9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. – Genesis 6:9-22 ESV
Despite the seemingly detailed genealogy found in chapter five, it is impossible to know exactly how much time had elapsed before God made the determination to destroy mankind. At least six generations had transpired, leaving a legacy of moral corruption and spiritual degradation. God’s assessment of mankind’s condition was not flattering or hopeful.
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5 ESV
The problem was pervasive and it permeated to the very core of man’s existence. Far more than just a behavioral problem, the wickedness of humanity emanated from the heart. This was not a case of good people occasionally doing bad things. It was a pandemic of wickedness that flowed directly from the rebellious hearts of those whom God had created. And the prophet Jeremiah provides God’s further assessment of the fallen state of the human heart.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?
But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve.” – Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT
As God surveyed the state of affairs on earth, He discovered one man whose life found favor in His eyes. But this revelation did not come as a shock to God. He was not surprised or relieved by Noah’s seemingly inexplicable existence. In the midst of all decadence, immorality, and unrestrained evil, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation” (Genesis 6:9 ESV). And God had sovereignly ordained Noah’s existence. From before the foundation of the world, God had a plan in place that included Noah’s birth, his faithful life, and his role as the future “savior” of mankind. Even Lamech, Noah’s father, had somehow understood that his infant son was destined to be some kind of deliverer who would rescue humanity from the curse. At his son’s birth, Lamech offered up a prayer of hopeful anticipation.
“May he bring us relief from our work and the painful labor of farming this ground that the Lord has cursed.” – Genesis 5:29 NLT
Noah was an anomaly. He was an alien and stranger who stood out from the rest of humanity. In reality, he was the sole image-bearer of God. In fact, Moses compared Noah to another godly man when he declared that “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9 ESV). Noah was cut from the same cloth as Enoch (Genesis 5:22). In Enoch’s case, he had lived his life in faithful obedience to God and, as a reward for a life well-lived, God graciously transported him from earth to heaven.
Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him. – Genesis 5:23-24 NLT
But God had other plans for Noah. This righteous and blameless man had a divine assignment to fulfill. Because of His justice and holiness, God was obligated to punish wickedness. But because of His infinite love and mercy, God had a plan in place that would allow Him to redeem and rescue a remnant of humanity.
In some sense, Noah was an aberration, a departure from the norm. But in reality, he was a reflection of what God had always intended for mankind. Despite Moses’ description of him as “blameless,” Noah was not a sinless or perfect man. He too suffered from the effects of the fall. Like every other human being, Noah had inherited a sinful nature from Adam.
…just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned… – Romans 5:12 ESV
Noah’s blamelessness refers to his wholeness. The Hebrew word is תָּמִים (tāmîm) and it means “complete, whole, entire, sound.” It has to do with integrity. Noah was not duplicitous or deceitful. He refused to live a compartmentalized life, attempting to hide things from God or displaying a false outer piety that camouflaged an impure heart.
Yes, because Noah was a descendant of Adam, he was a sinner just like all his peers. But despite his sinful disposition, Noah was able to maintain a vibrant relationship with God. He lived His life in keeping with the will of God, refusing to follow the example of his friends and neighbors. While “everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil” (Genesis 6:5 NLT), Noah’s mind and heart were fixed on God. According to Moses, Noah was “the only blameless person living on earth at the time” (Genesis 6:9 NLT). And it will become increasingly clear just how willing Noah was to obey God – at any cost.
The situation was dire. The moral state of mankind had reached an all-time low. And their sinfulness had infected the entire creative order.
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. – Genesis 6:11-12 ESV
God assessed His creation as having been ruined by mankind’s sinfulness. The Hebrew word, שָׁחַת (šāḥaṯ), can mean “spoiled, ruined, corrupted, or rotted.” The pervasive presence of wickedness, particularly in the form of “violence,” had permanently damaged what God had made. Mankind had un-made God’s beautiful creation. This Hebrew word is the same one used by the prophet Jeremiah when referring to a loincloth that God had commanded him to bury then later retrieve. He writes:
Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled (šāḥaṯ); it was good for nothing. – Jeremiah 13:7 ESV
That is exactly how God viewed the earth. It had been ruined or spoiled by the damaging effects of sin. Humanity had been given the divine mandate to “fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). But rather than steward and care for God’s creation, mankind had contaminated and condemned it. To the point that it was “good for nothing.”
So, God divulged His plan to Noah.
“I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” – Genesis 6:13 ESV
But God followed up this less-than-happy news with the rest of His plan. He let Noah in on the role he would play in the redemption of creation. And this information must have left Noah’s head spinning. He was given very detailed instructions by God for the construction of an ark or large boat. And Noah is informed that first-of-its-kind vessel will become the key to God’s redemption of creation. And as if that wasn’t enough pressure for Noah to bear, God sealed the entire agreement with a legal contract.
“I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you.” – Genesis 6:18-19 ESV
But this covenant was not the terms of an agreement between God and Noah. God was not obligating Noah to uphold his end of the contract. This was a divine statement of promise, whereby God was guaranteeing to deliver Noah, his family, and all flesh from judgment. They would be graciously and miraculously spared.
All Noah had to do was believe and obey. His part was to build the ark and then to fill it with “two of every sort.” Not an easy task to be sure. But Noah’s construction of the ark was an act of faith, not a form of works. He didn’t earn his salvation. He received it as a gift from God. And the author of Hebrews makes this point quite clear.
It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith. – Hebrews 11:7 NLT
And Moses confirms that Noah obeyed God.
So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him. – Genesis 6:22 NLT
God had promised salvation, and Noah believed Him. And Noah proved his belief through faithful adherence to God’s command. Despite the formidable nature of the assignment and the countless questions that must have filled his head, Noah did exactly what he was told to do. And in doing so, he proved himself to be the right man for the task. The man of God’s own choosing.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.