Thursday, January 5, 2012

Blogging the Bible: The Flood and more Sin

Here are some thoughts on Genesis 7-9 for you to mull as you read.

When we leave Noah in Genesis 7, we see that the flood is going strong. The flood continued forty days. Can you imagine forty days of rain? Constant downpour? Forty days. The water carries the ark, which, as has been pointed out by many scholars, is perfectly seaworthy. Over the years, people have shaken their heads at the size of the boat, and wondered at its seaworthiness. The people at Answers in Genesis have an interesting little bit on the Ark that you can check out here (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n2/thinking-outside-the-box).What they show is that the boat was incredibly seaworthy.  The flood continues for 150 days after the rain stops. And there sits Noah. Waiting. And we are told God remembered Noah. “And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.”

Now, there is a legitimate question that people ask. Did this happen? Here’s something interesting to think about.

The North American Indians have several flood stories. One from the Choctaw tribe tells how, long ago, men became so corrupt that the Great Spirit destroyed them in a flood. Only one man was saved—a prophet whose warnings the people disregarded, and whom the Great Spirit then directed to build a raft from sassafras logs. After many weeks, a small bird guided the prophet to an island where the Great Spirit changed the bird into a beautiful woman who became the wife of the prophet. Their children then repopulated the world (Morrison, W.B., Ancient Choctaw Legend of the Great Flood, September 8, 2000).
In Australia, there are several Australian Aboriginal flood stories. One tells how, long ago, there was a flood that covered the mountains so that many of the Nurrumbunguttias, or spirit men and women, were drowned. Others, including Pund-jil, were caught up by a whirlwind into the sky. When the waters receded, and the mountains appeared again, and the sea went back into its own place, the son and daughter of Pund-jil ‘went back to earth and became the first of the true men and women who live in the world today’ (Reed, A.W., ‘The Great Flood’, in Aboriginal Fables And Legendary Tales, Reed Books, Sydney, Australia, pp. 55-56, 1965)
In China, same thing. Early Jesuit scholars were the first Europeans to gain access to the Chinese ‘book of all knowledge’ from ancient times. This 4,320-volume collection told of the repercussions of mankind’s rebellion against the gods: “The Earth was shaken to its foundations. The sky sank lower towards the north. The sun, moon, and stars changed their motions. The Earth fell to pieces and the waters in its bosom rushed upwards with violence and overflowed the Earth.” (Berlitz, C., The Lost Ship of Noah, W.H. Allen, London, UK, p. 126, 1987).

These three examples and many more can be found at http://creation.com/many-flood-legends

The most famous of all of these is the Epic of Gilgamesh, which many scholars like to say the bible barrowed from. Nothing could be more untrue. While there are similarities, including that the flood occurs in the Mesopotamian plain, and the main character is told to save himself, his family, and some animals, there are significant differences. The time is different. Instead of 100 years, there is a 7 day warning. Instead of a 190 total days of flooding, there are 21. The motivation is different. In the bible, God is dealing with sin, in Gilgamesh, the Gods are bugged by the noise people make. It’s a fascinating study, and to learn more, I would recommend going to http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/gilgamesh.html.

My point in passing on these tidbits is that there are echoes of this event scattered around the world, telling us, yes, this story seems wild, but it did happen. I don’t know if it was global, or universal in terms of its impact on humanity and animal life, but it happened, and throughout the world, we find stories of a flood killing all but a remnant.

Now, moving on. The boat is at the mountain. Then what? We go back to where the waters at full height. Why? Look at 8:6. In verse 5, we’re told that the waters have abated. In verse 6, we’re back at day forty. This is a Hebrew layering device. They tell the story, and then retell it, adding more details. You see this time and again, you saw it at creation, you see it later when David kills goliath, you see it again and again. When the land is dry, God sends them out.

Now, notice six things

First, what is Noah’s response to God’s merciful protection? He worships. The proper response to God’s mercy is worship. Noah looks around, and see’s the judgment, the world is washed clean, and he sees how God has protected him, and he worships.

Second, notice God’s promise. He will never again bring this kind of cataclysm. He will never again curse the ground because of man (although notice, the curse is not removed, however, He won’t add to it), and he won’t bring this kind of universal judgment again by water. There will never again be a flood that destroys the earth in this manner (Peter later writes that the next time the earth is judged, it will be with fire). “While the earth remains, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” “I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." The sign of that promise is a rainbow. You can trust that this is true. The point of Psalm 12 is that while men break their promises, the word of the Lord will not fail, and he will protect his children. “The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. You, O LORD, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man (Psa. 12:6-8).

Third, notice what God does after Noah worships. He blesses Noah, and repeats the creation mandate. At creation, God said “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Gen 1:28)”. Now God says again "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”. However, notice the reality that Noah now has to deal with. “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea”.

Fourth, Notice what God says about the animals and plants. Take and Eat. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you”. Up till now, man only ate vegetables. Now he says, you can eat animals. There is a condition though. “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood”. This ban is one of the most important food laws in the bible.

Fifth, notice also what God says about killing people. “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. Zero in on 9:6. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image”. The bible has no problems with capital punishment. If you murder someone, there is to be a reckoning. It’s not unforgivable by God, he forgave David, but throughout the bible, there is an expectation that if you take a life, your life is forfeit. We see this in the Old Testament, "Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death (Exodus 21:12)”, and we see this in the New Testament. In Romans, we see that God puts the sword in the hand of the state to bring justice, as we are told in 13:1-4 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Now, doesn’t Exodus 20:13 (one of the Ten Commandments) say something about not killing? Yes. It says “You shall not murder”; That’s different from a soldier killing in war, a person killing another in an accident, or the state executing justice. Why does God put this harsh penalty in place? Because every human is made in the image of God, and thus, we are his representatives here on this earth. To protect that status, the ultimate punishment must be exacted.

Last of all, notice as well that God comments on the heart of man. We are sinful. The intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. All we like sheep have gone astray, Isaiah writes. All of us. No one is righteous, not one. Look at the end of the story, what happens. Noah, the recipient of God’s grace, goes right back to sin. He plants a vineyard, and gets drunk, and “lay uncovered in his tent.” Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. What is meant by see is a mystery. Because 9:25 indicates that something happened with the "see", because it says he “knew what his youngest son had done to him”. What did he do? There are two that stand out. Some suggest he violated his father. But a better suggestion is one that one of my seminary professors, Gordon Hugenberger mentioned. He stole his father’s cloak. Hugenberger contends that clothes are a big theme in Genesis. God clothes Adam and Eve. Later, Jacobs robe is a big deal. They signified blessing, and identity and status. By stealing Noah’s cloak, Ham is saying, dad’s no longer worthy of God’s blessing, or to lead the family, or something like that. This is further backed up by what the brothers do. Notice that the brothers take a garment and cover their father. In Hebrew, there is a definite article. The Garment. Hugenberger suggested to our class that he stole his fathers garment. 

There is plenty more that could be said, but we will have to move on. Tomorrow we will look at Genesis 10-11 and the tower of Babel.

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