“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them … The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” Genesis 6:5-7, 11-12
We’ve seen in previous parts of this special series that God planned everything in eternity that is now playing out in time and space. So, what could possibly be God’s purpose for the complete wickedness and corruption of the human race within ten generations of creating the first human beings?
If our theology (God study) is that things went terribly wrong and people turned out a lot worse than God had ever expected, then we will interpret Genesis 6 one way. If our theology is that things went exactly as planned (eternal plan) when people turned out the way God knew they would, then we will interpret Genesis 6 another way.
It is our contention that things went exactly as planned and people turned out the way God knew they would. So, what are we to learn from the early chapters of Genesis?
We have seen that God created the heavens and the earth and saw that it was “good.” God created humans in His image and likeness and saw that it was “very good.”
We’ve also seen that God gave the first human one commandment that he had to obey – not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
What did the first humans do? They “disobeyed” God and ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
What did God say to the first human born on earth (Cain) when he became angry with his younger brother?
“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Genesis 4:7
What did the first human born on earth do in light of the warning God gave him? Cain rose up and killed his brother.
What did God say to Cain about what he had done to his brother?
“The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.” Genesis 4:10-12
How did Cain respond to God?
“My punishment is greater than I can bear!” Genesis 4:13
What happened when Adam and Eve had another son (Seth) and Seth had a son and named him Enosh?
“Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.” Genesis 4:26b
What do we see and not see in these early chapters of Genesis?
What We See
What we see is an emphasis on obedience to God and the suffering that resulted when people disobeyed God.
“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17
“So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.’ To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. ‘Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:14-19
“Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.’ And Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.” Genesis 4: 8-14
“Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and had a son. And he called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.” Genesis 5:28-29
“Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” Genesis 6:1-7
What We Don’t See
What we don’t see is an emphasis on loving God.
The word “love” doesn’t appear in Genesis until the 22nd chapter when God tested Abraham –
“Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:1-2
The first time we see love mentioned in the Bible is Abraham’s love for his son. The other times love is mentioned in Genesis is Isaac’s love for Rebekah, Isaac’s love for Esau, Rebekeh’s love for Jacob, Isaac’s love for food, Jacob’s love for Rachael, Shechem’s love for Dinah and Jacob’s love for Joseph. Love for God is not mentioned once in Genesis.
You and I are quite familiar with the importance of loving God and others because of the emphasis of the Law in Exodus as well as the rest of Scripture. However, what would happen if obedience to God is emphasized without mention or focus on love?
We see the results of that in the first six chapters of Genesis. The results are suffering, murder, wickedness and corruption. That’s what happens when people are allowed to do what they want to do. It’s what the Apostle Paul referred to when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans –
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 1:18-25
What we do see throughout the early part of Genesis is God’s grace. Even though the human race continually disobeyed God and suffered greatly, God continually displayed His grace to them. What do I mean by that? He gave them every opportunity for many generations to repent of their sins and return to obeying God.
God is gracious and merciful, as Moses learned many years later –
“Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7
Notice the word “longsuffering.” It comes from the Hebrew words ’ereḵ ’appayim, “slow to anger.” When the Bible describes God as being “longsuffering,” it doesn’t mean that He won’t be angry and respond accordingly. It simply means that He is slow to anger.
That’s what we see in Genesis 6. God was “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” for many generations .. BUT .. He became angry and was “was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
God said in Genesis 6:3 that His Spirit would not “strive” with man forever and that God gave the human race 120 more years to live and repent before God’s judgment. What did the human race do with that time? Here’s what Jesus said about that –
“They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” Luke 17:27
The next verse – Genesis 6:8 – is vital to our understanding God’s Great Reveal –
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”
God’s eternal plan was NOT to destroy every human being and give up on Adam’s race. His plan was to demonstrate great Grace in the face of seemingly impossible odds. God overcame humanity’s wickedness by His grace.
God’s eternal plan had always included Noah. God chose Noah from before the foundation of the world, before time began, to be the man through whom God would bring forth His eternal solution to man’s great problem. The seed God promised to Eve would live on through the lineage of Seth to Enosh to Noah to Shem.
“This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” Genesis 6:9-12
While most men became fathers at some point during their first century of life, Noah did not become a father until he was 500 years old (Genesis 5:32). That may indicate Noah’s resistance to marry “daughters of men” (Genesis 6:1-2) until after God called him to build the Ark. We learn in Genesis 7 that Noah was 600 years old when the floodwaters were on the earth (vs. 5).
Noah is described as a “just man, perfect in his generations.” The Hebrew reads ṣaddîq tāmîm hāyāh bəḏōrōṯāw. We might think of Noah as a man God uniquely preserved for His purpose. However, even though Noah spent many years building the Ark and was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), people lived their lives as if nothing was going to happen to them. They did not heed the warnings and did not repent of their sins.
God was specific in his instructions to Noah about building an Ark that would save Noah and his family and a limited number of “living things” (e.g. animals, creeping things, birds). Genesis 6:13-21 explains why God did what He did, how Noah was to build the Ark and who and what would be saved from the floodwaters in the Ark.
“Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” Genesis 6:22
Genesis 7 contains the details of both God’s wrath and His Grace –
“And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.” Genesis 7:21-23
Genesis 8 contains details of how God restored humanity to life on earth along with a special covenant –
“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. ‘While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.” Genesis 8:20-22
Genesis 9 contains details of the new phase of God’s relationship with humanity – a phase planned out in eternity, before time began –
“So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. ‘Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man. And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth And multiply in it. Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: ‘And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. 11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said: ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ And God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:1-17
This was God’s eternal plan revealed in the life of Noah and his family –
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Hebrews 11:7
We will see the Ark mentioned many times in Scripture –
- the Ark that saved Noah and his family and many animals, birds and creeping things
- the ark that kept Moses safe in the bullrushes
- the Ark of the Covenant Moses made for Israel
The Ark (הָאָרֹ֥ן – chest, box, basket) was used for the salvation of people and, in Noah’s case, animals. Noah and Moses’ mother used pitch (בַּכֹּֽפֶר׃ and וּבַזָּ֑פֶת). It was a “covering” that protected what was inside the ark from the water around it. It was a safe place.
The Hebrew word for pitch is kopher (also kaphar, kephir) and translates as “ransom, the price of life, to cover over, pacify, make propitiation.” The word is translated “atonement” in several places in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and many other OT Books –
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’” Leviticus 17:11
It is translated “ransom, redeem” in other OT Scriptures –
“None of them can by any means redeem his brother, Nor give to God a ransom for him —” Psalm 49:7
The last place we see the word used in the Old Testament is in Daniel in the context of the End Times anointing of the Messiah –
“Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.” Daniel 9:24
Kopher is translated there as “reconciliation.”
The Hebrew word for “mercy seat” (kapporeth) comes from kopher.
“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width.” Exodus 25:17
The Greek word translated “mercy seat” in Hebrews 9:5 is hilastérion (ἱλαστήριον). That word comes from hilaskomai, which means “to be propitious, make propitiation for.” It is used for having mercy on, showing favor to, forgiving, pardoning. Greek usage of hilastérion included a sin offering that would appease a deity.
It is used only twice in the New Testament: Hebrews 9:5 and Romans 3:25 (propitiation).
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26
Here are some thoughts on the word from Greek language expert Dr. Spiros Zodhiates –
“The hilastérion means the propitiating thing or the propitiatory gift, that which causes God to deal with us mercifully. This is the connotation given by Paul to the word in Rom. 3:25. Here Paul depicts Christ as the lamb slain whose blood cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7). In heathen religions the people who sacrificed or did anything to appease their god appeared to be or believed that they were manipulating him. In Christianity, however, it is never people who take the initiative or make the sacrifice, but God Himself who, out of His great love for sinners, provided the way by which His wrath against sin might be averted. Jesus shed His blood and became the way to the Father for sinners.” The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, World Bible Publishers, 1992
Jesus Christ is our kopher, our hilastérion, our covering, our sacrifice, our protection, our ransom, our reconciliation, our propitiation. Jesus is our everything!
We will take a closer look at how God continued to reveal His eternal plan through Noah and his descendants as we continue our special series, The Great Reveal.
[Read the first seven chapters of The Great Reveal in this free eBook]
[Read chapters 8-12 of The Great Reveal in this free Ebook]
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.