Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Toledoth III (Genesis 6:9)
This is one of the most significant chapters in the Bible, as evidenced by the N.T. references to it. As repeatedly emphasized in this series, the key to understanding the O.T. is a thorough knowledge of the N.T., and therefore we shall first review the status of this chapter as revealed in the N.T.
NEW TESTAMENT LIGHT ON THIS CHAPTER
The Flood was received as history.
1 Peter 3:20: "The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls, were saved by water."
2 Peter 3:5,6: "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; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished."
Hebrews 11:7: "By faith Noah, being warned of God concerning things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; through which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith."
Matthew 24:37-39: "And as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. 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, and they knew not till the flood came and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man."
The historical truth of the event before us is thus categorically affirmed by the words of both Christ and his apostles. The universal, world-wide extent of it is a necessary deduction from the fact of Christ the Lord having made it a type of the universal and final judgment of humanity, and from the further fact of the apostle Peter's having made the salvation of Noah and his family "through water" a type of the salvation of the church through Christian baptism (1 Peter 3:21).
The typical nature of the event is also apparent in Christ's having designated the hardening and gross wickedness of humanity preceding the flood a prophecy of the way it would be prior to the Second Advent of the Lord. Most scholars seem to be totally unaware of this; but we are thankful that Francis A. Schaeffer accurately discerned the undeniable connection between this chapter and the end of the world with the Second Advent and the Final Judgment. He recognized the events related here as "parallel" to the Second Coming of Christ. (See Luke 18:8).
A SUMMARY OF THE CHAPTER
First, the prelude to the disaster about to be related is given in Genesis 6:1-4, where the progressive worsening of wickedness results in the withdrawal of God's Spirit (Genesis 6:3), with the consequent hardening of mankind. Divine judgment is announced as the consequence of the hopeless condition brought upon themselves through their total rejection of God; details of the judgment are given, and the exception to be made for Noah is announced (Genesis 6:5-8). Reasons for the exception being made in the case of Noah are given (Genesis 6:9-12). God instructs Noah on how to build the ark (Genesis 6:13-17). God establishes his covenant with Noah (Genesis 6:18-22).
"And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose."
The problem that immediately confronts us here regards the identity of the "sons of God." All efforts to identify these with angels or other supernatural creatures should be rejected.
THE "SONS OF GOD" WERE NOT ANGELS
The reasons why this passage cannot be applied either to angels or to other supernatural creatures are as follows:
1. No angels have been mentioned in the Bible up to this point, and the supposition that they make their first appearance in Scripture under the title "sons of God" is untenable.
2. The term "sons of God" is nowhere in the Bible, either in the O.T. or in the N.T., applied to angels. The passages usually cited where this expression is allegedly a reference to angels have no reference at all to angels, the word angels not even appearing in such references as Job 1:6; Daniel 3:25; and Psalms 89:6, the passages cited by Elliott.
3. In the N.T., particularly, it is human beings who are led by God's Spirit who are called "sons of God" (1 John 3:1; Romans 8:14; Galatians 4:6, etc.).
4. There are only two classes of angels, the holy angels, and the angels of Satan (fallen angels); and neither class could be viewed here. Holy angels would not have induced men to sin; and the fallen angels, in a million years, would never have been designated by the Holy Spirit as "the sons of God!"
5. Note too that these "sons of God" "took them wives of all that they chose," an unmistakable reference to marriage; and Jesus our Lord flatly declared that angels do not marry (Matthew 22:30). The myth-hunters who attempt to drag mythology into this passage are contradicted by this, and we may only smile at some of the tactics of avoidance employed. Skinner, for example, after mentioning this, wrote, "But this must not be pressed." Indeed, why not? We are delighted to "press it" as a complete refutation of the error of finding "angels" in this passage.
6. If angels, or other supernatural creatures, had been to blame for the gross wickedness about to envelop mankind, then God would have announced their punishment and destruction, instead of the punishment and destruction of men. Those who would like to place the blame for human debauchery upon the supernatural creatures are frustrated by the fact that God's punishment always falls upon the guilty, and that it was men, not angels, who received the punishment here.
7. The two classes of men visible in these verses had already been carefully introduced in Genesis 4 and Genesis 5, the sons of men (in their hardened state) being the line of the Cainites, and the "sons of God" being the people in the line of Seth. Scholars who deny the obvious unity and logical sequence of this narrative are, of course, totally unaware of this.
