Restoration & Praise
Christian Fellowship Center
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF NOAH
Devotional Reading: Matthew 24:36-44
Background Scripture: Genesis 6; 8:19
LESSON SCRIPTURES: Genesis 6:9b-22
Exerted from: Standard Lesson Commentary KJV (2017-2018).
9b Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.
10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his 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.
14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.
16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side
thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.
17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.
18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.
19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.
20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.
22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.
After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:
1. Describe the situation that led God to destroy human society.
2. Explain why Noah and his family were protected from the flood.
3. Identify a personal characteristic to develop or strengthen for the glory of God and make a plan to do so.
Many of us have become familiar with a term that would have seemed nonsensical before 1981: Control-Alt-Delete. When a Windows-based computer freezes up and you can’t do anything or just can’t stand to wait, the keystroke combination Control-Alt-Delete will bring up the Task Manager. That feature allows the user to shut down a frozen program or reboot the operating system; for Mac users, the equivalent is Command-Option-Esc.
In a perfect world, computers would always run without a hitch. But since we don’t live in a perfect world, we sometimes have to stop and start over when a system doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.
Our lesson today involves a “Control-Alt-Delete” scenario from early history. God had created a perfect world, and He created humans to share it sinlessly with Him. But Adam and Eve spoiled the system by eating the forbidden fruit. That started history’s downward spiral. God realized the only way forward was a reboot, a fresh start with a renewed creation.
The first four lessons of this quarter considered the biblical account of creation. Because all things were made by God and were consistent with His purposes, they all were inherently “good” (Genesis 1:12, 18, 21, 25, 31). The situation changed, however, when sin entered the picture. The period described in Genesis 4:1–6:7, between expulsion from the garden and Noah’s lifetime, was characterized by a dramatic population expansion and a corresponding increase in evil. Over time, God’s hopeful plans for a perfect world were so spoiled by wickedness that only one option remained: to destroy humans and animals (6:5–7).
Legends of a great flood were widespread in the ancient world. The two most commonly cited as parallels to Genesis 6–9 are the Babylonian epics Gilgamesh (composed over 2,000 years ago) and Atrahasis (a late version of which was written about 1700 BC). Similar to Genesis, both works attribute the flood to a divine cause, show the gods warning a select human being of the destruction to come, and advising him to build a boat. These works portray the hero rescuing animal life by bringing animals onto the boat and include the hero offering sacrifices to the gods after the boat settles on dry land (compare Genesis 8:20, 21).
In Gilgamesh, as in Genesis 8:6–12, the hero tests the receding of the waters by releasing several birds from the boat. Noting these similarities, some scholars have suggested that the biblical story of Noah is based on these pagan legends.
Yet while the Genesis flood story is like other ancient accounts of a great flood in certain respects, there are key differences. The Babylonian epics locate the flood within a larger narrative about a running conflict between the many pagan gods of early Mesopotamia. They portray humans as servile pawns to capricious deities. The Genesis account, by contrast, portrays the flood as a consequence of human sin and connects it with God’s larger creation and re-creation of the world. The differences are telling!
9b. Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.
This characterization of Noah creates a sharp contrast with the description of the world at large in Genesis 6:5. Of course, Noah sinned like every other human being (compare 9:21). But clearly he did not participate in the general moral decay into which the society around him had fallen. Noah was a follower of the Lord rather than idols. But the language and context here distinguish him from other people more on the basis of his character than on the object of his worship. While others are violent, abusive, and self-centered, Noah acts with justice toward others. The word perfect emphasizes his outstanding reputation for doing good. Noah’s faithfulness explains God’s selecting him to play a part in the renewal of the earth (see Genesis 6:8).
What Do You Think?
What top three character traits should unbelievers see in you as you walk with God?
Consider the general principles in Matthew 5:14–16; Colossians 4:5, 6; and 1 Peter 2:12, 21 as you decide on specific traits.
10. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Noah’s three sons are significant for the role they will play in repopulating the earth after the great flood. As survivors of the catastrophe, Shem, Ham, and Japheth will become the forefathers of all ethnic groups (Genesis 10). Presumably, they follow their father’s moral example and avoid the sins of the culture around them.
11. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
This verse summarizes the more detailed description of society in Genesis 6:4–7. As seen earlier, God intends for humans to manage the earth and all living things responsibly by following His instructions. While God had commanded Adam and Eve to produce new life (1:28), the darker human capacity to murder was introduced in the second generation of the human race (4:8). The tendency now seems to be to take life rather than multiply it.
12. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
The breadth of the problem is stressed in that the phrase all flesh includes all descendants of Adam and Eve. Everyone except Noah has become corrupt. (Regarding the status of Noah’s immediate family, see on Genesis 6:18 below.) This implies many self-centered sins: violent struggles for power, no regard for the common stewardship of the earth’s resources as God originally commanded (1:16–28; 2:15), etc. People have come to realize that control of the world at the expense of others can produce great material wealth.
What Do You Think?
If we viewed our world the way God does, in what ways should our prayer lives, priorities, and behavior change?
How does your answer change, if at all, after comparing and contrasting John 3:16 with 1 John 2:15?
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.
By the time Noah comes on the scene, the situation has become so bad that God sees no other solution than to destroy what He has made. Theoretically, Genesis 6:7 could signal a return to the timelessness that existed before Genesis 1 after God destroys the universe and all humans with it. Then He could start over. Or God could keep all the inanimate elements of creation intact, then bring new humans into existence.
But since Noah is an exception to the rule of wickedness, God decides to work with him and his family rather than starting from scratch. God’s decision to reveal His plan to Noah further stresses the quality of Noah’s character. To what extent Noah shares this dire warning with others outside his family is unknown. Noah is characterized as “a preacher of righteousness” in 2 Peter 2:5, but it is unclear whether that means Noah actually speaks to his contemporaries about the coming judgment and the need to repent.
What Do You Think?
What would you say to someone who believes that a loving God would never judge sin so harshly?
What Old Testament passages (only) would you use in that response?
14. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
Having warned Noah of the impending flood, God now tells him how to survive it. Notably, God’s instructions require Noah to demonstrate faith. While God could miraculously protect Noah and his household inside a magic underwater bubble, He instead requires Noah to create his own means of survival at his own expense long before the first drop of rain falls.
Noah’s salvation is to take the form of a boat—an ark. The Hebrew word used to describe the vessel is somewhat unusual, appearing in the Bible only here in the story of Noah and at Exodus 2:3–5. In the latter, it refers to the container in which Moses’ mother set him afloat on the Nile River. Some commentators think the word, deriving from an Egyptian term, means “chest” or “box”; others think it means “palace.” In Noah’s context, it perhaps implies the special role the ark will play as a container of the precious life within.
The precise kind of wood is uncertain since the word gopher is not a translation but a transliteration (that is, a literal rendering of the sounds of the original Hebrew word). The fact that this is the only place in the Old Testament where this word is used adds to the uncertainty.
15. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.
The dimensions of the ark are impressive, even by modern standards: conversion of 18-inch cubits to feet yields a length of 450 feet, a breadth of 75 feet, and height of 45 feet. At first glance, the 33,750 square feet of floor space is impressive enough, but Genesis 6:16b (below) has more to add to this.
The total volume computes to more than 1.5 million cubic feet. This equates to the capacity of about 375 modern tractor trailers! Note that Noah’s ark is conceived as a free-floating barge, not as a steerable ship. Therefore none of its capacity will be occupied by any kind of propulsion system.
16a. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above.
The Hebrew word translated window occurs only here in the Old Testament, so the problem of exact meaning is similar to that of “gopher” in verse 14, above. The translators of the old Greek version known as the Septuagint, who lived two centuries before Christ, seem to have been just as perplexed in their translation: “By an assembling, you shall make the ark; and by a cubit you shall complete it from above.” Presumably, the ark is to have many openings below an overhanging roof for light and ventilation (see Genesis 8:6).
16b. And the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.
The door of the ark will allow the loading of cargo and animals. It is likely sealed with pitch before the journey. Because the ark is to include three habitable stories, its floor space will exceed 100,000 square feet.
17. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.
Having provided instructions for the ark, God now identifies its purpose: the judgment He has decreed (Genesis 6:13) will take the form of a devastating flood. The scale of the destruction parallels the scale of the sin: 6:5, 13 indicate that violence and evil had become universal, and the verse at hand prescribes a universal flood as the remedy.
Scholars debate whether the term all flesh should be taken to mean that the flood was to be global (covering the entire earth) or regional (confined to one specific part of the world). The latter interpretation emphasizes the fact that judgment is pronounced on and targeted at humanity. And at this point, humans seem confined to a specific area of the world, signifying that all human life can be destroyed by a flood that affects only that region. In either case, the scope of the devastation to come is clear: God intends to wipe out the entire human race, with just a few exceptions (next verse).
18. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.
