Opening Prayer: Lord, help us to learn why You destroyed the world thousands of years ago, and why our generation is again provoking You like those in Noah's day.
This lesson will continue our study on the Flood described in the early portion of the book of Genesis. In case you missed it, we suggest you read Part 1 first.
Let's start in Genesis chapter 7 and read verses 1-5:1. The LORD then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2. Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3. and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughtout the earth. 4. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." 5. And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.
How do you suppose Noah felt when the LORD spoke to him that day?
He was probably disappointed in the short passenger list. He had spent 100 years building this enormous boat where everyone could see it -- and it probably was a world-famous tourist attraction. So every time the neighbors (or tourists) asked him why, Noah had the opportunity to share the LORD's word and invite people to be saved. They could have made room for other families ("We'll leave out the skunks and rattlesnakes, and put you and Ruth over here by the horse pen..."). If they took God seriously, other people could have built their own boats. But none of his friends believed him. None of his brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews believed him. And before the rain started, his own wife and kids probably had their doubts.
In their eyes, Noah was just another old-fashioned religious fanatic. Just another cult leader hung up on this end-of-the-world stuff. After all, they'd been hearing that scary stuff for a thousand years, going back to Grandpa Enoch's days.
Maybe it was Noah's fault, with that doom-and-gloom message. Why couldn't Noah preach something more positive, something more contemporary, something to build people's self esteem?
The problem wasn't Noah's preaching style. It wasn't his listeners' self esteem. The problem was sin. We humans love it. God hates it. But God so loved the lost sheep of Noah's day that he gave them 900 years of warning, including 100 years of really conspicuous boat building to get their attention.
Let's continue with verses 7-10:7 And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. 8 Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creepeth upon the ground, 9 there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, male and female, as God commanded Noah. 10 And it came to pass after the seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. (ASB)
Did the rains come as God had predicted?
Yes, right on schedule.
But how did Noah manage to gather up all the animals and get them on board in just seven days?
The Scripture says they came to Noah. If God can create animals, He can direct them to report in pairs to the loading ramp. The animals obeyed God; Noah's neighbors did not.
Now verses 11-16:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; 14 they, and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. 15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh wherein is the breath of life. 16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God commanded him: and Jehovah shut him in. (ASB)
What clues tell you that this was no ordinary rain storm?
For starters, the fountains of the great deep -- giant underground caverns of water -- were broken up. Volcanic action propelled the water toward the surface. The earth's crust was split open and the water came up.
And the water came down -- the windows of heaven were opened. Translation: More water came down as rain than presently exists in the earth's atmosphere. The best explanation is that a gaseous canopy formerly enclosed the planet, creating tropical conditions throughout the world. The canopy must have been dense enough to create the type of greenhouse climate associated with dinosaurs, but translucent enough for the moon and stars to be seen.
Now try to form a mental picture of these two factors working together. Volcanoes exploded simultaneously around the globe, sending tidal waves of water in all directions and possibly causing the destruction of the gaseous canopy. With the canopy's equilibrium destroyed, the excess water falls to earth as rain.
This was not a gentle spring rain. Nor was it a monsoon or even a hurricane. This was an unprecedented environmental catastrophe, mitigated only slightly when the rains stopped 40 days later. Even as the flood waters receded, the earth's new atmosphere struggled to find equilibrium and the polar regions experienced radical temperature drop. Many scholars believe this triggered the Ice Ages.
Why did God Himself shut the door after Noah entered?
God Himself determined who would survive and who would perish. With the storm intensifying, Noah might have been tempted to close the door too soon, excluding animals (and perhaps repentant neighbors) that were part of God's plan for the future world. Possibly worse, Noah might have endangered the entire ark by waiting too long for family and friends who -- before the deluge -- had expressed a casual interest in joining them on the ark. As we'll see later, God is again standing at the door waving and calling for all of us to get on board before the next world-wide catastrophe. And our hearts are broken by friends and relatives who express a casual interest in joining us in heaven, but who will wait too long and miss the boat.
Now the rest of Chapter 7, verses 17-24:17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lifted up above the earth. 18 And the waters prevailed, and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered. 20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. 21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both birds, and cattle, and beasts, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: 22 all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, of all that was on the dry land, died. 23 And every living thing was destroyed that was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only was left, and they that were with him in the ark. ! 24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days. (ASV)
But how did the waters get higher than mountains like Mount Everest?
If it existed before the Flood, Everest was considerably shorter. All mountains are formed by the collision of surface plates, with the edge of one plate riding up the edge of the other to form a mountain or hill. Today, the plates are pretty stationary and pretty hard. During and after the Flood, the earth's crust was broken up and much more plastic than today. More on this subject later.
But picture what was happening. The earth's crust had suffered multiple fractures because of the unprecedented volcanic activity. There was a LOT of water churning around atop the ground, creating a global mud puddle thousands of feet thick in places. After weeks of churning, there were several months during which the waters drained back underground and the mud stratified into "fossil layers." Last year's backyard brontosaurus became this year's million-year-old fossil.
