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STUDY SEVENTEEN: THE FLOOD [Genesis 6 – 9] – Part 2

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013

The record of the flood in Genesis 6 – 9 is considered by many within the church to be myth, that is to be non-historical. Some would limit it to a local flood. This pandering to the geological uniformitarianism popularised by Charles Lyell in the 1830s and embraced almost universally ever since is somewhat irreconcilable with the fact that flood narratives feature in the mythologies of over 300 people groups from around the world.

This raises the question: is the Genesis flood narrative just another myth? Or is it the original, real flood, on which and from which all these other myths originated? If there was not a real flood as described in Genesis 6-9, why do floods feature in the mythology of so many groups, and why do many of them contain the concept of a divine judgement and the escape of a small number of people via a vessel? There are features in this narrative that speak of real history, not myth; for example, the detailed dating of each stage of the event.

In addition, that a global flood was involved here is indicated by:

The need for the ark
The need for all the animals to be on the ark
The need for the birds to be on the ark
The fact that the waters covered the mountains
The length of time it took for the waters to recede
The terminology used in Genesis 6-9
The promise of God never to send such a flood again

All of the above make sense only if the flood was indeed global.

Another question that challenges the denial of a global flood is that of the fossil record. The fossil record gives clear testimony to a number of factors consistent with a deep global flood:

The fact that there are extremely well-preserved fossils
The massive fossil graveyards
The presence of marine fossils in the middle of continents
The evidence of rapid instantaneous fossilisation
Polystrate fossils
The preservation of such delicate features as animal tracks and ripple marks in the fossil record

So let us not be ashamed to assume that the Spirit of God knew what he was talking about when he moved Moses to include the report of the flood. Let us assume that it happened just as described here in Genesis. Let us stop letting ourselves be bothered by the theories of men who do not credit God with either integrity or ability, or even with existence.

 

A. WHAT HAPPENED?

Task #1: What are we told in these verses?

[1] About the reason for the flood: 6:13,17

 


[2] About God’s way of escape from the judgement – and Noah’s responsibility to ensure that escape: 6:14-16, 19-22; 7:1-10, 13-16

 

 

 

 

[3] About the promise to Noah: 6:18


[4] About the flood: 7:11-12, 17-24

 


[5] About the aftermath: 8:1-22

 

[6] About the fulfilment of the promise: 8:20-22; 9:1-17

 


[7] About the weakness of Noah: 9:18-28

 


Task #2: According to Genesis 6 – 9:

Was the flood global or local?

Which animals survived?

How many humans survived?

 


B. NEW TESTAMENT REFERENCES TO THE FLOOD

Both the Old and the New Testaments assume the historicity of the flood narrative. Consider the following:

 

Task #3: How do these texts confirm the historicity of the flood?

Isaiah 54:9


Matthew 24:36-41


Luke 17:26-27


Hebrews 11:7


1Peter 3:20


2Peter 2:5


2Peter 3:3-7


In addition to confirming that the flood was both historic and global there are two significant points here:

[1] In 2Peter 3:3-7 Peter is talking about the deliberate unbelief of the false teachers who had infiltrated the church. These false teachers were speaking scornfully of the promised return of Christ. Peter points out that the reason for their mockery and unbelief is that ‘they deliberately forget’ that God created the world, and that God destroyed the world by water. It is important for us to keep this basis of unbelief and mockery in mind. The theories of uniformitarian long ages and the evolution of the species by random changes over long ages were originally promoted by many who were either [1] atheists, [2] liberal church attenders (not believing in the authority and authenticity of the Scripture or in miracle), or [3] men who seriously wanted to get rid of the biblical God one way or another.

It is amazing that people who are committed to honour God should allow themselves to be swayed by people whose intention is to deny or remove God, particularly when those people ‘cook the books’ as it were to support their theories. But that is what we are doing if we redefine Genesis 6 – 9 as an ancient myth without historical validity. We are also repeating the deliberate disbelief in creation and the flood mentioned by Peter.

[2] Both Jesus [Matthew 24; Luke 17] and Peter [2Peter 3] draw a parallel between God’s judgement upon the world at the time of the flood and the judgement that occurs with the second coming of Christ.

These parallels are:

There is warning of the judgement
Life continues as usual right up to the time of judgement
The majority of the people are caught unawares – despite the warnings they were not expecting it
Only a limited number, who have availed themselves of the salvation offered, are saved.
There is no other way of escape.
The judgement is inevitable
Massive destruction is involved in the judgement

As far as Jesus and Peter are concerned the flood did come, and the flood did destroy mankind and every living creature that did not take shelter in the ark provided by God. They use this great historical disaster/catastrophe to strengthen their warning to their generation: that just as surely Jesus Christ will return, that just as surely the judgement of God will fall upon all mankind; that just as surely, unless they heed the word of Christ and accept his way of escape, they too will suffer the same fate.

Just as God gave the ancient world 120 years grace, 120 years of his Spirit striving with them, 120 years of Noah proclaiming the righteousness of God which is by faith in the living God, so even now God, the God of compassion and mercy, delays the return of Christ and the accompanying judgement – giving us time to repent, giving us time to be saved. Hence Peter states:

‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ [2Peter 3:9].

And in this we see expressed in New Testament terms that deep grief of God considered earlier, that deep grief of God expressed to the Israelites through Ezekiel:

“Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!’ [Ezekiel 18:31,32]

And by the Lord Jesus Christ:

‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate.’ [Luke 13:34,35a]

Let us all take heed of the message, the call to repentance and salvation, embedded in the history of this global flood.

