After Adam and Eve rebelled against God, sin and the evil it spawned spread throughout the earth carrying death and destruction wherever it went. The bloodshed actually began in the Garden of Eden when God gave the skins of animals to cover Adam and Eve. His act was a prophetic sign of the what was to come, and what would be needed to save humanity from themselves. And the bloodshed continued as Cain murdered his brother Able and began a line of evil and murderous warriors. Driven by pride, Cain's family expanded in their number and in their ruthlessness as evidenced by Lamech's boasting of murder and revenge. (4:19-24)
But God provided Seth to lead the way towards righteousness. Adam and Eve saw the promise Seth represented and praised God for His gracious gift. Seth's son Enosh taught people to worship God and to call upon Him for their needs. Seth's great, great, great grandson Enoch, following his ancestors, walked with God so closely that he was taken directly to heaven to be with God. This was no doubt a sign from God that righteousness could prevail over evil, and life over death. (4:25-26)
Enoch and Lamech were of the same generation and stood in stark contrast as symbols of the choice that mankind faced. Walking with God in righteousness by faith, which leads to life. Or rebelling against God in sin driven by pride, which leads to murder and death.
But as time went by, evil and death overtook the world and by Noah's time, righteousness had all but faded away. God by His grace gave the world 120 years to repent (6:3), but they did not. “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (6:5). If it had not been for Noah there would have been no hope, but Noah still walked with God (6:9) just as his ancestor Enoch had. So God chose Noah and his family to be the remnant from whom He would make a new people.
God explained to Noah exactly what He was going to do and gave Noah specific instructions on how to be prepared. Noah would serve God through obedience to God's commands and in the process Noah and his family would be saved from God's wrath.
When the time came, Noah's closeness with God made it possible for him to hear God's words and understand His instructions. He understood so clearly and so precisely that he was able to build the ark to God's exacting specifications and make it ready exactly on time (6:22; 7:5). God commanded the animals that He had chosen to enter the ark, and Noah loaded them along with his family.
Then, when everything was ready, as the rains began, “the LORD shut him in.” (7:16).
“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Heb 11:7)
Noah had acted by faith, which means he chose to follow God's instructions and prepare for a worldwide flood. This was an event that had never happened before on the earth, and it was something that Noah certainly could not have imagined or understood. Even today we cannot understand it.
But Noah's closeness to God gave him the faith to build and enter that ark when he did not understand why and did not know how long he would be in the ark or where it would take him. As Noah and his family stepped into the ark, they stepped into the unknown.
Read 7:17-24 The Flood Begins
Water came from two sources. When the flood started it began to rain and that continued for 40 days (7:12). At the same time, water began to come up from under the ground (7:11). With that much water flowing out of the ground, there had to be earthquakes and settling on a global scale. There had not been rain before on the earth, so this was a startling and frightening event for everyone (2:5; 7:4; 7:12). But the ark had been constructed to handle rain because it was closed on top and pitched outside and inside (6:14, 16). It was probably the only rainproof structure on the earth at that time.
There is some question as to how high the water reached. Verse 17 is somewhat confusing in that the Hebrew word used to describe what the water covered is הַר har; which can mean either a mountain or a range of hills. So the NKJV renders it “high hills,” while the NASB and NIV render it “high mountains.” Verse 20 is little help in resolving the confusion because it uses the very same word. Also verse 20 can be taken to mean that the water rose an additional fifteen cubits from where it was in verse 19 (NASB, NKJV), or it can be taken to mean that the water rose fifteen cubits (twenty feet) above the hills or mountains (NIV).
Sorting through all of the possibilities from these verses leaves us with no clear picture of the depth of the water. It may have covered some hills in the area of where Noah lived, or it may have risen twenty feet above the highest mountain on earth at the time. Many who say that this narrative describes a local flood use these verses as proof texts.
However, verses 21-23 clear up the confusion and clearly indicate that the correct rendering is the NIV, “the waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet.” If everything that was breathing at the time died (7:22-23), then the water had to have covered all the land up to and including the highest mountains. Only Noah and those who were in the ark with him were able to survive.
Verse 24 says literally that the waters “had strength” over the earth for 150 days. We know that the rain continued for the first 40 days, and that at least some of the flow of water from the ground continued for the full 150 days (8:3). Within that period, we don't know exactly when the mountains were covered. But it is clear that it was long enough to have drowned all breathing land animals and all birds (7:23). For the birds to have perished, the waters must have remained above the land for longer than a bird could have remained in the air or survived floating on the surface. Some sea birds may have lasted quite a long time, so it is likely that the water remained above the earth for most of the 150 days.
Read 8:1-3 God Remembered Noah
There are three key verses in the flood narrative. “Noah did all that the LORD commanded him” (7:5, cf. 6:22); “The LORD shut him in” (7:16); and “God remembered Noah” (8:1). Together they tell a story of faith, obedience, and grace. Noah obeyed God. God protected him from His wrath. And God did not forget Noah when the judgment was over. This is the story of every believer's faith and hope.
