Genesis 6:9-22 - The Preparation for the Flood
Read Genesis 6:9-22
The great catastrophe which befell the ancient world and the greatest "evil" to strike the world until the end of the world comes, does not come without warning. Men are warned over a period of many years but they do not repent.
Those who are to be spared when the flood comes are to prepare a place of safety and God Himself will give the detailed plan for this place of safety because no man yet realizes the enormity of the judgment nor the requirements of a safe place.
Noah, a Righteous Man
The line of Seth was ended at the close of the previous chapter with the family of Noah. The history of this family will now claim the attention of the author.
In contrast with the men of his day, Noah was "a righteous man, and perfect in his generations: Noah walked with God." While the rest of mankind was corrupt, Noah was righteous, i.e., he lived according to the laws which God had placed in man's heart.
When it is said that he was "perfect" we are not to deduce from this term that Noah was a sinless man, but, that he lived a life which was blameless toward his fellowmen. In his dealings with others he was honest. He did not seek his own welfare at the expense of others. He walked with God. That was the reason he was different from the other men of his time. His relation to his God determined his relation to other men.
The same expression is used in 5:22 concerning Enoch. Because Enoch walked with God he did not see death. Because Noah walked with God he did not perish in the flood. It is such a brief characterization of a person's spiritual life, but it is also very meaningful. It reveals a close relationship (Amos 3:3). But, there is much more. To walk with God and go wherever He leads is indeed the heart of true spirituality. It is also fearful. He leads along sunny paths but also over sickbeds and hospitals and cemeteries! He led through the Red Sea, through the wilderness, through Jordan, in victory over enemies; but also over Calvary!
To walk with this God demands everything. This God had created all things and this God will destroy His creation with the great flood — and Noah walked with Him!
The three sons of Noah are mentioned once more because they too will be spared when the flood comes. Nothing is said here concerning their relation to God, but they will profit from the fact that their father walked with his God.
Corruption and Violence
Once more mention is made of the wickedness which filled the earth at that time. It is stated very briefly but it must have been horrible! The same God who did not destroy the whole earth for the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, nor for the sins of the Roman empire, nor for the sins of Hitler's Germany, does destroy the whole earth in the days of Noah! So great is the wickedness of that time! The earth was corrupt, the earth was filled with violence. God saw it and it grieved Him.
Although all others are ignorant of the impending doom, God makes known to Noah what He is about to do. In human language He makes it known to Noah that He has decided upon the end of the human race outside of Noah's family. There is no turning back. He is going to destroy man from off the face of the earth.
The Ark to be Built
To save Noah and his family when this awful judgment comes on the earth God now commands him to build an ark. It is the same word which is used in Exodus 2:3. It does not really mean a ship, but rather a box or container. The ark which he is to build will not have to sail. It will not have to go from one place to another but is intended only to give safety to its contents and will have to float.
Several words used in connection with the building of the ark are only used here and are not found in the rest of the Old Testament. This makes interpretation difficult. Only the main features are mentioned and we have no detailed plan of the ark which Noah, no doubt, did have. It is to be made of "gopher wood." It is not known what kind of wood this was but it is usually considered to be cypress. It had to be made waterproof and Noah was to use "pitch" on both the outside and the inside. "Rooms" or "nests" or "cells" are to be made in the ark — for the animals.
It is to be a huge structure. It is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high! It is to be six times as long as it is wide which corresponds approximately to modern shipbuilding specifications. This is noteworthy because ships were far more square till the middle ages and consequently were not seaworthy. (Ship builders too should have read their Bible more carefully.)
The 16th verse has given rise to a great deal of debate concerning its exact meaning. I believe that the simplest and most natural interpretation to be the following: Noah is to build up the sides of the ark to within a cubit (18 inches) of the roof. This will give light and ventilation. This will be an opening around the entire ark. A door is to be set in the side of the ark. The whole structure is to consist of three stories. It is difficult to say exactly how the entire ark was divided because 15 foot stories certainly were not needed but provision also had to be made for all the food which was to be stored in it.