 

C. THE ARK A ‘TYPE’ OF CHRIST

Noah’s ark is understood to be a ‘type’ of Christ – a symbolic, historic, prophetic reference to the salvation the believer has in Jesus Christ. This does not detract from the historicity of the record; it adds a revelatory, prophetic dimension to it. The same applies, for example, to the exodus from Egypt. All who were in the ark escaped the judgement: all who are ‘in Christ’ escape the judgement.

 

D. THE COVENANT WITH NOAH

We have seen in earlier chapters of Genesis that God blessed Adam and Eve with the responsibility of family and dominion, and that God made a promise about the ‘seed of the woman’, but the concept of Covenant is not mentioned until Genesis 6 – 9.

The first is a brief mention in 6:18 following immediately after God’s statement that ‘everything on earth will perish’ [6:17]. This is God’s affirmation to Noah that everything that he had previously committed himself to – to Adam and Eve – would now be passed on to and through Noah: ‘everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you …’ The seed of the woman will not be lost; the promises embedded in that prophetic word will continue through your line, the line of the godly; the line of Seth will continue through Noah.

This covenant is given more precise definition, and added promises in 8:20-22, although the word ‘covenant’ is not mentioned here. Then the covenant with Noah is formally established in 9:1-17. Note in this covenant a restatement of a number of God’s original statements to Adam and Eve.


Task #4: Answer these questions using the Scripture passages listed.

What does God commit to in his covenant with Noah?
What responsibilities are given to Noah?
Is there anything particularly significant about any of the above?
Who and what else are involved in this covenant?

8:21

8:22

9:1,7

9:2-4

9:5-6


9:8-11

9:12-17


God is doing far more here than simply promising that he will never again destroy the world by flood. He re-affirms his previous promises and blessings, and he further narrows down the human line from which the seed of the woman will come.


D.1 Reaffirmation of the image of God – 9:6
Regardless of man’s descent into total wickedness, which had not been eliminated by the flood and the destruction of all except Noah and his family [see 8:21], God reaffirmed his creation of man in his image, and on this basis expressed the high value of the human and the extreme penalty for murder. No matter how degraded he is man, because of the image of God factor, is highly precious to God.

Note that the removal of God from a culture inevitably leads to a loss of respect for the human. It is this unique identity of man created by God in his image that holds sins against the human at bay.

 

D.2 Reaffirmation of the original blessing and responsibility of filling the earth – 9:1,7
The blessing/command to be fruitful and multiply is reaffirmed to Noah and his sons. From these three sons of Noah the entire present population of the world is descended. Chapter 10 gives a summary of the nations that descended from these sons for several generations.

 

D.3 Affirmation of a universal, everlasting covenant – 6:18; 8:20-22; 9:8-17
When God told Noah that he was going to destroy everything – ‘all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it’ – he immediately added ‘But …’ [6:17,18] and promised ‘I will establish my covenant with you.’ Here in the midst of judgement is grace, here in the midst of terrible hopelessness and despair is hope. Life will survive. The hope of the Saviour will survive. The people of God, and the promise of the ‘seed of the woman’ will survive. There is a future.

In Chapters 8 and 9 this promised ‘covenant’ is given definition:

D.3.1 It involves three ‘never again’ promises by God: ‘never again will I curse the ground because of man’ [8:21]; ‘never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done’ [8:21]; ‘never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life’ [9:15, also 9:11].

 

D.3.2 It is established despite the incorrigible wickedness of man – ‘even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood [8:21]

 

D.3.3 It is an everlasting covenant that will never cease while the earth endures: [8:22; 9:16, and also expressed in the ‘never again’ noted above.]

 

D.3.4 It is a covenant with every living creature and with the earth itself [9:10,12,15-17].  The earth and the living creatures suffered because of human sin – both in Genesis 3 and in the flood. They are here included in God’s covenant promise. There is in God’s sight an inescapable connection between man and the earth, indeed between man and the universe. This connection is never really defined, but it is observable throughout the Scripture. When man is redeemed and lives under the rightful authority of God creation rejoices; when man rebels against God creation is called upon as witness; because man is a sinner, creation suffers. The prophets and the psalmists are aware of it and refer to it quite often. The New Testament is also aware of it. A few examples are listed below. In addition, the promise of a new heaven and a new earth involves a release from suffering for the whole of creation, not just man.

 

Task #5: Describe the connection between the natural world and man’s relationship with God expressed in these Scriptures:

Psalm 50:1-4-6

 

Psalm 96:11-13

 

Psalm 98:7-9

 

Isaiah 44:23, 49:13

 


Isaiah 65:25

 

Jeremiah 2:12

 

Luke 9:40

 

Romans 8:18-22

 

 


D.3.5 As already noted, it provides for the fulfilment of the ‘seed of the woman’ promise through the descendants of Noah, and thus for the ultimate redemption of both man and creation from the effects of the fall.

D.3.6 A covenant sign is established [9:12-17]. As with other covenants God provides a physical sign to confirm his covenant. In the Abrahamic covenant the sign is circumcision. In the New Covenant it is the Lord’s Supper.

D.3:7 Although not part of the formal declaration of this covenant, included in the lead up to the formal covenant is God’s new permission regarding food. Whereas in Genesis1 both man and animals were given the fruits and the plants for food, God here authorizes man to eat ‘everything that lives and moves’ [9:3]. This brings both a restriction [not to eat meat with the blood still in it – verse 4], and the beginning of the creatures’ fear of man [verse 3]. [Note: this explains, by the way, the ease with which the animals were initially loaded and then cared for for months in the ark.]