Corruption and Construction; Gen. 6:9-22
Last time we did an overview of this section; now we get into the details. The last verses in the previous section was "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD." The word that is translated "favor" is the Hebrew word chen, and that is the word for grace. It is a Hebrew idiom that so-and-so found favor in someone's eyes. It indicates that they are the recipient of that individual's grace or kindness, and chen is one of several words used to indicate the idea of grace in the Old Testament. The contrast is that in Genesis 6:1-7 we have a picture of God's disfavor with mankind as a whole because of the demonic infiltration to destroy the genetic purity of the human race, in order to prevent God from completing His plan of salvation and sending a savior, the Messiah, through the seed of the woman. It was an attempt by Satan and the fallen angels to destroy the seed of the woman and make it impossible to have truly human savior or Messiah. So the statement on Genesis 6:8 is really a statement of contrast—with all the rest that has gone on, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord."
We are reminded in 2 Peter 2:5 that Noah was not only a believer but he was an advancing believer. He was a "preacher of righteousness," and this is an important concept because even the New Testament emphasizes this fact of righteousness in association with Noah. Whenever we run into this concept of righteousness in the Bible we have to ask an important question. Is this talking about positional righteousness or experiential righteousness? Is this talking about that which is imputed to man on the basis of Christ's work on the cross, or is this talking about the practical righteousness and behavior that is found in an individual as a result of their learning the Word, trusting God, applying it in their lives, and growing to spiritual maturity? As we get into these verses of Genesis 7:9-12 we will see that the emphasis here is on Noah and his positional righteousness, not that he does not have experiential righteousness or capacity righteousness, but the emphasis is not on him in terms of his spiritual maturity but in terms of his reception of imputed righteousness. He is a "preacher of righteousness" which means he is proclaiming the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This is the most important thing for us to understand with relation to salvation, i.e. we are not saved, we do not receive God's blessing because of anything that we do. Even after we are saved we are never blessed by God because of what we do. That would be works salvation, works growth. We receive blessing from God because of the imputation of Christ's righteousness.
The unbeliever is minus righteousness We know that all of our righteousness is as filthy rags, and at the point of faith alone in Christ alone when we trust Jesus Christ as our savior His perfect righteousness, divine righteousness, is imputed or credited to our account so that God never looks on our sin, he looks at us in terms of that perfect righteousness. The righteousness of God is His absolute standard and the justice of God is the application of that standard. So when the righteousness of God looks down and sees the His own righteousness that has been imputed to us then the justice of God is free to bless us either in salvation or in post-salvation blessing. This is what is happening in the life of Noah. Because he possesses the imputation of righteousness God is blessing him, and he and his family are the only ones who have that. They are the only one who are going to survive the flood.
Verse 9, "These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just [righteous] man and perfect [blameless] in his time, and Noah walked with God." We have really two ideas here. The first is the idea of Noah's positional righteousness and the second is the idea of his experiential righteousness. The one thing that causes Noah and his family to stand out isn't simply his possession of righteousness. There were a number of other believers who were alive. What makes Noah and family stand out and the reason he is saved is because not only are they believers but there is no genetic corruption in that line from the infiltration of the "sons of God," the demons of Genesis 6:3. "Noah was a righteous man." This is the Hebrew word tsadiq, the standard word for righteousness. It means to be righteous, the meet the standard of God's character. It is applied both to God and to man. When we look at the adjective tsadiq or the noun form, they are used only a few times, the adjective a couple of times in Genesis in relationship to Noah, and then the next time we run into the noun it is in reference to Abraham in Genesis 15:6, "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." It is not always true, but most often it is, that if we want to understand how a word is used in the Old Testament then we look at how it is used the first three or four times in the Bible. This usually sets the parameters of its meaning.
Genesis 15:6 is the standard verse for Abraham's statement of his salvation. Abraham is already saved at the point of Genesis 15 and has already received righteousness at this point, he is not an unbeliever. He believed Yahweh in reference to this passage, to this promise right here that his descendants would be like the stars of the heavens. Or, is it better to understand verse 6 as a parenthetical reminder that Abraham had already believed in the Lord, then we would have a perfect tense sense of the word. But the verb here for Abraham believed the Lord is in the Hebrew perfect tense. The Hebrew only has two tenses: a perfect tense and an imperfect tense. When we think of tense in English we think of time because that is integral to the English concept of tense, but in many languages time isn't even a factor with tense, it is what grammarians call aspect: whether it is completed action or incomplete [ongoing] action. These can be past, present or future depending on the context. Many times the Hebrew perfect tense emphasizes completed action in the future. It is called a prophetic perfect, it is talking about an event that is going to happen in the future as though it is already complete. But there is also the use of the Hebrew perfect tense as something that has already happened in the past, and that is what we have here in Genesis 15:6. We should translate it, "And Abraham had already believed in Yahweh and it had been accounted to him for righteousness." It is a reminder that at some point in the past Abraham had trusted God and received the imputation of righteousness, and because he had this righteousness God was blessing him now with the promises and blessings of the Abrahamic covenant. So the emphasis here is on positional righteousness, not experiential righteousness.
We see the use of the term "righteous" again used several times in Genesis 18 where there is a contrast between the righteous and the wicked—18:23, God has warned Abraham that He is going to bring punishment on Sodom because of their sinfulness: "And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?" Lot is not living a righteous life but Lot is a believer and is therefore positionally righteous. Reading down through the rest of the chapter there is this contrast two or three times where the word "righteous" is used and it is a contrast with the wicked. There it becomes a synonym for those who are saved. So "righteous" there is that which is received at the point of salvation. The imputation is emphasized in two other passages in the New Testament. The first is in Romans 4:1-5, "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
One other New Testament passage relating to Noah is 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 kind of righteousness are we talking about here? This is positional righteousness, justification righteousness, righteousness at salvation. So when we come to our passage in Genesis 6:9 which states that Noah was a righteous man we must understand this in terms of positional righteousness at salvation, that he had responded to the grace of God, and understood the gospel, that God would provide salvation through a future Messiah, the seed of the woman, and his faith alone was in Christ alone.
In Genesis 6:9 the phrase "blameless in his time" is again a word that emphasizes his positional righteousness, the Hebrew word tamim. It means to be complete, to be whole, to be blameless. It is a word that would mean free of blemish if used of a sacrificial animal. This it emphasizes integrity, something that has righteousness. It is used of God as perfect in Deuteronomy 32:4. Then we have the fact that not only is he positionally righteous but he is experientially righteous: "Noah walked with God," just as Enoch walked with God. This is an expression of his spiritual life. This is what the writer of Hebrews talks about: it is by faith that Noah conducted his life; he did what God told him to do.
Verse 10, Noah became the father of three sons: "And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth." He fathers these three sons after the warning of the flood. These sons are all born after he is 500 years of age, in that last 100 years, and these sons are going to be the three sons that will help him construct the ark and the three sons what will survive into the postdiluvian world.
Verses 11 & 12 give a description of the extent of the problem on the earth. "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." There is the standard. It is not corrupt in the sight of Noah or other people, it is corrupt in the sight of God. God has a righteous standard and that is then standard by which everything is to be evaluated. If you don't have an external righteous standard then you really don't have a standard at all. We are told here that the earth was corrupt, and the verb that is translated "corrupt" is the Hebrew verb shachath in the niphal stem, which is the passive voice of the qal. That is important here because in a passive construction the subject of the verb receives the action of the verb. The earth didn't corrupt itself, the earth received the action of corruption. Once again, man is causing ecological disaster because of his sin. The sinfulness of man reeks havoc on the earth. The earth here refers to those who were on the earth. The earth "was filled," and here again is the niphal which is the passive idea; "with violence," and here is a word that ought to resonate with us a little bit—chamas. That is where the terrorist group Hamas gets its name. It means that which is ruined, spoiled, destroyed. It has the idea of violence and destruction. It is the cognate to the modern word used for the terrorist organization. Mankind has "corrupted their way," emphasis on volitional responsibility. So now God has to do something to cleanse and purify the earth.
Verse 13, God gives grace to Noah. "And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth." It is a picture of an extremely violent, self-centered, destructive society.
Verse 14, the redemption solution is given in the form of an ark. "Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch." At this point we have to begin to look at the details of the ark itself and its construction. It was more like a barge, was rectangular, rode low in the water, and it was extremely stable. The word for ark is the Hebrew word tebah. It is only used of Noah's boat and the basket that Moses was placed in when he floated on the Nile. So it is not a box like the ark of the covenant, it is a word for a floating vessel, a word that is describing something designed to float on the water. So Noah is to make himself a huge floating vessel. One of the criticisms of this that is heard is that no one in the ancient world ever made boats this large. But that is not true. They don't find the evidence for it because they don't want to admit the evidence is there. There is evidence if you go back far enough that there were civilizations that built extremely large boats but they lost the technology over time. What we discover here is that the antediluvian people had a tremendous technology and construction skills, and these were lost in the postdiluvian environment. We don't know what gopher wood. It was apparently a very dense wood, a wood that would float and not be prone to any kind of corruption and that it would last a year. It was apparently a particular kind of wood that was fitted for the task. The word "rooms" is from the Hebrew word qen, and it literally means nests. Each animal had designated areas where they had nests or enclosures designed for each particular kind of animal. And the ark was to be covered inside and out with pitch. Some critics have said that according to the creationist viewpoint you don't have oil formed until after the flood, but this word isn't really pitch in terms of an oil-based or tar-based pitch. The Hebrew construction here is "You shall cover the ark," and this is the Hebrew verb kaphar which is the word that is often translated "atonement"; "inside and out with kopher," which is obviously a cognate of kaphar, and it has to do with some kind of water proofing. We don't know what it is.
Verse 15, details of the construction. "And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits." One of the questions that come along here is just how long a cubit is. The Babylonians had a royal cubit of about 19.8 inches. The Egyptians had a long cubit of a little more than 20.5 inches, and a shorter cubit of 17.5 inches. The Hebrews also had a long cubit that was 20.4 inches, and they had a common cubit of 17.5 inches. Most writers believe that the cubit here was approximately 18 inches in length. It could have been a little longer but we will operate on the conservative assumption, taking the shortest one, that this is a cubit of 17.5 inches. That tells us that the ark would have been 438 feet long, 72.9 feet wide, so it would be about 6 times longer than it was wide. It was 43.8 feet high.
Verse 16, "A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it." The ark had a ventilation system. There was a window, and most people picture this as some sort of window or vent or opening that was covered and that extended the entire length of the ark from front to rear.
Verse 17, "And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die." Everything that is on the earth shall perish, so this is not some limited, local flood.
Verse 18, the first use of the word berith, the word "covenant." This is the first use of "covenant" but not the first covenant. There was an initial creation covenant between God and Adam in Genesis 1:26-28, a revision of that covenant in Genesis 3:14ff, and here God is establishing another covenant with Noah. So the idea of a covenant isn't new but this is the first use of the word berith. "But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee."
Verse 20, "Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive." God will bring the animals. People ask how they got there from all over the earth. But we don't know what the animal distribution was at that time, and there probably wasn't even a division of the continents at that time. Continental drift was probably the result of the geologic upheaval of the flood, and so the animals could all come. And remember it is every kind, not every species.
Verse 22, "Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he."
It is interesting that the flood is always used as an analogy to the coming judgment of the Tribulation and the coming of Jesus Christ at the second coming. In almost every New Testament passage that references the ark and the Noahic flood is used to teach something about the second coming of Christ and the judgment during the Tribulation period.