Continuing in Chapter 8, verses 1-78:1 And God remembered Noah, and all the beasts, and all the cattle that were with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged; 2 the fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; 3 and the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters decreased. 4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen. 6 And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: 7 and he sent forth a raven, and it went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. (ASV)
Note verse 4. Imagine how Noah and family felt when the ark ran aground on what was then the highest peak in the region! Amazingly, it wasn't until the tenth month (the ninth month of the ordeal) that all the other hilltops could be seen.
So what's the deal with the raven?
Ravens are omnivorous. The raven could make a meal from almost anything, including decaying matter. So it flew back and forth between the ark and the rest of the world until it decided the outside world was more attractive ("...until the waters were dried up...").
Then Noah sent out a more delicate bird, verses 8-12:8 And he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; 9 but the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him to the ark; for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: and he put forth his hand, and took her, and brought her in unto him into the ark. 10 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; 11 and the dove came in to him at eventide; and, lo, in her mouth an olive-leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. 12 And he stayed yet other seven days, and sent forth the dove; and she returned not again unto him any more. (ASV)
So now there's enough exposed land and vegetation to support the animals and people on board the ark. Life after the Flood was going to be very different, but at least it would be possible.
Verses 13-19:13 And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dried. 14 And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dry. 15 And God spake unto Noah, saying, 16 Go forth from the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. 17 Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee of all flesh, both birds, and cattle, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. 18 And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him: 19 every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, whatsoever moveth upon the earth, after their families, went forth out of the ark. (ASV)
Note that Noah opens the door to see what's going on, but nobody is in a hurry to leave. The surface of the ground was dry, but the land was still pretty waterlogged for several weeks after that. Then God spoke, with both a command and a blessing (a common pattern). God told them to leave the ark, but God also spoke a blessing to both the people and the animals ("...be fruitful, and multiply...").
Let's finish up chapter 8:20 And Noah builded an altar unto Jehovah, and took of every clean beast, and of every clean bird, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. 21 And Jehovah smelled the sweet savor; and Jehovah said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, for that the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done. 22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
Why did Noah build an altar and offer sacrifices?
Gratitude would be sufficient reason, but there's another important principle involved: reciprocity. God wants a TWO-WAY relationship with you and me. Most days, that is a difficult principle to understand. It seems like God is doing everything important: keeping us alive, keeping the world spinning around the sun, and setting down all the rules for how we should act. No matter what we do, the world keeps spinning and God is in charge of the rules, and the bad folks seem to be breaking the rules and getting away with it.
But strange as it sounds, God wants us to interact with Him. We can't give Him the earth and sun and stars (like He gives us), but we can give back to Him a portion of what He's already given to us. We can give Him our time (prayer and worship) and some of our treasure (whatever stuff we hold dear) to show that we really DO care about Him.
But why animal sacrifices?
First, the clean (edible) animals were the most valuable commodity on earth at that time. Second, there were spiritual truths embodied in each of the different types of sacrifices -- truths that would be sketched out in later Scriptures and given life in the person of Jesus the Messiah.
Don't forget the blessing in verses 21-22.
Good point. God promised that He would never again wipe out the earth and all living creatures like He did at the Flood. Furthermore, He promised that seedtime and harvest (earthly food supply chain) and the familiar seasons would continue as long as the earth continued to exist.
In Chapter 9, God expands on terms of the blessing:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the heavens; With all wherewith the ground teemeth, and all the fishes of the sea, into your hand are they delivered. 3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you; As the green herb have I given you all. 4 But flesh with the life thereof, [which is] the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. 5 And surely your blood, [the blood] of your lives, will I require; At the hand of every beast will I require it. And at the hand of man, even at the hand of every man's brother, will I require the life of man. 6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: For in the image of God made he man. 7 And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.
Note the many elements of this covenant (agreement) between God and Noah:
- Be fruitful and multiply.
- The diet changes from the vegetarian menu given Adam and Eve to the omnivorous diet necessary in the Post-Flood environment.
- From now on, animals and birds will be afraid of you (because they're on the menu?).
- Life is precious in God's sight; the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11); therefore you shall not eat the blood of any animal.
- Human life is especially precious in God's sight since we are made in God's image.
- God requires the death penalty of murderers -- "...at the hand of man...will I require the life of man." Do you suppose God considered unborn children to have life? What do you think?
- Be fruitful and multiply.
The covenant promises continue in verses 8-16:8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you. Of all that go out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of the flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud, 15 and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh;! and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
To whom is God speaking, and with whom is He making the covenant?
The Lord is speaking to Noah and his sons, but the covenant includes all living creatures and not just the humans.
What are the elements of the covenant?
- Never more would He use a flood to destroy all life from the earth.
- God placed the rainbow in the rain clouds as a token (or symbol) of the covenant.
- God promised that He would observe a rainbow in every rain storm He brought to the earth, and that He would remember His covenant. On reflection, it's good that this covenant doesn't depend on OUR ability to see the rainbow or OUR ability to remember the covenant.
