Opening Prayer: Lord, You warned that the Last Days would be like the days of Noah. Help us to understand what You meant.
Today we'll look at one of the most controversial passages in the Bible. Critics of the Bible say that chapters 5 through 10 of the book of Genesis are preposterous. They're too different from life as we know it. And everybody knows that the world hasn't changed much. After all, aren't conditions today about the same as they were 100 years ago? So surely life couldn't have been much different about 7,000 years ago, right?
Let's see just how different things were. Let's open our Bibles to Genesis chapter 5 and read verses 18-21:18 And Jared lived a hundred sixty and two years, and begat Enoch: 19 and Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 20 And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died. 21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah.
Well, can anybody see anything different from today's conditions?
Yes. The passage says that Jared fathered a son at age 162, and that he lived 962 years total. How could people live that long? Were living conditions that much different in those days? Has something happened to the gene pool since then to shorten life spans?
We'll discover the answers to these questions in a few minutes. For now, let's answer a different question: What is the meaning of the name "Methuselah" in verse 21?
Loosely translated, it means "when he dies, the end comes." His father, Enoch, was a man of God, and was probably divinely instructed to assign that name.
Now let's read verses 22-27 and see how Enoch responded to his kid's unusual name:22 and Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 23 and all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: 24 and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. 25 And Methuselah lived a hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech: 26 and Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters. 27 And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.
How did Enoch relate to God after Methuselah's naming?
It says that he walked with God -- he lived in close fellowship with God for at least the 300 years after his son's birth, and probably had a good relationship beforehand.
Then what happened to Enoch?
God took him home early -- apparently by some miraculous means. Remember this for later.
New question: This problem child of Enoch's -- how long did he live? After all, God had said that the world they knew would come to an end at Methuselah's death.
Methuselah lived to be 969 years old -- older than any other person described in the Bible.
What does Methuselah's lifespan teach us about the character of God?
For starters, we see that God must be a lot more patient than I am. Something was troubling God so much that He resolved to destroy the earth. Yet He waited nearly a thousand years -- hoping that either the situation would rectify itself, or that as many people as possible would avail themselves of His means of escape.
But if something was so WRONG that God would decide to destroy the world, WHY would He wait 969 years to do something about it? Just like today, with crime in the streets and corruption at all levels of our government, why doesn't God take immediate action to blot out the evildoers? WHY is God so patient?
The answer is that God loves you -- remarkable as that may seem at times. He also loves people who are a lot less lovable than you -- miraculous as that may seem. We'll learn more on this subject later, in Part 2 of this study.
Now let's read Genesis 5, verses 28-32:28 And Lamech lived a hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: 29 and he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, [which cometh] because of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed. 30 And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters: 31 And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died. 32 And Noah was five hundred years old: And Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
These verses give you some background about Noah and his family. But why did Lamech call his son Noah?
He had enough spiritual discernment and knowledge of history to know the truth of the curse. He knew the reality of Adam and Eve's fall in the garden, and that God was displeased with the way mankind had become. In fact, if you graph out these guys and their ages, you discover that Adam was still alive in Lamech's day. Furthermore, Methuselah was Lamech's father and Enoch was his grandfather, so Lamech had been hearing all his life that the earth was living on borrowed time. So apparently the Lord spoke to either Methuselah or Lamech that Noah would somehow be part of God's plan of deliverance.
Let's continue with Genesis chapter 6, verses 1-9. And let's see what we can learn from these verses about WHY God was so displeased with the human race:6:1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born unto them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose. 3 And Jehovah said, My spirit shall not strive with man for ever, for that he also is flesh: yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years. 4 The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them: the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown. 5 And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground; both man, and beast, and creeping thi! ngs, and birds of the heavens; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of Jehovah. 9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, [and] perfect in his generations: Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Right away, did you notice something very strange happening in verses 1,2 and 4? Can it possibly be true that demonic fallen angels were mating with human women?
Yes. The devil knew that God's plan of salvation was to bring a spiritually conceived Messiah into the world through a human woman. Therefore the devil determined to bring his counterfeits onto the scene early, and distract sinful man away from God's plan. Apparently, the evil plan worked well enough to get the whole world destroyed by flood.
That's an absurd notion. The Bible must be wrong; how could anybody be silly enough to worship beings that were half human and half demon? How can you expect me to believe that?
Maybe you wouldn't fall for it -- but do a quick Web search on mythology someday. You'll find that virtually all the historic religions (except Judaism and Christianity) were based on the antics of capricious, evil spirit beings who mated at will with humans. Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians -- all worshipped similar demonic creatures under different names. Closer to home, does the name "Hercules" sound familiar to you? Did you take your kids to see the highly sanitized and Disney-ized "hero" who was half-human, half-demon? Do your kids watch the Hercules TV series? Think about it.
So what made Noah different from his neighbors?
