Let us never repeat Babel:
- Let us never make a name for ourselves (11.1-4)- The people who gathered in Shinar did not want to spread out, thus disobeying God’s design for the image of God to spread, and clearly wanted to make a name for themselves. Noah built an altar to the Lord (8.20), but these people built a city and tower for themselves. After Enosh was born, people began to call upon the name of the LORD (4.26), but here people wanted to call upon their own name!
- Let us never think we can do anything we please (11.6-9)- God did not think human unity and technological advancement was necessarily a good thing. And if mankind as a whole is determined to disobey God, then unity and technological advancement is a scary thing. So God judged the world for it. Even though he did not flood the earth like before, the confusion of language is still worldwide judgment. But praise God it keeps the world from uniting in wickedness!
And praise God for the undoing of Babel at Pentecost (Acts 2). Regardless of your view of miraculous gifts, the gifts of tongues and later interpretation are a big part of redemptive history.
Three ways to understand God’s common grace better:
We are no better than those before the flood (8.21, 9.8-17)- the reason God does not flood the earth anymore is not because mankind got “better” but because of God’s gracious promise never to do so again.
Those who are cursed get grace (18-25)- Noah cursed Canaan for what Ham did, but Canaan is still under God’s promise to never flood the earth again.
Those who are blessed still can suffer (26-27)- Shem and Japheth get blessed for their noble actions, but their descendants still experience war and famine and slavery and death throughout history up to the present day.
Why did Noah curse Canaan, the son of Ham? Many commentators have pointed out that this simply follows the pattern of the seed of woman vs. seed of serpent that started in Gen 3.15. Noah is cursing the seed of the serpent!
Be fruitful human beings:
- Enjoy the gift of food (9.2-3)- eating food has to do with our dominion over the animals.
- Value the gift of life (9.4-6)- but verse 4 prohibits animal cruelty and calls us to still respect animal life; capital punishment values human life and is grounded in the image of God; human beings have no value apart from their Creator.
Capital punishment is a bit different from the way God dealt with Cain, where God protected Cain from human vengeance. But it’s not completely different. In Gen 2.17 God said “in the day you eat of [the fruit] you shall surely die.” God has always had death as the penalty for sin. God is the God of capital punishment. Genesis 9 is simply God’s blessing upon societies to discourage violence.
The flood reveals at least four things about God:
- He is completely just- not only in the sense that he had a right to flood the earth, but also in the sense that he was morally obligated to do something, “for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (6.12).
- He is completely sovereign- “I will bring a flood of waters…to destroy all flesh” (6.17). Simple logic: if he had complete control over the greatest natural disaster in history, he has control over everything today.
- He works through covenants- “I will establish my covenant with you” (6.18), and “God remembered Noah…and God made a wind blow…and the waters subsided” (8.1).
- He works through obedience- Noah built the ark as commanded (6.22), waited for God’s word to go into the ark (7.1), and even waited for God’s word to come off the ark (8.15).
Unfortunately, the flood did not cure mankind, “for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (8.21). But praise God that His justice and sovereignty came together in the New Covenant through the obedience of one man on the cross!
Two things every biblical genealogy is trying to tell us:
1. God advances his kingdom through families- all the great men and women of the Bible start out as babies and parts of families. These names are the names of members of families.
2. Jesus is the promised Seed- God promised a seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3.15); Adam, Seth, Enosh, and all the other men listed had “other sons and daughters,” but the Bible is just trying to keep track of one certain seed; and the genealogies in the Bible stop with Jesus. He is the fulfillment even of the genealogies.
One thing often missed in this genealogy: Gen 6.1-8 is a commentary on Gen 5. Gen 5 is about Adam, the first Man, and the spread of his descendants. Gen 6.1-8 is also about the spread of the descendants of Adam. And as man spread, so does wickedness. And Gen 6.9ff is about God’s response.
Some food for thought:
Gen 4.7- “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
Cain did not do well to begin with. Sin is crouching at the door after you sin! And clearly, Cain and Lamech were men mastered by their sin.
Gen 4.26b- “At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.”
All kinds of interpretations about this verse. But I think it means that after the birth of Seth, and then Seth had his own son, people realized that God was going to keep his promise about a certain seed who would crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3.15). People realized that Yahweh, the covenant God, would keep his Word no matter what the evil one tried to do. People realized that they needed to worship this God, so at that time they began to call upon the name of Yahweh.
Sin– disobedience to God– brought at least three things into this world that were never meant to be a part of this world:
1. Shame (2.25-3.13)- sin is foolishness, and that brings shame; sin affects even our physical bodies, so there is now shame in nakedness.
2. Pain (3.14-19)- the devil is out to hurt us; children and marriage can hurt us; working and eating can hurt us.
3. Death (3.19-24)- God now guards the way to eternal life, because He did not want man to live under a curse forever. And shame, pain and death are all judgments against sin.
One cool thing of note: Christianity is not like other religions. Notice that in verses 14-15 God puts enmity between mankind and the serpent. Other religions often have an element of good vs. evil, forces of light vs. forces of darkness, ying and yeng (spelling?). But here it says God is in complete control of the battle. The devil is at the mercy of God! The battle is between the children of God and the children of the devil.
And praise God for the seed who crushed the head of the serpent! This seed eventually took our shame, pain, and death for us on the cross. Amen.