Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local newspaper: “Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before, and he died a very rich man.” There was only one problem; Alfred Nobel had not died. Actually, it was his older brother who had died, but a newspaper reporter had somehow gotten it wrong. Regardless of how it happened, the account had a profound effect on Alfred Nobel. He decided he wanted to be known for something other than developing the means to kill people efficiently and for amassing a fortune in the process. So he initiated the Nobel Peace Prize, the award for scientists and writers who foster peace. Nobel said, “Every man ought to have the chance to correct his epitaph in midstream and write a new one.”
How will you be remembered when your time on earth is over? When you are gone, how will others describe your faith in God? Are you preparing for God’s judgment? The story of Noah will challenge us to answer these questions. Today, we will be looking at the better part of three chapters because the narrative treats these paragraphs as one long section. We will read through this section because we value learning God’s Word but some portions will be given more attention.
- Write your epitaph(6:9-12). Moses writes, “These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (6:9-10). In 6:8, Noah “found favor” or “grace” through faith. Then in 6:9-10, we learn four important things about Noah.
First, Noah was a “righteous man.” The word translated “righteous” (tsaddiq) connotes “conformity to the standard.” In the case of Noah, he conformed to the standard set by God. He was able to do so because God granted him grace. This reminds us that God’s grace always comes before anything. It’s easy to think that God loves us for what we are intrinsically, for what we have done, or can become. But God does not love us because of that, nor is He gracious to us because of that. On the contrary, He loves us solely because He loves us. He is gracious to us only because He is (cf. Deut 7:7-8). This is a crucial truth for us to understand. We do not earn God’s grace or favor (Eph 2:8-9); He bestows it upon us for His own good pleasure (Eph 1:4-6).
Not only was Noah a righteous man but 2 Peter 2:5 tells us that he was also a “preacher of righteousness.” Noah preached righteousness in the same way that his great-grandfather Enoch had done before him (Jude 1:14-15). The reason he could do this is that he himself was righteous. The reason that we do not have more preaching of righteousness in our day is that those who profess Christ are often not living righteous lives. Are you living with “right-ness”? Does your life match your convictions?
Second, Noah was “blameless.” The word “blameless” (tamim) involves the idea of completeness. Noah conformed to the standard set by God and his life was “complete,” with no essential quality missing. The modifying phrase “in his time” indicates all the more clearly that Noah’s righteousness and blamelessness stood out against his contemporaries’ sinfulness. Noah was not only righteous in the sight of God; he also had a credible reputation among the people of his day. They could not pin a single wrong action on him. He was blameless. Arthur Friedman once said, “Men of genius are admired. Men of wealth are envied. Men of power are feared. But only men of character are trusted.” Does your character demand the trust of those people in your life?
Third, Noah “walked with God.” This means he had daily, step-by-step fellowship with God. He had God as his companion as he walked through life. This type of imitate fellowship does not happen by osmosis; it must be cultivated. It takes work to be godly. Is your walk with God vibrant?
Lastly, Noah walked with God before his family. Noah’s godliness was the godliness of a man who was involved in ordinary life. He did not withdraw from society. Real godliness is not like that. Noah was out and about in God’s world. He provided for his family. The linking of the names of his sons with his faithful life surely indicates that Noah influenced his family in spiritual matters. Apparently, Noah instructed his family to believe in God…and they did! More often than not, when a husband and father exert spiritual leadership in the home, the entire family responds and follows his lead.
It is interesting to note, however, that Noah’s only converts were his wife, his sons, and their wives (6:18). Apparently, not a single person outside his family paid the slightest attention to what he had to say. He preached for the better part of 120 years and won no converts other than his own family. Nevertheless, by God’s grace, Noah won those that mattered most. Sadly, I have known men and women that have been so absorbed in winning their world for Christ that they have failed to win their own home. This is a travesty! Our top priority must always be to influence our family members for Christ. This is one of the top requirements of leadership; to have children that believe and to manage one’s own household well (1Tim 3:4-5, 12; Titus 1:6). Is this your conviction? Are you investing well in your family?