A TYPE OF SALVATION IN CHRIST
The spiritual teaching of Noah's deliverance has always been recognized by Christians, who see in the ark a symbol of the church into which they are admitted by baptism, God thereby graciously providing for their deliverance from the wrath and destruction due to sin.
Unger designated "the ark as a type of Christ, the preserver of his people from judgment" These views, however, are not contradictory, for it is equally true of both. The church is the spiritual body of Christ; and thus the ark is a type of Christ and/or of his church.
It was the water of the flood that separated Noah from the disobedient nation that perished; and it is the water of Christian baptism that separates between the saved today and the disobedient who perish.
Noah's coming forth from the waters to live again on the earth might fitly be called his being "born of water."
The same waters which destroyed the ancient world were those which saved Noah by bearing up the ark and delivering him to newness of life. Just so, it is the water of baptism that destroys the wicked today, in the sense that they despise it, rebel against God's command, refuse to obey it; or, if they allow it at all, downgrade the necessity or importance of it.
Just as the water separated Noah from the past and delivered him to a new existence, it is the water of baptism that separates the Christian from his past and from which he like Noah, arises to "walk in newness of life."
The same element is instrumental in the salvation of Noah and that of the Christian, namely, water, exactly the same kind of water (whoever heard of different kinds of water?). It is not a spiritual baptism that saves men; it is water baptism, as the covenant act of obedience to the commandment of Almighty God.
It was the water that washed away the filth of that generation; and it is baptism that, in a figure, washes away the sins of men who are becoming Christians (Acts 22:16). "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins."
Only a few were saved through the flood, and Christ has warned that only a few shall be saved (in the relative sense) unto eternal life (Matthew 7:13,14).
Note also that only those in the ark were saved, and that, similarly, only those in Christ have the promise of eternal life.
Further comment on Genesis 6:1: The simple meaning of this much-discussed passage is that the righteous element of mankind sacrificed the opportunity to avoid the debaucheries of the Cainites through promiscuous intermarriage with the wicked element of the population. In all ages, God has warned his children against being "unequally yoked together" with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). It was the prime law of God's dealings with ancient Israel that they should separate themselves absolutely from the pagan world around them; and under no circumstances were they allowed to intermarry with pagans. That which contaminates and destroys the home is the same thing that destroys the entire community of believers. It is the disregard of this, even in our own generation, that is stripping the church of any effective witness against abounding wickedness. In the situation before us, the result was soon the utter corruption of humanity.
"And Jehovah said, My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for that he also is flesh: yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years."
This signals the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit from those who already had hardened their hearts against God, and we find in this the first Scriptural instance of Judicial Hardening, a phenomenon witnessed again and again throughout the Bible. It is not so designated here, but that is undeniably what it is. This is equivalent in every way to Paul's statement regarding a later evil generation that, "God gave them up ..." (Romans 1:24,26,28). This is different from causing men to sin, but it always leads to the proliferation and intensity of sin. It means that God will, at last, allow men the right of choosing sin, if they must. We shall encounter this phenomenon again and again in our studies. The result in this instance of it was the complete corruption of humanity (Noah and his family excepted), after the manner described below in Genesis 6:6-8. Paul also described the same condition in Romans 1. "God gave them up."
"The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them; the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown."
"The Nephilim were in the earth in those days ..." This is a citation of the time when the unlawful marriages proliferated and represents those marriages as "an event that followed the appearance of the Nephilim." We must therefore disagree with Willis who thought that the context here "suggests that the Nephilim were the children born to the sons of God and the daughters of men, and who became the mighty men of old." On the other hand, the Nephilim existed before and after the sinful marriages came into view.
"The mighty men that were of old ..." Some of the older versions render this word as "giants" instead of mighty men. Although it is likely that the men in view were men of great physical stature, the thought appears to pertain more to their exploits of daring and violent deeds. This could be a reference to the Nephilim already mentioned, but Keil and others thought that the reference is to the sons of the mixed marriages. In neither case, is there any reference to angelic or superhuman progenitors of these mighty men. Such views are due solely to the error of "commentators who have been obliged to insert them here to save their angelic marriages!" As to the meaning of "mighty men," the most probable interpretation "is that which understands them as men of violence, roving, lawless gallants." "The term in Hebrew implies not so much the idea of great stature as of reckless ferocity, impious, and daring characters, who spread devastation and carnage far and wide." The current century has witnessed the appearance of the same type of "mighty men": Kaiser Wilhelm, Benito Mussolini (Il Duce), Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, etc. Such men were referred to in this verse as "men of renown"! Some dependable exegetes believe that the teaching here indicates that these (or at least some of them) were posterity produced by the mixed marriages, but, if that is the understanding of the place, there could have been no connection between these "men of renown" and the Nephilim, already mentioned as existing when those marriages occurred. In any case, the alleged union between supernatural and human beings is absolutely foreign to everything in the Bible, and particularly to this passage.
