see the same word pairing that we see in Genesis 1:1, and the heavens and the earth is equivalent to the universe. Then there is a reference to Noah's flood. In contrast, verse 7, "But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." So here in vv. 4-7 Peter makes it clear that the judgment that is coming is analogous to the water judgment that destroyed the antediluvian world, and he is clearly interpreting the events of Genesis 6-8 as a cosmic cataclysm, not just some small local flood.
In conclusion we need to ask why there was a flood at all. First of all we have to recognize that sin doesn't just affect us in a sort of spiritual way. We have fallen prey to too much Greek thought, Greek philosophy that wants to separate the spiritual from the material. So we think that when we sin it just affects the spiritual realm. Sin affects nature. You can't separate these two is if they are not interrelated and interconnected. Thus, just as sin brings divine judgment on nature and changes nature we also see throughout Scripture that nature is part of the way that God judges mankind, and nature itself is affected. For example, nature is part of the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah and nature is affected by Sodom and Gomorrah. The reason the Dead Sea is the Dead Sea and the reason for that bleak landscape around the Dead Sea is because of the judgment of fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. Then we see nature as part of the judgment on the Egyptians in the Exodus event, that nature brings this judgment on the Egyptians but also affected are animals that die as a result of that judgment. Nature is also included at the time that Christ was judged for our sins—an earthquake in Jerusalem and darkness on the earth. Then in the Tribulation we will see that nature is included in the judgments—the sun and moon are darkened, the oceans are turned to blood, water turns bitter, etc. Romans 8 makes it clear that there is a connection between the creation and God's judgment, vv. 19ff. "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now."
Why a flood:
1) There is a connection between man's sin and its effect on nature. God uses nature to judge mankind.
2) It is a graphic visual aid of the necessity of cleansing and purification, just as there is a need for cleansing and purification at salvation. God had to cleanse and purify the world of its corruption.
3) Because of the invasion of the sons of God there is a need to start everything over.