The Noahic Covenant; Gen. 6:18; 8:1, 20-9:17
There are four principles we should note about what we have studied so far.
1) God provided a way of salvation prior to judgment. He announces the judgment but He also provides a way of salvation. This counters all the arguments from unbelievers that God is just too harsh. God provides a perfect way of salvation that deals with all the problems and if it is rejected then there will be judgment.
2) God's salvation is determined by Him alone. Man doesn't decide what the basis of salvation is. God is exclusive in the way He deals with salvation, there is only one way of salvation. There is only one ark; there is only one door on the ark; and there is only one way of eternal salvation and that is through Jesus Christ who said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
3) God is capable of delivering us in any set of circumstances. There is no set of circumstances in one's life that is more powerful than the grace of God.
4) The issue in the post-salvation life is to apply the doctrine we know to advance in the Christian life. In the Old Testament the spiritual life operated on the basis of the faith-rest drill, applying the promises and principles of the Old Testament to the spiritual life. But in the Church Age there is the additional dynamic of living under the filling of the Holy Spirit, that our spiritual growth is based on the ability to apply doctrine while we are walking in the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who produces spiritual growth, and as we persevere in the midst of testing then God the Holy Spirit uses that doctrine that we are applying to develop spiritual growth and spiritual maturity.
Genesis 8:1, "And God remembered Noah…" The word for remember is the Hebrew word zakar, and this is a word that is used specifically in covenant context. This is a covenant context as introduced in Genesis 6:18 where God said, "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." This word zakar in some cases has the idea of recall, bringing something to mind again. But here it is used in the sense of a figure of speech, when it is applied to God. It is language that is used in a covenant context to emphasize God's application of the covenant provisions. This is what is called an anthropopathism where we attribute to God aspects of human emotion or action which He does not actually possess in order to communicate God's plan, purposes and policies in terms of a human frame of reference. God neither learns nor forgets. God knows all the knowable; for all eternity He has known all the knowable. He doesn't forget anything and He doesn't learn anything; His knowledge neither increases nor diminishes. So it can't be that zakar has a literal meaning. When it says that God remembered Noah this is simply to indicate God's application of His previous covenant promises to mankind. There are similar uses of this phrase "remembrance" in passages such as Exodus 2:24; Numbers 10:5 when God remembers Israel in the midst of some crisis.
Genesis 8:19, "Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, according to their families, went forth out of the ark." Some English translations may have "kind" instead of "family" but the word translated "kind," indicating the different categories of animal life in Genesis chapter one, was the Hebrew word min. Here we have a different Hebrew word altogether. This is the word mishpachah, and this refers to a family, a clan, or an extended family. This is going to be a key word when we get into the table of nations in Genesis chapters 10 and 11 which describe the descendants of Noah's sons. So the shift in words tells us that from the ark descended all of the various families of animal life on the earth today. There may have been something different, some different developments within a kind prior to the flood. This may explain some fossils that we have and don't see anything comparable on the earth today. But what Noah took on the ark was not two of every species, or not two over every unclean species and seven of every clean, but he took two of every kind. And the bibilcal kind is much broader than a species, somewhere between what we call a family or a genus.
