When we read about the flood, it’s easy to accept it without thinking about it. However, God is not a capricious God, and flooding the entire world is a significant undertaking. So how bad did it have to get before he decided enough was enough?
The Garden of Eden was only Satan’s first attempt at thwarting God’s redemption plan. In Genesis 6 he’s back, just this time he’s behind the scenes. It is because of Satan’s dealings and his corruption of humanity that God had no choice but to start again. Except he didn’t start again completely – he saved Noah and his family; Noah and his family were the only righteous ones found in the whole of the earth. Their obedience is obvious in that they were the only ones to enter the ark. But we digress.
Satan failed in the Garden of Eden, although he was able to get the humans thrown out of the Garden of Eden by enticing them to sin, they didn’t die immediately, they were able to have children, and this was the problem. For God’s prophecy to be fulfilled, for the Redeemer to come, there had to be people. To make God a liar, Satan therefore had to work pretty hard to wipe out the people. If he couldn’t wipe out the people, what else could he do? He could corrupt the people. This is where possibly the weirdest parts of the Bible comes in. There’s that bit that you probably noticed: ‘Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the might men who were of old, men of renown,’ (Genesis 6:1-4). So what’s that all about?
There is no absolute consensus about this passage. There are some, such as Warren Wiersbe who consider that the daughters of men were of the line of Cain, and that the sons of God were the righteous men of the line of Seth. The theory is that when these two lines were mixed, the bloodline of Seth was corrupted with the sins of the line of Cain (remember he was a murderer), and that therefore this made corrupted the line of Seth. There are some problems with this theory. First of all, Seth was not sin-free either, there has been no person on earth since Adam and Eve (except for Jesus) who has not been born sinful. We inherit sin, and we indulge it. However nice or good we are, it is in our nature to sin, and that is the same for Seth as it was for everyone else. There is also no biblical command for the line of Cain and the line of Seth to stay separate. I would expect this if this were the case. It is also not a natural reading of the text.
Another theory which I feel makes more sense, and is subscribed to by Chuck Missler amongst others, is that the daughters of men simply referred to women on the earth at the time, with no regard to which line they were descended from. The sons of God, on the other hand were fallen angels. The theory is that Satan was trying to corrupt the entire human race so that the Redeemer could never even be born. This would make God a liar. It is not a perfect theory, although angels are sometimes referred to as sons of God, these are fallen angels we are talking about. Also, Jesus tells us that there will be no marriage in heaven, and no giving in marriage. So does that mean that fallen angels are able to interact sexually with humans. We don’t know. Neither theory is perfect, certainly, but on balance the second option seems more likely. As Chuck Missler says, when believers marry unbelievers the products of the marriage may be little horrors, but it doesn’t bring about the end of the world as we know it. Both lines were sinful, it’s just that one was more notorious than the other. Yet again, this whole situation is brought about by the scarlet thread. That line that began with the sacrifice in the Garden of Eden and continues until Jesus. Every now and then we get a glimpse of it. In this chapter what we get is Satan trying everything he can in order to break it.
One of the results from this interbreeding is that hybrids were produced, these were called Nephilim. No one’s exactly sure what this means, but we know that it refers to the chimera children that were produced from just such a union. But also, it increased the level and intensity of sin and evil in the world (that is absolutely incompatible with just two clans joining, there needs to be some supernatural input here somewhere). So we have huge amounts of sin.
But as we have said, everyone was sinful for a certain extent, so what’s the deal with Noah?
Noah was a righteous man. That doesn’t mean he was perfect, and neither does it mean he was sinless. It’s just that he had faith. He relied on God, and trusted him. There are a few people who were considered righteous, and they go down in history. There are plenty of contemporary examples such as Corrie Ten Boom, but also the Bible contains many examples of people who were not perfect, yet were considered righteous because they relied on God. Mary’s one, Abraham’s another. Abraham was saved because he was considered to be righteous, not because he was sinless. Mary was righteous and she was chosen to bear the Redeemer himself. There’s a Hall of Righteousness in Hebrews 11.
Noah knew he was not good enough to please God through his actions, he recognised his need for a Redeemer. He recognised his need for God, and knew that by his own efforts he would never be good enough for God. Because of this, and the fact that the rest of the world was depraved and daily sinking deeper into depravity, God chose him to build the ark. Noah built the ark in a righteous manner. How did he do it? He obeyed God. God provided detailed instructions, and it was done according to plan, no more and no less. If we looked further on in the Bible we see that frequently God will give detailed instructions in order for them to be followed to the letter. Obedience is sacred (see Psalm 119). We see this in the way details were recorded after the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness (which was a direct copy of the heavenly one that God showed to Moses) see Exodus 36-40.
