The Flood, 1-22

Discussion Starters, Genesis 6-9

(a) How long have you known about the story of Noah and the flood?  What impressions did you have of it when you were younger?

(b) What things particularly strike you now, looking at this story afresh?

(c) Why, according to this passage, did God bring about the judgment of the flood?

(d) Genesis 9:11 records God’s covenant.  He promises, “Never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth”.  The New Testament records God’s new covenant.  How would you sum up the promise(s) that God has made in this new covenant?

The contributor to Harper’s Bible Commentary takes a fairly conventional critical view of this passage:- ‘As an introduction to the Flood story, J has used 6:1–4, a fragment of old mythic material with reminiscences of the ancient Near Eastern motif of “rebellion of the gods” in which a younger generation of gods challenges the authority of their divine elders and progenitors. Whatever the origin and history of this fragment, J has included it because it fits so well the narrative of the growth of sin and evil begun in Genesis 3–4.’

Gen 6:1 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them

Gen 6:2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.

The sons of God

Who were these 'sons of God'?
(a) Angels

The view of many interpreters, ancient (e.g. Josephus) and modern (e.g. Wenham,) is that these are (fallen) angels, cf. 1 Pet 3:19-20; 2 Pet 2:4; Jude 6.

The noncanonical book 1 Enoch (200 BC) claims that 200 angels from heaven, seeing that humans had unusually beautiful daughters, came down to earth and each took a wife. The women gave birth to giants, who consumed all the food and even devoured people. One version of the LXX (300 BC) supports this view, (translating ‘sons of God’ as ‘angels of God’ in v2), as does Josephus (born 37 BC).

It is true that in Job 1:6,2:1,38:7 ‘sons of God’ does stand for ‘angels’. However, our Lord explicitly stated that angels do not marry, Mk 12:25. Moreover, if the sin was angelic, why was it that the humans were condemned and punished, Gen 6:5?

Against the view that ‘sons of God’ always refers to angels, see Deut 14:1. Additionally, we may note that the equivalent Gk phrase in Lk 3:38 refers to a man (Adam), as does a similar phrase (’sons of the Most High’) in Ps 82:6.

(b) Humans

Some conservative scholars ‘interpret “sons of God” as a reference to the godly Sethite line (Gen. 5) or to the nobility (cf. Kline), whose mixed marriages to the “daughters of men” (“men” in a restricted sense as wicked or common people) contributed to a moral decline.

A variant of this view is held by Waltke, who thinks that the ‘sons of God’ were demon-controlled human tyrants.

They argue that “myth” is inconsonant with the perspective of the Pentateuch, that “angels” are pure in Genesis and sexless in the Bible as a whole, (Mt 22:30) and that people should not be punished (Gen 6:3) for a sin that is primarily that of angels (v 2).’ (ISBE)

A weakness of this view is the ‘sons of God’ is not used elsewhere in the OT of human rulers.

Gen 6:3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man for ever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

Contend – the Heb word yadon is found only here.  It may mean ‘abide’, ‘remain’, strive’, or ‘contend’.  Walton suggests ‘to sustain’.

“His days will be a hundred and twenty years” – ‘The hundred and twenty years could be the time of respite before the flood (cf. 1 Pet. 3:20), or the shortened average life-span now to be expected. Either of these meanings would be consonant with what follows in Genesis.’ (Kidner)

If shortened life-span is meant, then ‘it took centuries for that boundary to be put in place. The only major figure in Genesis whose recorded age at death was less than 120 years was Joseph, who died at 110.’ (Hartley)

Sarna, Walton, Wenham and others consider the 120 years to indicate a shortened life span.

Hamilton and Waltke & Fredricks view this limit of 120 years as a period of grace preceding the flood.

We are mortal creatures. In this word of judgement there is a contrast between God’s spirit – his life-giving power, and man’s flesh – the person viewed from the perspective of mortality. Cf Isa 31:3. Without the life-giving Spirit, human life decays. If this incident records another attempt to grasp at immortality, God reminds them that they are ‘flesh’. The breath of life will not remain in them for ever, cf Gen 3:19. We cannot achieve immortality: it is God’s gift.

Gen 6:4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterwards—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

The Nephilim –

Gen 6:5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.

“There is the intensity – ‘The wickedness of man was great in the earth’; there is the inwardness – ‘the imagination of the thoughts of his heart’, and expresssion unsurpassed in the usaGen of Scripture to indicate that the most rudimentary movement of thought was evil’; there is the totality – ‘every imagination’; there is the constancy – ‘continually’; there is the exclusiveness – ‘only evil’; there is the early manifestation – ‘from his youth’.” (John Murray, ‘Sin’ in NBD; the last trait comes from Gen 8:21.)

Man’s wickedness…his heart was only evil all the time – Of the various ancient Near Eastern accounts, only one offers an explanation of why the gods sent the flood.  In this account, the complaint is of ‘noise’ and ‘uproar’, with the result that the god Enlil was deprived of sleep.  In the biblical account, it is made very clear that the flood was sent as a reponse to moral degradation.  (See the discussion in DOTP, art. ‘Flood’)

Gen 6:6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.

‘There is a group of texts, Gen 6:6-7; 1 Sam 15:11; 2 Sam 24:16; Jon 3:10; Joe 2:13-14, which speak of God as repenting. The reference in each case is to a reversal of God’s previous treatment of particular people, consequent upon their reaction to that treatment. But there is no suggestion that this reaction was not foreseen, or that it took God by surprise and was not provided for in his eternal plan. No chanGen in his eternal purpose is implied when he begins to deal with a person in a new way.’ (Packer, Knowing God)

Genesis 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”

Gen 6:8 But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.

Gen 6:9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.

Gen 6:10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Gen 6:11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.

‘In contrast with the ancient Near Eastern flood stories, in which no cause of the flood is given (Gilgamesh Epic) or in which the gods decide to wipe out their human slaves because they are making too much noise (Atrahasis Epic and Eridu Genesis), the biblical account provides a profound theological motivation for the flood: humankind’s moral depravity and sinfulness, the all-pervading corruption and violence of all living beings (“all flesh”) on earth, (Gen 6:1-8,11-12) which demands divine punishment.’ (EDBT)

Gen 6:12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.

Gen 6:13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.

Gen 6:14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.

Gen 6:15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high.

Gen 6:16 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.

Gen 6:17 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.

Earth – The Hebrew word (also occurring in Gen 7:4, 7:10, 7:17, 7:18, 7:19) can equally be translated ‘land’.  If the text wished to signify the entire earth, then a different word – tebel – was available.  In any case, the ancients did not have any sense of the world in its entirety, having knowledge only of a small part of it.  Furthermore, the OT writers frequently uses universal language to describe events of great, though local, significance (such as the Egyptian plagues).  See this discussion.

Gen 6:18 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.

Gen 6:19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.

Gen 6:20 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.

Gen 6:21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

Gen 6:22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.