"And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
What is visible here is the total corruption of humanity. The very citadel of human life, the heart, which in Hebrew thought meant the mind, was devoted exclusively to the contemplation of evil, and there were no exceptions. Furthermore, there were no men anywhere (with the exception noted in Genesis 6:8) who varied from this pattern; and there were not even any occasions when any man left off the mental pursuit of wickedness! It would be difficult to devise a sentence that would any more effectively portray the corruption of humanity than does Genesis 6:5. That this is the result of the judicial hardening prophesied by Genesis 6:3 in which such a condition was foretold in the projected withdrawal of the Spirit of God from "striving with" man, is dramatically evident.
THE FIRST HARDENING OF HUMANITY
The entire Bible deals with the phenomenon of Judicial Hardening, and this is the first instance of it. Only four such occasions are evident in the Holy Scriptures, the others being: (2) the hardening of the entire pre-Christian world (Abraham excepted), as explained in Romans 1; (3) the hardening of the whole of mankind (except a remnant) at the time of the First Advent of Christ, and (4) the final judicial hardening of the entire world just prior to the Second Advent of Christ, as depicted in Revelation 16.
It is fitting enough, and absolutely in accord with what is revealed in the prophets that the judgment should finally come at the end of the fourth Great Transgression of humanity. We believe that the peculiar expression found eight times in the opening chapters of the Book of Amos is explicitly related to the sequence given above. That expression is:
"For three transgressions of Damascus, yea for four, I will not turn away the punishment..." - Amos 1:3.
This expression is repeated verbatim, (only the name of the offender being changed in each reference) no less than eight times; and in each case was followed by the imposition of divine judgment and punishment against the offender. As it was with them, who appear here as prophecies and tokens of the ultimate judgment upon all mankind, so shall it be with the entire Adamic race, which is now headed for its fourth and, we believe final, hardening prior to the Second Advent and final judgment before the Great White Throne. Certainly, we may dismiss as mere lack of discernment the scholarly dictum that this eight-times-repeated warning in Amos was merely a literary device of the prophet. In each instance of his use of it, he said, "Thus saith Jehovah." Genesis 6:6, And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
What is meant here is that, "God in consistency with his immutability, assumes a changed position in respect to changed man." The expression that God repented (Jonah 3:10), or as here, "It repented Jehovah," cannot refer to any change in God; for as Malachi put it, "I, Jehovah, change not" (Malachi 3:6).
"And Jehovah, said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground; both man, and beast, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; for it repenteth me that I have made them."
The hardening and corruption of all mankind having become total and final, God announced the summary punishment and destruction of it; but before announcing the nature of the destruction, he indicated Noah as an exception, through whom a new beginning for mankind would come.
"But Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah."
It is not to be concluded that Noah was sinless, a quality that never pertained to anyone other than the Son of God himself. Nevertheless, as explained in the following verses, Noah was clearly apart from the universal corruption that otherwise engulfed the whole of humanity. There was sufficient holiness in him to make possible God's use of him as the second great progenitor of mankind.
"These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, and perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth."
Here once more is the great divisional marker in Genesis, the Hebrew word, [~toledowth]; and, as in all other instances of the use of it, there is recapitulation in that which follows, along with the addition of supplemental information. The names of Noah's sons had already been announced in Genesis 5:32. Some believe that Shem was the oldest, due to his being mentioned first, but Unger thought this was due to his position as head of the Messianic line. It really makes little difference.
"Noah was a righteous man ..." This does not refer to the intrinsic righteousness of Noah but to his status in the eyes of God. In Hebrews we learn that "by faith" he obeyed God and became the heir to the righteousness which is according to faith (Hebrews 11:7). (See more on this under The Covenant, below.)
"Perfect in his generations ..." The last clause is limitive, conveying the sense of relativity regarding Noah's perfection. That is, in comparison with the people among whom he lived, his life was perfect in the sight of God.
"Earth was filled with violence ..." This is supplemental to what was revealed in Genesis 6:5 regarding man's wickedness. Evil, as demonstrated in the life of Cain, the first murderer, always issues at last in unrestrained, vicious violence.
"All flesh had corrupted their way ..." Note that the wickedness and unrestrained lawlessness and violence that marked human conduct were the result of their own actions. They had corrupted their way. It was not, therefore, the result of intermarriages with superhuman beings that produced the debauchery of mankind; it was simply due to their willful choice of evil conduct. There is a vain conceit inherent in the thought of all men that, somehow, man is not really to blame for the scandalous conduct which is exhibited by him in his walk upon earth, but the Bible will have nothing of such a view. When men do wrong, it is not some supernatural evil that is the origin of it, and society is not to blame for it, but the total blame must rest squarely upon the PERPETRATORS of evil deeds. This expression has the utility of placing the blame where it belonged.
JUDGMENT OF THE FLOOD ANNOUNCED
"And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before men; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth."
The universality of the destruction is apparent in the words "end of all flesh." The labors of skeptics to make some local event out of the destruction announced here are frustrated by the appearance of a great and universal flood in the mythologies of all nations, even those of American Indians. If there was no universal flood, how could such a fact be accounted for? Besides that, the appearance of marine fossils upon all continents at elevations of very great height cannot be explained apart from what is written here. Perhaps it may be granted that a flood inundating the total area of the inhabited earth would adequately fulfill what is in view here, but even such a limitation as that cannot be proved and is not justified as an interpretation.
"With the earth ..." Not only life, but the physical environment of the earth itself would be involved according to this. What is meant is that a catastrophic disturbance of the whole planet would precipitate detrimental changes in the earth itself. We have already observed that the fundamental premise underlying much of man's speculation about the past is founded upon the dictum that, "All things continue as they were from the creation of the world." We know that this is untrue, as attested by the apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:4); but the scientific community themselves are also beginning to understand the falsity of the dictum. Francis Schaeffer mentions in detail the example of prehistoric mammals of great size having been uncovered in the frozen wastes of Siberia, an area supposed to have been uniformly cold for thousands of years; and yet, whenever those tropical creatures froze, it took place so quickly that the plants found in their mouths, neither spit out nor swallowed, were still in the process of being eaten! As Schaeffer said, "Nobody can explain this ... nobody!" Thus, the fact of catastrophe is certainly an element to be reckoned with. It is attested both by the Word of God and evidence from the natural world in which we live. We believe that the event in view here is simply that, an elemental catastrophe of epic dimensions, and that the Genesis record is an accurate history of it.
As repeatedly observed, the changes that followed this catastrophe served as extensions of the primeval curse placed upon the ground for Adam's sake, also that changes of a deteriorative nature are still taking place in the form of recurring natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, storms, weather changes, etc., and, moreover, that all such things are judgmental in nature, however indiscriminate they may appear to be.
"Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shall pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is how thou shalt make it; the length of the ark three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A light shalt thou make in the ark, and to a cubit shalt thou finish it upward; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it."
It is impossible from this description for men to make a diagram or replica of the ark, only the overall dimensions being recounted here. Nevertheless, what we know of it is impressive enough. Of course, the length of a cubit (usually held to be the length from the elbow to the tip of the extended middle finger) is uncertain, but about 18 inches is the minimum length assigned to it. Following that estimate, the size of the ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Schaeffer stated that these are almost exactly the dimensions of The Great Eastern, the great ship used in laying the first North Atlantic cable. Those dimensions would give a reading of over 1,500,000 cubic feet, with over 100,000 square feet of deck space. The displacement tonnage of such a vessel has been placed at 43,000 tons, with a pay-load capacity of 32,800 tons.
"Gopher wood ..." It is not known exactly what this was, but it is usually supposed to have been cypress, of which wood there is an abundance in the upper Mesopotamian valley where the ark is supposed to have been built. The "pitch" was asphalt, or some other petroleum derivative. It would have had the utility of making the craft watertight.
The ark was not designed to sail, but merely to float.
"And this is how thou shalt make it ..." Of particular importance is the fact of God's having given the dimensions and specifications for the ark. Noah was not a boat-engineer, and just as God later showed Moses the pattern for the tabernacle, so also here, God gave the pattern of that which saved Noah and his family. The pattern came from God. In view of this recurring fact in Scripture, it is a gross error to suppose that men may make God's church after any pattern they wish to follow.
"And, I, behold, I do bring the flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is in the earth shall die."
This is the first mention of the instrument of destruction, although it was apparent earlier in the giving of instructions for an ark. The universal, world-wide nature of the catastrophe is categorically stated; and therefore we so understand and interpret it. Whatever problems there might be with this, we shall not attempt to resolve them. Any extensive information about exactly what occurred is not available. What is given is for our instruction; and the profound lessons derived therefrom are the great burden of the passage anyway.
