Monday, June 19, 2006

Genesis 6

Genesis 6

The Flood—Part 1

Synopsis

This chapter begins the story of Noah and the flood, but before it does, it contains an interesting little historical footnote, in verses 1–3:

When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

This seems to indicate that God put a limit on how long a human can live, with the cap being 120 years. Obviously He is not saying that everyone will live exactly 120 years, no more, no less; most people don’t live nearly that long.

Anyway, back to the flood. The entire story is told in chapters 6–8, as follows:
  • Chapter 6: God’s reasons for the flood
  • Chapter 7: The flood happens
  • Chapter 8: The waters recede, and Noah comes back out of the ark
I like that the Bible takes an entire chapter, though, to talk about the reasons for the flood. And they can be summed up by verses 5–7:

The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”

With one important exception, in verse 8: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”

The rest of the chapter reiterates that “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.” God goes on to explain to Noah what He is going to do—and why He is going to do it—and instruct Noah to build the ark, into which Noah is to bring two of every living creature, male and female. God also gave Noah instructions on how to build the ark; what materials to use, how big it should be, etc. It’s only a few verses, though. (Compare that with instructions for the building of the temple, or the tabernacle, which will take up multiple chapters, in upcoming books!)

Thoughts

My first thought is about verses 1–3, before the story of the flood: I’m not 100% sure what the Bible means by “the sons of God”. Angels? Doesn’t sound likely. Demons/fallen angels/whatever? Seems more likely to me. In any event, it seems very strange. But I think these verses are put here because they’re an example of how wicked mankind had become. Again, I’m not really sure if that is the case; maybe it’s unrelated to wickedness, and that part of the story only starts in verse 5.

On first reading—especially if this is your first time through the Bible, and you’re not familiar with God’s sovereignty—it seems like God was about to wipe out mankind, and then came across Noah, and said “Phew! There’s one good one! Now I don’t have to destroy all of them; I can keep him.” However, we have to keep in mind that God is in control, and there are no “accidents of history”. He orchestrated events such that there would be a Noah, at the right time. He never intended to wipe out all of mankind; what He intended was to give us a lesson in holiness, and in compassion: God is a holy god, and we don’t live up to His holiness. He would be justified in wiping us all out right now, because we deserve it. But He doesn’t, and he didn’t with the flood, because He is patient, and long-suffering.

Modern-day North Americans tend to focus on God’s compassion, and forget about His holiness; for them, the story of the flood is very perplexing. “Why would God wipe out all of mankind?” they ask. “It seems so cruel! That’s not the God I know!” We sometimes have an incomplete picture of God, and only focus on particular attributes. But if your “God” includes the love, and not the holiness, you’re not worshipping the real God. God is loving, but He’s also holy; He is patient and long-suffering, but He’s also just.
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