The Hebrew of Genesis 5:29 shows us that Noah’s name means “rest.” How does his father, Lamech, explain the name? Is Noah’s name significant to the story of the flood?
Verses 19-21: Why don’t the people listen to Noah? What do the things they say about themselves tell us about them? (Compare verse 21 to verse 14.) Why does what they say focus on marriage and children? How is what they say a reply to Moses’ message of repentance? Do we see anything here about how they understand what it means to have dominion?
Verse 22: Compare this verse to what God says of creation (e.g., Moses 2:10, 31). What has happened to creation? How has it happened?
Verse 23-24: What does Noah promise the people of the earth if they will repent? How is the reception of the Holy Ghost a blessing?
Verses 25-26: Why does the Lord decide to destroy the earth? In Genesis 6:6 the Lord says of human beings: “It repent me that I have made them.” The comparable verse of Moses (8:26) says “It repenteth Noah that I have created them.” What is the significance of that difference? Is it just a matter of Moses giving us a better version of the story, or is there a difference in what the two versions are telling us?
Verse 27: What does it mean to be just? What does it mean that Noah was “perfect in his generation”? What does it mean to walk with God? We find the same phrase, “just man, and perfect in his generation,” (with the plural of “generation” rather than the singular in Genesis 6:9).
In Genesis 6:9 the word translated “just” is a translation of the Hebrew word tsaddiq and the word translated “perfect” is a translation of the Hebrew word tamim. Tsaddiq is often translated “righteous” (as in Psalms 145:17 and Proverbs 13:25). The verb form of the word is used to speak of judgment: a judge must judge according to the truth, honestly and impartially. The Old Testament has a great deal to say about the tsaddiq. For examples, see Job 29:12-15, 31:31-32; Psalms 37:21, 72:1-2; Proverbs 14:34; and Malachi 3:18. Tamim, “perfect,” is most often translated as “without blemish,” but it is also translated as “whole,” “sound,” and “upright.” One translator (Nehama Leibowitz) translates the word “whole-hearted.” Its root meaning is “whole,” as is the root meaning of our word “integrity.” To be tamim is to have integrity. In Genesis, Hebrew the word corresponding to “generation” in this verse means “the circle of a person’s life, from birth to death.”
Some take the declaration that Noah was perfect in his generation to mean that he was righteous his whole life. Some understand it to mean that he had become righteous. Still others take it to mean that he was righteous in comparison to the other inhabitants of the earth. Which do you think is more likely, or do you have an alternative way of understanding this description of Noah? Why?
Verses 28-30: In verse 29, does “all flesh” mean “all human beings” or does it mean “all living things”? What does it mean to say that the earth was corrupt? That it was filled with violence? Where did that violence begin? What has been the outcome of Cain’s covenant with Satan?
Another translation of the word translated “corrupt” in the corresponding verse of Genesis (Genesis 6:11) is “destroyed.” Does that suggest anything about why the Lord agreed to destroy all flesh from the earth?
Compare Ezekiel 33:11. Does that verse suggest anything about what happened at the time of Noah?
Verse 12: Notice that Genesis says “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth,” and Moses says “all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth” (italics added). What do you make of that difference?
Verse 14-16: How is the ark a symbol of salvation? (See 1 Peter 3:20-22.) What does the story of Noah have to teach us today?
Verse 17: Notice how this verse is a kind of mirror image of the creation. In the creation, the Lord gave the breath of life to all things. Here he takes it away from them.
Verse 18: What covenant does the Lord establish with Noah? Why does he use the word “establish” rather than “make”?
This difference isn’t only an artifact of translation. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word used here, like the English word “establish,” means “to cause to stand.”
Verse 22: Why did the writer include this verse? Why does it end by repeating “so did he”?
Verses 1-5: Though not a word-for-word repetition, these verses closely repeat what was said in Genesis 6:17-22. Notice that verses 7-9 repeat the information again. Why these repetitions?
Verses 20-23: Eden was a well-watered place (Genesis 2:10-14; Moses 3:10-14) and the creation as described in Genesis 1 and Moses 2 begins with water. Water is central to both the creation and the destruction of the earth. So what?
Verse 1: How was Noah like Adam? (Does Genesis 9:1 compare the two? Compare that verse to Genesis 1:28) What does it mean to be remembered by God?
The Hebrew word translated “remembered” in this verse can be used to refer to recollection (e.g., Psalms 137:1) and to meditation on something (e.g., Job 21:6-7). When used in reference to people, it often implies action, as in Numbers 15:40 and Ezekiel 6:9.
Verse 4: The ark “rested.” Is it a coincidence that Noah’s name means “rest”? Is it significant that the ark came to rest on the seventh month? on the seventeenth day? If not, why are we told the day and the month? It has been exactly five months since the flood began (Genesis 7:11). Is that relevant to understanding this story?
Verse 5: Three events are dated in this story: the rains begin (7:11), the ark comes to rest (8:2), and the tops of the mountains appear (8:5). Is it a coincidence that the dry land appeared on the third day of creation (1:9)?