I need to go even further. I believe an important principle is illustrated here: Noah’s faith and obedience resulted in the salvation and obedience of his family. This principle can also bear fruit in our lives as parents and grandparents. Unfortunately, many of us wonder why our children and grandchildren aren’t turning out the way that we would like. Often, we don’t stop to immediately ask what role we have played in their lack of spiritual development. How can we expect our children to be obedient if we aren’t obedient? When Christian parents grieve over a lost child who has rebelled against God, His Word, His Son, and His church, they wonder where he learned to rebel. Quite often a child learns at home, from parents who have been rebellious is some area of life. Parents, we must live up to the standard that God has set for us if we hope our children will be fruitful disciples.
In 6:11-12, Moses goes on to write, “Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.” Three times in 6:11-12 we are told how “corrupt” the earth had become (contra 1:31). The word for “violence” is used of robbery, taking wives by force, and murder. The entire social fabric had disintegrated and human life was no longer sacred or respected (see Isa 59:6-8). The two words “corrupt” and “violence” (Ps 14:1-3) give us respectively the character and expression of the sin, the cause, and the effect. The corruption has led to violence, for badness always leads to cruelty in one form or another. A life that is wrong with God necessarily becomes wrong with its fellows.
It is critical to recognize that Noah lived in terrible days. The world around him was degraded and depraved; yet Noah lived an above reproach life. When all the people around him were immersing themselves in evil and earning the wrath and judgment of God, Noah set his heart to follow the path found in the person and character of God. He stood his ground and remained uninfluenced by all that was happening around him. If Noah was, so can you. God has given us everything “pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3).
- Obey God’s Word(6:13-22). In 6:13, Moses writes, “Then God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.’” For the second time in three verses, the Lord mentions the “violence” of mankind (see 6:11; cf. 49:5). He then tells Noah that He is about to “destroy” these violent people “with the earth.” This section demonstrates that the earth and nature suffer because of human sin (cf. 3:17-19; 4:12; Rom 8:20-21).
In 6:14-16, Noah received detailed instructions that he was to follow in building the ark. The ingredients were “gopher wood” (or “cypress wood”) and “pitch.” The dimensions are as follows:
||1½ American football fields
||7 parking spaces
||800 railroad boxcars
||14,000 gross tons
||Princess of the Orient
As best we can tell, the ark was shaped like a shallow rectangular box topped with a roof, with an 18 inch space under the roof, interrupted only by roof supports, so light could get into the vessel from every side. This design uses space very efficiently. The ark would have been very stable in the water. What a monster this ark was! Noah had more than enough work to keep him occupied for a century.
Remember, there were no trucks, no chain saws, and no cranes.
A question that is asked is: How could Noah’s ark hold between one-half billion to over a billion species of animals?
First, the modern concept of “species” is not the same as a “kind” in the Bible. There are probably only several hundred different “kinds” of land animals that would have to be taken into the ark. The sea animals stayed in the sea, and many species could have survived in egg form.
Second, Noah could have taken younger varieties of some larger animals. Third, as I have already said, the ark was not small; it was a huge structure—the size of a modern ocean liner. Furthermore, it had three stories (6:16), which tripled its space to a total of over 1.5 million cubic feet! Given all these factors, there was plenty of room for all the animals, food for the trip, and the eight humans aboard.
After giving the dimensions, in 6:17, God authoritatively speaks: “Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.” This verse places significant emphasis on the personal role of God in the ensuing storm. The phrase “I, even I” reminds us that God is responsible for natural disasters. Ultimately, He is the sovereign Controller of the universe. Therefore, we can trust in Him and what He brings into our lives and the lives of others.
Yet, in the midst of the flood’s promise, there is good news. In 6:18, God says to Noah, “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” This is the first occurrence of the word “covenant” (berith) in the Old Testament. Here, in the midst of judgment, the Lord stooped down to meet the needs of His servant (Ps 40:1; 113:6).