The Flood to Come
Although the command to build an ark already pointed to the nature of the destruction which was to come upon the earth, it is not until verse 17 that God tells Noah that He will bring a flood of waters on the earth. It will be a flood as no one has ever seen and one that goes beyond the imagination of any man.
God is going to cause all flesh to perish in this flood. This will include man and beast and bird. The nature of the destruction will, of course, not exclude fish. Nothing is said concerning plant life even though that also will be destroyed.
Covenant with Noah
But, Noah will not be included among those who perish. God is establishing a "covenant" with Noah. This is the first time that this word is used in the Bible. Later we hear of a covenant which He makes with Noah after the flood.
Of course, the covenant which God makes with Abraham (Genesis 17) is the richest and best known. What is meant by the covenant here with Noah? There is the danger that we read too much into it. This is not the covenant of grace as established with Abraham. There is also the danger that, seeing it is not the Abrahamic covenant of grace, we consider it of little consequence. The covenant which God makes with Noah assures him of life while all others perish. Not only will his life be spared but the lives of the members of his family too. His wife and the wives of his sons share in this covenant favor of God. His is the only family which shall be left on the earth. God is true to His covenant. Despite the enormity of the flood — Noah is safe!
The miraculous is very much in the foreground throughout this entire section. Little wonder that many have allegorized this whole episode in former times. It is also understandable that this whole section is considered to be only a myth by the critics of our day. However, it is revealed to us as history!
The New Testament makes various references to these happenings. God is also revealed in a manner which many so-called Christians do not appreciate. It is made clear that His love is not such that He will tolerate everything. The days of Noah are instructive for us and Noah's "salvation" in the ark speaks to those on whom the end of the ages have come.
Two of Every Kind
Noah and his family to be spared and two of every kind of living thing as well. Though the sin of man has made it necessary for God to visit the earth with drastic measures, He will not be robbed of His creation by the deeds of wicked men. Noah is to "bring" two of every kind, male and female, into the ark with him. In verse 20 we read that "two of every sort shall come to thee." In verse 9 of the following chapter we read "there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark."
Noah is responsible for all the creatures. He must "bring" them into the ark. But, how will he be able to 'round up' all living things? They will "come" to him. They then came by twos to Noah to go into the ark. Again we see the miraculous.
Could all living creatures find room in the ark? The answer of the critics is No. However, who knows how many "kinds" there were at that time? The word of God says that all kinds of living things were kept alive in this way when the great flood covered the earth. Few doubt that there was this great flood — and all kinds of living things are still with us today!
What provision must be made for so many living things for more than a year! God tells Noah to gather sufficient food for himself, his family and for all the creatures in the ark with him. Not only must the ark supply sufficient space for all living things, there must also be room for all this food. Noah and his family will be kept busy during all the time they spend in the ark caring for and feeding all the creatures with them.
In true Hebrew fashion it is now stated twice that Noah did all the things which God had commanded him to do. It emphasizes the fact that he did everything commanded him to the smallest detail. He "moved with godly fear" in the building of the ark (Hebrews 11:7). He did not question the possibility of saving himself and representatives of every kind of living thing by means of this ark! He "walked with" the God who told him what to do. He obeyed in faith and the faith he exhibited in the building of the ark gives him a place among the heroes of faith.
So are we to see the preparation for the flood — in faith. Those who sit in judgment on the Scriptures shall be judged by the Scriptures!
Questions for Discussion:
Does the Christian walk with God? Explain.
Do you think the sin of man was "worse" in the days before the flood than later? Why does God destroy the world of that day and not of later evil times?
Why does the form for baptism make reference to the flood in Noah's time? Does this episode have anything to do with baptism?
Is the "sketchy" explanation of the manner in which the ark is to be made make it more difficult for us?
What is a covenant in the Biblical sense?
Do you think others than those of Noah's family may have helped in the building of the ark?