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Here, we continue our study in Genesis.
6:9This is the account of Noah:
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
11Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. 12God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. 16Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark--you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. 19You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them."
22Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
In the previous section of Genesis that we studied, we saw that all of mankind (with the exception of Noah) had turned its back on God and that "every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time" (Gen. 6:5). Man was given an ultimatim of sorts: God would destroy mankind in judgment in 120 years because of the wickedness of man. However, there was some hope, for "Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD" (Gen. 6:8).
Noah was a very significant person in human, as well as sacred history. Through him, the human race found grace and was allowed to carry on. Though Noah clearly was not sinless, he is declared here to be "a righteous man." He certainly fit Paul's description of the man who will escape God's judgment: "To those who by persistence in doing good, seek glory, honor and immortality, [God] will give eternal life" (Rom. 2:7).
Noah's righteousness was all the more remarkable given that he lived in such a depraved society. Corrupt society is responsible for many an individual condemnation. Noah, however, was "blameless among the people of his time." Instead of following in the ways of those around him, Noah followed in the ways of his Godly forebear, Enoch, and "walked with God". Noah lived an exemplary life in the midst of a unanimously wicked people. Noah is an eternal witness that it is possible to walk with God in a depraved society; it is possible to be declared righteous by God when all those around are sending themselves to hell.
The extent of the corruption of the world is described in verses 11 and 12. The corruption was universal, for "all the people of the earth had corrupted their ways". The first part of this chapter described the onset of the corrupt world, which was characterized by evil thoughts (v. 5) and even God's own people chasing after the lusts of their flesh (v. 2). Here we see that the corruption culminated in a world that was "full of violence". The earth's total corruption occurred because the people ignored the contending of God's Spirit with them (cf. v. 3). Total corruption is always the result when we ignore the Spirit of God striving with our evil heart, when we ignore our conscience tugging with our soul, when we stifle the moral nature instilled within us and follow our own desires.
The corruption of the world had reached the point where God had to respond to its wickedness. Seeing that repentance was not forthcoming, God decided to destroy all of mankind, with the exception of Noah and his family. Many fault God in this decision. They ask, "How could God destroy everybody on earth?" However, the floodwaters only came to the world after it was already "full of violence" and flooded with wickedness. Mankind must take responsibility for the flood because, as God states in verse 13, the earth was full of violence "because of them".
God confided with Noah concerning His plan to destroy mankind. Since Noah "walked with God" and, thus, had a close relationship with Him, God's plan probably did not surprise Noah. Noah no doubt was, like God, grieved by the wickedness in the world and probably even expected God to take action in the face of such wickedness. Many today, like Noah, as they see the world so widely turn its back on God and as they see how so many people have corrupted their ways, expect the judgment of God to come soon.
God, it seems, spoke directly to Noah. It is hard to imagine anything short of direct revelation inspiring the faith and obedience such as Noah had. God told Noah to build an ark so that he and his family could be saved from destruction. God gave Noah specific instructions as to how to build the ark, and Noah's obedience to these instructions was sufficient to save him from the judgment of God. In the same way, God, in His Word, gives us specific instructions on how we may be saved: through faith in Jesus Christ. And if we obey His Word, we too will be saved from destruction. Noah had a difficult time following the instructions God gave him. He worked for a hundred years building the ark that was to bring salvation. We, however, can be saved in a moment, with a change of heart, with a prayer in the silence of the night, by breaking down the walls of our pride and bending our knee and whispering to our Savior, "Lord Jesus, I need the salvation that You offer. Come into my life."
Now, the details given in this passage concerning the specifications of the ark, as well as all of the details given in the entire episode of the flood in chapters 6, 7 and 8 of Genesis, testify that the flood really occurred as written. This episode is not communicated as a vague legend, but as a history, giving the exact dimensions of the ark, the exact days that the flood began and ended, the extent and depth of the floodwaters, etc. Moreover, throughout the Bible, the flood is represented as a literal event (see Isa. 54:9; Ps. 29:10; Matt. 24:37; I Peter 3:20; II Peter 3:6). Most significantly, Jesus Himself treated the flood as an actual event in history: "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all" (Luke 17:26-27).
There are also external evidences of the flood. There are many places on earth that carry traces of a large catastrophe, such as the flood would have brought. Moreover, the memory of the flood seems to have been ingrained in the mind of the human race. The history of the flood is part of the folklore of cultures all over the world. The Babylonians, the ancient Greeks, the ancient Romans, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Hindus, the Aztecs, the Incans, the American Indians, the Scandinavians, the Druids, the Polynesians etc. all have legends concerning the flood.[Footnote #1] Though these stories have diverged from the true Biblical account, they resemble each other in that the flood is viewed as the judgment of God because of the wickedness of man.
As we see in this passage, God gave Noah the exact specifications for the ark, the way of salvation for Noah and his family. Interestingly, the description of the ark revealed to Noah the extent of the coming judgment. For instance, since the ark was a barge and not merely a shelter, Noah knew that the floodwaters would be deep; since the ark was large and was to hold all of the animals, Noah knew that the floodwaters would be widespread; since the ark was to be coated with pitch, Noah could infer that the floodwaters would last a relatively long time. In the same way, what we know about our way of salvation, Jesus Christ, reveals the extent of the judgment upon those who do not enter His salvation. God sent His one and only Son to become a sin offering for us. Christ was mocked, scourged and crucified to bear the punishment that we deserve. "[H]e was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed" (Isa. 53:5). If we do not enter our ark of salvation, we will have to bear the full extent of the punishment that we, as sinners, deserve. As the writer of Hebrews points out: "How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (Heb. 2:3) and again: "Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10:28-29).
Knowledge of the coming judgment must have cast a pall over Noah's household. However, amidst the dark foreboding of the flood, God poured out His grace on Noah and promised him: "I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark--you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you." Noah and his family were to be God's remnant, set apart and saved by His grace. Even in the bleakest times, God has always preserved a remnant; there has always been a "people of God". Seek to be part of God's remnant.
Verse 22 sums up Noah's response to God: "Noah did everything just as God commanded him." Noah responded, through faith, by total obedience to the command of God. Noah realized that the command of God was for his good. The writer of Hebrews informs us that "by faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family" (Heb. 11:7). So, Noah's obedience was, by faith, a result of "holy fear" and a desire to "save his family". We are commanded many times in the Bible to "fear God". To fear God is to demonstrate faith in the attributes of God: His power, His righteousness, His holiness. Also, we, as Noah, should have a desire that our family be saved. We should be willing to work as hard as Noah did to that end.
And so, "Noah did everything". Noah demonstrated his faith. Certainly, cutting that first piece of wood and driving that first nail, must have been difficult, given the enormous task ahead of him. He could have set his eyes on the overwhelming chore given him and despaired. But, "in holy fear", he began, he persevered and he finished the work God appointed him to do. His faith, his desire to save his family and the Spirit of God drove him to finish his monumental task. Again, the quality of Noah's faith was well demonstrated: by his patience, by his testimony, by his obedience, by his hard work, by his perseverence, and in the end, by his achievement.
7:1The LORD then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made."
5And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.
6Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. 7And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, 9male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. 10And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.
11In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month--on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. 12And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.
13On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. 14They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. 15Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. 16The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the LORD shut him in.
The ark now being finished, God tells Noah to embark. As if to reassure Noah that the coming judgment is deserved, God reminds him that he is the only one that God has found righteous "in this generation". God is not blind to man's behavior and the flood was not a chance occurrance, but a purposeful act of judgment. Though it may not seem so at times (since God is patient with the wicked), God distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked; and He will, in the end, rescue the Godly and punish the wicked. As Peter teaches: "If [God] did not spare the ancient world when He brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;...then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment" (II Pet. 2:5,9).
Noah at this time was instructed by God to gather the animals and load them onto the ark. Noah must have considered this an impossible task. Where was he to find the animals? How was he to get them on board? However, God does not command the "impossible" without giving the means to carry it out. In verse 9, we read that the animals "came to Noah and entered the ark". The gathering of the animals no doubt strengthened Noah's faith once again, as he saw the clear hand of God at work.
Noah was to take two of every kind of animal, but "seven of every kind of clean animal". We see that the concept of clean and unclean animals for sacrifice was known by Noah, even though the written code of the Levitical sacrifices was given to Moses much later. God must have directly and widely communicated the requirements for an atoning blood sacrifice, even before the written law was established. We have already seen that Abel had this knowledge; Job also did (cf. Job 1:5), though he lived before Moses; and we will see later in Genesis that Abraham was clearly instructed concerning proper sacrifices.
