August 21 - 27
Creation and the Flood
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 6-9; Heb. 11:7; 2 Pet. 2:5; 3:3-6.
MEMORY TEXT: "For this they [scoffers] willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with waters (2 Peter 3:5, 6, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: The Bible presents the Flood as both a historical event that destroyed the entire world and as a type for the worldwide judgment at the Second Coming. As a historic event, it provides an alternate explanation to the long ages argued for by secular science.
LOCAL OR WORLDWIDE FLOOD? Why should a lesson on the Flood be included in series of studies devoted to the Creation? From a literary and thematic perspective, the Flood is closely linked to the Creation story. Indeed, most Old Testament scholars recognize Genesis 1-11 (the Creation-Flood-Babel stories) as a distinctive literary unit. More important, however, is that for creationists who believe in a literal, recent Creation, the Flood is the only event presented in the Bible that is large and destructive enough to provide an alternate explanation for the origin of the geologic column with its layers of fossil-bearing rocks that cover the surface of the earth. In this lesson we will want to look at the Bible to see: (1) whether the story of the Flood was meant to be understood as historical and (2) whether the author meant to depict it as a worldwide event.
What words does the author of Genesis use to describe the extent of the Flood? (Gen. 7:2; 8:9).
While we accept the biblical record that Noah's flood covered the entire earth, yet there are views that suggest that the Flood, in reality, was only a local event. It is true that the Hebrew word for earth or land (erets) does not always refer to the entire globe. It can also have a local, geographical, or political meaning, much as it can in English. For example, we talk about the "land of Israel" and recognize that it is a rather small area, geographically speaking. In other cases it can mean the whole world, such as in the expression "heaven and earth," which appears numerous times in Genesis 1-11. The expression "all the earth" (kol ha'arets) similarly can have both local and worldwide meanings. The key is the context.
There is, however, a unique phrase that occurs in the Flood story in Genesis 7:2 and 8:9.
These verses tell us that the waters of the Flood covered "the face of the whole earth" (NKJV). Aside from the Flood, this phrase is used only in the Creation story (Gen. 1:29) and the Tower of Babel story (Gen. 11:4, 8, 9). The context of these two stories is clearly universal. The use of the same phrase in the Flood story would indicate that the author also intended a universal meaning here.
After reading the following comment, what do you think is special about the Hebrew word used in Genesis 6:17; 7:6 to designate Noah's flood?
There is yet another fact that points to a worldwide flood; that is the Hebrew word that the author chose to describe the Flood. While there are several Hebrew words the author could have used to describe a local flood (sheteph, nachal, nahar, zaram), he used a special, unique word to distinguish the worldwide Flood, mabbul. As C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, in their Commentaries on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch, point out, mabbul "is an archaic word, coined expressly for the waters of Noah. ..."(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 19), p. 143. It was a term that the ancients understood as referring specifically to the "floodgates" of heaven that held back the waters that fell from the sky. Gerhard von Rad took the word mabbul to imply that "We must understand the Flood, therefore, as a catastrophe involving the ... destruction of the entire cosmic system."Genesis (London: SCM Press, 1961), p. 128 (emphasis supplied).
Besides the biblical account of a worldwide flood, what other accounts do you see in Genesis 1-11 that are universal in nature?
A central theme that runs throughout the first eleven chapters of Genesis is their universal context. Indeed, a key point in the Creation story is that God (as opposed to the false Mesopotamian gods) made everything. There is nothing on this earth that God did not make! This universal theme runs to the other issues of these early chapters. Sin and the Fall, for example, were universal problems, for all humans have sinned and fallen, not just some! Moreover, the promise of salvation, with the covenant that is offered, is offered to all people, not just some. Genesis 11 describes the origins of all people. It is in the middle of these universal themes that the story of the Flood appears. Clearly, it would be inconsistent and inappropriate to extract the Flood story from the rest of Genesis 1-11 and say that this has only a local meaning. The Flood was a universal judgment to a universal problem of wickedness that had spread throughout the earth.
Why did God send the Flood? Gen. 6:5-7,11-13.
As mentioned earlier, the Hebrew word for violence is hamas and conveys the sense of violence that leads to the shedding of blood and loss of life. The text conveys the sense that this was a worldwide problem, for the earth was filled with violence. In Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 92, we learn that "after the Fall, men chose to follow their own sinful desires; and as the result, crime and wretchedness rapidly increased. Neither the marriage relation nor the rights of property were respected. Whoever coveted the wives or the possessions of his neighbor, took them by force, and men exulted in their deeds of violence."
