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What the Bible says about Noah
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 6:9

The first of this verse's two problems is that the KJV translates two different Hebrew words as "generations"! The first occurrence—"These are the generations"—is rendered from toledoth (Strong's #8435; note that it is plural), meaning "descent," "history," or "genealogy." The NKJV corrects this first error by using the word "genealogy"—"This is the genealogy of Noah"—although this is still a singular word. Other translations read:

» "the records of the generations" [New American Standard Bible (NASB)]

» "the account" [New International Version (NIV)]

» "the story" [Revised English Bible (REB)]

» "the descendants" [Moffatt translation (MOF)]

» "births" (Young's Literal Version)

» "the family records" [Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)]

The second occurrence of "generations"—in the phrase "perfect in his generations"—is from the Hebrew word dôr (Strong's #1755), which means "properly, a revolution of time, i.e., an age or generation." The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) adds:

Generation. By a thoroughly understandable figure, a man's lifetime beginning with the womb of earth and returning thereto (Gen 3:19) is a dôr; likewise from the conception and birth of a man to the conception and birth of his offspring is a dôr. A special use . . . is to mean simply "contemporaries," . . . cf. Gen 6:9 . . . "in his own generation and those immediately contiguous."

In Isaiah 53:8, this word, dôr, is used similarly to Genesis 6:9:

[My Servant, Jesus] was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

This is better rendered, as in the English Standard Version: ". . . and as for His generation [or, contemporaries], who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?"

Generation (dôr) simply means a period of time, in the same way we use the phrases "the life and times of Ronald Reagan" or "the Age of Napoleon." The Hebrew implies the context or milieu of a person's life, the situations and events that occurred during his lifetime, including, as TWOT shows, his "contemporaries." Thus, many modern translations have rendered in his generations as:

» "in his time" (NASB)

» "at that time" (The Living Bible)

» "of his time" (Today's English Version; REB)

» "among the people of his time" (NIV)

» "among his fellow-men (The Modern Language Bible)

» "among his contemporaries" (HCSB)

» "among the men of his day" (MOF)

The two generations in Genesis 6:9 are quite different words and should be translated to distinguish them and to rule out misunderstanding.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'Perfect In His Generations'

Genesis 6:9

Genesis 6:9 is one of these misunderstood verses that has spawned doctrinal error. Some have used this verse to justify their belief in their racial superiority, and others have wielded it to break up mixed-race marriages and exclude believers of other races from the church. These false doctrines are based upon a misunderstanding of the English translation and the Hebrew text behind it.

At first glance, Genesis 6:9 seems straightforward: "These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God" (KJV). However, the phrase "perfect in his generations" has been interpreted to mean that Noah was racially pure, that is, all of his ancestors had been of the same racial stock, making Noah the only "perfect" human being of his generation. Some have deduced from this that racial purity was a determining factor—along with the fact that he "was a just man"—in God's choice of Noah to build the ark and then replenish the earth on the other side of the Flood.

In a mind susceptible to prejudice, this misinterpretation can lead to simple condescension toward or even to outright rejection of whole races as somehow "subhuman." From this have sprung extreme movements such as Aryanism, white supremacy, and Identity cults, all of which preach racial purity and combine it with various levels of isolation and/or segregation, persecution, and militancy. Even in the church, where "there is neither Greek nor Jew" (Colossians 3:11), it can cause distrust, marginalization, and respect of persons, disrupting fellowship and destroying unity.

Unfortunately, the New King James Version (NKJV) fails to correct the translation of Genesis 6:9, although its marginal note on the word "perfect" offers two alternative renderings. The NJKV translators, like their colleagues who worked on other modern translations of God's Word, should have made the change in the text itself to remove all question.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'Perfect In His Generations'

Genesis 6:9

In the Hebrew text, the word perfect is tamîm (Strong's #8549), and its basic meaning is "complete" or "entire." It does not mean "perfect" as we think of it today, as "without fault, flaw, or defect." Other English words that translate tamîm better than "perfect" are "whole," "full," "finished," "well-rounded," "balanced," "sound," "healthful," "sincere," "innocent," or "wholehearted." In the main, however, modern translators have rendered it as "blameless" in Genesis 6:9.

This does not mean that Noah never sinned, but that he was spiritually mature and that he had a wholehearted, healthy relationship with God, who had forgiven him of his sins, rendering him guiltless. The thought in Genesis 6:9 extends to the fact that Noah was head-and-shoulders above his contemporaries in spiritual maturity. In fact, the text suggests that he was God's only logical choice to do His work.

