by Rabbi Jeffrey Adler
In Genesis 6 we are introduced to Noah.
Mankind had become totally depraved. Beginning in verse 1: “Now when humankind began to multiply on the face of the ground and daughters were born to them, (2) then the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were good and they took for themselves wives, any they chose. (3) Then ADONAI said, ‘My Spirit will not remain with humankind forever, since they are flesh. So, their days will be 120 years.’ (4) The Nephilim (fallen ones) were on the earth in those days, and, also afterward, whenever the sons of God came to the daughters of men, and gave birth to them. Those were the mighty men of old, men of renown. (5) Then ADONAI saw that the wickedness of humankind was great on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil all the time. (6) So, ADONAI regretted that He made humankind on the earth, and His heart was deeply pained. (7) So, ADONAI said, ‘I will wipe out humankind from the face of the ground, from humankind to livestock, crawling things and the flying creatures of the sky, because I regret that I made them.’”
There is debate as to the exact evil here described, but, it was sufficient to greatly offend and grieve the Lord.
However, verse 8 tells us, “But, Noah found favor in ADONAI’s eyes.”
The narrative continues in verse 13: “Then ADONAI said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh is coming before Me, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. Behold, I am about to bring ruin upon them along with the land. (14) Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood. You shall smear pitch on it, both inside and out. (15) Now, this is how you shall make it… (17) Now, I am about to bring the flood- water upon the land- to destroy all flesh in which is the spirit of life under the sky. Everything that is on the land will perish. (18) But, I will establish My covenant with you. So, you shall come into the ark- you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. (19) Also, of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of everything- male and female- into the ark to keep alive with you.”
First of all, it is notable that even though God had decreed judgement on mankind, He allowed 120 years to give an opportunity for repentance and reprieve. Then, after ordering Noah and his living cargo into the ark, He stilled extended another seven days. Sadly, there was no repentance by man; the flood came.
Here we see the seriousness with which God takes evil and rebellion. In His delay in carrying out the sentence, we see, also His mercy and graciousness. In His not missing the righteousness of Noah, we see His grace.
The incident of Noah’s drunkenness in the 9th chapter demonstrates God’s capacity to deal with human imperfection. (His promise of an ultimately atoning suffering Messiah will deal with these matters.) But, Noah’s story communicates that the holy God takes seriously His Law, but, never abrogates His love and mercy- the meaning of grace.
Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is president of the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.