Archive for the ‘2.3 The Flood, Babel and Israel’ Category

As mankind splinters into many nations the bible shows that each nation derives its name from a different forefather. Where the members of each nation share in the flesh of their forefather and unite under his name. For example the Ammonites and Moabites descended from the inbred bastard sons of Lott, nephew of Abraham.

Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.
(Genesis 19:36-38 ESV)

So the the perpetuation of the sin of Adam continues, where the secrets and shame of men become practices of families and ultimately the cultures of nations. The evil of the forefathers became the evil of nations. It is extremely important to understand how the existence of many nations is a constant reminder of the rebellion and disunity of mankind.

Abraham, Father of Many
In a time when each family was its own nation, God promises Abram that he will be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:1-14). This almost sounds like God is telling Abram that he will be the father of many different/competing nations, representing a curse of divisiveness on the household of Abram. However what God is actually saying is that Abraham will have headship over many nations, or many nations will look back to him as their common head/ancestor. This is a unifying of many nations under Abraham’s headship rather than the scattering of one man’s decedents. More than this God is telling Abraham that through him and his offspring he will re-establish unity between God and mankind.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”
(Genesis 17:1-2 ESV)

There are several reasons why the covenant God is making with Abraham bears the hallmarks of restored unity between God and mankind:
• This covenant is with Abraham so that he would multiply greatly. Meaning that he, Abraham, will be many. (vs1-2)
• Twice God states that his covenant will be with Abraham (vs2 and 4). Then he states that his covenant will be with Abraham and his offspring (vs7) indicating that not only is there unity between Abraham and God but there is renewed unity between Abraham and his offspring. In unity a covenant with the head is a covenant with all members.
• God re-establishes his order with Abraham and his offspring. God is reclaiming his rightful place, as God. (vs7, 8)
• Just as God exercised his right as creator and named Adam, he renames Abram. This is to show that this renewed human unity is under the name God gave mankind. It is God who is making him the father of many nations no one else.
• As creator God provided a place for Adam to live and work. As part of this new covenant God tells Abraham that he will give them the land of Canaan for the term of this covenant. (vs8)
• This human union is still one of flesh. God requires that every male who is part of the family/household of Abraham must be marked in their flesh to show his membership in the covenant. Those who are not marked can’t be part of this union. (vs10-14)

However this is not a perfect union yet. It bears the stipulation that this covenant must be kept by Abraham and his offspring. In the beginning the requirement to obey was implicit in the order of creation (i.e. there was no need for God to state it). Since the fall, mankind has become so immersed in disunity and rebellion (sin) that it became natural for them, they forgot their proper (original) place under God. So God must make obedience and love a law (relational construct).

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As time passes the family of Noah grows in unity, instead of spreading across the face of the earth as God required them to do as part of his covenant with them. Migrating to a plain in the land of Shinar (Mesopotamia, look it up) where they build the first city. As part of this city they plan to build a monument to themselves, a testament to their name. They did this so that all mankind would have a common heritage, being united under the name of the builders forever.

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”(Genesis 11:1-4 ESV)

In the Name of the King
To be unified under a name is to say that the possessor of that name is the head of the union. In creation all things were united in the name and image of God. Subsequently God unified mankind in Adam (man), who received his name from his head (God). When mankind declares that it will be united under their own name (that God didn’t give them) they are declaring their unity to be apart from God.

Since the flood mankind had been united in Noah, however this unity is only a shadow of its original glory. The descendants of Noah realised that their union was weak and could not be maintained if they scattered over the earth. To overcome this they decide to construct a city with a tower that reached to the heavens, so that their name would be great for all generations to come (a common heritage). The city and its monument would bear the name of the founders, which would be the name that mankind would unite under (not God’s name). Once established this common heritage would unite mankind (all humans) no matter how far they spread across the earth. Therefore all people would be able to point to this city and its tower and know that mankind is one. So it becomes clear that the desire to be united is strong even in fallen humanity.

However the founders of the first human city would die and rot. This means that their name and therefore their union would be one of death, whereas unity in God is life. Creation was his city, bearing his likeness and name, a true living unity in his image. To be united under any name other than God’s is not true unity, i.e. it won’t reflect the image of God. Therefore the union of humanity at Babel once again represents a united rebellion against God, just as it did in the fall (Adam and Eve’s united rebellion).

So their name became Babel
God foresees that if mankind were to unite at babel under their own name it would be impossible for them to be saved (nothing will be impossible for them). Mankind has progressed from unity under God to disunity to unity apart from God. It is not fear that motivates God to act against this union; rather God knows that if this union were to grow stronger mankind’s rebellion would be complete. A united rebellion against God, no evil would be impossible for them making God’s rescue plan from mankind impossible (without the formation of the nations).

God was not caught off guard at Babel, for he was the one that set in motion the events that would create it. God caused the great flood that reduced the human race to a single family under a single head once again. It is this family that stands united against him. Also this does not mean that God is at fault, the responsibility still rests with Adam and every member of his race since for their rebellion (for their own actions).

And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
(Genesis 11:5-9 ESV)

As judgement for this abomination God confuses the language of mankind into many languages, so that they could not understand one another, shattering their fledgling union. Instead of making a name for themselves that would unify all mankind forever, God makes their name Babel/confusion so that it would become a testament to their disunity.