The New Testament concept of perfection, found in the Greek word téleios (Strong's #5056), is similar to tamîm. Perhaps the best-known occurrence of téleios occurs in Matthew 5:48: "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." Certainly, Jesus desires that we become as flawless as we can humanly be, using the utter perfection of the Father as our model, but His use of téleios suggests something else. His aim is that a Christian be completely committed to living God's way of life, maturing in it until he can perform the duties God entrusts to him both now and in His Kingdom. In harmony with this idea of spiritual growth toward completion, téleios is well translated as "mature" in I Corinthians 2:6, and in Hebrews 5:14, itis rendered as "of full age."

In addition, unlike Greek, biblical Hebrew is a rather concrete language, expressing itself in colorful, often earthy terms, and emphasizing its meaning with repetition and rephrasing. Because his vocabulary was limited by a relatively small number of words, a Hebrew writer relied on syntax, metaphors, puns, and other figures of speech to make his meaning clear. Perhaps chief in his bag of verbal tricks was parallelism.

Parallelism is similar to the use of appositives in English. When we say, "Fred Jones, the pharmacist, often rode his bicycle to work," we restate the subject of our sentence and add information at the same time. The Hebrew writer did the same thing, but he was not limited merely to renaming nouns; he worked in phrases, clauses, and whole sentences. For instance, a well-known parallelism appears in Psalm 51:2: "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." Many of the proverbs of Solomon also follow this form, for example, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).

In the same way, "perfect in his generations" acts as a parallel thought to Noah being "a just man." Just represents the Hebrew tsaddîq (Strong's #6662), meaning "just," "righteous," "lawful" (in accord with a standard), "correct." Noah was a man who lived in accordance with God's revealed will, unlike all others of his time. In writing this description of Noah, Moses' use of parallelism emphasizes Noah's unusual righteousness for a man living among the spiritually degenerate humanity of his day.

The thought of Noah being spiritually complete or righteous beyond all of his contemporaries fits hand-in-glove with the context.

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found grace [favor, acceptance] in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:5-8)

His fear of God, exhibited in his obedience to God's instructions—his righteousness—is why God chose Noah, not his supposed racial perfection! In fact, the verse contains no connotation of race at all but is entirely interested in Noah's spiritual résumé. God wanted Noah, a man of integrity and morality, to build the ark and reestablish human society on a godly footing. The biblical account testifies that he performed his responsibility as well as any man could.

From what we have seen, a fair translation of verse 9 would be:

These are the records of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with God.

This is reinforced in Genesis 7:1, in which the Lord says to Noah, ". . . I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation." As God says in Isaiah 66:2, "But on this one will I look [have favor]; on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word." Such a man was Noah.

The apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-28:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Physical traits—such as genetic "perfection," social status, or gender—are not high on God's list of priorities regarding His children, but putting on the faith and righteousness of Jesus Christ is what impresses Him. In Noah's case, these qualities are what led to his salvation—not anything as insignificant as the color of his skin.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'Perfect In His Generations'

Genesis 7:1-3

Since the law of clean and unclean was in force in Noah's time, and possibly in Abel's lifetime (Genesis 4:4), it was not made obsolete with the passing of the Old Covenant. This is a vital principle to remember regarding the Old and New Covenants: What did not originate with the Old Covenant did not die with it.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Clean and Unclean Meats

Genesis 7:2

The clean and unclean laws are specifically mentioned early in God's Word, in the account of the Noachian Flood, when Noah was commanded to take "seven each of every clean animal" (Genesis 7:2). When he and his family were back on dry land, Noah "took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar" (Genesis 8:20). This suggests that these laws were known and practiced before the Flood'even from the earliest days of mankind (compare Genesis 4:4, Abel's acceptable offering). Since there were no Jews or Israelites then-not even any Hebrews-these laws are obviously for all humankind.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Did God Change the Law of Clean and Unclean Meats?

Genesis 9:1-2

Once again God gives man dominion over all other life on the earth, and with this renewed authority comes the implicit responsibility to tend and keep what was explicitly given to Adam. In this post-Flood world, God gives mankind a second chance to use and preserve the resources He had so abundantly provided. To that end Noah, after 120 years as a preacher and shipwright, took up farming and planted a vineyard (verse 20). We can assume, from what we know of human nature, that this attitude of stewardship did not pass to very many of his descendants.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Bible and the Environment

Ezekiel 14:13-14

God is setting the examples and reputations of these three men as standards of faithful, righteous behavior under stressful circumstances for us to follow and strive to reproduce. Even the order is interesting. Obviously, Noah was the first chronologically, but Job lived long before Daniel—perhaps even a thousand years before him—yet Daniel precedes Job on the list. Was one more righteous, more respected than the other? Perhaps. Are they listed in the order of the severity of what they endured, their righteousness being equally worthy? Maybe. However, God usually lists things in the order He wants them considered, and Noah is listed first.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)

Related Topics: Daniel | Job | Noah | Standards of Righteousness


 

Joel 2:13

God relents from doing harm. His longsuffering is seen in His gracious restraint of His wrath towards those who deserve it. Despite the rebellious condition of the world, He waited patiently for 120 years while Noah built the ark and gathered the animals. God's longsuffering does not overlook anything. Unlike man, God has the end in view. He has true insight, knows what is best, and is not swayed by human emotions.

