Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:1–3

Genesis 9:1–3
Then God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 Every living creature of the earth and every bird of the sky will be terrified of you. Everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea are under your authority. 3 You may eat any moving thing that lives. As I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”
(NET Bible)

 Grace opens the food supply

Even after bringing a world-wide judgment upon human sin, God grants a new start to Noah with an abundance of blessing and grace. This symbolizes a wider situation: even though each of us starts life with a measure of opportunity that may be different, we each have all we need to please him.

To whom much has been given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). How are God’s blessings to be used to greatest advantage? Whose advantage are we talking about?

When God blesses Noah and his sons in Genesis 9:1, he uses the exact words given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Accordingly, Victor Hamilton says: “Noah is a second Adam. What God told Adam he now tells Noah.”[1]

Genesis 9:2
“Every living creature of the earth and every bird of the sky will be terrified of you. Everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea are under your authority.”

The NET Bible’s translation of Genesis 9:2 smooths off a few too many rough edges; that is known as over-translation. “Every living creature of the earth” (NET) sounds totally comprehensive of all life forms, but that is likely not the case. The standard Hebrew lexicon says that the underlying word usually refers to “animals that are not domesticated.”[2] For this reason, Old Testament commentator John Walton says: “It should be noticed that the word for . . . docile cattle (behema) is not included in this list. That suggests that they are not necessarily characterized by this fear.”[3]

Further, the phrase “are under your authority” (NET) may be more literally translated “Into your hand they are delivered” (ESV). In the Old Testament, the latter phrase is connected to having the power of life and death (Deut. 19:12; 20:13). This is the correct meaning in context, because God is defining a new food supply for man; animal life will now become part of humankind’s food (Genesis 9:3). Kenneth Mathews affirms, “God has now put the life and death of the animal under the power of the human arbiter.”[4]

Walton makes an interesting suggestion when he says, “I tentatively propose, then, that domesticated plants and animals were always considered legitimate sources of food, while permission was granted for gathering of food growing wild (1:30) and hunting animals (9:3).”[5]

Throughout Genesis it is useful to see how all the parts relate to one another. Walton says: “It is likely that the permission to use animals for food should be seen as a concession of grace. If so, it is parallel to the making of skin garments for Adam and Eve and putting the mark on Cain.”[6]

We have already considered examples of a general rule that seems comprehensive until God expresses a specific exception (Gen. 2:16–17 and Gen. 6:5–8). Genesis 6:2–3 gives the general rule concerning food, but in our next post we will encounter the specific exception.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 313.

[2] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000)  ?ayyah, animal, q.v.

[3] John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 311, fn 1.

[4] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 401.

[5] Walton, Genesis, 343.

[6] Walton, Genesis, 341.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 7:13–15

Genesis 7:13–15
On that very day Noah entered the ark, accompanied by his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, along with his wife and his sons’ three wives.  14 They entered, along with every living creature after its kind, every animal after its kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, everything with wings.  15 Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life came into the ark to Noah.
(NET Bible)

 The exact day things changed

Make no mistake! At a very specific time of the Father’s selection, every believer will be removed from this world and judgment will fall on those who remain.

How do we stay alert when every day seems like the one before? Since Christianity is a historical faith, how can the reality of past events prepare us for what God is doing now? If God is dead serious about the big events, how does he feel about the little things?

The author of Genesis is meticulous about defining the exact day when Noah and his family enter the ark. Genesis 7:11 makes clear that in a certain year, during a particular month and on a specific day, the world-wide judgment begins. The rare phrase “on that very day” (7:13) is used “to stress the memorableness of a particular occasion, e.g., Abraham’s circumcision (17:23, 26), the exodus (Exod. 12:41, 51), Moses’ death (Deut. 32:48).”[1]

Genesis 7:13 has an unusual ordering of the people. Noah does not board with his wife but with his sons. So, the order of those entering the ark consists of Noah, his sons, Noah’s wife, and then the three wives of his sons. The order is male and then female of humankind. Noah leads the males and his wife leads the females.

The sequence of boarding continues in verse 14 with each type of creature entering “after its kind.” The phrase “after its kind” occurs four times in verse 14, which is a high repetition rate. Why? A moment’s thought will tell you that the context is the key to unraveling this question. Order has broken down on the earth! Providing the worst example of all, the sons of God are having children by the daughters of men, which is not reproduction “after its kind.” The order in boarding the ark contrasts with the chaos and violence on the earth.