How widespread was human wickedness? Gen. 6:12; 1 Pet. 3:20.
Think it through: The enormous size of the ark, the height of the mountains that the Flood waters covered, and the huge collection of animals contradict a local flood theory and affirm the truth of God's Word.
|How does the belief in a worldwide flood affirm your Christian life?|
According to the biblical record, what was the physical impact of the Flood on the earth? Gen. 7:4, 11, 12, 17-23.
Even for those who accept the biblical teaching that the Flood was a worldwide cataclysmic event, there is a tendency to underestimate the extent of its power and destruction. It is easy to envision the Flood as simply being a situation where lots of rain fell from heaven, the water got very deep, and everything drowned. If the Bible is accurate in its portrayal, however, the forces involved are beyond imagination. No modem comparisons even begin to explain either the processes or the results of what the Bible depicts. "Water appeared to come from the clouds in mighty cataracts. Rivers broke away from their boundaries, and overflowed the valleys. Jets of water burst from the earth with indescribable force, throwing massive rocks hundreds of feet into the air, and these, in falling, buried themselves deep in the ground."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 99.
How did the Flood's destruction affect humans and land animals? Was marine life affected? Gen. 7:21-23.
"The entire surface of the earth was changed at the Flood. A third dreadful curse rested upon it in consequence of sin. As the water began to subside, the hills and mountains were surrounded by a vast, turbid sea. Everywhere were strewn the dead bodies of men and beasts.... The earth presented an appearance of confusion and desolation impossible to describe. The mountains, once so beautiful in their perfect symmetry, had become broken and irregular. Stones, ledges, and ragged rocks were now scattered upon the surface of the earth."Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 107, 108.
Today, not surprisingly, most scientists, leaning on their belief in the "laws of nature," would deny the possibility of a worldwide flood. Even within the community of believers the idea of a worldwide flood has been increasingly questioned. In Noah's day, "philosophers declared that it was impossible for the world to be destroyed by water; so now there are men of science who endeavor to show that the world cannot be destroyed by firethat this would be inconsistent with the laws of nature."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 103.
|Believing that the coming flood of fire is as certain as was the Flood of water, how should you prepare yourself and others for that climactic event?|
How important is the universal Flood for shedding light on the fossil record, which, according to most evolutionists, represents millions of years before humans first appeared on the earth? John 1:1-4, 14; Rom. 5:12-14; 8:19-22; 2 Pet. 3:3-7.
Probably one of the most controversial subjects being debated within many Christian denominations is how to relate to the claim that the fossils and rocks found in the earth represent millions of years of life (and death) prior to the first appearance of humans on the planet. This claim contradicts three basic biblical claims that: (1) All life on earth, not just humans, originated by God's spoken word (Gen. 1:31-2:1, 2; John 1:1-3) together within the original six-day week of Creation (Gen. 1:1-31). (2) There was no death anywhere in the world before Adam and Eve's fall (Rom. 5:12-14; Rom. 8:19 -22). (3) There was a worldwide Flood that killed all nonmarine life forms, except those preserved in the ark (Gen. 7:21-23; 2 Pet. 3:3-7), an event that would be expected to leave some record in nature. In addition it also contradicts the implicit suggestion in the Bible that Creation was a relatively recent event in earth's history.
"In the history of the Flood, inspiration has explained that which geology alone could never fathom. In the days of Noah, men, animals, and trees, many times larger than now exist, were buried, and thus preserved as an evidence to later generations that the antediluvians perished by a flood. God designed that the discovery of these things should establish faith in inspired history; but men, with their vain reasoning, fall into the same error as did the people before the Flood-the things which God gave them as a benefit they turn into a curse by making a wrong use of them."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 112.
Creationists do not have all the answers to the questions and challenges posed by evolutionary scientists. Numerous things have been found in nature that seem to defy explanation at present. The real question for believers is In what authority are we going to place our trust? Do we follow the conclusions of secular science, which frequently change, or do we place our trust in God's Word? Trusting God's Word involves the use of sound principles of interpretation that are faithful to the inspired writer's intentions, as well as the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
|What did you learn in today's lesson about the history of the Flood, as it relates to the fossil record embedded in the earth, that serves to fortify your trust in God's Word? How does this help in your witness?|
How did Jesus and New Testament writers relate the Flood to the final judgment? What does this imply about the extent of the Flood? Matt. 24:38, 39; 2 Pet. 2:4-9; 3:5-7.
