“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”
“The Bible’s picture of human nature, conveyed through its first stories of human life, is, to say the least, sobering.”
Leon Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom
God made humankind and declared his work very good. He gave humans freedom with only one rule. One prohibition existed, one action in all of creation forbidden to us. What did we do? We broke that rule, the only rule. One generation later, man murdered his brother: not a stranger, but his own brother. God exiles Cain, Eve gives birth to Seth, and their immediate descendants begin cities, the management of livestock, music, and the creation of advanced tools. These human beings lived in a world without the Ten Commandments, without the living example of the incarnation, without the Sermon on the Mount, without the epistles to the early church. They are humanity as descrided in the world of Romans 1-3, they live in the light of God’s eternal power and divine nature, clearly seen in his creation. (Rom 1:19-20) They live in the light of their conscience informed by the law of God written on their hearts. (Rom 2:15) God granted them long lives to enjoy his creation.
How did we respond to this purely natural revelation of God’s presence and desires? We established a track record of sin so comprehensive it confounds understanding. Who were we marrying and having kids with? Who are the sons of God and the daughters of humanity? Who are the Nephilim? What great deeds did their children do to become the heroes of old? Back in Chapter 4, Lamech killed a man for injuring him and is bragging he is ten times greater than Cain. Did Lamech kill a man in response to a minor injury or is Lamech so powerful a minor blow destroys lesser men? Biblical scholars and critics can’t even agree on what all of this means and who everyone is. It is good that, for the purposes of this post, we don’t have to answer what cannot be answered. We know two things for certain about humanity in the story of Noah:
“every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (v. 5)
“The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” (v. 6)
What else can we know? They married people they shouldn’t marry and killed their fellow man to pursue personal glory. Chapter 1of Romans gives us a clear list of what it means to pursue “every kind of wickedness”:
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Rom 1:28-32)
Look around the world today. Perhaps these people aren’t as confusing as they first appear. They are an envious, murderous, divisive, and hateful people. They gossip and slander their fellow man while mocking God in their boastful arrogance. Like people chasing platforms and riches on the internet, they create new ways to do evil living in open rebellion of the generations who preceded them. Like Lamech, they have nothing but scorn for those who came before them. Time made them the masters of generations in their eyes, an improvement over the past. They share everything but know nothing. Their lives center on their desires, their only loyalty is to their whims. They gleefully destroy the lives of others for minor offences while reveling in the glory of their concise cruelty. They celebrate and reward the base and depraved. The worst of our own times sheds light on the worst of another time.
God equipped humanity with all that we needed in our nature to see him and honor him, and then, within ten generations, God saw no other option but to wipe out everything he had created. Our sin, our violence, our disregard for the welfare of our fellow man, our rejection of all that he made us to be wasn’t merely a defect of character he wanted us to overcome as many modern preachers might imagine. It wasn’t simply a failure to live our best lives. Our behavior offended his holy nature and demanded justice. He regretted us.
Violence. God said the earth was filled with violence because of men, men of renown who created great things and married beautiful people. Men of corruption. But God sees more than humanity as a monolithic creation. He sees men, each one of us. As God looks at a world he regrets, he sees a man he doesn’t.
Heroes of old, men of renown, beautiful people, the creators of music, tools, animal husbandry, and cities, these are all descriptions of the accomplishments and traits of humanity used in Chapters 4 and 6. What outstanding qualities does Noah bring to the table to draw the mercy of God?
“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” (v 10)
The world is filled with violence and corruption, men seeking their own glory and pleasure. They infect everything, except Noah. Justice drives God to destroy the wicked, wicked men and wicked societies. His mercy saves what can be saved. By the end of Chapter 6, the men of renown, the heroes of old, the beautiful people, all of them stand on the edge of judgement. God sees one man and his family that he will spare, not because the man did great things, but because he is faithful in a fallen world.
What does this chapter tell us about the Bible’s view of the value of human life? The indiscriminate violence against our fellow man brings terrible judgement, and God values each of us individually. He regrets the creation of mankind, but he saves the faithful man and his family.