In the wake of our tragedies and trials, God wants to do the same for us. He longs to speak to us through His Word. He wants to draw us close to Him. Are you running to Him or away from Him? This verse also illustrates another important biblical principle. While God bestows His saving grace and love on individuals, He is concerned about their families as well. Acts 16:31 summarizes this principle: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” God loves to save families.
Chapter 6 concludes with these words: ‘“And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. As for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them.’ Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did” (6:19-22).
Apparently, all of the animals would “come to” Noah voluntarily (6:20). It would seem that he would not have to hunt them down or look for them in remote places. Their natural instinct for self-preservation, energized by a special act of God, would bring them unerringly to Noah’s ark.
The key to understanding biblical narratives is what is repeated in the context. In 6:22, Moses records this very important statement: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.” In chapter 7, he then repeats this phrase three more times (7:5, 9, 16). This informs us that God must be obeyed in all His instructions if His people expect to enjoy the fruit of life and blessing (e.g., Deut 26:16-19; 28:1-14).
Before we move into chapter 7, we must quickly put ourselves in Noah’s sandals. Though he was thrust onto the front pages of his day’s newspaper as a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5), he did not flinch when the criticism came. No doubt he was called a fool and worse. Just imagine how many Noah jokes people came up with over a century! But he went on believing and working. Noah remained obedient, doing exactly what God said for 25, 50, 75, 100 years…until the ark lay like a huge coffin on the land. What a powerful reminder that God sometimes calls His servants to obey Him even when it seems nonsensical. In these situations, all that we can do is trust in the promises of God’s Word.
This section also reminds us that it is possible to be right with God, even amidst surrounding iniquity. God is the same today as He was to Noah, and if only we are willing to fulfill the conditions we too shall walk with God and please Him.
- Trust in God’s Provision(7:1-16). Moses writes, “Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time. You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female; also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth. For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made.’ Noah did according to all that the LORD had commanded him.” How many animals went into the ark? The truth is that there is no inherent incompatibility between the two texts as they presently stand.
Genesis 7:2-3 is just more precise than 6:19-20 on the question of the types and numbers of animals and birds that would board the ark. Noah’s first instruction was to admit pairs of all kinds of creatures on the ark to preserve their lives (6:19-20). That was the basic formula. Then he was given more specific instructions about admitting seven pairs of each of the clean animals and seven pairs of each kind of bird. The purpose of this measure was to become clear only after the flood. Birds would be needed to scout out the earth (8:7-12), and the clean animals and birds would be offered in sacrifice to the Lord (8:20). If Noah had taken only one pair of each and then offered each of these pairs in sacrifice, these species would have become completely extinct.
God is still a holy God. He still hates sin. He still is slow to judge. He watches the sin of man and warns that it will not be allowed to go on and on forever. God tells that world what He will do. Our world will also come to an end (2 Pet 3:1-13). We have prior notice that the judgment of God is on its way. In His grace, God warns His people. He tells us in advance that sinful men do not deserve to live on God’s earth. This is the basic message of the Genesis flood.
In 7:6-16, Moses writes, “Now Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of water came upon the earth. Then Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him entered the ark because of the water of the flood. Of clean animals and animals that are not clean and birds and everything that creeps on the ground, there went into the ark to Noah by twos, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. It came about after the seven days, that the water of the flood came upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark, they and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, all sorts of birds. So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life. Those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and the LORD closed it behind him.” The account of the floodwater inundating the earth is both majestic and terrible. Moses was careful to describe the flood in terms reminiscent of the creation. Like Genesis 1, the account of the flood is structured by a careful counting of the days (371 total days).
o 7 days of waiting for the waters to come (7:4, 10),
o 40 days of water rising (7:12, 17),
o 150 days of waters prevailing (7:24; 8:3),
o 40 days of water receding (8:6),
o 7 days of waiting for the waters to recede (8:10), and
o 7 more days of waiting for the waters to recede completely (8:12).