The story of Babel proves that returning mankind to unity (good relationship) with God cannot be done by taking the most faithful (Noah) and removing the rest. Nor can it be achieved by merely gathering all people together under a common human name, figurehead, cause, ideal, etc. The sin of Adam has spread to all his children (every member of his race is born into disunity), without exception. The flesh of Adam is so utterly corrupted that there is no future in it.

Therefore any unity that is not based on a restored relationship with God will only serve to perpetuate and enhance the evil of man (Adam).

It is only in union with God that mankind is able to relate to him properly and please him. The generations after the fall proved that the depravity and disunity of mankind could only get worse, not better. The story of the flood and babel encapsulates the state of disunity that mankind exists in after the fall. Showing that as long as the flesh of Adam remains it is impossible to restore true unity (relationship) with God.

Mankind is unable to maintain a continuous and consistent relationship with God, because every inclination of the hearts of all humans stands in opposition to the “goodness” God. This makes a consistent view of God impossible to pass on from person to person or generation to generation.

JUDGEMENT AND THE FLOOD
Generations have passed since the fall and instead of the humanity growing in strength (complexity of relationship, love) all who share in the corrupt flesh of Adam (all humans) multiply evil (disunity). With each new generation being born into a state of disunity humanity only shows solidarity in their desire and capacity for evil. The heart of man is evil to the core and God who created all things is grieved at what he sees. This is not merely a statement of fact but of broken relationship. If it were merely fact there would be no reason to reveal that God was personally hurt by the continual betrayal perpetrated by humanity.

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. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.
(Genesis 6:5-8 ESV)

On the sixth day of creation God judged the unity of the parts of creation to be “very good” (more consistent with who God is). Now by the same authority God exercises his right as creator to judge the world again, declaring it to be “evil”. Stating that the motivation behind every thought any human has is evil. Nothing that mankind thinks or does comes from a desire to do “good” (be like God), making everything they do “evil” (not like God). The children of Adam have inherited this contrary nature from their father embracing it as truth (normal), forgetting that man was created to be in union (relationship) with God reflecting his goodness.

God’s grief is so strong that “…it grieved him to his heart.”(vs6) and he expresses his regret at ever creating mankind. So once again (with a heavy heart) God, creator and master of all with all power and authority, justly decides to blot out all living things from the face of the earth. However God’s judgement of mankind (creation) is not complete (final). Exercising mercy he spares Noah and his family, along with a boat full of animals. By doing this he reduces humanity to a single family once again (since Adam and Eve). Making the Arc a life boat launched from the sinking ship that is creation.

The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.
(Genesis 7:20-23 ESV)

It almost seems as if God has reset creation, re-establishing the covenant he had with Adam only now with Noah as head (Genesis 9:1-17). Mankind is once again united as one family, with Noah at its head. Furthermore Noah has faithfully cared for all the animals in creation that God placed under his care.

Unfortunately the reality of the situation is less than perfect. The flood has not fixed the fundamental break in relationship (disunity) between God and Adam, the flesh of Adam persists in Noah and his family. While this has all the appearances of restored unity it isn’t. Looking more closely at what is happening it becomes clear that the requiements of this new covenant are actually emphasising the fact that the broken relationships still exist. Showing that disunity still exists between:
• God and man,
• Members of humanity, and
• Man and creation.

Mankind has seen God’s judgement first hand and instead of unity there is an uneasy peace between God and man. The covenant that God establishes with Noah is a promise of mercy not restored unity, as God says:

I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
(Genesis 9:11, ESV)

Firstly, to assure humanity that they need not live in fear each time it rains God promises he will not destroy man with a flood again. As the sign of this promise God puts the rainbow in the sky for all to see (Genesis 9:8-17). Therefore instead of being a symbol of restored unity between God and man it is a reminder of the broken unity and uneasy peace that exists between God and man.

Secondly, as part of his covenant with mankind God requires that they multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1 & 7). While at first this command sounds like the same covenant God made with Adam (unity), it is in fact a reminder of the disunity that exists within humanity. As already stated this covenant is marked by God withholding judgment not re-establishing unity. Without restored relationship (unity) with God humanity will only be multiplying evil, as it did before the flood. Furthermore the further the human race spreads across the planet the more apparent the disunity within humanity will become (more on this in my next post). Therefore the command to multiply and spread would only be a good thing for humanity if unity between God and man still existed. Instead it is an ever-present reminder of the disunity that exists between the families of mankind (the nations, war, etc).

Note: To say that the command to multiply and fill the earth is a bad thing is only looking at it from the perspective of humanity united in Adam. God does eventually use the formation of the nations (Genesis 10) to bring about his plan for salvation (calling Israel, etc.). Making the command to multiply and fill the earth “good” from God’s perspective. More on this in my next post.

Finally, instead of peace between animals and man there is fear and contention for survival, as God gives them as food for mankind (Genesis 9:2-6). Therefore every time a human eats meat from a dead animal they are to be reminded of the disunity that exists between mankind and creation.

This is far from the perfect union described in Genesis 1-2.