Once again we find ourselves in two different stories within Scripture and each of them is crucial to the history of God’s salvation. We will handle them one at a time. The first is the Tower of Babel where we read that because people had gathered to build a tower so that they could be like God, God came and confused their languages. We find an explanation as to why everyone on the earth just doesn’t speak the same language. It would be so much easier. You need to see that this sin, of trying to become like God, is not unique to chapter 11. It is the same sin that Adam and Eve were guilty of, thinking that if they were to eat the fruit they would be like God. Trying to be like God and knowing good and evil and trying to reach God by building a tower lays the foundation to what in essence is the definition of sin: doing that which places us in a position to want to be like God and acting on that desire. This is sin.
The next account is the introduction of Abraham. Notice that we have another genealogy, but this is the one that leads directly to our Savior Jesus Christ. We find the introduction of Lot, and Abraham, and his wife Sarah. I am using their common names, names that we recognize, and not the names that are in this chapter. Abram will have his name changed to Abraham and Sarai will have her name changed to Sarah. We will go over that when we get there. But we find that Abraham has moved from the East, along with all the other people from the tower of Babel, and with his father they settled in the land of Haran. This now sets us up for a true introduction of Abraham and the covenant that God will establish with him there. Get ready to meet Father Abraham, who actually didn’t have many sons.
So, what does your genealogy look like? We will find ourselves faced with a few chapters that contain genealogies and they will be a bit hard to get by as we make our way through the Bible. Between the Levitical laws and the begats we just might find ourselves bogged down as we make our way out of Genesis after this challenge, but we will soldier on. We find described here three sons and their descendants. All of them originating from Noah. If you were to go to both Matthew and Luke, where we find Jesus’ genealogy, we see that Matthew starts only with Abraham so does not go all the way back. Luke, on the other hand, does attempt to go all the way back. Go ahead and read Luke 3 and you will find that Jesus comes from Adam and his son Shem.
I don’t lose interest in thee genealogies because they provide the context for Jesus’ birth and his real ancestry which grounds Him as one of us.
There is a beautiful, historic scene in these verses, and then there is a puzzling and troublesome story in this chapter as well. Let’s take them both. The first is the story of the rainbow where we find God making a covenant with Noah. This is the first of many covenants that God makes with humanity. We will see the covenant that God makes with Abraham fairly soon and we will be able to juxtapose that one with the covenant that God makes in His Son Jesus Christ. In vs.13 we find the origin of the rainbow which is the sign of the covenant that God has made with us. It is interesting that God needs a mnemonic device to remind him to not destroy humanity. So at least we have that going for us.
The troubling story deals with Noah and his youngest son. Apparently Noah gets drunk and finds himself unconscious and completely naked. His youngest son finds him in a tent that way and tells his brothers. His brothers then cover him up with a blanket by walking backwards so that they would not see him. When Noah wakes up he is furious that this youngest son saw him naked. Or is that why he was really angry? We read that Scripture says that Noah was angry because of what his “youngest son had done to him.” That is a bit different from just seeing your father naked, which you would think wouldn’t elicit a curse of slavery upon you and your progeny in eternity. What did Ham do to him? We have no idea, but the punishment does not seem to fit the crime. Eternal punishment to slavery does seem a bit harsh.
But we find a story that deals with the Canaanites, of which Ham was the patriarch, in such a way that they are seemingly cursed throughout history because of what happened between Ham and the father. Keep in mind that the Canaanites are the historic enemies of the Israelites so I am sure that this story has served well in describing the why as to the hatred between the Israelites and the Canaanites. There needs to be a historic reason for the animosity between the people of God and the the people of Canaan and this story provides it.
God remembers Noah and the waters subside and the ark comes to rest on Mt. Ararat. There have been numerous sightings of the ark, all of them, in my estimation, a waste of time trying to prove one thing or another. The story of Noah ought to be able to stand alone. It is a story of God never losing His faithfulness toward us. It is a story of God taking care of His people and making sure that all of his creation would be able to start over again. The way in which Genesis describes it is captivating, but it is not something that we ought to lose sleep over in order to prove its historicity. I believe it, but even if it is merely an object lesson the point of the story would not be lost.
Please notice that the first thing that Noah does when he descends from the ark is offer a sacrifice. The first thing that Noah does when he stands on dry land is to worship God in the only way that he knew how. God was pleased and God promised to himself that he would not destroy humanity again. Now, he doesn’t make his covenant with Noah just yet, that comes in the next chapter, but we do find in the end of this chapter a love that God has for us which is reflected in the senses of smelling the offering, an emotion of gratitude for the offering and a response to the act of Noah which is one of grace upon more grace. That is how our God works.
We find described in Genesis 7 a time when New Year’s Day would have been insignificant. The faithful Noah, again the one who did all that the Lord commanded, gathers his family and all the animals and they enter the ark which he had created as the rains begin to fall. If you start and focus from vs.21 and following you almost hear a recap of how God created life: breathed into the nostrils of humans, and reverses that by taking the breath of life from the nostrils of all creatures. All life was taken, not just humanity, but yes people too, but all the creatures and they are listed individually. That’s pretty significant.
We can learn that God never leaves anything to chance, because there is no such thing as chance, and so prepares for when the land will be dry once again and the animals and the humans will be able to take over the earth again. Once the rains fall for 40 days the waters remain on the earth for 150 days. That’s a lot of water and Noah and his family were not on a cruise. I can’t help but think of this song as I read this Scripture.
