The rhythm and flow of the end of chapter 7 almost feels like the ebb and swell of waves. “The waters swelled and increased…” in verse 17, and in 18, then 19, and again in 20. Can you feel the movement of the creaking boat, taking the swell aft, the water lapping and splashing, the keel groaning, the swell pushing up and up, then releasing leeward.
A tale thousands of years old, pointing to a time even farther back, can be difficult to envision. How real, how concrete, is this story? What are we to take away from it? How important is it to reconcile every detail with what we know now, concerning geography, carbon dating, evidence of people groups, and timelines that don’t seem to dovetail with Genesis’ account of a world-wide cataclysmic event?
The Flood, in whatever iteration, is a story told round the world. All of humankind seems to have a shared memory of God’s judgment by water. Ancient accounts of a destructive flood can be found in every corner of the planet. Tribes in new Guinea, India, Brazil, China, Norway, Mexico, and even First Nation peoples from North America all have a flood story.
The difference between Noah and everyone else was merely their response to God’s grace. Everybody else scoffed, but Noah took God seriously. The difference between those who were saved and those who died in the flood was the difference between being in the ark and being outside it.
It is absolutely fascinating to find millennia old blueprints for a massive ocean liner in the Bible, but there it is. God commenced with precise and explicit instructions, down to the cubit.
Like the people of Noah’s day, it’s easy to become inured when the culture all around us not only dismisses corruption, but celebrates it, not only dismisses pollution but justifies it.
In thinking about the conditions the Flood story conveys about humanity, our own culture may not seem quite so grim today! And yet, this is one of the truths this ancient account imparts–the nature of what the Bible calls sin. Scripture explains that sin defiles, sin damages, and sin grieves and offends the heart of God.
Even for people who don’t know much about the Bible, this is a famous story. But for being so well-known, it raises a lot of questions and a lot of controversy: Did the Flood really happen? How widespread was it? Was it universal, or only regional? Was there really an ark, and was it large enough to hold all those animals? Where did the water come from? And who are the Nephilim?
But though God’s judgment was delayed, it was no less certain. It was inevitable; that day had already been marked down on the calendar. Assuming the chronology of Methusaleh’s life corresponds with Noah, then the very year Methuselah died, that’s the year the Flood came—you see, if you tot up the years from Lamech’s birth, to Noah’s birth, and Noah’s age when the Flood came, you get the same number as Methuselah’s age when he died.