By: William Jackson
We have all heard that the reason for the great flood was to wipe out the wickedness of humanity but if that is true why is there still evil1? We can’t say that God didn’t know that this wasn’t going to work, He knows all things; past present and future (Isaiah 43:13, 45:21, 46:9-10, Psalm 33:11, Proverbs 19:21). Yet, even after the flood God promises“…never again will all living beings be destroyed by the waters of a flood…” (Genesis 9:8-11). So if you set out to destroy the world to get rid of the wickedness, knowing in the end you wouldn’t, why would you ditch your chances to do a “do-over”? This beacons the real question “why would you even go out to accomplish something that you know isn’t going to work? The answer is that what we were taught doesn’t fit. This is usually and indicator that we need to dig a little deeper in scripture.
Most of what we are talking about nests in Genesis Chapter 6. Here, before getting into how much God regretted making us because of our wickedness (Genesis 6:5-7), it talks about the birth of the N’filim (nef·ēl’). These N’filim (H5307) were giants born of human women and “the sons of God”. Introducing the N’filims at this point implies that this is possibly the evil that is talked about. So many presuppose that God is not trying to destroy the world to remove human wickedness but rather these N’filim which are demigods2 that the Torah calls “…ancient heroes, men of renown” (Genesis 6:4). This would make sense but the flood did not destroy them. We know this because over a millennium later (2500-1446 BC) the Israelite Scouts returning from Canaan give eye witness report claiming to see these N’filim (Numbers 13:33). Many might say that these Israelites were lying about these “giants” because they did not want to return to Canaan but in Numbers 13:32 when the scouts give the report the Hebrew word used is “dibbah” (1681) which means a bad or evil report or even bad news. If they were lying about the giants the Hebrew word “kazab” (3576) which is to lie or “sheqer” (8267), which is to deceive would have been used. Granted the Israelites did not want to go into Canaan at this point but they did not lie about giants, they embellished the negative aspects of their account in an attempt to scratch the mission. Also Genesis 6:4 states “ The N’filim were on the earth in those days, and also afterwards…” So the verse that introduces the N’filim also admits they would be around for a while.
So if the evil that is talked about is not the N’filims maybe we can find our answer in focusing on who was spared verses who was destroyed. This leads us to Noah. Scripture tells us that although Noah wasn’t perfect he was righteous (Genesis 6:9). So it made sense that He would want Noah’s bloodline to be the only one remaining. The problem is that God knew that he could not remove all wickedness and allow man to have “free will”3 not even with Noah. God admits this after the flood in Genesis 8:21 where His says…“I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, since the imaginings of a person’s heart are evil from his youth…” So God knows that we have evil in our heart and it can’t be removed. Even when we investigate this point in the Tanakh (OT) it tell us we are all born sinners; Job 15:14, 25:4, Psalm 51:7. And as we read further we find all have sinned, even the righteous 1 Kings 8:46, 2 Chronicles 6:36, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Isaiah 53:6, Psalm 143:2. Noah even showed poor judgement as we see in Genesis 9:21 where he was naked and drunk. Although what Noah did are not “formal” sins they are certainly vices that could lead to a severe evil (Deuteronomy 21:20, Isaiah 5:22, Proverbs 20:1, 23:20-21).
So the concept that the world was wiped out to remove all sin doesn’t seem feasible. So let’s look at Genesis 6:5 a little deeper. We read “God saw that the people on earth were very wicked, that all the imaginings of their hearts were always of evil only”. “All’ and “Always” leave no room for anything else in a man’s heart. No room for mercy, charity or love of God. But Noah was different than most of mankind, “he walked with God” Genesis 6:9, “he did all that God ordered him to do” (Genesis 6:22). This would be a bloodline worth allowing into the renewed world. Sure he may not have been perfect but he was righteous. The evil that was destroyed are the ones who didn’t have room for God in their hearts which meant this was no room or ability for repentance. This is further backed up in Proverbs and the Psalms (Psalm 7:17, 94:23, Proverbs 2:22, 5:22).
- Emil G. Hirsch, W. Muss-Arnolt, and Hartwig Hirschfeld, The Flood, The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
- Dr. Alan Cooper, Why Did God Flood The World? Learn Inspired Jewish Learning, October 1, 2013