In case there is any doubt, Noah does not scour the earth for creatures to drag onto the ark. They come to him because God is bringing them; the migration is supernatural, not natural. Try hard not to be a person who makes miracles as small as possible. You may read many ideas about difficulty feeding all the animals, or ridding the ark of waste, or housing predators with prey, but all these objections assume God stuck Noah with the problems. He didn’t. When God saves, he saves in every way!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 181.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 7:1–5

Genesis 7:1–5
The LORD said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, for I consider you godly among this generation.  2 You must take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, the male and its mate, two of every kind of unclean animal, the male and its mate,  3 and also seven of every kind of bird in the sky, male and female, to preserve their offspring on the face of the earth.  4 For in seven days I will cause it to rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the ground every living thing that I have made.”  5 And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.(NET Bible)

 Salvation

“Perception is reality”—so the saying goes. Looking a little deeper, we find that the saying is true only when God is doing the perceiving. Human perception is far more unreliable; we tend to believe what we want to be true. Our perception is an actual perception, but that does not mean we are perceiving reality.

What would be the outcome of seeing more like God? What would have to change to make it so?

Peter tells us that God waited patiently while the ark was being constructed (1 Pet. 3:20), but the day finally comes for Noah and his family to gather to the safety of the great ship (Gen. 7:1). As part of an extended literary device called chiasmus, God sees Noah’s righteousness and the earth’s ruin:

A                     6:9       Noah was righteous

B                     6:11     The earth was ruined

B                     6:12     God saw the earth was ruined

A                     7:1       The Lord said . . . “you I have seen are righteous in this generation.”[1]

The most common Hebrew verb for “seeing” runs like a thread through the early chapters of Genesis. God sees things clearly (1:4; 1:9; 1:10; 1:12; 1:18; 1:21; 1:31; 6:5; 6:12; 7:1). Eve (3:6) and the sons of God (6:2) see in a twisted way that leads to the ruin of the entire world.

Jesus contrasted these two ways of seeing in Matthew 6:22–23: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

Genesis 7:2–3 provides for the future sacrifice of clean animals by calling for additional numbers of them. Further, the clean/unclean distinction paves the way for a long-term practice. Wenham says, “It is characteristic of Gen. 1–11 to trace back the fundamental religious institutions to primeval times.”[2]

The grammar of Genesis 7:4 makes it crystal clear that God is personally causing the rain to fall and flood the earth. God is never one to put off the responsibility on someone else or onto natural causes. Those who want to reduce the flood to a natural or limited phenomenon must ignore the Bible’s plain statements.

In addition, we may learn lessons on interpreting the Bible by considering the contextual meaning of God’s statement: “I will wipe from the face of the ground every living thing that I have made” (Genesis 7:4b). Plainly, Noah and his household fall into that class, but they will be saved rather than destroyed. This fact reminds us that Bible verses may be ripped from their original context and given a meaning that is unsupportable when studied in that context. Whenever a Bible student is offered a verse reference to prove something, that reference should be read along with the materials before it and after it to ensure it is being used according to its actual meaning.

God’s stated intentions also imply that anyone who tried to imitate Noah by using a ship to escape the flood was not allowed by God to succeed; perhaps the outcome was as simple as running out of food and water because the flood was not over for a year. Noah had been told to gather food for the duration (Gen. 6:21). We are not given unnecessary details.

The lesson of Genesis 7:5 is clear: obey God and live!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Adapted from Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 176.

[2] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 177.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 6:14 and 6:22

Genesis 6:14
“Make for yourself an ark of cypress wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and out.”
(NET Bible)

Keep on doing what God says

Some people trust in Jesus Christ for the simple reason that they do not want to risk going to hell. So far, so good. But a fraction of these people then put their Christianity in the closet and shut the door. The idea seems to be: “Call me when it is time for heaven!”

What is God’s opinion of faith that is expressed in an instant and then goes into dormancy? What does an extended showing of faith say about the quality of that faith?

Up to this point God has spoken only of destroying all life on earth. You know that Noah is going to be spared, but Noah has never read Genesis. He has only one hint at this point: God is still speaking to him. When Noah gets his first command, it has to be a relief.

God tells Noah to “build for yourself an ark.” What is an “ark”? The Hebrew word appears to be a derivative of an Egyptian word for “chest” or “box.” When Jerome created the Vulgate, a Latin translation of the Bible, in about 405 A.D., he used the Latin noun arca, which means “chest” or “box.” The Latin word was taken into the Geneva Bible of 1599, an early English translation of the Vulgate, as “Arke.” The translators for the King James Version adopted this word as “ark,” and we have had it ever since.