- Remember God’s power(7:17-24). Moses writes, “Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. The water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days.” The flood is to be a reminder to us of the reality of final judgment (Matt 24:38-39; Luke 17:27; 2 Pet 2:5; 3:5-6).
God holds the world accountable for its behavior. It tells us that God is grieved over our sin and the harm it does to others. He will not put up with it forever. We live in a moral universe, and to go against the moral laws which God has built into the world invites disaster. Sin affects our personal lives, our families, our church, our community, our nation, and ultimately, our world. The Bible says that every mouth will be silenced and that the whole world will be held accountable to God (Rom 3:19). We cannot escape the fact that we are responsible to God for our behavior and that a future judgment is coming when we will answer for the way in which we have lived. That simple fact should dramatically affect our perspective in life and make us desire to be faithful to the God who has been faithful to us.
There is a great debate on whether the flood was universal or local. It seems to be universal. In the first place, the universalist language favors it, with such terms being used numerous times. With forty days of rain over the land, how could it be otherwise? In addition, if one wanted to describe a universal flood, how would such a description differ from the one given in these chapters? In the second place, the depth of water favors a universal flood. Mt. Ararat, on which the ark came to rest, is over 17,000 feet in altitude, and the waters were over twenty feet higher than all the mountains (notice the language of 7:19 with its “all’s”).
In the third place, God’s promises of never allowing another such flood favor a universal one, for there have been many devastating local floods since then (cf. 8:21; 9:11, 15; 2 Pet 3:6). The New Testament authors seem to favor this view also.
- Rejoice in God’s grace(8:1-22). In 8:1-5, Moses writes, “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided. Also the fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were closed, and the rain from the sky was restrained; and the water receded steadily from the earth, and at the end of one hundred and fifty days the water decreased. In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat. The water decreased steadily until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains became visible.” The word “remember” (8:1) is the high point of this story. It refers to God acting toward someone because of a previous commitment. God remembers His children.
During the eleventh to twelfth centuries A.D., Mt. Ararat became the traditional site known as the place of Noah’s landing. Verse 4, however, does not specify a peak and refers generally to its location as the “mountains of Ararat.” The search for the ark’s artifacts has been both a medieval and a modern occupation; but to the skeptic, such evidence is not convincing, and to the believer, while not irrelevant, it is not necessary to faith. Modern Mt. Ararat lies on the border between Turkey and Armenia and encompasses Turkey, Russia, and Iran—the center of the ancient world. Sadly, the Armenian people worship Mt. Ararat today. The creature worships the creation instead of the Creator (Rom 1:21-23). From this region Noah’s descendants spread out over the earth.
In 8:6-17, Moses writes, “Then it came about at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made; and he sent out a raven, and it flew here and there until the water was dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove from him, to see if the water was abated from the face of the land; but the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to him into the ark, for the water was on the surface of all the earth. Then he put out his hand and took her, and brought her into the ark to himself. So he waited yet another seven days; and again he sent out the dove from the ark. The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth. Then he waited yet another seven days, and sent out the dove; but she did not return to him again. Now it came about in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the water was dried up from the earth. Then Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the surface of the ground was dried up. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God spoke to Noah, saying, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you, birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’” We can almost hear the “Hallelujah Chorus” playing in the background! What a day of rejoicing that must have been! God had been faithful to see Noah through.
In 8:18-19, Moses writes, “So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by their families from the ark.” Verses 18 and 19 may seem like needless repetition to the modern reader, but they document Noah’s obedience to God’s words, which Moses stressed in the entire flood narrative.
Our section closes in 8:20-22 with these words: “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.’” What is the first thing that Noah does when he gets off the ark? Does he tend for food, find water, and create shelter? The first thing that Noah did when he left the ark was to build an altar and offer God a sacrifice (8:20). This demonstrates his dedication and gratitude to God. Noah’s “altar” is the first mentioned in the Bible. His “burnt offerings” were for worship. As the head of the new humanity, Noah’s sacrifice represented all mankind. God may judge the wicked catastrophically and begin a new era of existence with faithful believers.