the righteous man

Genesis 6

9 This is the account of Noah and his family.

   Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. 16 Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.”

It’s now made clear that this is Noah’s story. It is set against an unpromising background of violence and corruption, but the contrast is acute – Noah is a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Again that idea of walking with God – first seen in Eden, and then mentioned in relation to Enoch.  An intimate picture, a picture of faithfulness.

Verse 11 confirms the extent of earth’s corruption and its violence. We’ve seen this violence on a personal level with Cain and then with the boasting of Lamech.  Now, it appears, violence has become the norm – it fills the earth.  And the source of the violence is the people who live on the earth. Thus, the corruption is such that it will be destroyed (the two are the same verb, apparently).

God speaks to Noah. The focus in this story is on Noah’s obedience and co-operation.  In other ANE flood stories, this is different. Atrahasis, one character, hides from the angry, divided gods. The Genesis account is different – the man and Yahweh acting in unison, the former obeying the latter, in order that the latter might save the former.

The breath of life – this essential creative breath (seen in Genesis 1:30) will be extinguished from all creatures. Breath is the sign of life. And in the face of these floodwaters, those that breathe will breathe no more.

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