In verses 20-22 we see Noah's action after he gets off the ark. This is an act of gratitude to God as God has delivered him. Here we see Noah functioning as the family or the patriarchal priest. This was the operation of the priesthood up until God calls out Israel and establishes the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood which is a unique priesthood to Israel. "And Noah built an altar unto the LORD [Yahweh]." This use of the tetragrammaton would have resonated with the Jewish readers. This is the Yahweh who has delivered them from slavery in Egypt. "…and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar." Here we have the reason for the taking of seven pairs of clean animals—three groups of male-female, and then one extra. That extra one was for a sacrifice. This is the context for the establishment of a covenant. "And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart [Heb. the Lord spoke to his heart], I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done." This is a fascinating commentary on Noah and his extended family. First of all, we see the Lord smelled the soothing aroma. This, again, is an anthropomorphism. God doesn't smell, but it pictures a policy of God's acceptance of the sacrifice. With reference to "curse the ground" there are two Hebrew words for curse: qalal and arar. Arar is the strong word for curse and is the word that we find in Genesis chapter three when God curses the ground as a result of sin. So the ground is already cursed because of sin. But qalal is the lighter word and can refer to treating something in a light manner or an irresponsible manner. For example, when God says to Abraham in Genesis 12 that "those who curse you [qalal]," i.e. those who treat lightly, those who have a disrespect, "I will curse strongly [arar]." So when the Lord accepts Noah's offering He is propitiated, He is satisfied, and Noah is functioning as a priest with this offering. This is a type of Christ who is the propitiation for all mankind. God's righteousness and justice are satisfied. In this case God's righteousness and justice is satisfied and He says, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man." Then He says, "…for the intent of man's heart." The word isn't actually "intent," or as in some translations "imaginations." One of four words used in the Old Testament for creation is yatsar. This is a noun based on yatsar and it means to frame something or structure something. It comes to mean a meditation or thought, something that is generated from the leb (heart, which here indicates the soul, the inner immaterial part of man), something formed or generated from the soul of man. This verse is paralleled by Jeremiah 17:9 which says that the heart is more deceitful than all things and desperately sick. This refers to the doctrine of the fall of man and man's total depravity. It is interesting because earlier Noah finds grace in the eyes of God, and Noah is "a righteous man." Put this together. If Noah is a righteous man in the last chapter and here it is considered that the formation of his thought is evil from his youth, how do we put that together? The righteousness that is spoken of earlier can't be intrinsic to Noah. It has to be extrinsic, and that means it comes from an outside source. It is not righteousness generated by Noah, it is righteousness that is imputed to Noah. That is, at the instant of faith alone in Christ alone. That is the basis of our salvation. The basis of God's blessing to us is not what we do intrinsically, it is the righteousness that is imputed to us at salvation.
Verse 22, "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." This is the first time we have a mention of cold and heat, winter and summer. This is because that water canopy, in whatever form it was, collapsed it radically changed the meteorological conditions on the earth. Now there are extreme temperatures.
Genesis chapter nine is the location of the next covenant, the Noahic covenant. Genesis 6:18 mentions this: "But with thee will I establish my covenant." This is the Hebrew word berith, the word for covenant. A covenant basically means for us the idea of a legal contract. The very first mention of the word berith in Scripture is in Genesis 6:18. Normally, the verb you have with covenant in this passage is translated to "establish." This is the Hebrew word which is the hiphil stem (causative) of kun which means to stand or to arise, and in the hiphil it means to cause to stand or to establish. Sometimes it is taken, when people read "I will establish my covenant with you," as "I am going to inaugurate." But that is not what it means, though it looks that way in the English. The word actually means to confirm a preexisting covenant. What covenant already existed? God established a covenant we call the Edenic covenant, Genesis 1:26-28. It doesn't use the word "Edenic" there but in Hosea 6:7 we have, "But they like Adam [not mankind] have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me." Even though the word "covenant's isn't used in Genesis chapter one Hosea makes it clear that when Adam sinned he transgressed a covenant. So there was some kind of covenant established.
Genesis 1:26-28, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." These are the key words or elements that we find.
Genesis 9:1, "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." This is the start of the Noahic covenant. Where did we hear that language before? Back in Genesis chapter one. If you have the same language in a covenant in Genesis 6 that you have in a statement in Genesis 1, even though Genesis 1 doesn't say it is a covenant, it is a covenant.
Verse 2, "And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered." What is the difference? Man was to have dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:27, 27, but now what you have is a status of fear between the animals and man. There was no element of fear in Genesis one. What happened between Genesis one and Genesis nine? The fall. Because of the fall there was a curse placed upon man and upon creation and upon the animals.
Verse 3, "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things." That is a reference back to Genesis 1:29.
Verses 4-6, "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." For the first time they are able to eat flesh. Note in verse six the basis for capital punishment. Is it to discourage people from committing murder? No. The reason is because "in the image of God made he man." Murder is an act of blasphemy against God because it is the destruction of an image bearer. In Genesis chapter nine there is reference to image terminology just as there was in Genesis chapter one. Note that all of the key terms in Genesis 1:26-28 are repeated in the Noahic covenant. So when God says in Genesis 6:18 that He will establish His covenant with Noah, what He is saying is that He is going to reestablish or confirm a preexisting contract with Noah—the Edenic covenant was modified because of the fall in Genesis 3 and at that point we call it the Adamic covenant because there was a curse placed upon man and creation. Then it is further defined and revised in Genesis 9, and there it is the Noahic covenant. The Noahic covenant has a number of characteristics which we will look at next time.