Martin G. Collins
Longsuffering

Matthew 24:37

God told Noah that He would destroy the earth by a flood, and He gave him instructions on how to be prepared so he and his family could survive. God told him what He would do but not when. What did Noah do? He prepared, though nobody else did. Noah believed God and acted according to his belief. When the Flood came, he was ready, even though he did not know when it would come.

The parallel to today is astounding. Noah's actions define a Christian's responsibilities. Putting the lesson into his life, one can also "[b]y faith . . . being divinely warned of things not yet seen, [move] with godly fear . . . and [become] heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Hebrews 11:7). Not putting this lesson to work is the attitude that leads to spiritual disaster, saying by one's conduct that there is plenty of time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism

Matthew 24:37-39

Noah's pre-Flood contemporaries were ignorant of their spiritual wretchedness. Revelation 3 makes it plain that we can be in the same boat. Thinking we are "rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (verse 17), we are blind to our true spiritual state.

Charles Whitaker
A Basket of Summer Fruit

Romans 4:16

Paul states a major reason why justification absolutely must be by grace through faith: It is by means of grace that everybody receives a fair chance for salvation. Grace levels the playing field. What would happen to those who could not match the impressive body of works of an Abraham? They would fail to be justified. The truth is that even Abraham was not justified by his circumcision works. He, too, was justified through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and God's grace. It has been this way from the beginning; Genesis 6:8 testifies that Noah found grace in God's eyes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)

Hebrews 6:19-20

This word "forerunner" is the Greek prodromos, used in Scripture only this one time. It means "scout," "guide," or "one sent before a king to prepare the way." The Greeks also used prodromos to mean "firstfruits."

In the story of Daniel Boone, he went first to scout out Kentucky, then later took a party of thirty woodsmen to improve the trail, and after that, even more people followed. Boone was the forerunner, but so were those who went with him to develop the route. That first small group was the firstfruits. Spiritually, Christ has gone ahead, showing us the way, and we, as the firstfruits, improve the trail so that others will someday walk it more easily.

The concept of a forerunner runs throughout the Bible. We could say that Adam was a forerunner, as well as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and of course, Christ. Notice that each of these forerunners had followers—their firstfruits. Adam had Eve and their sons and daughters that followed them. Noah had his wife and family. Abraham had Sarah and Lot, and later were added Ishmael and Isaac, and then Jacob and his children. Moses had Aaron and Miriam and then all the children of Israel. Elijah led to Elisha. John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of Christ, who called His disciples—us.

In other words, we have a part to play as well. It is not the leading role but a supporting one. Nonetheless, it is a necessary part. There is no call for a "big head" here: God could have called someone else or raised up stones, as John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:9. However, He did not; He called us specifically (John 6:44). Therefore, we should not waste our opportunity.

Mike Ford
Blazing a Trail Through the Wilderness

Hebrews 11:5-8

Hebrews 11:5-8 clearly teaches that God chooses to bless with rewards those who by faith choose to cooperate with Him in His spiritual creation. Abel, Enoch, and Noah are proofs of this fact. Thus, three major factors are linked in the spiritual creation process leading to salvation: grace, works, and rewards.

We can watch this unfold in Noah's experience with God. This is of particular importance to us living in the end time because both Jesus and Peter state that the end time would bear a similarity to Noah's day. Peter specifically shows in II Peter 2:5-6 that the Flood is a strong witness against the doctrine of uniformitarianism, the idea that earth's history has passed without variation through the ages:

. . . and [God] did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly. . . .

If God is the Savior and Rewarder of those who obey Him, then the opposite must be true: that He is the Punisher of those who despise Him. The Flood and Sodom are witnesses of this truth. Not all things have continued as they always have. The godly lived; the ungodly died. Despite what men say and think, God moved to punish mankind's sins in the days of Noah. That punishment came in the form of the Flood, which wiped out all land-based mammal and bird life except for Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark.

Genesis 6:8 reveals the beginning of Noah's salvation. It began in God's mind. It was absolutely unearned, being an act of God's kindness. This is step one.

Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah believed God's warning. This, combined with God's grace, becomes the foundation for Noah's reaction. Noah's belief is step two.

Next comes the effect of this combination: Internally, Noah "moved with fear." He was motivated—he felt an urge—due to his deep respect for God. The external effect was that he built the ark. This is step three.

The consequences of his foundation of grace and faith plus the impulse to move with fear comprise step four. He and his house were saved from the Flood, the world was condemned by his witness, and he became an heir of the righteousness that is by faith.

Did Noah's works save him? The answer is both yes and no. Consider: If Noah, not believing, had failed to prepare the ark, would he not have perished in the Flood along with everyone else? Certainly. Did his own efforts in building the ark, then, save him from the Deluge? No, they did not, because we have not yet considered all the parts God played in this scenario. He did far more than just warn Noah to build an ark.

Philippians 4:19 promises, "God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." This does not at all mean that we can do anything we want to, and that God will take up the slack. It means that God will supply all our needs within the project He has us working on.

Genesis 6:13-16; 7:14-16; 8:1; and other verses show God's oversight, guidance, and providence. Genesis 8:1 is especially important: "Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided."

"Remembered" indicates His special attention during the entire project, but it especially focuses on the time following the shutting of the door when those in the ark were helpless before the overwhelming onslaught of water. Huge torrents of water gushed from the earth, as well as fell from the heavens. This must have created huge waves. There is no indication that the ark had mast, sail, rudder, or wheel for navigation. Nevertheless, God was with them from beginning to end, giving them His special attention to preserve them and see His purpose accomplished.

This illustrates God working in them both to will and to do as they cooperated in their human, weak ways. This combination of God's grace and human cooperation produced their salvation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)

Hebrews 11:6-7

Noah accomplished a significant witness, persevering for a very long time under horrific conditions. His witness was of sterling quality and worthy of emulation.

These two verses appear quite innocuous. We read them and consider their teaching a matter of course regarding Christian life and salvation. However, for this world's Christianity, they pose a dilemma for those more deeply aware of the intricacies of Christian responsibility.

Calvinist theologian Arthur Pink (1886-1952) says in his exposition of this passage, "The verses which are now to engage our attention are by no means free of difficulty, especially unto those who have sat under a ministry which has failed to preserve the balance between Divine grace and Divine righteousness." Why would he say this? These two verses, almost single-handedly, nearly destroy one of the most treasured teachings of this world's Christianity—the Doctrine of Eternal Security, the "once saved, always saved" or "no works required" doctrine.

Note the end of the quotation: Some ministries have "failed to preserve the balance between Divine grace and Divine righteousness." Preachers who fail to maintain this balance strongly emphasize God's favor while neglecting or ignoring His claims on our lives—our duties and responsibilities to Him—because He owns us! We are His slaves!

To any thinking person, these verses severely undercut those preachers' claims that appear to guarantee grace, that is, to assure salvation. How? Verse 6 clearly states that God rewards those who live by faith, and verse 7 illustrates that, in Noah's case, the reward was that Noah and his house were saved because of what they did.

What did Noah do that was so important to his and his family's salvation? His works produced the ark, the means of escaping death from the Flood. Noah's works were rewarded. Where, then, is grace?

Note that I wrote that these verses "nearly destroy" this concept, not "totally destroy." They do not contain the entire story, but they are very troublesome, to say the least, to those of the no-works stripe. If they do not bother a nominal Christian, he is clearly ignoring what the verses really say, that a person's works play a large part in his salvation. What would have happened to Noah and his family had they convinced themselves that, since God had given Noah grace, no ark needed to be built because God would save them anyway?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)

Hebrews 11:7

Noah had a choice to make. He chose to believe what God said. He turned his energy to doing what God said, and what he did was the means of his life being saved. His vision of what God said caused him to conduct his life in a way that saved him and his family in the end.

Abraham did the same thing. His vision was formed by what God said to him, and so it said of him that "He looked for a city whose builder and maker was God." That was the Kingdom of God. As a result of what he did—aiming his life according to the vision that God gave him—he therefore became heir of the world. This earth is going to be his, and he will share it with his children. But he did it because of vision and faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens

Hebrews 11:7

Noah was motivated by a deep and abiding respect for the divine warning about the impending crisis. He surely formed a strong mental picture of what was coming. Have we not been warned through biblical prophecy of the holocaust coming upon the whole world? Have we not formed a mental picture that gives us a kind of vision of its horror? Some, because of their experience in warfare, ought to have a clearer picture than others do, but we all have seen movies and read of the horrors of war, famine, and disease epidemics.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Two): Vision


Find more Bible verses about Noah:
Noah {Nave's}
 




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