This week’s reading will be Genesis 6–9, but I’m pretty sure this will take us a few weeks to get through so don’t make any giant reading efforts…because there is a flood of theology here. Sorry if the puns are so wooden, but I guess that ship has sailed.
“Out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.” Genesis 5.29
There is little wonder why Noah is such an enigmatic person, figuring heavily into later Jewish literature, including the New Testament. He, alone of all the human race, found favor in the eyes of God. He and his immediate family survived the great worldwide flood. Was it chance? Did he earn it?
It does not appear Noah was merited grace, but was divinely appointed to have grace, or favor in God’s eyes. If you look at what Lamech says, Noah was always meant to do what Noah did. I do not think we can look at it any other way except to say Noah was… shivers… preordained…. shivers…to do what he did.
In looking at this further, Cain’s line did not care nor really experience the curse. After all, they had time to build the industry of civilization as well as enjoy its luxury. They created poetry, music, and the cities of the antediluvian world. Seth and his descendents, however, seemed to dwell only on the land, worshiping God as evidenced by Enoch’s story.
But, then comes Lamech (son of Seth) who sees in the birth of his son the end of God’s cursing of Adam. Noah, whose name means “Rest,” flips the notion of the flood as giving rest to the gods. In Gilgamesh, the gods are tired of humans who cause all sorts of disturbances to the gods, thus they curse the humans by sending a flood. In Genesis, Noah is the Rest that undoes the curse given by God to the humans as well as the wickedness that has arisen to the ear of God.
The Mesopotamian gods sent the flood because the disturbances of the human world were preventing them from getting rest. So in that case, the flood provided rest for the gods. Here Noah is rather associated with bringing rest for people from the curse of the gods.1
We can look at the birth of Noah in several different ways. If we stick strictly to the Genesis account, we see something that doesn’t quite make it into our Western theology. The curse of Adam was upon the soil. Noah relieves that curse. (By the way, the soil is the same place from which Abel’s blood cries out.) He gives it rest (Sabbath, and if so, think of the implications of this consider the notion of Rest throughout Scripture).
You can find more about Noah here.
If you look at Genesis 4 and 5, you will see a summarized, straight down the line, genealogy and history from Adam to Noah. But, beginning in Genesis 6, the story starts over with the history of the human race spreading over the earth. Then daughters are born. That’s when things start to mess up. The angels (sons of God) see them, fall in love, and do what angels and humans are apt to do, I guess. Before you get too far ahead, look at Numbers 13.33. The offspring of angel and humans were herculean heroes.
In the middle of this, God declares something missed in many translations.
In Genesis 6.3, the KJV and some others make it seem like God is saying He (or His Spirit) will not always be with the human race. Yet, other translations drive the point home better. (See here for different translations compared.)
In the ESV, Genesis 6.3 reads: Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”
The REB says it pretty much the same way: “My spirit will not remain in a human being for ever…” which is why the lifespan of the human is now to 120.
I think this fits well with the overall notion of God breathing into Adam and giving him a living soul. God’s breath, the divine spark, is placed into humans but cannot remain there long (thus, death).
Look again at the introduction to the story of the Flood. Genesis 6 doesn’t tell you much about when all of this is taking place. God gives humans 120 years, yet the genealogies are still extensively long. Shem lived 502 years! Genesis 6.4 says “in those days as well as later” meaning, possibly, the prologue here is not meant to be placed on a calendar, but to serve some grander purpose.
For some reason, the giants are placed in the prologue but not given as the cause of the Flood. What is the cause?
I think that once we really talk about Noah — what it means that he was to lift God’s curse of Adam’s sin, what he means that he “found favor” with God (Genesis 6.8), and how the prologue looks a whole lot different when one actually reads it, we are going to be done with our hour-ish!
There are some suggestions the Noahic flood is copied/modified/uses/borrows Babylonian flood stories. There are equal suggestions that Noah’s flood is a real event (even though some suggest while it was real it was real only for Noah’s world, i.e., an isolate geographical location).
If you examine the lineage of Cain and Seth, you will names that are either the same or phonetically similar:
For fun and I wouldn’t base a lot of theology on this, you can see this post here. It includes the name similarities and even some supposed hidden meanings in the names themselves.
Also, as we discussed last week, there are several possible reasons why God rejected Cain’s sacrifice but accepted Abel’s. One of them may have to do with Abel as the second son, a common theme in Scripture. Or, it could have something to do with the animal is always the sacrifice. But, I think we should look at the similarities in the Adam/Evan and Cain/Abel story. Both sin. Both are exiled. Of course, Cain is moved further away from Eden than Adam and Eve where. But, look at the similarities between the first clothing Adam chose — the fig leaf. God then took animal skins. Cain offered fruits and vegetables (figs?) but Abel offered after the pattern of God.
- Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (electronic ed.; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Ge 5:32. ↩