Through the Bible in a Year: Genesis 6 to 11

Genesis 6 through 10 is entirely about Noah. Personally, I think it is important to distinguish between Noah and the flood. The flood is important because it was the method God used to make Noah the father of a new race of people. If we don’t pay attention to this, we will think that Noah was important because of the flood. It is the other way around.

We mentioned yesterday that God always chooses a man, raises up a people through that man, and blesses the world through those people. The most important such men were:

  • Adam
  • Noah
  • Abraham/Isaac/Jacob (Israel)
  • Moses
  • David
  • Jesus

The people of Moses and David are the people who descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The people of Moses and David are the descendants of Abraham, not of Moses and David, but when we get to those two men, we will see how much God focused on them as leaders of his people. From Moses came the Law, and the leadership of God’s people was promised to David and his descendants. Thus, even Jesus is known as the son of David even though there was 1,000 years between them.

It is important to understand that Noah lived in a much different world than we do. Standards of right and wrong were much different. There are spots where it is hard to understand the behavior of men whose culture we understand very little.

For example, Noah curses his son Ham (and his grandson Canaan!) because Ham saw him naked after he got drunk and passed out. The crime hardly seems to be Ham’s to us!

We must learn when we read such stories, or we will never understand what we are reading.

Respect is at the heart of this story. Ham’s lack of respect was a greater sin than Noah’s drunkenness, which was probably not a sin at all in that culture!

Remember, Noah did not have the Law of Moses or the Gospel.

Even more fundamentally, the story is an explanation of Israel’s relationship with Ham’s descendants through Canaan. The land to which Moses was leading the Israelites was called the land of Canaan. The tribes that lived there were descendants of Ham through Canaan, and God was sending his people to that land to destroy them, drive them out of the land, and even make slaves of them.

The Law of Moses tells us that this was the destiny of the Canaanites because they had been cursed by Moses.

There are two things to point out here:

  • Blessings and curses are very real to all writers of Scripture. Christians had the right to curse rescinded by Christ (Matt. 5:44), but need to learn to bless with a believing heart.
  • Most nations that we find during the old covenant are named after the man from whom they descended. As we read through the Tanakh, we will find that the nation of Israel is named after Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, who had his name changed to Israel.

The Nephilim and the Sons of God

Who are these giants, called Nephilim in Hebrew? Who are their fathers, the sons of God? Modern Christians sometimes suggest that the sons of God are righteous descendants of Adam, and the problem was that they married unrighteous women. As a result, their children were not righteous, and the entire world became unrighteous.

That’s ingenious, but for most of history, the sons of God in this story have been understood to be angels from heaven. Job 1:6 uses "sons of God" in this way.

Historically, the Nephilim were actually giants, perhaps a specific race of giants.

A book called the Book of Enoch or 1 Enochcirculated among early Christians and is still included in the Bible of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It is the story of Enoch, who is mentioned briefly and positively in Genesis 5. 1 Enoch includes the story of the giants.

1 Enoch is not just mentioned, but also quoted, in the letter of Jude in the New Testament (vv. 14-15). It is almost certain that 1 Peter 3:19-20 and Jude 6 refers to 1 Enoch’s explanation of the Nephilim. Enoch teaches that the angels that fathered these giants were spiritually imprisoned for choosing to marry women.

Genesis 11

I included Genesis 11 with today’s reading so that we could begin immediately with Abram tomorrow. Genesis 11 is primarily the rapid transition from Noah to Abram. As I have said, God tends to focus on individuals, from whom a people arises and through whom he will bless the world.

His people are not always reliable in the blessing the world.

As Christians, we should remember that and be motivated to stay close to God so that he can use us as we live in this world.

The Tower of Babel and Cultural Myths

The tower of Babel is the explanation for the many languages that are found in the world. Again, there are various opinions among Christians as to whether this is an inspired story that actually happened or whether it is a cultural tale handed down from ancient times among the Hebrews.

It must be understood that those that question the historical accuracy of these ancient tales are not questioning the inspiration of the Bible. In ancient societies, stories were used to explain the world they saw around them. They had no way of knowing why there were so many nations and so many languages, and but if the story taught important lessons, then it would last in that culture.

How does that affect our trust in the Bible?

We must remember that the history written in the Bible does not actually start with the beginning of the world. It starts with the Law of Moses as they leave Egypt. Moses’ Law has to explain what God, Israel’s King, had done for the people. God created the universe, so the creation and the entire ancestry of Israel is given.

It should be no surprise that Moses would fill unknown gaps with cultural tales.

After the Law of Moses, the history of Israel is all written currently, at the time it happened.

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5 Responses to Through the Bible in a Year: Genesis 6 to 11

  1. Hi Joel. There’s two normal answers to this. One is that the verse is saying that man has 120 years until the flood, not that he’ll live 120 years. The other is that the age of men, who were living several hundred years, would rapidly reduce to 120 maximum, which is what we see happening afterward.

  2. Joel D. says:

    A simple question, that I’m posting here since it has to do with Gen 6. It says in Gen 6:3 that mans years will be 120 but all the way down to even Abraham they continue to live longer than 120 years, why is that?

    I don’t know if this can even be answered with certainty, I just thought it interesting 🙂

  3. Hi Bob: Noah sacrificed animals when he got off the ark, so there was animal sacrifice before the Law. I’m pretty certain that as long as true men (humans) have eaten animals, animal sacrifice has been around as a reverent way to take the life of an animal.

    I like the pictures you paint, and I’m pretty sure you’re correct that the church helped influence Jewish spirituality in the late first and second centuries.

  4. Bob Duggan says:

    What I find sometimes to be interesting (if however a bit squirrely at times) is when I hear of some of the rabbinical commentary on the scriptures. I do think that the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem was a blessing to Israel because it forced them in the direction of rabbinical thought and into a rather, at times, parallel spirituality to that of the Church. (I’m sure influenced by the Church as well in both positive or mostly negative ways.)

  5. Bob Duggan says:

    I’ve thought that the drunkenness of Noah and his nakedness was some sort of an allusion to a renewal of humanity. The flood is over, humanity begins again,….The nakedness, the sleeping, like Adam perhaps. A symbolic return to the primeval pattern. The fruit of the vine an allusion to, or foreshadowing of Melchizedek and of corse, the blood of Christ. ( Was there yet animal sacrifice?) Perhaps the drunkeness is a sort of “death”. Again the nakedness, the wine and sleeping can relate in a distant way to Christ either in his passion or renewal of Paradise.

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