Let's skip through a few verses of unpronounceable names and look at Chapter 10, verses 21-25:21 And unto Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, to him also were children born. 22 The sons of Shem: Elam, and Asshur, and Arpachshad, and Lud, and Aram. 23 And the sons of Aram: Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Mash. 24 And Arpachshad begat Shelah; and Shelah begat Eber. 25 And unto Eber were born two sons: The name of the one was Peleg. For in his days was the earth divided. And his brother's name was Joktan.
Notice anything interesting in verse 25?
Yes. It says that in the days of Peleg, the earth was divided. His name means "division" and was probably meant to be historically descriptive, like Methuselah in our previous lesson.
Many competent scientists and scholars believe that the phenomenon called "continental drift" began in Peleg's lifetime. All the present-day continents originally were either a single land mass or were very close to each other. At some point, the continents began to move apart to their present locations.
How could that be possible? The continental plates are moving too slowly now for the drifting to have started just 5,000-10,000 years ago.
Yes, the plates are moving too slowly NOW. But picture what was happening THEN. Remember how the earth's crust was broken up and still pretty plastic. Peleg was born about 100 years after the Flood. That would have been ample time for people and animals to spread out across the entire land mass while the continents (as we know them) were still either connected or at least very close. But in his day, people noticed that the plates were moving -- creating mountains in some areas and oceans in others.
Is there any other evidence in the Bible of the continental drift starting here, in historic times?
Yes, but it's subtle. Many times, the Hebrew prophets referred to distant lands as "coastlines of the islands." From their geographic perspective, North America was last visible to them as an island retreating westward.
Any archeological evidence?
In the past century, archeologists have been startled to realize that some ancient North American structures (like the New England "root cellars") were not built by Native Americans but by visitors (settlers?) from Europe and the Middle East. They have also found coins and relics from Europe and the Middle East dating from more than 1000 BC up to the first century BC (when the Romans wiped out all navies except their own). A logical person would suppose that ocean travel between continents began at a time when the land masses were much closer together than they are today. And each generation would think their grandparents were exaggerating about how fast they could cross the ocean. "In my day, we really knew how to sail, and could reach New York two full days faster than you lazy kids do it these days!"
OK, so there was a big flood a long time ago. So what? Why have you made us sit and read two entire lessons on ancient history? What's in it for me?
Quite a bit, actually. This lesson could help you avoid the next world-wide catastrophe.
What do you mean catastrophe?
Jesus Himself said that a time of tribulation was coming upon the world immediately before His return to set things straight. And He said in the gospel of Matthew chapter 24:37 And as [were] the days of Noah , so shall be the coming of the Son of man. 38 For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, 39 and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man...
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. 44 Therefore be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh.
And if that passage is too subtle for you, spend a few days reading the Book of Revelation -- the last book in the Bible, fittingly enough. The last chapter of world history is about to be written, and we already know how it's going to end.
So how does all this Noah stuff prepare us for the last days' tribulation?
For starters, notice that God put people into three different groups with respect to the Flood. Some people perished during the Flood. Some people were preserved by God through the midst of it (Noah and family). And some (Enoch and maybe Lamech) were taken out of the world BEFORE the Flood. If God follows the same pattern, then I want to position myself to be in the group that's taken out of the world before the next catastrophe.
Any other parallels?
God said that the human race had grown exceptionally wicked and complacent (sound familiar?). God is holy and just, and will return in the person of Jesus to judge the entire earth and restore righteousness to the earth. And He's giving us ample warning through the rebirth of the nation Israel, the blossoming of the fig tree and other remarkable signs of the times. Jesus said (in Matthew 24:32-35) that when these signs began to take place, THAT generation (a 40-50 year period) would not pass away until all those events would happen and He would return. It's already been 50 years since the rebirth of Israel, but it has been less than 40 years since Jerusalem has been restored to Israeli control.
Well, IF God is so holy that He can't stand sin, and IF the world is so sinful that He will bring another world-wide catastrophe before He returns to set things right, what's He waiting for?
I agree that sometimes it just doesn't make sense. Wouldn't a loving, all-knowing, and sinless God take immediate action to stop the spread of evil and disease that might cause injury or death to innocent people? Looking around at world conditions today, we have to wonder: does God really plan to send Jesus back to restore the world? The answer is in 2 Peter, chapter 3, verses 3-9:3 Know this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts,
4 and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
5 For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God;
6 by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
7 but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
8 But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but th! at all should come to repentance.
It's ironic that God chose Peter -- the most impulsive of the Apostles -- to write these words about the patience of God and the mercy that is available to us if and when we repent. The bottom line is that God loves us fallen creatures so much that He gives us time to repent.
How much time?
If you're able to read this, there's still time for you. So instead of wondering how long you can tread water, it's better to ask: "What does God want from me?" Two other questions are also helpful: "What's the reward for doing it His way?" and "What are the consequences for doing it my way?" These questions were answered in the first series of lessons on Genesis 1-3.
Closing Prayer: Father, it's difficult for me to understand either Your holiness or Your amazing love for us sinners. Change my heart to make it more like Yours, that I may understand You better, and that I may recognize the perilous times we live in. Amen.