“When Moses wrote that God remembered someone (v. 1), he meant God extended mercy to him or her by delivering that person from death (here; cf. 19:29) or from barrenness (30:22). God's rescue of Noah foreshadows His deliverance of Israel in the Exodus (cf. 8:13-14 and Exod. 2:24; 14:21)." (Constable)
The old hymn Rock of Ages says of Christ that His blood would, “be of sin the double cure; save from wrath and make me pure.” God saved Noah and his family from the wrath of His judgment against the evil world; and released them into a new world, purified and free from the guilt of sin. Of course Noah and his family sinned again, and they died from that sin. Noah's righteousness could only gain them one ride on the ark. But Christ is able to save a person for eternity.
When God remembered Noah it was not just a thought process. God took three specific actions that benefited Noah, his family and all of their offspring:
He sent a wind (8:1), which represents God's command for the waters of His wrath to recede.
He sent a sign in the form of a dove (8:11), which represents God's offer of peace.
He spoke to Noah again (8:15, cf. 6:13; 7:1), telling him to leave the ark and begin a new life under a new covenant (9:1-17).
The word describing the wind that God sent (8:1) is the same word used to describe God's Spirit in the second verse of the creation account (1:2), the movement of God in the Garden of Eden (3:8) and the wind that parted the waters in the Exodus (Exo. 14:21). All of these cases represent God's Spirit moving over the earth and taking action under God's direction.
Verse 2 indicates that God took specific and direct action to stop the flooding. Just as the “springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened” (7:11), so now they are both closed, and then it is noted also that the rain had already stooped. God started the flood and stopped it, very likely by the action of His Spirit, the same power that brought order to the creation (1:2).
In the Hebrew, verse 3 offers a curious statement. Most translations indicate that the waters “receded steadily” (NIV, NASB) or “receded continually” (NKJV). But the literal translation of the Hebrew words is closer to “the waters were going and returning.” John Wesley observes that “they were going and returning; a gradual departure. The heat of the sun exhaled much, and perhaps the subterraneous (sic) caverns soaked in more.” The waters went back to the sky and ground from which they came. But the earth did not return to it's former condition. Whatever changes that occurred to the earth as the waters flowed form underground and fell form the sky remained after the waters returned.
The NIV and NKJV render the rest of the verse in a separate sentence beginning “At the end of the hundred and fifty days …,” suggesting that this may be the same 150 day period as mentioned in verse 7:24. The NASB, however, correctly renders the text, “and at the end of one hundred and fifty days....” This suggests that there is another 150 day period that follows God's command for the waters to recede. Two 150 day periods are required by the chronology that results form the specific dates given relative to Noah's life (7:11; 8:13). (See the chronology here).
Read 8:4-5 The ark Comes To Rest
The text indicates that the ark came to rest in the mountains of Ararat. See slides on Mt. Ararat (click here)
“'Ararat,' known as ancient Urartu in Assyrian records, was an extensive territory and bordered the northern Mesopotamian region. It reached its political zenith in the ninth to sixth centuries B.C. Urartu surrounded Lake Van with boundaries taking in southeast Turkey, southern Russia, and northwest Iran. Among the mountains of modern Armenia is the impressive peak known today as Mount Ararat, some seventeen thousand feet in elevation, ... During the eleventh to twelfth centuries A.D., it became the traditional site known as the place of Noah's landing. Verse 4, however, does not specify a peak and refers generally to its location as the 'mountains of Ararat.' ...” (Kenneth Mathews)
“Modern Mt. Ararat lies on the border between Turkey and Armenia near the center of the ancient world. From this general region Noah's descendants spread out over the earth.” (Constable)
The waters are receding, but Noah does not jump out immediately. He begins a series of tests to see when it is safe to leave. God has not told him how long he must remain in the ark. He told him how to build it and when to enter it, but not when to leave. In fact, Noah and his family know nothing of how long the flood will last. They have spent over a year bobbing up and down, cooped up with thousands of smelly animals, not knowing what will happen or when their ordeal will end.
The waters came up slowly for 150 days. Now they recede slowly for another 150 days. And now the ark has landed in a land far different than any of them have ever known. What faith it must have taken to hold on for all that time, while God remained silent and their trial continued.
In our lives also God works His perfect will slowly and silently. “In our haste (or frustration or desperation) we may try to leave the ark too soon. We may try to unhinge the door or climb out through the window or even knock a hole in the side of the ark. But when we do, we slip and slide through the mud and end up in the water. It is better that we should wait for God’s answers to appear, and to trust that our Heavenly Father will give us what we need when we need it.” (Ray Pritchard)
Noah, wise in the ways of the Lord, looked for a sign. When was God's wrath over? The sign came, as the song says, “on the wings of a dove.” Yet Noah waited for another two months. He just waited.
Read 8:15-19 The Command To Leave
Then God spoke to Noah. “Come out of the ark....” And then Noah again obeyed God.
We will return to this passage in the next session as it introduces the third dispensation, the dispensation of human or civil government, and it also introduces the Noahic Covenant.
For now let us observe that God remembered Noah. For 371 days Noah waited and watched as the world around him was destroyed and disappeared completely beneath the waters. And God, Who led him into the ark, was silent while he waited. Noah could only survive this wait because he knew that God would be faithful to remember him when the time came, and would care for him while he waited.
Have you been certain that God spoke to you, only to be thrust into a trial that seemed to never end?
Was God silent far too long, leaving you waiting?
Has it ever seemed as if your world is falling apart and maybe even disappearing from your sight?
If God remembered Noah, He will remember you.