Friday, July 29, 2011

Genesis Chapter 6 ~ Warning of Wrath and the Promise of Another Covenant

Genesis Chapter 6

The last chapter ended with Noah and his sons, and this chapter begins by describing the cultural condition of the world they lived in.

The daughters of man were attractive to the “sons of God” and they took them as their wives. This was wicked in the eyes of God because He then limited the human lifespan to 120 years. The daughters bore children to the “sons of God” and they were mighty men of old. We don't really know who or what these "sons of God" were. The context here in Genesis makes it sound like it may mean something different than in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7 and Daniel 3:25 to me, but scholars debate about these things. I'm fairly certain of one thing, they weren't aliens flying in spaceships like E.T. I'm inclined to see the "sons of God" as the sons from the line of Cain taking the daughters of the line of Seth, but it's hard to be dogmatic. The debates of scholars don't effect the main point. Somehow the "sons of God" sinned in the way they took the daughters of man (it seems to be a sexual sin or at the very least a sin committed in sexually lustful way). Like most sexual sin, they took something that wasn't theirs to have (even if it was consensual). They even married the daughters of man, but something in their intent and approach was off. Marriage doesn't justify sin, and just because sin of a sexual nature occurs, this doesn't mean marriage should be forced (that said, it may be the wise. See discussions about Exod. 22:16-17 and 1 Cor. 7:1-5 to think this through more). This was wicked in God's sight, and the culture was saturated with this kind of wickedness. Sin, and more specifically sin of a sexual bent and a re-defining of a proper approach/existence of marriage, was inescapable in the culture. A new narrative is being written by men in this fallen world drawing a distinction between the goodness of God's creation and the evil of the culture that man has created. The refrain of this new narrative where the creation is almost being uncreated could easily read, "and God saw the wickedness of man's heart and creation, He called it sin, and He saw that it was bad."

The Nephilim were also around in these days. They seem to be a different people than the "sons of God". If these Nephilim are the same people referred to in Numbers 13:32-33 then they also appear to be giants. Because of the closeness to the intermingling of the "sons of God" and the daughters of man some think that the Nephilim were their offspring. This doesn't appear to be what the text is saying, it just says that they were on earth in those days. This is kind of like saying, "Guys those were the days when dinosaurs were all over." We'd think, "Wow, that was a long time ago." I don't think this is necessarily saying anything about the origins of the Nephilim. Mankind was wicked and the intentions of their hearts were always evil. God was sorry He made man and was grieved (Gen. 6:6, 7). In fact, as further judgment for sin God determined to limit man's days to 120 years. The long lifespans that we saw yesterday in Genesis 5 are going to eventually decrease dramatically. Because of sin God decided to shorten man's lifespan and blot mankind out, but Noah found favor in God’s eyes. There is hope in Noah.

Noah was righteous, and blameless. God told Noah that He was going to kill mankind, so Noah should make an ark (a boat). God gave Noah instructions of exactly how to build the ark too. Then He told Noah His plans; He would bring a flood on the earth. Yet, He will establish a covenant with Noah, he and his sons and their wives should come on the ark. Also, two of every living creature (male and female) should also be on the ark. Noah did as God commanded him.

This chapter is instructive. First, the sin of mankind is disgusting to God, and in God’s justice He must snuff out wickedness. The unexpectedness of the flood foreshadows the way Christ will return at the end of time to enact the just wrath of God in the final judgment (Matt. 24:37-38; Luke 17:26-27; 1 Peter. 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5). People were going about their business marrying and giving in marriage, and probably buying and trading. It seemed that everything was going to happen according to the “laws” of nature, and that every day will go on as the day before. This is not so. All will change in the blink of an eye. God is giving us only a small glimpse in the flood of what His final end time wrath will look like. This reminds me of the Lord of the Rings. Every culture of Middle Earth was living out their days as they had the days and years before. Nothing seemed to ever change, and yet these stories that were a vague memory in the minds of men started to reveal themselves to be true as soon as the “One ring to rule them all” popped up. The days often seem repetitive and long (kind of like Bill Murray’s character in the movie Groundhog Day). We live in the same family, go to the same stores, work the same jobs, buy the same products, go to the same church, etc. There is coming a time when everything will change. Are you prepared for this? The days and years seem long. People live a full life and die, but this won't always be the case. God will fulfill His promise to judge the living and the dead. As we look back over the millennia of His delaying of wrath and giving of full blessing we should not think of Him as slow, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) He is delaying for our repentance, so that there is time for us to flee His wrath to come (Matt. 3:7; Luke 3:7).