The Bible says Noah was "perfect in his generations," which could also mean "perfect in his genealogy." Noah's bloodline wasn't contaminated by any of the demonic influence we just discussed. Equally important, Noah "walked with God" -- a compliment also paid to his ancestor Enoch. This means Noah cared enough to actively seek the fellowship of the Lord and the truth of God's dealings with men. Good bloodlines didn't save Noah (surely he had brothers, sisters and cousins -- none of whom joined him in the ark). And Christian ancestors won't save you or me.
Let's continue with verses 11-13:11 And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. 13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Do you see anything in these verses that reminds you of current events?
Yes. Corruption and violence filled the earth back then. They fill our television sets, our schools and our streets today.
Wait a minute. There's no comparison between then and now. After all, they were prehistoric barbarians while 20th-Century humans are educated and civilized.
Our culture spends a lot of money on education, but does history verify a relationship between education and civility? You tell me.
Another question: Just how ignorant and barbaric were the people before the Flood?
Let's think about it. If people lived 900 years, we must infer several things:
- It must have been normal to be physically and mentally strong for at least the first 500 or 600 years.
- That would allow plenty of time to raise several families, gaining greater wisdom and knowledge to pass along to each group of kids.
- There was time to earn the equivalent of several college degrees, pursue several careers, travel around the world and retire several times between families and careers.
- Not only would you be able to amass knowledge, wisdom and wealth, but you would have several hundred additional years of experience available from your parents and grandparents. Just think how smart you could be -- or how smart you'd THINK you were! But for this longevity to be possible...
- People must have been much healthier than today. This, in turn, means that...
- The gene pool of mankind had not yet been damaged by thousands of years of racial segregation. For perspective, witness how certain breeds of pedigree show dogs are fragile and short-lived compared to most mutts.
- The gene pool of mankind had not yet been damaged by milennia of cosmic ray bombardment. This means that...
- Something must have shielded these people from the harmful effect of cosmic radiation before the Flood.
So what was shielding these people before the Flood?
We'll see very soon. In the meantime, let's just observe that the pre-Flood people lived long enough to become very educated and very prosperous.
But that's absurd. Is there any evidence outside the Bible indicating that pre-Flood people were not barbarians and savages?
I'm glad you asked. Archeologists have noted that the mathematics and astronomy of the historical civilizations seemed to follow reverse evolution. The Romans copied the Greeks, who copied the Egyptians and Babylonians, who copied the Sumerians. And it seemed to get less precise and less sophisticated with each copying exercise. This clearly implies that the origin of the mathematics was prior to the establishment of the Sumerian kingdom -- most likely prior to the Flood.
Some archeologists claim to have found marks of water erosion on the Sphinx and evidence of salt water stains inside the Great Pyramid next door. Those monuments were the products of an advanced group of builders, and the workmanship of the Great Pyramid has not been equalled by any builders of known history.
Let's continue with verses 14 through 17:14. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. 16. Make 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. 17. I 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. (NIV)
Does this passage describe a practical boat? Could it possibly have been large enough?
Yes, it was practical. The proportions are a close match to modern commercial and military ocean-going vessels. A boat of those dimensions would have been seaworthy.
But could it possibly have been large enough for all the animals?
Yes, it certainly could. Consider:
- The boat was big -- at least 450 feet long. The Hebrew text says the ark was 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits. The common (and smallest) cubit in the days of Moses was 18 inches. Archeology has also found evidence of larger cubits, sometimes called royal cubits, ranging from 21 to 25 inches. If the ark was measured in one of these larger cubits, it could have been more than 600 feet long and 100 feet wide.
- The ark had 3 decks, with subcompartments on each deck for different animals. That means there was between 150,000 and 190,000 square feet of floor space with fairly high ceilings. And with some stacking of cages for smaller creatures, they could be just fine.
- Many animals hibernate, further reducing the space and food required to support the animals.
- Many of the bulkier animals (giraffes and elephants come to mind) could have been brought aboard as weaned juveniles. Others -- perhaps including the dinosaurs -- simply were not summoned by God to make the trip.
Let's continue with verses 18-22:18. But 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. 19. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20. Two 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. 21. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them." 22. Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (NIV)
What two important spiritual principles are illustrated here?
First of all, if you noticed the word "covenant" in your first reading of verse 18, congratulations! Most of us would be so focused on the physical details of the story as to miss the important spiritual aspect. God had promised Adam and Eve that He would send a Messiah to redeem fallen man. But while Noah's contemporaries were too fallen to be interested in the promise, they could not change or annul God's faithfulness.
Second, every command of God is intended to preserve life. Sure, it was inconvenient to leave the family home and move into a boat full of smelly animals. ("Noah, we've worked 400 years on this house, and you expect ME to buy into all that flood stuff?") But the alternative was worse.
Closer to home, we KNOW that obeying God's commands will make us stronger and have eternal benefits. Yet we worry about missing out on some momentary sensation or experience. Maybe the rest of the world has a misinformed opinion of Christian and Jewish people. But in the long run, whose opinion matters?
Then what happened?
See Part 2 of this lesson.