Noah’s Faith Condemns the World
HAVE you heard of Noah, a God-fearing man who built an ark for the preservation of life during a global flood? Despite its antiquity, this story is familiar to millions. What many do not realize, however, is that Noah’s life has meaning for all of us.
Why should we be interested in an account that is thousands of years old? Is there a similarity between Noah’s situation and our own? If there is, how can we benefit from his example?
The World of Noah’s Day
Bible chronology places Noah’s birth in 2970 B.C.E.—126 years after Adam’s death. By Noah’s day, the earth was full of violence, and the majority of Adam’s descendants chose to follow their progenitor’s wayward example. Thus, “Jehovah saw that the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.”—Genesis 6:5, 11, 12.
Human rebellion was not the only reason for Jehovah’s displeasure. The Genesis account explains: “The sons of the true God began to notice the daughters of men, that they were good-looking; and they went taking wives for themselves, namely, all whom they chose. . . . The Nephilim proved to be in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of the true God continued to have relations with the daughters of men and they bore sons to them, they were the mighty ones who were of old, the men of fame.” (Genesis 6:2-4) Comparison of these verses with a statement recorded by the apostle Peter indicates that “the sons of the true God” were disobedient angels. The Nephilim were the hybrid offspring of illicit unions between women and materialized renegade angels.—1 Peter 3:19, 20.
“Nephilim,” meaning “Fellers,” denotes individuals who caused others to fall. They were tyrannical bullies, and the sin of their lustful fathers is likened to the perversions of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Jude 6, 7) Together, they whipped up intolerable wickedness on earth.
“Faultless Among His Contemporaries”
Evil was so rife that God was determined to destroy mankind. But the inspired account states: “Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah. . . . Noah was a righteous man. He proved himself faultless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with the true God.” (Genesis 6:8, 9) How was it possible to ‘walk with God’ in a godless world fit only for destruction?
Doubtless, Noah learned much from his father, Lamech, a man of faith and a contemporary of Adam. When giving his son the name Noah (thought to mean “Rest,” or “Consolation”), Lamech prophesied: “This one will bring us comfort from our work and from the pain of our hands resulting from the ground which Jehovah has cursed.” That prophecy was fulfilled when God lifted his curse that was on the ground.—Genesis 5:29; 8:21.
Having godly parents is no guarantee of spirituality, for each individual must establish his own relationship with Jehovah. Noah ‘walked with God’ by pursuing a course that had divine approval. What Noah learned about God moved him to serve Him. Noah’s faith did not waver when he was informed of God’s purpose ‘to bring all flesh to ruin in the deluge.’—Genesis 6:13, 17.
Confident that this unprecedented disaster would occur, Noah obeyed Jehovah’s command: “Make for yourself an ark out of wood of a resinous tree. You will make compartments in the ark, and you must cover it inside and outside with tar.” (Genesis 6:14) Meeting God’s specifications for the ark was no small task. Nevertheless, “Noah proceeded to do according to all that God had commanded him.” In fact, “he did just so.” (Genesis 6:22) Noah did this with the help of his wife and their sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth and their wives. Jehovah blessed such faith. What excellent examples for families today!
What would building the ark involve? Jehovah directed Noah to construct a huge watertight, three-story, wooden chest, 437 feet long by 73 feet wide by 44 feet high [about 133 meters by 22 meters by 13 meters]. (Genesis 6:15, 16) Such a vessel would have had a capacity similar to that of various present-day cargo vessels.
What a colossal undertaking! Very likely, it meant felling thousands of trees, hauling them to the construction site, and cutting them into planks or beams. It meant building scaffolding, making pins or pegs, obtaining tar for waterproofing, procuring containers and tools, and so on. The work may have required negotiations with merchants and payment for goods and services. It apparently called for skill in carpentry so as to fit the timbers accurately and build an adequately strong structure. And just think—construction probably lasted some 50 or 60 years!
Noah’s attention would next have to turn to the preparation of sufficient food and fodder. (Genesis 6:21) He would have to assemble and marshal a host of animals into the ark. Noah carried out all that God had commanded, and the work was finished. (Genesis 6:22) Jehovah’s blessing ensured its complete success.
“A Preacher of Righteousness”
Besides building an ark, Noah sounded a warning and served God faithfully as “a preacher of righteousness.” But the people “took no note until the flood came and swept them all away.”—2 Peter 2:5; Matthew 24:38, 39.