Second, God is gracious to save through one man, one family. Noah is a remnant of faith. Here’s what the hall of faith in Hebrews says about Noah: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Heb. 11:7) Similar to how later Abraham’s faith would be credited to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:1-10), so it is here with Noah. God even made a covenant with Noah to save him and his family from this flood. Noah’s faith is also instructive. He trusted His God and obeyed His commandment to him. This prefigures Jesus Christ as well. Jesus Christ is the ark upon which we must board if we would safely pass the flood waters of God’s wrath. We must approach and obey God the Father in reverent fear, like Noah, through Jesus Christ.

Third, and lastly, we learn something more about God. We see sin provokes God to wrath. This is nothing different than what we’ve already learned about God, but this passage only further proves that this is the case. But further than that, when we sin God is sorry that He made us, and we grieve God. God is dynamic and interactive with His people, not as a victim of emotions that He is passively affected by, but by His full foreknowledge and choice. Various translations translate the first word "sorry" (ESV, NKJV, NASB, RSV) as (1) regretted (NIV, HCSB) and (2) repented (KJV, ASV). These are an attempt at an English translation of the Hebrew word naham which normally means "repent". Context is king for determining the meaning of a word though, so this word is probably translated best as sorry, or regretted. Why do I say this? Well, look at the phrase that follows, "and it grieved Him to His heart." (Gen. 6:6) The stinging pain of sin that came into the world through Adam and Eve is felt among humanity, but here it is shown to be experienced by God as well, but this doesn't mean God turned from one thing to another, or that He changed course from what He planned. The passage doesn't give any indication of change in God, but a sorrow in God because of the sin in men. The change that causes sorrow or regret here is not a change in the character of God but a change in the character of men. He's sorry He made men, not because He changed, but because men have fallen and rebelled against God. A few other things to notice are, first, this passage is not speaking about God's logic in making a decision. The passage isn't detailing that God is changing in any way. He's not changing His mind, or His course of action. The passage doesn't say anything about the limitation of God's knowledge of what is going on. In fact it does the opposite. He sees all, He knows all the wickedness of all men, and because of that He is sorrowful. Further, He is involved with His people in real time while not being bound to the events or time. His foreknowledge and knowledge of all things is not limited here. This is just illustrating that He is a relationally dynamic God. Second, the passage is not saying that God made a mistake by creating mankind. He doesn't regret that, rather He regrets that those whom He has made to reflect His glory and to love Him have actually rejected Him and are misrepresenting His image, which has been given to them. By their actions they are speaking lies about God, and this brings God sadness. God is sorry He made man, not because mankind was not a good creation, but because of the sin mankind has chosen. He's not changing His mind, or doubting His past actions here.

As Moses wrote this passage it seems that he was illustrating something through three main words in Genesis 6:6 expressing God's grief and the source of it: (1)"sorrow/regret/repentance" (Hebrew is naham), (2) "made" (Hebrew is 'asa), and (3)"pain/grief/troubled" (Hebrew is 'asab). God is sorry he made man and He is grieved. What was Moses doing with these words? Well, he seems to be using these three words as a literary device, an ironic word-play on three descriptors that Noah's father, Lamech (not the Lamech from Cain's lineage), spoke about Noah in Genesis 5:29: "[O]ne shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands." What's the connection? (1) The word for "relief" or "comfort" is the same as for "sorry" (naham). (2) The root for "work" is the same as for "made" ('asa). And (3) the word for "painful toil" is the same as for "pain/grief/troubled" ('asab). If we read this passage in Hebrew we'd see that there's a connection between the prophecy regarding Noah and God's sorrow over the wickedness of man. It's as if we're given a key in Genesis 5 and then God reveals the keyhole that the key fits into in Genesis 6. Noah is the one that God is choosing to be the vessel of relief from His sorrow caused by the wickedness of men, the work of His hands and the cause of grief or painful toil. Only now, we must await the coming flood and see exactly how God will find comfort and provide comfort for the nations from the sin of men through saving Noah and his family.

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