And so, since the creation of the world, God's requirement for atonement of sin has always been the same. As the writer of Hebrews states, "without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22). The "clean" animals that were designated as suitable for atoning sacrifices were a symbol pointing to Jesus' ultimate sacrifice for mankind on the cross. The animal sacrifice had to be "clean" (representing purity) because, if the animal was unclean (or impure), the shedding of its blood would only be sufficient for its own deserved punishment. That which is "clean", however, does not deserve punishment, and so, could be used as an atoning sacrifice for the offerer.
Now, the designations of "clean" and "unclean" animals are merely symbolic, because animals do not have a moral nature. Animals live by instinct, not by reason; they are not able to make choices based upon right and wrong. As a reminder that the animal sacrifices were symbolic, they had to be offered year after year. These sacrifices pointed to the true sacrifice which would come later. Jesus Christ came to the earth as a man and lived a sinless, pure life. The "cleanness" of the sacrificial animals pointed to the purity of the ultimate sacrifice: Jesus Christ met the requirements to be a true atoning sacrifice. Again, as the writer of Hebrews teaches: "Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens" (Heb. 7:26). Therefore, Christ need only sacrifice for our sins "once for all, when He sacrificed Himself" (Heb. 7:27).
Noah, however, had only the symbols of the true sacrifice, and thus, had to bring extra "clean" animals so that he may offer atoning sacrifices to God, and still preserve those species of animals. The fact that Noah had to offer atoning sacrifices proves that Noah himself was not sinless, but rather he was declared to be righteous by God because he followed God's requirements for atoning for his sin.
God's proclamation in verse 4, that "seven days from now I will send rain on the earth...and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made", must surely have been a solemn occasion for Noah and his family. Yes, Noah all those years had faith that the flood would come, but to finally be confronted with its reality must have been sobering. It was solemn enough when God gave mankind 120 years to repent. At that time, there was a possibility that man would turn to God. But given only seven days, what hope was left?
Besides loading the animals into the ark, what else did Noah do those last seven days? Since (as Peter says) Noah was a "preacher of righteousness" (II Peter 2:5), there is a good chance that he preached one last message of repentance, entreating those around him to turn back to God. And how did those who would perish spend those last days? Christ tells us that they were oblivious to the coming destruction, ignoring the witness of Noah: "For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away" (Matt. 24:38-39). Christ continues by saying: "That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." So, just before the judgment in the end times, the people on earth also will be carrying on their lives in a normal way, oblivious to the coming wrath, ignoring God and the things of God.
At the end of the seven days of embarking, Noah entered the ark and said goodbye to the world as he knew it. This might have been the hardest thing that Noah did. No doubt, though Noah "walked with God", he had ties to the world, just as all of us do. He had friends he wanted to remain with, goals related to the world that he wanted to fulfill, worldly desires that lingered on. Despite all this, Noah chose to go through the baptism of the ark to which God called him. In this, Noah is an example for us all, for the Lord has also "chosen us out of this world" (John 15:19).
Finally, the flood came, "all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened." The floodwaters came not only from the rain (which "fell on the earth forty days and forty nights"), but also from the "springs" of the deep. These springs presumably resulted from the receding of the waters on the third day of creation. The floodwaters would destroy the world and require that the world, in a sense, be recreated. The waters again would recede to reveal the land, the vegetation would resprout, and the creatures would emerge from the ark to multiply upon the earth once again: new life would spring forth after the baptism of the floodwaters.
When Noah and his family made their final embarkation, the "LORD shut him in". The Lord Himself closed and fastened the door. Moses' wording is interesting and seems to imply that Noah could not have gotten out of the ark even if he wanted to! Noah was saved, and that's that. This is evocative of what Christ says about those who follow Him: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (Matt. 10:28-29). Those who are saved are in both the Father's and the Son's hands, "shut in" to their salvation, as Noah was.
So Father, we praise You for Your salvation and for the security of it. We praise You for the grace that You poured out on Noah, taking him out of the wicked world, giving mankind a chance at a new beginning. We thank You that You have also called us out of this wicked world. Give us, by Your Spirit, the strength to leave the ways of this world so that we may follow in the footsteps of Your Son, through whom we pray these things, Amen.
1. Jamisson, Fausset, Brown, A Commentary, Vol. 1; pg. 101.
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