Noah had plenty of time to build the ark. That would have been plenty of time for people to jeer at him for what he was doing. You need to consider that what God told Noah would happen was unprecedented. These people didn’t even know what rain was because they had only known water to rise from the earth, not come down from the sky. This alone must have raised a laugh – upside down water, whatever next?! But Noah quietly plodded on, carrying out orders, obeying God. Even though what God had told him probably sounded ridiculous even to his righteous ears. Not only this, but Noah was building a gigantic boat on dry land that was miles from water. How daft! Actually, there was plenty of time for people to repent. 120 years in fact. But no one did. There was just the tiny remnant of Noah, Mrs Noah, his sons and his daughters-in-law.
Interestingly the Hebrew word for ‘cover’ in this passage, which is used to describe Noah coating the ark in pitch, is the same word for ‘covering’ for sins. The same word. Perhaps unsurprising for some, but have a think about it. Noah and his family entered the ark because God deemed them righteous. Believers are saved because have faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and their sins are therefore ‘covered’. It might seem a bit of a coincidence, but that happens a lot in the Bible.
Why did no one listen? Well possibly because Noah was doing some pretty crazy things, building the boat, talking about rain, and judgment. And actually life was pretty good at the time. Matthew tells us that at the time of the flood, people were carrying on, business as usual (see Matthew 24:37-39). Of course there was that funny instance of one of Noah’s relatives being called ‘When he dies it will happen’ which was a nod to some future judgment, and this relative (Methusaleh) was knocking on a bit at the time.
Anyhow, it all happened as Noah had said it would. Noah and his family entered the boat, and that’s when the rain started. You could imagine at first people may have been standing out in it, wondering what it was; perhaps then they remembered what Noah had said, and then when it didn’t show any sign of stopping, perhaps then they got a bit worried. Perhaps some who lived near Noah went to hear what he had to say on the subject – perhaps when they realised that he had boarded the ark with his family they realised they had quite literally missed the boat. That the only safe place away from the rain was on the other side of the door – the door to the ark which God himself had shut.
The ark is a prime example of God being unequivocal. If people were deemed to be righteous, then they were allowed in. Many didn’t and many more than likely justified themselves in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Perhaps they were persisting in doing wrong and rejecting a relationship with God because they had better things to be doing. Perhaps they were distracted by their businesses; by family events, or even family itself. Perhaps they were doing wrong because everyone else was, or perhaps because ‘anyone who wants to get ahead has to compromise sometimes’. There are countless excuses and justifications for doing your own thing. This doesn’t matter the tiniest bit to God. The final question will be ‘Did you, or didn’t you?’ There will be no moving of goalposts, there will be no unfairness – everyone will take responsibility for their own lives, lifestyles and habits. This was the case during the flood, it will also be the case for every other person. The Passover was another example of God enabling an escape for those who trusted him. Those who followed his instructions, whether Hebrew or Egyptian, were saved. Those who disobeyed suffered the loss of their firstborn. It was as simple as that – and it has been as simple as that ever since. As simple as accepting that God would provide a way for us to be redeemed – Jesus Christ – and accepting this way as the only way. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it, or if you don’t believe in life after death, or you don’t believe in religion or don’t believe in anything other than the physical world that you see. There’s no negotiation – God has provided a way, and it is up to us whether we accept it or not. There’s one reason to accept it (accepting that it’s true and that there’s no salvation anywhere else) and thousands of reasons not to accept it. The devil wants to distract us with excuses and reasoning – but God’s offer stands, to be rejected or not. It’s our choice.
Obedience is God’s requirement for us. We will either obey God or obey the devil. There is no sitting on the fence. If we are not obeying God, we are doing the devil’s work. Only in God is there true freedom. If Noah had not obeyed God’s strict and precise instructions for building the ark, then they would not have stayed afloat and even those in the ark would have perished. Obedience is so important – but today it’s so easy just to rationalise and justify – how often have we said ‘It’s just once’ or ‘It’s not a complete lie’? There’s such a trend today to say that there’s no such thing as black and white – but there frequently is – and with God there most certainly is. After all for water to be pure, it can’t be 0.1% arsenic, can it?
According to Warren Wiersbe, the Biblical cubit is generally considered to be about 18 inches long; this would make the ark about 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. There were 18 inch windows beneath the roof for ventilation and light, and the ark had one door and three decks. The ark was not so much a boat as a floating crate. It was not for getting from one place to another, but rather just to stay afloat for the duration of the flood. Dr Henry Morris calculated that this ark would be large enough to accommodate the equivalent of 500 livestock railway cars, about 125,000 animals. You might wonder how these animals were to be collected. Did Noah go and bargain with them? No, God gathered the creatures to Noah (verses 19-22). The ark episode is the first covenant that God makes with people. It is he who shuts the door of the ark at the right time to make sure all are aboard who are coming aboard, and to ensure their safety.
With thanks to my spiritual uncles: Uncle Warren Wiersbe, Uncle Chuck Missler, Uncle Matthew Henry, Uncle Jacob Prasch and Uncle Arnold Fruchtenbaum.