The term covenant, appearing here for the first time in the Bible, is used in a way that specifically distinguishes faithful Noah and his family from the rest of the human race that will be destroyed. Covenant means “contract.” This covenant implies that obedience to a sovereign ruler (in this case God) will result in protection and provision. The terms of the agreement presuppose that Noah, as a servant of God, must follow the command to build and enter the ark; the implied reward is protection from the deluge, which Noah receives as a result of his obedience. The explicit terms of the Noahic covenant are listed in Genesis 8:20–9:17.
What Do You Think?
How will the Bible’s concept of covenant affect how you live this week?
Moving from abstract concept to concrete details, how does Hebrews 8 cause you to modify your conclusion, if at all?
19, 20. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
The terms of Noah’s obedience to God’s covenant continue, now regarding the plan for preserving animal life. These instructions cover the full range of creatures. It will be physically impossible for Noah to capture a mating pair of each and every species. The fact will leave room for another miraculous display of God’s power as He will compel healthy representatives to come into the ark. The note that the animals will come in pairs of male and female reflects their purpose of repopulation. These instructions are further clarified in Genesis 7:1–3.
Skeptics who doubt the truth of the biblical narrative question the ark’s ability to accommodate eight humans (1 Peter 3:20) and representatives of all animal species of land and air. They generally approach the question by noting the number of species extant today and arguing that Noah’s ark was not big enough to hold them all. The biblical account, however, takes the opposite approach: only those animals who travel on the ark will survive the flood.
21. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.
As a final instruction, Noah is commanded to stock the ark with supplies for his family and the animals. Comparing Genesis 7:11 with 8:3–14 indicates that they were in the ark for more than a year.
22. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.
Now aware of the forthcoming reality of the annihilation of the human race, Noah proceeds with God’s intricate instructions. The action God intends to take is unprecedented, and we wonder if this quickens the pace of construction. We don’t know. This part of the story merely concludes with a simple statement of Noah’s obedience. Just as he has distinguished himself throughout his life by his righteous conduct, he now distinguishes himself by his full and unquestioning obedience to God’s commands. This aspect of Noah’s story is highlighted in Hebrews 11:7, part of a listing known as the Faith Hall of Fame:
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
What Do You Think?
What is one thing you can do in the week ahead to prepare yourself to be responsive to God’s promptings?
How do you guard against the possibility of confusing your own desires with God’s will?
WATER AS AN INSTRUMENT OF LIFE
On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 ended up in the Hudson River a few minutes after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport. Pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger had decided to ditch the plane in the river after simultaneous bird strikes in both engines caused them to fail. The relatively soft landing surface of the water, compared with the surrounding terrain, served as an instrument of life. Such a landing also helped ensure no fire, and all 155 passengers and crew survived as the damaged airliner stayed afloat long enough be something of an “ark.” The incident has come to be called the Miracle on the Hudson.
Commenting on the great flood, the apostle Peter says that “in the days of Noah … eight souls were saved by water” (1 Peter 3:20). But wait—with the word by correctly understood as meaning “by means of” (instrumentality), shouldn’t Peter have written that “eight souls were saved by the ark”?
The fact that Peter does not say that may indicate that something vital in the bigger picture must not be overlooked: the fact that in addition to escaping physical death, the eight souls also escaped spiritual death.
Think about the wholesale wickedness of the surrounding culture in Noah’s day. If that wickedness had not been extinguished, would it not just have been a matter of time before some, most, or all of those eight souls succumbed to the temptation to join the party? The death of the wicked by water meant removal of that temptation so righteousness could flourish unfettered. The ark allowed the saving of the physical; the flood waters allowed the saving of the spiritual. Don’t leave the analysis there, however, because what the apostle says about the flood in 1 Peter 3:20 serves as an analogy or parallel with the significance of Christian baptism in 3:21. You should read that now. —C. R. B.
While we normally think of floods, forest fires, and hurricanes as “natural disasters,” these events can also serve positive purposes in the larger picture. Many plants and trees, for example, exhibit an adaptation called serotiny. That means that they release seeds only in reaction to an environmental trigger. One such tree is the giant sequoia, which produces seed cones that open only under great heat. This allows these trees to take advantage of the ground opened up by a forest fire.
Other forms of plant life evidence hygriscence. That means that they release their seeds only after a heavy rain, thus allowing survival in a desert. Fire and flood in these cases become contexts for the generation of new life.
Noah’s flood, terrible as it was, served a similar purpose. It was humanity’s first, but not last, “Control-Alt-Delete.” The last one is noted in 2 Peter 3:10–13.
Lord, give us the strength to be faithful when the world around us is crumbling. Protect us from evil, even when everyone around us turns away from You. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thought to Remember
God protects the righteous at all times.
Standard Lesson Commentary KJV (2017-2018).