Noah is a very faithful child of God. The last sentence of this chapter tells us so, Noah did this, he did all of this. So what has brought us to this place in Scripture? Remember, the problem wasn’t just in Noah’s day. From the moment we were able to choose how we were going to relate to others, we were selfish. From the moment we were able to choose how we were going to relate to God, we chose ourselves over God. When we were able to choose how we relate to each other, we chose ourselves over our brother, and in fact neutralized our brother.
God was sorry that he made us, God wished we would be more obedient, but we weren’t. We aren’t. So God decided to start over and see if with the very obedient Noah and his family we would move toward a more perfect relationship with God and with each other. God tried to give us another chance to do it on our own. It took eliminating all that he had created in order to see if this great human experiment would work. We are left at the end of chapter 6 with the hope that maybe, just maybe, it could work. We were God’s utopia, a dream, a vision for a better future that just might be.
As old as Methuselah. Have you ever heard that? Well, if you have, this is where it came from. He is considered the oldest person in the Bible having lived 969 years. That’s quite an accomplishment, but how is that possible? I don’t consider the book of Genesis to be a science or a history book, but I do believe it simply because I have no reason not to believe it. Why couldn’t the relatively pristine state of the world have created an environment where our organs had minimal stress and people just lived longer? I’m okay in believing that, but if in the future, or even now and I’m not aware of it, it is proven that they only lived about 35 years, that wouldn’t rock my world. I could be okay with that.
Here we find ourselves introduced to Noah who is going to play a pivotal role in the the course of the history of the world. From his birth he was considered someone who just might do something different and provide relief to the hardship which was life in that day. We see that those who are born with significant roles ahead of them, at their birth someone makes a significant statement about them. You can look at John the Baptist and Jesus for examples. Even in Isaiah where the birth of the Messiah is foretold, we are introduced to him as someone who will do significant things.
But I want you to notice that once again we are reminded that we are made in the image of God and that God created us as male and female and as equals. Look at the beginning verses of this chapter. There is constant theme of differentiation and yet equality which resonates through all of Scripture. This is crucial to understanding how God views us today and how we are valued by the one who created us and views us with grace and love.
So, people begin to invoke the name of the Lord. It took them long enough. You would think that the stories of Adam and Eve with their walks with God in the garden would have triggered their children and grandchildren to a devotion to the Lord which would have been obvious. But Scripture says that they began invoking the name of the Lord only at the end of chapter 4. What is sad in these stories is that the first accounts we have of humanity and their relationship with God is defined through sin. Adam and Eve sin, and so are punished and cast out. Cain sins and so is banished. But also in both of these cases we have God who ensures not only the protection of His children, but also their longevity and their security in perpetuity. God loves us even while we were yet sinners.
We find in this chapter the often misused quote: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer to that questions is, of course, yes, of course. More often than not we misuse it to say that no, we are not responsible for our brother. But obviously in this context Cain was very much responsible for the demise of his brother so yes, he was at that point his brother’s keeper. Don’t let anyone use this quote to describe how they have either washed their hands of a situation or trying to shed any responsibility vis a vis another individual.
There is a lot of ground here to cover. Let’s begin by what is not mentioned in these verses. We do not see the name Satan or the devil anywhere in these verses. But we have associated the serpent with Satan and we feel secure in that association. I’m okay with it, as long as it doesn’t remove our responsibility from whatever sinful actions we may take.
Do you notice what happens as soon as they eat the fruit? As soon as they eat the fruit their first realization is that they were naked. Now, that is a bit of a stumper for me. God has created us in a certain way and our bodies ought not to embarrass or cause shame, they ought to be just another part of that miracle which is God’s creation. But for some reason we are somewhat obsessed with our bodies and sexuality. It all goes back to the garden where we became embarrassed and that embarrassment turned to shame and that shame turned to hiding from God, and hiding from God turned into creating idols which are addictive.
God’s tortured cry in vs.9, “Where are you?” is echoed throughout Scripture. From the prodigal son to the disciples who flee Jesus in his darkest hour, God’s call to us and is wanting to find us as we hide from him and create our own idols haunts our existence. That “where are you” is a beseeching on God’s part to come back to him after we have run away. It is not a threat to punish, although punishment does come, but it is a promise of restoration. It is a promise that God will make things right even if it means knitting garments for us with His own hands. Our God loves us so much!
Did you know that there is another creation account from the pagan Babylonians? Here is the text of it:
It contains very similar wording to what we find in Genesis, and some scholars see it as a predecessor to the Hebrew text of Genesis. There is no conflict here for me in regards to a nation writing about creation to uplift their god over other gods. The Babylonians wanted to lift up their god, Marduk, as the most powerful and so ascribe to him the creative ability.
Some Christian scholars will also say that there are two creation stories which do not correspond to each other: the one found in Genesis 1 and the one found in Genesis 2. I have a different take. I believe that there is one creation story with Genesis 1 giving us the general flow of creation with the 6 days. Genesis 2 gives us the seventh and final day as well as describe more in detail the creation of humanity.
If you have the time read through those two chapters again and you can see how at vs. 3 it seems like the author is taking a break and then diving into the details of the creation of the human which begins a more detailed description starting in vs. 4. It fits for me and seems to go together better than two separate accounts that might conflict with each other.
When you look at the account of the creation of Adam you see God breathing His Spirit into him. What a powerful image. For some reason this scene in this movie comes to my mind whenever I read this passage. I envision God getting down and getting muddy to create us. So, I tried really hard to find a clip of Robert Redford whispering to the horses to train them as an image of God getting down and creating us but I couldn’t find that scene.
I know I have included a few times this article on what it means exactly that woman was created to be a “helper”. I hope you find it useful.