Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Morning Follow-Up on Genesis 6

Our brief return to Genesis certainly gave us (or at least me) a lot to digest.  The chapter sets the stage for the narrative of the Flood, but while Moses and his readers had some framework of understanding so that these words were clear to them, our distance from those moments leave us digging for clues.
1.  How long after the Fall was the Flood?  If one takes the genealogies at face value without assuming gaps, it is about 1,500 years.  There may be gaps, which would make the time period longer by however many generations you want to assume are skipped (there is no textual evidence of generations missed, and Enoch is called in the NT the "seventh from Adam" which is correct if they are without gap), but you cannot shorten the period without redefining in some way the wording of the text or the meaning of "years"
2.How many people were present at the time of Noah?  I gave a chart suggesting that there could have been as many as a billion!  Now, I'm not saying that there were a billion, but I would argue that there is no reason to believe that people would have had less children than many families today have, that people whose fertility may have extended over four centuries could certainly have considered sizable families "normal," and we should not think that the earth was not being "filled" as God had made possible through the way he created Adam and Eve for that purpose.  They had five children we can document, and Genesis 5 says Adam had other sons and daughters (plural).  Each of the patriarchs is listed as having other sons and daughters (plural).  Another clue--Cain built a "city" named after his son, Enoch (Gen 4).  Even if it is just a village, It is only Cain's family that would live there, and one would expect that it had more than Cain, Mrs Cain, Enoch, Mrs Enoch,  and a few grand kids!  The suggestion that sons of God chose as wives whoever they wished is believed by many to indicate polygamy and the establishment of harems--not implausible given the sinfulness and polygamy already mentioned in ch. 4.  We have sultans that have hundreds of children today, and that may well have happened back then.  Finally, why cover the world above the highest mountains with water, if we are talking about only thousands of people, especially in one concentration? 
3. Who were the "sons of God?"  I gave you three options--fallen angels who co-habit with women, the men of the line of Seth corrupting their godly heritage through marrying ungodly women (possibly in the line of Cain, but chosen only for their outer beauty), or a combination where they represent demons lusting after women, and then possessing willing men who marry and raise violent offspring.  I lean to the last view, but all are legitimately held and defended by conservative, evangelical, biblical scholars, so I'm not offended if you think another view is more tenable.
4. Who were the Nephilim?  We saw they existed before and after the flood, may have been giants, but most of all were a violent class of men who enforced their rule or their power by their violence.  They became famous, but not for good.
5.  What was the 120 years mentioned in 6:3?  The language is so unclear that I honestly am "stuck" between 2 views.  The more common is that this is a 120 year advance warning that judgment (the Flood) was coming because of man's wickedness.  We would thus translate "My Spirit will not always contend with (or abide with) man, for he is flesh--his days (before judgment) will be 120 years."  The OTHER view, which is equally sustainable, is that it is God's first step of judgment, declaring man's lifespan will be shortened from the lengths of Genesis 5.  So we would translate it this way "My spirit will not always remain in man, for he is flesh, his days (life) will be 120 years."  Either way, it is a divine judgment against man's sinfulness.

Why does all this matter?  That may be the biggest question! 
1. God gives us these details to establish His sovereignty, His plan, His nature, our history, our need, and His grace.  He believed it was important for Moses to record this for Israel, and for us.
This story tells us just how wicked humanity was, and is.  The witness of Adam, the possible continuing presence of the Garden and the cherub-guarded Tree of Life, and the testimony of godly men from Seth to Enoch to Noah did not win the day. 
2. The big picture is vital.  Humanity takes God's provisions and gifts (including life) and corrupts them.  There is no hope to be found in ourselves for goodness, let alone for righteousness to stand before the God who made us.
3. Deliverance is always a matter of grace.  After telling how bad things were, how sinful humans are, and how sorrowful and grieved God was, God shows that he is both just--he judges--and gracious as he sets his favor on Noah as the means by which humanity will have a future.  In the same way, your standing before God is never safe if grounded in your own goodness or ability to earn right standing before His perfect holiness.  It is always about grace--God offering you favor, forgiveness, and life, if you believe His Son's death was as your substitute and is alone sufficient to take your deserved punishment and if you call upon that Son to save you.

I'd encourage you to be reviewing your notes or listening to the message again between now and a few weeks from now when we return to the series.