See: God Questions His Creation: Genesis 6:13-16 (a)
Genesis 6:13 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 three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty 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.
“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.” In Paradise, God warned Adam that death would be the result of disobeying the one commandment God gave to his human creatures. Adam disobeyed and yet lived a long (933 years) life. Death did not put the human race out of existence. Now God threatens to “make an end of all flesh” because the earth itself is corrupted by the humans. The threat here is far more ominous than the one given to Adam. God says he is ready to destroy not only humanity but the earth itself. In expelling Adam and Eve from paradise, God spared His human creatures giving them another place to live. Here, God has decided to destroy the humans along with the world they occupy. The story is grave indeed, and yet obviously with the continued existence of God’s people as recorded in the scriptures and with us hearing these lessons today, we know that God did not annihilate the earth or humankind. As the readers of the story, we know the story is not going to end with humanity erased from history and consigned to oblivion. Once again, any notion of retribution or punishment by God is contained within the bigger story of God saving His creation. God’s plan of salvation is eternal, not His plan for disciplining rebellious humanity.
“Make yourself an ark…” God tells Noah to make himself an ark. God doesn’t offer to build the ark for Noah. This is an important spiritual lesson for all of us in the Church. God tells us make ourselves an ark of salvation – the Church – God doesn’t offer to do our work for us. He doesn’t do the work that humans can do. He expects us to do the work we are capable of doing.
“Make yourself an ark…” The story presents us with some information with significant gaps in explanations. God commands Noah to build an ark, and Bill Cosby has Noah asking, “Lord, what’s an ark?” Good question. Is Noah to understand that this ark is to be seaworthy? He is only told that God has determined to destroy the earth, and he is commanded by God to build an ark. The word “ark” as scholars note simply means a box or coffin. But this is no simple ark, it is massive – 450 feet long, and 75 feet wide. Which raises other interesting questions – Genesis has been devoid of any mention of any tools, let alone of engineering or architecture. How would Noah know what the ark is, let alone how to build it? Was he to be the ingenious inventor of engineering and architecture and shipbuilding in addition to all the tools and simple machines needed to do the building? He is not commanded to have anyone help him build the ark, and the story presents him as doing it himself. Since not even one story buildings have been mentioned in Genesis, how was he to know how to build a three story, 45 foot tall box? He would have had to invent and design all his own tools in addition to the engineering to accomplish the task. Fortunately the story is going to give him 100 years to complete the project.
If we are to assume that Noah understood the ark to be a seafaring vessel, this would be the first mention of a boat in Genesis. Were there other seafarers? If there were, why when the flood came couldn’t they simply get into their own boats and try to weather the storm? Were there no other boats on which others could have escaped the devastation of the flood? The ark is not a ship, it has no stern and no way to steer it. It is a box to protect those inside it from the storm, but leaves those inside completely at the mercy of the elements, and of God.
“…gopher wood…” The details of the ark are noteworthy as they contrast with the relatively little detailed information that is generally offered in Genesis. Gopher wood is mentioned only here in the Bible and is otherwise an unknown wood.
Though Noah is made aware of God’s plan, Noah does not intercede on behalf of creation to beg mercy from God. Noah is obedient to God’s will but apparently does not believe his intercession would make a difference or doesn’t believe his role is to intercede for creation. Noah also does not ask his fellow humans to mend their way in hope that God’s judgment can be changed. He neither preaches nor prophesies. In a wicked generation Noah is a model of steadfast righteousness where righteousness means obedience. He is not, however, commanded to warn his fellow earthlings about the impending disaster nor to reveal God’s displeasure. He makes no call to repentance to the rest of humankind; in fact he show no particular concern for the fate of his fellow humans.
“…filled with violence…” The text does not list any other sins or evils of humankind. Violence seems to be the wickedness which so upsets God.
“For if God … did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven other persons, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly… then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority” (2 Peter2:5-10). The New Testament uses the Noah story as a prophetic warning of God’s impending judgment of sinners and salvation for His saints.
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