Readers of the KJV may wonder how their “ark of gopher wood” became an “ark of cypress wood” (NET). The truth is that no one knows what kind of wood was used because the word is used only here. The Hebrew word is gofer (where f and ph are just alternative spellings), so you can see how the KJV reading arose as a simple spelling of the word; they had no knowledge of the type of wood. “Cypress” is merely an educated guess by the NET Bible translators.

No one knows what kinds of ships existed prior to the flood.[1] The design God gave to Noah has roughly the shape of a rectangular box scaled to a total length of about 450 feet, a height of 45 feet, and a width of 75 feet. (This shape is approximated by imagining a shoe box that is six times longer than normal.) Johan Huibers, a Dutch contractor, has built a replica at about one-half scale.

Genesis 6:22
And Noah did all that God commanded him– he did indeed.
(NET Bible)

Genesis 6:22 stresses that Noah did exactly what God told him to do. That is beyond dispute.

More interesting is to explain why the Hebrew text uses two different forms of the verb “to do.” These forms are commonly called the “imperfect” and the “perfect.” The imperfect is often used to represent “that which occurs repeatedly or in a continuous sequence in the past.”[2] The same reference says the perfect “denotes in general that which is concluded, completed, and past.” Genesis 6:22 has first the imperfect and then the perfect. So, it could be translated, “Noah kept on doing all that God commanded him—thus he did” (my rough translation).

What is the point? For 120 years Noah faithfully carried out God’s commands (“kept on doing”). Then the author of Genesis looks back and summarizes Noah’s behavior: “thus he did.” This statement undergirds God’s declaration of Noah’s righteousness in Genesis 7:1. Noah proved his faith over and over.

Do you want to please God? If so, keep on doing what he has commanded no matter how long it takes!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Note to landlubbers: Noah’s vessel was far too large to be called a “boat.”

[2] E. Kautzsch, ed., A.E. Cowley, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1910) 125, fn 1.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 6:9–10

Genesis 6:9–10
9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a godly man; he was blameless among his contemporaries. He walked with God.  10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
(NET Bible)

Making a difference for your children

Every society keeps score. In Jesus’ day some coveted the chief seats at the banquets and the synagogue. In our own day, money, fame, and power are popular measures. Only a small percentage “wins” the competition in the world.

Life before God is different; anyone may win. The intelligent, the beautiful, the rich, and the strong have no advantage before God. How then does a man set himself apart? What must one do to obtain a preferred destiny?

Genesis 6:9 begins another major division in the book of Genesis; it formally introduces the account of Noah. Similar divisions have been observed at Genesis 2:4 (the account of the heavens and the earth) and Genesis 5:1 (the account of Adam). We have included Gen. 6:9 with the prior verses because it explains why Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.

The punctuation of Genesis 6:9 by the NET Bible neatly reveals the divisions in the verse. The summary, “Noah was a godly man,” is explained by the following two clauses. In relation to his contemporaries, Noah was “blameless.” Noah’s relationship with God is described in the same terms that were used of Enoch (5:24): “He walked with God.”

Many translations have “Noah was a righteous man” (ESV, NASB, NIV, NLT, RSV). Gordon Wenham says: “Negatively, a righteous man avoids sin; positively, he does good to his neighbors. In short, it is the most general Hebrew term for good people. . . . Someone called ‘good’ in English would be described as ‘righteous’ in Hebrew.”[1] The NET Bible uses “godly” in place of “righteous” in Genesis 6:9.

The word translated “blameless” by NET and most other translations must be clarified by its context, a fact demonstrated by the NET Bible Notes. “Blameless” means such things as maintaining a proper relationship with God (Gen. 17:1), not participating in idolatrous practices (Josh. 24:14), and not imitating the wicked, proud or deceitful (Prov. 11:5). In our text, Noah did not get involved with the violence and evil of his generation; instead he walked with God.

Noah’s sons are mentioned in Genesis 6:10 to account for their presence in the ark. However, we must consider the question of why they will be allowed to board instead of being destroyed with the rest of humanity. Wenham provides great insight:

Noah’s sons were presumably considered righteous, as they are mentioned before the general corruption of the rest of the world in verses 11–12. Cassuto (2:51) plausibly argues this is Ezekiel’s understanding, for in [Ezek.] 14:14–20 he says that Noah, Daniel, and Job would only deliver themselves by their own righteousness and would not have saved their children.[2]

Parents should note that Noah’s sons are the only sons who escape the flood; godly parents often make the difference between heaven and hell!

 

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 



[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 170.

[2] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 170.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 6:7–8

Genesis 6:7–8
7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth– everything from humankind to animals, including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.”  8 But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD.
(NET Bible)

Extermination and grace

Many people in our contemporary world just cruise along thinking that God will continue to tolerate the deterioration of moral behavior among humanity. Indeed, the Bible warns that in the last days scoffers will say, “Ever since our ancestors died all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4).

How do we reassess our behavior before God? Does God ever reassess his actions and make a change? How and when might such a thing happen? What can we do to prepare for such a change?

In saying “I will wipe humankind . . . from the face of the earth,” God uses a verb that means “wipe clean” or “wipe out,” depending on the context.[1] It is used for wiping names from records (Exod. 17:14) and for wiping a plate clean (2 Kings 21:13). The ancient method for erasing a name from a scroll is illuminating: “Note that erasures in ancient leather scrolls were made by washing or sponging off the ink rather than blotting. ‘Wipe out’ is therefore more accurate for the idea of expunge.”[2]

Victor Hamilton puts matters bluntly by saying, “God not only erases sins [Isa. 43:25], but he erases sinners—he judges them by drowning them.”[3] Genesis 6:7 makes it clear that all animal life will be included in the judgment on humanity.

We have already learned in a previous post that God saw evil and violence throughout the earth. In response, God felt the pain of “regret,” the same verb N?M (roughly nakam) which we discussed in Genesis 6:6. Recall that this verb can mean both “be pained” and “be relieved of pain.” God feels the pain of regret, but he intends to relieve that pain by destroying those who have caused it through sin.

The duality of the Hebrew verb is not just a technical curiosity; it provides insight into the process of repentance. When our actions bring a sufficient degree of pain, we experience regret. A critical strategy to relieve that pain is to change our minds and take different actions that result in relief of that pain. Humanity acted in sin and brought about a world covered with evil and violence. The right solution would have been to turn away from that sin and turn to God, but that did not happen.

On God’s side of the relationship, he had created the world, humankind and all other life. But the penetration of evil and violence into human behavior, spoiling creation, caused God to feel the pain of regret. Instead of continuing to maintain such a world, God relieves his pain by destroying those who have refused his ways.

Hamilton says, “The fact that the OT affirms that God does repent . . . forces us to make room in our theology for the concepts of both the unchangeability of God and his changeability.”[4] Waltke adds, “People can count on God always to reconsider his original intention to do good or evil according to the human response.”[5]

In this gloomy situation there is just one ray of light: “But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). The word translated “favor” is one which everyone should embrace; it is often translated “grace.” In this case it is the action of the stronger (God) on behalf of the weaker (Noah). The NET Bible Notes for Genesis 6:8 make clear the common basis for such favor:

The favor/kindness is often earned, coming in response to an action or condition (see Gen. 32:5; 39:4; Deut. 24:1; 1 Sam. 25:8; Prov. 3:4; Ruth 2:10). This is the case in Gen. 6:8, where verse 9 gives the basis (Noah’s righteous character) for the divine favor.

The consonants in the Hebrew word for “Noah” are the reverse of the consonants in the Hebrew word for “favor.” In English we might quip that “Noah” is “favor” spelled backwards. In fact, there are many variations on Noah’s name that infuse this entire narrative—apparently a big hint from the author that he would survive.

Apart from God’s favor toward us in Jesus Christ, we would have suffered the same fate as Noah’s contemporaries. In the next post we will see more of Noah’s character before God.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) ma?ah, wipe out, q.v.

[2] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (TWOT) 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody, 1980), ma?ah, wipe out, q.v.

[3] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 275.

[4] Hamilton, Genesis 1–17, 275.

[5] Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 119.

Replica of Noah’s Ark Nearing Completion

The New York Times has published an interesting article about a Dutch businessman who is nearing completion of a full-size replica of Noah’s ark. Yes, it is 450 feet long, three stories high, 75 feet wide, and made of Swedish pine.

Johan Huibers, owner of a construction company and builder of the ark, explained his reason for building it: “It is to tell people that there is a Bible. And that, when you open it, there is a God.” Huibers is apparently a man of few words, but he makes them count!

According to the Times, Huibers has discussed his project with business associates in Israel. Huibers reports: “They say it’s not a Christian ark, it’s a Jewish ark. They say I stole it.”

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.