Genesis 6-9, the De-creation of the Flood
In Genesis 6:5, we have the condition of the human race immediately before the great flood. This pre-flood assessment is thorough and repetitive leaving no doubt that at that time there was no hope for the human race unless God intervened. In that sense the great judgment recorded in Genesis 6-8 was the grace of God to preserve the human race, and you and I would not be here otherwise. How evil was the human race at that time? Every intention, every thought, and every action was continually evil without any let-up. Apparently, mankind was irretrievable in God’s eyes, so His holiness forced Him to act. The New Testament tells us that both Enoch and Noah preached righteousness and the coming judgment for many years, but nobody listened. Jesus recorded in Matthew 24:37-39 that everyone ignored the warning about the coming judgment, and just continued on with business, partying, and marrying right up until the very end.
We may find ourselves trying to relate all the evils of our present world to the days of Noah as if it is as bad now as it was then, but that is just not the case. Today, in spite of all the wickedness, there are still many believers who are doing many good deeds, and the Gospel continues to be spread throughout the world. The episode of Noah and the Great Flood provides us with a bridge between the antediluvian (pre-flood) past of primeval history and the Patriarchs of Israel beginning with Abraham.
Noah—God’s Choice to Start Over
We are told on Genesis 6:8-9 that in the midst of the “wickedness of man”, Noah found favor with God, he was righteous, and Noah “walked with God”. As we contemplate what these favorable terms mean, we must remember what the rest of the Bible says about Noah’s righteousness and what it means to walk with the Lord. We would do well to emulate Noah in these attributes, so let’s check out what they mean. In Hebrews 11:6-7, we read that “without faith it is impossible to please God”, and then we read that by faith Noah in reverence to God obeyed what must have seemed like an impossible command. Why would anybody build a giant boat when it had never rained or flooded, not to mention preach of a coming judgment when nobody would believe you? You would only do it if you completely believed in God and were determined to be faithfully obedient. We may have a tendency to see the heroes of the Bible as righteous people in their own right, but don’t go there! The biblical doctrine of imputed righteous was true even before the flood. Noah may have been the one bright spot among the multitude of depraved souls, but he was still a sinner as we discover in Genesis 9:20-21. The idea of “walking with God” is repeated throughout the Bible, and Paul commands the church to do it in passages such as Gal. 5:16 and Eph. 4:15-18. This is a lifestyle devoted to living by faith in dependence of God and being obedient to His Word. Also we are to constantly communicate with God, and be a witness for God as Noah was. Would this be easier for Noah than for us? Think for a minute how Noah’s preaching went over to the people in his time—like a lead balloon. It would be even worse than if we went to San Francisco and preached against gay marriage. We would get heckled out of town, if we survived, yet Noah had a bigger and worse audience, and he preached for over 100 years.
The Ark of Salvation, Genesis 6:14-16
In this passage God gave instructions for the boat or ark that he was to build in order to save his family and all the animals from being destroyed in the flood. If a cubit equals 18 inches as most commentators believe, then the ark was to be 450’ long by 75’ wide by 45’ tall. I read that in the 19th century the largest all-wooden boat ever built was the Cutty Sark at 212’. Larger ships only became possible through the use of steel. Therefore, Noah’s ark was by far the largest wooden boat ever made. Imagine this huge wooden vessel that was one and a half football fields long. Clearly it was built only for floating, not for sailing. If you were Noah, what would you think of the command to build it—Where do I begin? Remember that there were no chain saws, no cranes, no trucks, and no lumber mills. He had to cut down thousands of trees, convert them to the right size lumber, haul it all in, and put it all together. No wonder it took he and his sons over 100 years to build it, and can you imagine the harassment of all the neighbors and people who saw it?
In 6:18, God established His covenant with Noah which were unilateral promises from God that they would survive in the ark and become the bearer of God’s promise of redemption for mankind into a new world and a new age. The last verse in Genesis 6:22 gives us Noah’s response to all God’s commands, “Noah did according to all that God commanded him”. The Bible shows emphasis through repetition, and in Gen.7:5, 9, 16 this is repeated, therefore a big part of Noah’s walk with God was obedience even to the most difficult commands. Noah’s response of obedience was impressive because most of us would have tried to negotiate with God. Surely there is some wiggle-room, Lord does it have to be this big? Why do we need aardvarks, Koala bears, possums, and platypuses, but Noah obeyed completely. At this point, we may ask, What was God doing during the 100+ years that Noah was working on the ark? Even when God foreknows that people will not listen or obey, He still acts according to His attributes of patience and mercy by giving them every chance and warning up to the last day. In 1 Peter 3:20, we read, “”when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah during the construction of the ark”. Coupled with 2 Peter 2:5 and Jude 14-15, we see that God continued to reach out to the people through Enoch and Noah and Methuselah trying to convict them of their evil deeds and warn them of their coming judgment.
In Genesis 7:1-4, we have God’s final words to Noah one week before the flood, and in verses 5-16 we have a review or repeat of what God previously said. They are told to go ahead and enter the ark, and now we find out that they are to include 7 pairs of “clean animals” which anticipates the animal sacrifices after the flood. If we look ahead to Gen.8:20-21, we will see that after the flood receded Noah would build an altar, and make blood sacrifices of these “clean animals” which were acceptable to God as offerings. This taking of additional clean animals anticipates that Noah and his family were still sinners taking their sin into the new world. We are again told that after the seven days the Lord would cause it to rain for 40 days, and He would “blot out” every living thing on dry ground.
I think there is significance to the fact that God left the door open for seven last days giving every opportunity to the unsaved to come. God has a day of judgment fixed, but until then the door is always open. The Jewish Midrash written after the time of Christ said that the seven days were a time of mourning for Methuselah who died just before the flood as his name predicted—Methuselah meant “when he dies it will come” or “his death will bring judgment”. Finally in Gen.7:16, God closed the door of the ark, and it began to rain, continuing for 40 days. How high did the water get? We are told in 7:20 that the highest mountains were about 22 feet under water, and everything remained under water for 150 days (7:24). Where did all this water come from? Remember in the creation account that originally the earth was a watery mass of elements that God used to create the world. God separated the waters in Genesis 1:6-7, and put our atmosphere between the waters above and below, and God formed the dry land and separated it from the waters below. Therefore in Genesis 7:11, we read that the water came from both above and below. It was simultaneously raining hard and the great springs and aquifers below the ground were pouring out water as well.
In Genesis 8:1, we read that God remembered Noah. This does not mean He forgot about Noah before, but God, at that specific time chose to honor His covenant to start the world over again with Noah and his family. The waters slowly receded, and after a total of 53 weeks on the ark, they finally left the ark to walk on dry ground (Gen.8:15-19). I couldn’t help but think of a 53 week “lock-in” with the wife and kids and in-laws, not to mention about 40,000 stinky animals. Has anybody else ever had cabin fever?
The Genesis flood was a divine act of de-creation which in a sense reversed the original creation. God had separated the waters in the creation, but the flood caused a reversal of that when “all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened” covering the earth again in watery chaos. The violence of the waters continued for 40 days from both directions while Noah’s party floated along in what must have seemed like a sealed coffin. Finally, Noah stepped into a brand new world washed clean by judgment, and the first thing he did was to build an altar to the Lord. In the burnt offerings we see atonement for sin, worship of God, and dedication to the Lord. Noah was humbly coming before the Lord to say, “My life is Yours”.