At this forbidding juncture, God reveals a spiritual doctrine that is supremely vital to our daily lives and ultimately to our salvation. If we do not grasp this doctrine and set its seriousness firmly in mind, it will throw off our understanding of who God's elect are, and we will greatly undervalue the degree of accountability and appreciation we owe to God for His mercy.
It is appropriate to dig into this doctrine at any time, but it is especially appropriate now because of the nature of the period we are living through. The Bible itself, combined with the daily news reports, indicates the time of Jesus' return is drawing near. Many believe that we are in the beginning stages of what has been called “the crisis at the close.” Consider how similar those pre-Flood times are to our own. As God tells the story in His Word, we are only into the sixth chapter of the first book, and the end of mankind, except for the few who would be spared, was near at hand!
This similarity brings up a critical question for all of us to consider soberly: Who was saved from the devastation of the Flood? Every person did not die in the Flood. We need to think this through because the Flood most definitely came, just as the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, as prophesied by the same unchanging God for our time, will also surely come.
The answer to the critical question is that only those God specifically spared were saved. He specifically names them. God's “grace” is the overall general reason, but the specific aspect of His grace that preserved their lives is that they were sanctified—set apart—for salvation from the Flood.
In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the root words underlying “salvation” mean the same thing. Both terms mean “given deliverance,” implying prosperity despite impending disaster. In this specific instance, the impending disaster is the prophesied Flood. God's first step in delivering some was to sanctify those He chose, Noah and his family.
Sanctification is of major importance to those of us called into God's church, as I Thessalonians 4:3-5 points out: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like Gentiles who do not know God.” Sanctification (Greek hagiasmos) is the noun form of the verb sanctify, which means “to set apart for God's use, to make distinct from what is common.” Thus, those called into the church are set apart by God, as were Noah and his family, for His glory, for salvation from prophesied disasters, and for becoming like Him.
II Peter 2:5 carries the Flood record further: “[For God] did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing the flood on the world of the ungodly.” Noah and his family faithfully responded, doing what God sanctified them to do. Noah not only built the ark, which became the physical means of their salvation, but its construction gave them the time and opportunity to explain to the world why it needed to be built. Noah preached to mankind of God, of their sins, and of the prophesied certainty of the Flood if the people chose not to repent.
From this example, we must grasp God's intention in His sanctification of us. Noah and his family did not save themselves. Like Noah and his family, we are required to respond faithfully to what God has ordained us to do. We must understand that we are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), and the responsibilities He assigns are part of His creation of us in His image.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)
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'
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'
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, it is 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'
In verse 9 is the first use of the term “grace” in the Old Testament. Others like Adam and Eve certainly received a measure of grace from God because He could have killed them on the spot for their disloyalty in submitting to Satan since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Abel, Seth, Enoch, and others undoubtedly also received grace. These men appear to have been converted (see Hebrews 11), and their sins forgiven.
Notice it says, “Noah found grace.” It is stated this way so we understand that he did not earn it by his conduct; it was given as a gift, which happens to every converted person. This is not all it says about Noah. Regarding his conduct, Genesis 6:9 states: “This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” The word “perfect” does not refer to his ancestry but to his habitual, daily conduct.
The terms “just,” “perfect,” and “walked with God” all signify his conduct among those in his family and community. Noah was a righteous man who could be trusted because people knew he kept the laws of God. “Walking with God” denotes one so close to God in his manner of life that He would keep company with him because he was obedient despite all the corruption surrounding him on every side. That he was perfect (“blameless,” KJV) among his contemporaries suggests he had no major flaws in his character. In addition, II Peter 2:5 calls him “a preacher of righteousness.”
We need to make sure we are correct regarding Noah and grace because we want to be consistent and accurate about receiving grace. Scripture always shows grace as something given by God; it is never earned. Genesis 6:8, then, does not say Noah received grace because his life already reflected all those good attributes, but that he was conducting his life righteously because God had given him grace. His conduct was proof that he found favor with God. God gave grace, and Noah then began living his life in a godly manner. The favor—grace—empowered him to behave as is recorded here.
An additional result of finding grace was to separate or sanctify him from all others on earth whom God had not sanctified for the purpose the Bible goes on to show. The grace, the favor, the gifts of God, always precede anything produced within His purpose and calling.
Noah stood out because he responded correctly to the grace, the gifts, the favor, God gave him, and so God called him righteous. Likewise, we have found favor, grace, and gifts in God's calling of us, so we need to evaluate whether we are responding as Noah did to the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
We must not just rush by this first mention of grace in the Bible, which God purposely and deliberately inserted here. He also intentionally used the term “found” so we will understand that Noah's conduct was a fruit of God's grace, not something inherent that made God call and use him. It was as if Noah was walking a path and came upon a great treasure that changed his entire life from then on. The Creator God put the treasure there for him to find.
Grace is a gift of God to enable us to reach our goals within His purposes. Like Adam and Eve and like Noah, we play essential roles in what is going on—but not until after God gives His gifts. Adam and Eve failed. Noah succeeded. We can see from Noah's record that grace leads to righteous conduct, walking with God, blamelessness, and making the right witness. In addition, grace provides salvation from the destruction to come. Without grace, there is no new creation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Nine)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 6:9: