Genesis (Part 28)

Welcome back to my read-through and study of Genesis. This is dense so we’re only going a few verses at a time.

If you’d like to catch up with earlier portions of the study, click the menu button in the upper right corner of my page, click on Books, then click on Genesis. The first 19 parts of the study are summarized in the “From Creation through the Fall” link.

Genesis 6:9-13

9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

  • The first thing you might notice is that these verses closely mirror / repeat verses 5-8. In the prior set of verses, God comes from the underlying word “Yahweh.” In the set of verses here, it comes from ‘elohiym. This repeat – not the first repeat we have seen in Genesis – is why some consider Genesis to have been written by more than one author (or written by one author but compiled from multiple sources.)
  • One thing that strikes me right away from the text itself: In verse 9, “Noah walked with God” might be literal. The text has not told us that Yahweh left the Garden of Eden. We simply stop hearing about it. To that end, though, I want to clarify that the underlying word for “God” here is ‘elohiym. So the direct translation of this verse is “Noah walked with the Gods.” Yahweh might have left Eden but if ‘elohiym means “celestial beings” more broadly, then Noah may have literally walked with angels.
  • Isn’t it interesting that Noah, who lived for hundreds of years, had only three sons? Maybe that is just interesting to me. The names of his sons are:

Shem = שֵׁם Shêm, shame; the same as H8034; name; Shem, a son of Noah (often includ. his posterity):—Sem, Shem

Ham = חָם Châm, khawm; the same as H2525; hot (from the tropical habitat); Cham, a son of Noah; also (as a patronymic) his descendants or their country:—Ham.

  • In the notes from this translation, we learn that Ham is the collective Hebrew name used for the Egyptians in later usage.

Japheth = יֶפֶת Yepheth, yeh’-feth; from H6601; expansion; Jepheth, a son of Noah; also his posterity:—Japheth.

The word “corrupt” in verse 11 is שָׁחַת shâchath, shaw-khath’; a primitive root; to decay, i.e. (causatively) ruin (literally or figuratively):—batter, cast off, corrupt(-er, thing), destroy(-er, -uction), lose, mar, perish, spill, spoiler, × utterly, waste(-r).

“violence” comes from חָמָס châmâç, khaw-mawce’; from H2554; violence; by implication, wrong; by metonymy unjust gain:—cruel(-ty), damage, false, injustice, × oppressor, unrighteous, violence (against, done), violent (dealing), wrong.

  • As in English, the underlying Hebrew word has the potential for relatively broad interpretation. It can mean violence in the commonly understood way but it can also mean unrighteous or wrong.

In verse 13, when we see the line, “God says to Noah,” “God” again comes from the underlying plural form “the Gods.” We are not told here that Yahweh spoke with Noah directly.

Again in verse 13, it is interesting that God tells Noah that he will destroy mankind via the earth itself.

From the MacLaren Expositions:

1. Notice here, first, the solitary saint. Noah stands alone ‘in his generations’ like some single tree, green and erect, in a forest of blasted and fallen pines. ‘Among the faithless, faithful only he.’ His character is described, so to speak, from the outside inwards. He is ‘righteous,’ or discharging all the obligations of law and of his various relationships. He is ‘perfect.’ His whole nature is developed, and all in due symmetry and proportion; no beauty wanting, no grace cultivated at the expense of others. He is a full man; not a one-sided and therefore a distorted one. Of course we do not take these words to imply sinlessness. They express a relative, not an absolute, completeness. Hence we may learn both a lesson of stimulus and of hope. We are not to rest satisfied with partial goodness, but to seek to attain an all-round perfectness, even in regard to the graces least natural to our dispositions. And we can rejoice to believe that God is generous in His acceptance and praise. He does not grudge commendation, but takes account of the deepest desires and main tendencies of a life, and sees the germ as a full-blown flower, and the bud as a fruit.

  • It is interesting to consider a couple of points. We know from the chart (I will include below) demonstrating the overlapping generations of Adam that there was a point in time during the time of Noah’s father than Adam was still alive. We also know that by the time of the actual Flood, none of Noah’s ancestors still lived. Was there a failure by Noah’s ancestors to honor God? Or was the failure a failure to multiply?

It strikes me that Noah was considered uniquely righteous in an era when both his father and grandfather lived right up until the time of the Flood. There is some scholarly question of whether Methuselah died in the Flood. Did the two generations preceding Noah fail to be righteous? It certainly seems like that might be the case. Why else would Noah be unique. Surely he would have brothers and sisters who are also righteous if the two generations that preceded him were righteous.

That’s speculative on my part, obviously, and the text does not clarify. But it is noteworthy. We know from the text that Enoch was righteous. Perhaps his family line suffered in his absence?

From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.(11) The earth.—This is the larger word, and it occurs no less than six times in these three verses, thus indicating a more widespread calamity than if adâmâh only had been used, as in Genesis 6:7. But the earth that “was corrupt before God” was not the whole material globe, but that part which man, notably the gibborim of Genesis 6:4, had “filled with violence.” Whithersoever man’s violence had spread, there his home and all his works, his builded cities, his tilled land, his cattle and stores, must be entirely swept away. An absolutely new beginning was to be made by Noah, such as Adam had to undertake when he was expelled from Paradise. The reason of this necessity is next given.Genesis 6:12And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.(12) All flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.—These material things were incapable alike of moral good or evil, but man had made them the instruments of working his carnal will, and because of the associations connected with them they must be effaced, or rubbed out. (See Note on Genesis 6:7.)Genesis 6:13And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.(13) The end of all flesh is come before me.—A metaphor taken from the customs of earthly kings. Before an order is executed the decree is presented to the sovereign, that it may finally be examined, and if approved, receive the sign manual, upon which it becomes law.

I will destroy them.—Not the verb used in Genesis 6:7, but that translated had corrupted in Genesis 6:12. It means “to bring to ruin, devastate.”

With the earth.—Rather, even the earth: eth, as in Genesis 4:1. The meaning is, “I will bring them to nought, even the whole present constitution of earthly things.”

One more post from Ellicott that comes up later in Chapter 7 regarding Methuselah:

Verse 10

(10) After seven days.—Said, in Jewish tradition, to have been the seven days of mourning for Methuselah, who died in the year of the flood.

This note, from Chapter 7 verse 10, implies then that Methuselah was part of a holy line and that the Flood waited for his death to commence.

  • The Hebrew word for Earth is ‘erets. אֶרֶץ ʼerets, eh’-rets; from an unused root probably meaning to be firm; the earth (at large, or partitively a land):—× common, country, earth, field, ground, land, × natins, way, + wilderness, world.
  • It is worth noting that scholars do not believe that the world was understood to be a globe at the time of the Great Flood. The word here then represents a wider region. It might include the entire planet. It might widely represent the lands in and around the Middle East. [We will get into the specifics of that more, with more detail given in subsequent texts, in a future post.]

These verses here are, to quote Gandalf, “the deep breath before the plunge.” The action starts happening again in verse 14. But we now have a set stage.