Genesis Lesson Eight | Genesis 7:1–7:24 & Matthew 24:37–39
Prayerfully read Genesis 7:1–7:24 and Matthew 24:37–39 at least two times and then read the following notes.
Context: Setting the Table
After a magnificent introduction (1:1–2:3), the “history of the heavens and the earth” (2:4–4:26) relates God’s abundant provision for his image bearers, their initial rebellion, and the ever-increasing wickedness of the line of Cain. The second section, the “book of the generations of Adam,” focuses on the corruption of the once-godly line of Seth. Telling the story of the coming of the great flood judgment, chapter 7 continues the third section, “the family history of Noah” (6:9–9:29).
Content: Reading the Text
(7:1–10) God Speaks and Noah Obeys
(7:1) First Noah found grace (Genesis 6:8), then Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9), and finally Noah was found righteous in his generation. Salvation is always, in the Old Testament as well as the New, a result of God’s unmerited grace. Yet this gracious salvation, in the New Testament as well as the Old, always leads to genuine righteousness. God’s presence still cannot be entered without holiness (Hebrews 12:14).
(7:2) Unclean animals could not be sacrificed and most of them had little economic usefulness. Yet God cared about them enough to preserve representatives of every “kind,” clean and unclean alike—even the creepy-crawlies (7:8). As God’s image bearers, we are called to steward all of God’s creation. We dare not ignore or abandon the uniquely exalted status that humanity alone has been given (1:26–30) by equating the status of animals and humans. Yet we must at the same time remember that we are the stewards, not the owners, of creatures that God himself continues to care about.
(7:4) The word that is translated as “living substance” is very rare. In the entirety of the Hebrew Bible, it only occurs here, in 7:23, and in the recounting of equally unique destruction of the “substance” of Dathan and Abiram in Deuteronomy 11:6. It seems likely that this passage in Deuteronomy is intentionally alluding to Genesis 7.
(7:5) Once again (as in 6:22) the precise and silent obedience of Noah is highlighted. The form of words bears a striking similarity to the phrase used to describe Moses’s precise obedience in the setting up of the tabernacle (Exodus 40:16 for example).
(7:6) The repetition of the “flood of waters/waters of the flood…upon the earth” in 7:10 serves to tie together this paragraph about Noah’s obedience.
(7:7) Unlike Lot, Noah led all of children and their spouses with him into the ark. There is no indication that he had to force them or that any of them “turned back” to the world they were leaving behind. May we have the testimony of Noah rather than Lot!
(7:10) When Jesus used Noah’s flood as an example of the coming judgment (Matthew 24:37–39; Luke 17:26–27), he focused on the total pre-occupation of that generation with the affairs of every-day life. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). Those that were taken away by the flood had opportunity to repent—but they were evidently too busy. In the end, “the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” (Mathew 13:22) destroys more souls than all of the “dens of iniquity” put together.
(7:11–16) The Coming of the Rain
(7:11) “There is no doubt that the two sources of water are intended to recall the ‘waters above and below’ of 1:6–7. The Flood de-creates, and returns the earth to a pre-creation period when there was only ‘waters.’”1 This is not the last time in the Pentateuch that we will see de-creation language used for divine judgment!
(7:12–13) These verses make it clear that the seven days mentioned in 7:10 were spent outside of the ark, preparing for entrance, not inside of the ark, waiting for rain. Noah entered the ark on the very day the flood came, neither too soon nor too late.
(7:13) As one “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” (Acts 7:22) Moses would have been familiar with the literature of the Ancient Near East including those “flood accounts” that predate the book of Genesis. At a number of points, it seems likely that Moses is directly contradicting views that were prevalent in his day. One of the underlying themes of at least some pagan accounts of the flood is that “the fertility of man before the flood was the reason for his near destruction.”2 Throughout the flood account, Moses makes it clear that it was the direct result of the moral perversion of mankind. Far from seeking to thwart mankind’s fertility, God positively sought to ensure it. The specific attention given to the wives of Noah’s sons prepares the way for the repetition of the creational command (1:28) to be fruitful and multiply in 8:17 and 9:1.
(7:16a) The coming of the animals to Noah bears a striking resemblance to the way that God brought the animals to Adam for naming (Genesis 2:19—the verbs used are similar in Hebrew). At this, as at so many other points, Noah is being portrayed as a second Adam, a new start for humanity.
(7:16b) “‘The Lord shut him in’ because nobody else could safely be trusted to shut such a door, against which a forty days’ tempest was to beat most furiously. What a mercy it is that when we get into Christ by faith, and are shut in from the world with him, we are perfectly safe, because the Lord himself has shut us in. We are not only brought to Christ Jesus by divine power, but we are preserved in Christ Jesus unto eternal life by the same divine might.”3
(7:17–24) The Prevailing of the Flood
(7:18) When the flood came, “the [ark], having no steering gear, was entirely at the mercy of the floodwaters.”4 (see also under 6:14a). In order to be saved by the ark, Noah had to let go of every other possibility of deliverance and place all of his faith (Hebrews 11:7) in a plan whose details had not been fully revealed to him.
(7:23) The wooden ark of Noah was the only hope of salvation from the universal destruction brought by the flood of judgment. In the same way, the salvation won for us by the work of Christ on a wooden cross remains the only hope from the final judgment that is even now fast approaching. There is “none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). We must not allow the busyness of this life to distract us from the burning urgency of the gospel message we have been entrusted with!
Credo: Believing the Truth
It started out like any other day. The markets were full of people hurrying back and forth as they purchased provisions for feasts of all kinds. It was a day for weddings, the air full of last minute commands to friends and servants as the finishing touches were put on venues large and small. No one paid any attention to Noah or the God he claimed to represent. They were simply too busy with their own agenda to pay attention to someone so out-of-step with the times, a man who, as any right-thinking descendant of Cain could see, was clearly on the wrong side of history. Yet the wooden ark they had so flippantly chosen to ignore was in fact their only hope, even as the wooden cross still so despised by the world remains ours.
Conduct: Reshaping Our Walk
Discuss the meaning of the text and then walk through the following application questions as you discuss the difference this meaning ought to make in our lives today.
In what ways might we be tempted to either over-value animals and the environment (ignoring the uniquely exalted status God has given humanity) or to abuse them (forgetting that God cares about all the creatures he has made)?
The cross of Christ is the only hope of a humanity that is fast approaching the day of final judgment. How might we be tempted to be so consumed with the busyness of everyday life that we forget the urgency of the message of salvation we have been entrusted with?
1. Hamilton 1990, 291 (slightly altered)
2. Frymer-Kensky 1977, 150
3. Spurgeon 2010, 234
4. Sarna 1989, 55