Verses 7-14: Why do you think Moses spends so much time telling us about Noah waiting for the waters to abate?
Notice the pun on Noah’s name that occurs in this verse: the dove found no rest (noah) for her foot, so she went back to Noah. Why are biblical writers so fond of puns and word play?
Umberto Cassuto argues that the date given in verse 13 for when Noah exited the ark tells us that, from the first rains until Noah stepped out on dry land, the Flood lasted exactly 365 days, one year. Is that relevant to our understanding of the story?
Verses 17-19: Notice the similarity between this and the creation story. What is the point of that similarity?
Verses 20-22: What does it mean to say “the Lord smelled a sweet savor”?
The Hebrew word translated “sweet” in the KJV could also be translated “soothing” or “restful.” It is another pun on Noah’s name.
Does this verse show us the Lord changing his mind? If not, what is he doing? Why does verse 21 tell us that the Lord said what he said “in his heart”? The Lord told Adam that the ground was cursed for his sake (Genesis 3:17; Moses 4:23). What does it mean when he says “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake”? Does it mean that the Adamic curse of the earth was lifted? How does the fact that man’s heart is evil from his youth explain that the Lord won’t curse the earth any more (verse 21)?
Verses 1-7: Why does the Lord twice repeat the original commandment to “be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (verses 1 and 7)? The Lord commanded Adam to subdue the earth. Why doesn’t he repeat that commandment here? Why was eating meat first not allowed (Genesis 1:29) and now allowed (verses 2-4)? Does that have anything to do with the dominion that Adam was given? Does comparing this to other commandments we have been given and that were then retracted (such as the Law of Consecration) help explain what may have happened? Why is Noah forbidden to eat blood? What does blood symbolize and when we refrain from eating blood what might we remember? What does it mean to say “your blood of your lives will I require” (verse 5)? Does what follows in verse 5 explain that phrase? Does the concluding clause of verse 6 explain why we shouldn’t kill another (because the other person is made in the image of God) or does it explain why the judge has the right to impose the death penalty (because he is made in the image of God and, so, has the power to deal out divine punishment)? In Genesis 1, only the fish were told to “bring forth abundantly” or “swarm.” Now human beings are also told to do so (verse 6). Why might that be added to the commandment to be fruitful and multiply?
Verses 8-17: Why was this covenant necessary? What purpose does it serve? Why is the rainbow a particularly appropriate token of the Lord’s covenant never to destroy the earth by water again? Is the fact that it is a bow significant? What light does Isaiah 54:9 shed on the covenant and the meaning of the rainbow? What does it mean to us?
Verses 18-23: What is the import of “and Noah began to be an husbandman” (verse 20)? Is there a parallel here with Adam?
Another translation of the phrase “began to be an husbandman and planted” is “master of the earth was the first.” In the alternate translation “Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard” becomes “Noah, master of the earth, was the first to plant a vineyard.” Suppose that translation is better. How does it change our understanding of the text?
Verse 21 gives us the ground for everything that follows, but the writer says no more than absolutely necessary about what happened. Why do you think that the writer may have been so terse in this verse? Notice that the same is true of verse 22. Some have speculated that Ham’s sin was of a incestuous homosexual nature, but there is no textual evidence for such a claim. What is the sin of Ham? Notice the difference between the amount of language used in verse 23 and that used in verses 21-22. What might the point of such comparatively expansive language be? Why, for example, do you think “their father’s nakedness” is repeated twice?
Verses 24-25: Perhaps the most difficult question in these verses is “Why does Noah curse Canaan, the son of Ham, rather than Ham?” (Verse 25). Or does the word “Canaan” refer to Ham’s son? When the sons’ names were mentioned previously, they were Shem, Ham, and Japhet. Here they seem to be Shem, Canaan, and Japhet. What are we to make of that difference? In verse 25 the curse is that Canaan will be “a servant of servants.” In contemporary English, the Hebrew word translated “servant” would be translated “slave.” Does this mean that he will be the slave of other slaves? Or is the phrase suggesting that he will be the lowliest of slaves?
Verses 26-27: How might this verse change our understanding of what has just happened? Noah blesses the name of God, “the God of Shem,” and repeats that Ham will be “his” servant. To whom does “his” refer? To “God” or to “Shem”? If it refers to Shem, is it significant that his servitude is mentioned in the context of praising God? Does verse 27 help us answer those questions?
Verses 1-9: How is this similar to what we saw happening with Adam’s descendants before Noah? What does that repetition of events suggest? (Refer back to what the Lord says of human beings in Genesis 8:21.) Does the decision to give themselves a name (verse 4) suggest anything about their problem? Why do they want to give themselves a name? How do we try to give ourselves a name? What are they trying to avoid and why are they worried about it? What does having a common language allow people to do? What does a language barrier help prevent? In other words, what problem is the Lord dealing with in these verses and why is the confounding of the language a solution to that problem? (Compare Isaiah 2:12-18.)
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