Peter, for example, invokes the judgment of Noah's universal flood as a "type" (example) for the judgment at the end of time. He envisioned a worldwide, universal flood by fire (2 Pet. 3:5-7). While the main point of Jesus is that the judgment overtook people by surprise, there also is the implied emphasis of the universal aspect of the judgment that none will escape. If some escaped the first judgment, then the threat of the second judgment is certainly diminished (Matt. 24:38, 39).
What danger lies in denying the reality of the Flood as a worldwide judgment in terms of understanding the final judgment? Luke 17:26, 30; 2 Pet. 3:6, 7.
"When great and wise men had proved to their satisfaction that it was impossible for the world to be destroyed by water, when the fears of the people were quieted, when all regarded Noah's prophecy as a delusion, and looked upon him as a fanatic-then it was that God's time had come. ... When the reasoning of philosophy has banished the fear of God's judgments; when religious teachers are pointing forward to long ages of peace and prosperity, and the world are absorbed in their rounds of business and pleasure, planting and building, feasting and merrymaking ... then it is that sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:3."Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 103, 104.
While the utter destruction of the earth, both past and future, is a terrifying concept, what promise does God leave for His followers? Ps. 91:9, 10; 27:5; 91:14.
"But the righteous will be preserved in the midst of these commotions, as Noah was preserved in the ark. God will be their refuge, and under His wings shall they trust."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 110.
|How can these texts in Isaiah 8:20, Colossians 2:8, 1 Timothy 6:20, and Romans 1:20-22 help you deal with the claims of secular science?|
FURTHER STUDY: Read the following chapters in Patriarchs and Prophets, "The Flood," pp. 90-104; "After the Flood," pp. 105-110.
According to 1 Peter 3:20, 21, the Flood serves as a "type" for a special experience that all of God's followers must go through. What is it that the Flood symbolizes for God's followers?
One of the aspects of biblical typology is that the reality of that to which it pointed (antitype) guarantees the reality of the type itself. In this case the reality of the biblical Flood enables it to serve as a type of experience that all God's followers must go through: dying to self and being born again into a new life in Christ, an experience symbolized by baptism.
SUMMARY: The Bible teaches that the entire world was destroyed by Noah's floodthis flood not only was historical but serves as a type for the reality of the judgment to come. The certainty of the first judgment is a confirmation of the final one. While the impending judgment of the world is serious and near, God has again graciously provided a way of escape. God wants us to proclaim the imminence of both this judgment and the way of salvation.
J. H. Zachary
Abel Ti and his gang had committed nearly every crime imaginable. After escaping from prison, he and two former gang members fled into the jungle. As Abel thought about his past, he decided that they needed to change their lives. It was not safe to visit the church in the valley, so the men built their own church.
"What do we do now that we have a church?" one man asked.
"We will hold services on Saturday, as the Adventists in prison did," Abel answered. What a scene the angels must have beheld three hardened criminals worshiping God; two men sat in the pew while the third led the service.
A few weeks later Abel saw some young people approaching the bush chapel on Saturday morning.
"Who are you?" Abel demanded.
"We are Adventists, students at the government school in the valley," they answered. "We heard about a church up here and decided to visit." Abel asked the young people to lead the service that day. After worship he invited the youth to come every week. They happily agreed.
The following Sabbath, when the students had not arrived by 11:00, Abel was worried. He asked a man walking along the path, "Did you see the Adventist young people who are supposed to come today?"
The man answered, "They aren't coming. The school principal won't let them leave the campus."
Angry, Abel picked up his rifle and headed for the school. He fired shots into the air, frightening the villagers who ran for cover. When Abel arrived at the school, the gate was padlocked. He shot open the lock and walked in, demanding to see the principal. When he found the man, Abel aimed his rifle at the man's head.
"What do you want?" the principal stammered.
"Let the Adventist young people come to my church!" Abel ordered. The principal agreed, and the youth again worshiped with the three men in the jungle chapel. The Holy Spirit softened their hearts, and the three men surrendered their lives to God.
Soon the little bush chapel was too small to hold all the people who wanted to worship there. Abel and his friends have built a larger church. One of the former convicts serves as head elder, and Abel leads the Pathfinders. His face now radiates kindness and love, miraculously transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator of the Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.
Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group. You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.
Editorial Office: 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver
Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributor: Randall W. Younker
Editor: Philip G. Samaan
Associate Editor: Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Editorial Assistant: Soraya Homayouni Parish
Art and Design: Lars Justinen
Pacific Press Coordinator: Glen Robinson
Copyright © 1999 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. All Rights Reserved.
This page is Netscape
SSNET Web Site Home page.
Directory of adult SS quarterly Bible Study guides.
Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET
Last updated August 7, 1999.