Given the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of those days, it is easy to see how Noah’s family could have become the laughingstock of incredulous neighbors and the object of abuse and ridicule. People must have considered them to be crazy. However, Noah was successful in giving his household spiritual encouragement and support, for they never adopted the violent, immoral, defiant ways of their godless contemporaries. By his speech and actions, which demonstrated his faith, Noah condemned the world of that time.—Hebrews 11:7.
Preserved Through the Flood
Shortly before the downpour began, God told Noah to enter the completed ark. When Noah’s family and the animals were aboard, “Jehovah shut the door,” closing out any derisive jeers. When the Flood came, the disobedient angels apparently dematerialized and escaped destruction. But what about others? Why, every living creature on the dry ground outside the ark, including the Nephilim, perished! Only Noah and his family survived.—Genesis 7:1-23.
Noah and those of his household spent a lunar year and ten days in the ark. They were busy feeding and watering the animals, removing waste, and keeping track of time. Genesis dates all the phases of the Flood precisely, like a ship’s log, reflecting the veracity of the account.—Genesis 7:11, 17, 24; 8:3-14.
While in the ark, Noah doubtless led his family in spiritual discussions and thanksgiving to God. Evidently by means of Noah and his family, pre-Flood history was preserved. Reliable oral traditions or written historical documents in their possession would provide fine material for profitable consideration during the Deluge.
How glad Noah and his family must have been to step onto dry land once again! The first thing he did was erect an altar and act in a priestly capacity for his family, offering sacrifices to the One who had saved them.—Genesis 8:18-20.
“Just as the Days of Noah Were”
Jesus Christ said: “Just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matthew 24:37) Today, Christians are likewise preachers of righteousness, urging people to repent. (2 Peter 3:5-9) Given that analogy, we might wonder what went through Noah’s mind before the Deluge. Did he ever feel that his preaching was useless? Was he tired at times? The Bible does not say. We are simply told that Noah obeyed God.
Do you see the relevance of Noah’s situation to ours? He obeyed Jehovah despite opposition and hardship. That is why Jehovah judged him righteous. Noah’s family did not know exactly when God would bring the Deluge, but they knew that it would come. Faith in God’s word sustained Noah through years of labor and what may have seemed to be fruitless preaching. Indeed, we are told: “By faith Noah, after being given divine warning of things not yet beheld, showed godly fear and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; and through this faith he condemned the world, and he became an heir of the righteousness that is according to faith.”—Hebrews 11:7.
How did Noah acquire such faith? He evidently took time to ponder over everything he knew about Jehovah and let himself be guided by that knowledge. Undoubtedly, Noah talked to God in prayer. In fact, he became so intimately acquainted with Jehovah that he ‘walked with God.’ As the family head, Noah gladly devoted time and loving attention to his household. This included caring for the spiritual interests of his wife, his three sons, and his daughters-in-law.
Like Noah, true Christians today know that Jehovah will soon bring an end to this godless system of things. We do not know that day or hour, but we realize that imitating the faith and obedience of this “preacher of righteousness” will result in “the preserving alive of the soul.”—Hebrews 10:36-39.
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Did It Really Happen?
Anthropologists have collected as many as 270 flood legends from nearly all tribes and nations. “The flood story is found throughout the world,” says scholar Claus Westermann. “Like the creation narrative, it is part of our basic cultural heritage. It is truly astonishing: everywhere on earth we find stories of a great primeval flood.” The explanation? Says expositor Enrico Galbiati: “The insistent presence of a flood tradition in different and widely separated peoples is a sign of the historical reality of the fact that lies at the base of such traditions.” More important to Christians than scholarly observations, however, is the knowledge that Jesus himself spoke of the Flood as an actual event in the history of mankind.—Luke 17:26, 27.
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The Nephilim in Mythology?
Tales about liaisons between gods and humans—and the “heroes” or “demigods” born from these unions—were common to Greek, Egyptian, Ugaritic, Hurrian, and Mesopotamian theology. Gods of Greek mythology had human form and great beauty. They ate, drank, slept, had sexual intercourse, quarreled, fought, seduced, and raped. Though supposedly holy, they were capable of deceit and crime. Heroes like Achilles were said to be of both divine and human descent and were endowed with superhuman ability but not with immortality. So, what Genesis says of the Nephilim sheds light on the possible or even probable origin of such myths.