The story of Noah is one that almost everyone has heard. Even children who are never brought to church know of a story with a lot of animals in it. Christians know of God’s salvation of Noah and two of every kind of animal on the earth.
Despite our familiarity with the story of Noah, there are many mysteries surrounding it. Some things can be explained better today through modern science while other things must still be taken on faith because we do not have an adequate explanation for them.
The story of Noah begins at the end of Genesis 5. This is one of those chapters that if you’re reading on your own, you likely skim very quickly. It contains the lineage from Adam to Noah. We won’t concentrate on this much or even read it except to note the ages of people. All of the people mentioned lived hundreds of years, almost 900 or more. The only one who does not is Enoch who lived 365 years and God took him away without suffering death.
The other thing that is worth noting is the age at which these men fathered children. While Adam was the father of Seth at 130 years, we can tell because of statements in Genesis 4, the rest of these men may not have been direct fathers but rather ancestors. Genesis does not make an attempt to cover the birth of every person but rather notable people along the lineage of Noah and Abraham. Genesis 5 ends by saying that after Noah was 500, he became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. This does not mean to imply that Noah had triplets, nor that he was still fathering children at 500. Even for the accounts in Genesis, this would be old as the oldest other father is Methusaleh who became the father of Lamech at 187.
The incredible lifespans deserve a bit of our attention as they will abruptly shorten after Noah and the flood. By Genesis 11, the children of Noah live only half as long as he does and in a few generations the lifespan is cut in half once again to 200 or less. This is still phenomenal but nothing like before. There is a timespan of slightly less than 300 years between the time that Noah exits the ark to the birth of Abraham. I never thought of it until I did the math but Noah is still alive when Abraham is born. With the death of Noah comes the end to all of the extraordinary ages to what we would consider normal lifespans.
So what is the cause of all of this? There are a few explanations and in all likelihood, it is a combination of all of these. The first is that God is supernaturally expanding people’s lifespans. God keeps people alive longer so that they populate the earth. In this case, it is no surprise at all that the person who apparently walks so close to God that God allows him to escape death, Enoch, is the father of the person who lives longer than any other man, Methusaleh. Even among incredible lifespans, Methusaleh is blessed. And by the way, Methusaleh dies in the same year that the flood occurs. I believe that either God held off the flood until his death or that He mercifully allowed Methusaleh to die before he was swept up in the floodwaters.
The second possible explanation is that of genetics. In short, there is a longevity gene. Noah is the last to have it before it is lost with the flood. He passes it on to his children, but they only receive half of the benefits because they don’t receive it from their mother. Their half gene is then passed on to their children who only have one quarter of the benefits as Noah. This would explain why the ages rapidly decrease and at a rate that is essentially halving every generation.
The third explanation is the environment before the flood. Going back to the second day of creation, we should note what takes place.
6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
We know that the air contains moisture and that clouds are a collection of water in tiny droplets but this appears to be more. At creation, the earth is more like a tropical rain forest that does not need rain because of the canopy of water overhead. Genesis 2:4-6 gives more indication as to what all of this looked like.
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens- 5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.
There was no rain and the earth essentially took care of itself because of the streams that sprung up and the moisture in the air. The thick atmosphere served as protection from the sun and numerous harmful things like radiation which we know about now. There is no telling what kinds of diseases did not exist because it could not live in such an environment.
The other likely difference was atmospheric pressure. The water in the air weighs more than simple oxygen and thus creates more pressure. Scientists have researched this and believe that the atmospheric pressure was possibly double what it currently is. Now I couldn’t begin to tell you how that is a benefit aside from the fact that it apparently is. Hyperbaric chambers are designed specifically to increase the pressure around the body which helps with oxygen in the bloodstream. Football players have started using these in their homes to recover from injuries. The medical community is using them for everything from treating burns, to carbon monoxide poisoning, to healing crush injuries. There are also studies being conducting regarding the use of hyperbaric chambers for the treatment of autism and even certain types of hearing loss. In other words, the world before the flood could have been an environment that allowed the body to heal itself much better than today.
So that’s the background of the world before Noah and the flood. But the most important question surrounding our story is “why did the flood happen?” In short, it was because of sin but it was greater than this.
Finally we get to Genesis 6 and the story of Noah.
1 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
Mankind is doing what it is supposed to be doing, that is being fruitful and multiplying. They are getting married and having children. But something is wrong with the sons of God marrying the daughters of men. This appears to be a mixed marriage of some sort that is not just a mistake, it is apparently an abomination in the eyes of God.
We’re going to deal with a few interpretations, beginning with the most innocent of them here. This could simply be that followers of God are marrying people who do not worship Him and because of this His followers are being led astray. This leads to more sin in further generations and soon there are few people who are worshipping the Lord.
Another interpretation is that the sons of God referred to a particular nation or people group who followed God. The daughters of men were another nation that did not follow the Lord. By intermarrying, there were the same problems that the Israelites had when they intermarried. The bloodline was corrupted and people were led astray.
I believe that more is happening than this however as the next verse appears to indicate.
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
We have no good explanation as to who or what the Nephilim were. They appear to be half breeds of some variety however. And whatever their mix is, they are astounding in appearance, so much so that they are legendary. So here’s the third possibility. This is an interbreeding between men and angels or rather fallen angels.
There appears to be a vague reference to this in Jude 6-7
6And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
We know that there are fallen angels and Jude makes it clear that some have already been punished. Some angels continue to roam free, those which we know as demons. The sin that these angels committed must have been very great if God has already bound them while others roam free. The fact that Sodom and Gomorrah are referenced in the next verse seems to tie these angels to a sin of sexual immorality.
Some point to Matthew 22:30 to say that angels are neuter and do not marry.
At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
There is no indication that angels are neuter however. There is nothing to indicate that angels can’t marry, only that angels do not. Those who act in defiance of God may very well engage in marriage however. As Jude indicated, some left their home, this would make sense if these fallen angels left heaven to marry humans on earth.
If all of this is true, it would make sense why a half man, half fallen angel creature would be a creature of legend. Every time I read this, I think of the Greek and Roman legends of demi-gods – half god, half man. Perhaps there is a slight basis in truth to their stories.
Whatever the truth is, it appears that humanity has been corrupted and led into deep sin. I believe that the sin has to do with terrible sexual sin as well the garden variety sins. We will deal with the issue of sexual sin next month when we look at Sodom and Gomorrah however.
Humanity has become so corrupted that God has no choice but to essentially start over again.
5 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 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
The lesson is that God always leaves a remnant however. We may feel as if the world is full of sin and we are the only ones who care. We may feel abandoned. But God is still with us. He has made us a promise.
12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”