Anthropologists note that many peoples have some great flood legend. In his book, Eternity in Their Hearts, Don Richardson tells about the Santal people of southern India. Nineteenth-century missionaries were amazed by a legend about a holy couple who escaped destruction when the god Thakur Jiu sent a great flood to destroy wicked humanity. This remarkable account suggests possible residual memory of Noah and the flood.
Genesis 6 is actually the culmination of a long spiral into sin that begins with Abel’s murder (Gen. 4). Next we find the arrogant and evil Lamech, who is far worse than Cain. By the time we get to Genesis 6, unspeakable evil is taking place. We don’t really know who the Nephilim were, but clearly normal society was breaking down and people’s actions were perverse with evil results.
The Flood is both judgment and promise. We often think of Noah as only an ark builder, but Peter calls him a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). With a hammer in one hand, Noah was also urging repentance. But most people refused to listen and, for them, the Flood was judgment. But for Noah and his family, the Flood provided a fresh start. In the midst of corruption and vio- lence, Noah and his family alone obeyed God. Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah became “heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
After the Flood, Noah and his sons built an altar to the Lord (Gen. 8:20). Genesis 9 records the gracious covenant that God made with Noah and future humanity, promising that never again would the flood waters cover the earth. As a covenant sign, God set His rainbow in the clouds (v. 13). Despite humanity’s depravity, God still intended restoration and redemption for His creation.
The Flood is actually one of three cycles of sin and judgment, and each is followed by a display of God’s grace. After the death of Abel, Seth is born (Gen. 4:25). After the Flood, God starts over with Noah and his family. Tomorrow, we’ll see that after the Tower of Babel, God calls Abraham.
Like the days before the Flood, many still live as if judgment will never come. Jesus used the example of Noah’s day to point out that people would be unprepared for the Son of Man’s return (Matt. 24:37–39).
But just as God provided a way for Noah and his family to make it through the flood, so also God makes a way to escape His coming wrath through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:18–22). And, like Noah, we are also called to be “preachers of righteousness.”