Grace, Mercy and Cursing often Have a Long and Lasting Impact (Genesis 6-9)


Reading for Saturday, January 3rd, 2009: Genesis 6-9

As I have said before, the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis are monumental.  In the verses we are looking at today, the epic saga of the first people is filled with moments of great adventure and can seem shockingly strange to the modern reader.  I would like to take a look a look at this section in three parts.  We will look first of all at God’s Grief, God’s Mercy and Man’s Impetuousness. 


God’s Grief

For many years I have heard many scholars debate what the possible background of Genesis 6:1-7.  In this section we find that the daughters of men and the sons of God formed unions and produced “the heroes of old, men of renown.”  There are a number of views on this subject, but there are two that are quite common.  The first view is that the “daughters of men,” refers to women who are born of ordinary birth and that the “sons of God,” refers to those who are born of nobility or royalty.  The second view names the women as men as human women and the “sons of God,” as celestial beings.  Such unions created the heroes of old and the men of renown.  These men, argue those who adhere to this view, may have been like the powerful beings we read about in Greek mythology. 


Carson’s New Bible Commentary puts it this way, “Vs 1–2, 4 describe these practices. The sons of God refers to spirit beings (translated ‘angels’ in Jb. 1:6; 2:1, though they are not benevolent either here or in Job). Sometimes in the OT Israel (Dt. 14:1) or kings (2 Sa. 7:14) are called ‘sons of God’, but neither meaning is appropriate here. The daughters of men refers to ordinary human women. The Nephilim are the ancient supermen supposed to be the offspring of these spirit-human unions. Some Nephilim were in Canaan when Israel invaded (Nu. 13:33).” 


The first view, while being appealing as something more in line with what we are used to, presents some difficulty as there is no particular reason why the marriage of the nobility with common people would necessarily heroic and renowned.  It is because of this that it would appear that this text is referring to the latter viewpoint.  Strange things were happening on the earth and the due to this, God decided to scrap the entire project and end it all.  Yet there was one great problem to all of this, there was Noah. 


God’s Mercy

One of the great truths that we may take from this story is that of God’s mercy.  God always refuses to pour out his wrath on his own people.  This is a beautiful quality of God and in it we see his fatherhood come shining through.  AS God surveyed the world, he noted that while the planet was entirely wicked, there was a man who wasn’t so.  His name was Noah and because of this God chose to spare him his life and through this one man and his family, the human race would be started anew. 


For forty days and for forty nights rain fell from the sky above and water gushed from the earth below.  Noah, his family and at least two of every creature and seven of every kind of clean animal entered the boat and floated until they landed in the mountains of Ararat. 


About this story there has been much discussion among conservative scholars.  Most argue that this was a literal, world-wide flood, while others argue that it was a local flood.  The first camp believes that the language that all the world would be flooded with water could be characterized as those who argue that the author wrote from a noumenological perspective (i.e., all-seeing reality from God’s perspective) and second group counters that the author writes from a phenomenological (i.e.,. limited view of reality from the perspective of the writer). Whatever view one takes with reference to the flood, ancient literature is filled with stories that are similar at many points to the Biblical account of a great flood (e.g., one of the most famous stories  is Babylonian and is called “The Epic of Gilgamesh”). 


The grace shown by God to Noah demonstrates the fact that God is always merciful in the way he treats those who love him.  God not only delivered Noah and his family, but he made a covenant for him as a great reminder of his incredible grace.  The rainbow would symbolize for Noah and the rest of us that God would never again destroy the world with a flood. Indeed, God has shown great mercy to us, it is unfortunate that we often do not show the same type of mercy to one another.


Man’s Impetuousness

While God was sorry he made human kind, yet spared Noah because of his relationship with God, it did not take long for Noah to begin throwing out curses of his own.  He had three boys, Shem (it is this name from which we get the word, “Semite”), Japheth and Ham.  According to the story, Ham saw his father in less than an advantageous circumstance and eventually was cursed by his father for it. Part of this curse was a prophesy about his eventual slavery; unfortunately, self-serving theologians and preachers in the southern United States and in other Christian nations used this curse as a Biblical justification of the diabolical practice of slavery.  It is quite sad that a man who had received so much mercy from the Lord would condemn his own son and posterity to such a future as a result of his own folly.  Because of Noah’s words, many generations of people suffered under the yoke of bondage because of this pronouncement made upon on his own son in 9:18-29.  The reality is that we are not good in and of ourselves, but as a result of God’s wonderful grace to us.  It is Jesus who makes us good as goodness is not something that originates within ourselves but is given as a gift of grace.  I suppose that it ought to be a lesson to us all.  The reality from this text is that way we treat others can sometimes have unpredictable and long-term consequences. May we be a people of grace and mercy and in so doing and living be conformed more and more to the image of Jesus Christ. 




2 Responses to “Grace, Mercy and Cursing often Have a Long and Lasting Impact (Genesis 6-9)”

  1. Brian Says:

    Bruce I love the idea of doing you doing this and look forward to going through the whole bible with you over the year.

    One suggestion, could you give the next days reading a day in advance to give more time during the following day to read it on our own so that we don’t need to wait for your posting

    thanks for doing this


  2. bdmsmith Says:

    You’ve got it. Great suggestion! Thanks. It is great to hear from you Brian.

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