"But I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee."
THE COVENANT WITH NOAH
It is remarkable how little attention is paid to God's covenant with Noah, which is by far the most important thing in the chapter, in that the redemption of the entire human race afterward is most surely involved in it. Whitelaw wrote it off as the "already well known covenant" that God had made with man. Willis thought it was the rainbow covenant; and Keil's total comment was that, "With Noah, God made a covenant!" The necessity for this covenant derived from the fact that the promise of deliverance God had made to Eve (Genesis 3:15) was apparently about to be abrogated and canceled through the death of all mankind, as God had just announced. What about the Seed (singular) who would crush the head of the Serpent? This covenant was God's arrangement with Noah, whereby the Seed would be delivered through him and his posterity. Aalders accurately observed this:
"Noah need not be afraid ... he would survive this judgment. And as Noah's part of the covenant, he was required to believe and obey God's word, build the ark according to God's instructions, and then enter it with his family. In that way only would he be saved.
Right here is the very first mention of covenant in the entire Bible; and inherent within it is the revelation of the way that God's New Covenant should be understood. Although the parties of such a covenant are by no means equal, yet there is a part for each to fulfill. Noah fulfilled his part of it in the manner described in Genesis 6:22, below. In short, he DID what God commanded him to do. That is the manner in which he "by faith" became heir of the righteousness that is "according to faith."
Right here is also the real explanation of how Abel offered the "more excellent" sacrifice than Cain. The examples of Noah and Abel lie side by side in Hebrews 11, where it is related that each of them "by faith" was well pleasing to God. The exact reason for Abel's actions being acceptable to God are not related in the Bible, but they are recounted in this record concerning Noah. Therefore, whatever Noah did, it is safe to receive it as an explanation of what Abel did. In Noah's case, he simply and faithfully believed God and did exactly what God commanded him to do (Genesis 6:22), and the notion that Abel was received and his offering accepted upon any other basis than his having done exactly what God had commanded him to do is totally unacceptable. The speculation to the effect that some subjective attitude on the part of each of those brothers resulted in the sacrifice of one of them being rejected and that of the other being received as pleasing to God could not possibly be correct. The genuine salvation "by faith" comes only from believing and obeying God. "Faith comes by hearing God's word" (Romans 10:17).
It should be evident that Noah was, in a sense, his own savior, and also that his salvation derived from the grace and mercy of God, that Noah did not earn it, nor did he deserve it, but that he could not possibly have been saved apart from his obedience to God's commandments. This is the perfect analogy of the way sinners are saved by OBEYING the gospel under the gracious terms of the New Covenant.
"And thou shalt come into the ark ..." This is the summary of the covenant agreement by which Noah and his family were to be saved. Nothing could have availed for him and his apart from this key action of entering the ark. For men today, Christ, that is, his spiritual body, the church, these being one and the same thing, is the ark into which men must enter to be saved.
WHAT WAS TO BE TAKEN INTO THE ARK?
"And 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 the birds after their kind, and of the cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and gather it to thee; and it shah be for food for thee, and for them."
This is a summary of what was to be done, and God would provide further instructions for Noah later. The manner of his bringing so many creatures into the ark was to be explained later. Also, the requirement that food should be taken was later elaborated to mean taking seven pairs of clean creatures instead of only one pair as it might have seemed from this summary.
These verses have stirred the imagination of mankind more than anything else in the record; but the simple words here are all that we can really know about the episode. Difficult questions may be raised, fanciful explanations offered, and arrogant denials shouted against it, but the sacred record stands! We receive it as the Word of God. The big thing in the narrative, after all, is not the details of what God commanded Noah to do, as affirmed by the last verse in the chapter.
"Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him; so did he."
Through Noah's faith and obedience, under the grace and mercy of God, a new beginning was achieved for mankind.
It is appropriate to think a moment about the stupendous nature of this man's faith in what God told him. Such a flood was a seeming impossibility. The N.T. reveals that Noah preached (guided by the Spirit of Christ) for some 120 years during which time he was preparing the ark, preaching to those people of his own generation who must have mocked and belittled him. How they must have hooted about that crazy old man and his building such a monster of a boat. How was he ever going to get 45,000 tons moved in one piece to the water! What a fool they thought him to be! They thought they were condemning him. Actually, it was HE who condemned them (Hebrews 11:7). See also, 1 Peter 3:19.
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