Thursday, January 12, 2012

Noah's Life And Death - Genesis 9:28-29 Bible Commentary

Noah lived for an almost record-breaking 950 years.1 Yet for a man who lived for so long, we know so little. All that we have are a few short snapshots of his life.

The first snapshot we get is of Noah's birth. Noah was born into a world that was teeming with sin and aching from the pains of the curse. When Noah was born, his father Lamech said: Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands (Genesis 5:29). It is clear, then, that from the very beginning Noah's life was marked out for a set purpose.

Then we have nothing but silence.

Scripture tells us nothing about the next 480 years of Noah's life. We know nothing about his childhood or his young (relatively speaking) adulthood. We know so little that the most that can be said is that Noah turned to God sometime in the first 480 years of his life. This simple fact can be assumed because in the next snapshot Scripture gives us of Noah, he is 480 years of age and walking with God (Genesis 6:9).

In the 480th year of Noah's life, Scripture makes clear that the world around Noah was a complete mess. Lust controled the globe, with the sons of God at the center of it all.2 The earth was completely filled with violence (Genesis 6:11). In fact, the world was in such a sinful condition that God decided to wipe out humanity. In the midst of this horrifying scene, the only relief came from one man: Noah.

When Noah was 480 years old, God, by his grace, looked upon him with favor (Genesis 6:8). Demonstrating His mercy, God commanded Noah to build an ark so that he would be spared from the coming global flood.

Scripture gives us only a fuzzy snapshot of what happened over the next 120 years. We know that Noah was building the ark and that he was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). We also know that the wickedness of the world did not change, and perhaps grew worse. Apart from that, we know nothing.

After those 120 years came to an end, God sent the Flood. Scripture gives us one of the most detailed snapshots of Noah's life during the year of the flood. In fact, Scripture records the exact chronology of the flood (Genesis 8:3-19).

It is after the Flood that we see the last snapshot of Noah's faithfulness. After leaving the ark, Noah built an altar to offer sacrifices to the God who had saved him. Shortly afterwards, God made the ever-famous rainbow covenant (Genesis 9:12-17).

If only that had been the last snapshot that Scripture gave us of Noah— if only the last image we had was of Noah and his three sons standing in the presence of God with a vibrant rainbow shining in the background.

Sadly, the last snapshot Scripture gives us is of Noah drunk, naked, and cursing one of his sons (Genesis 9:21). It is hardly the image we would expect from a man who did so much and lived for so long. Yet we must remember all of Noah's life, not just parts. Noah, in the bigger picture, was a man who remained faithful to God.

As the author of Hebrews puts it:
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
We do not know how Noah died, but we do know when he died. Genesis 9:28-29 provides us with a short, closing snapshot that sums up Noah's life:
Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood. So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years, and he died. (Genesis 9:28-29)

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  1. ^ Methuselah is the oldest recorded man at 969 years of age, see Genesis 5:27.
  2. ^ The "sons of God" were likely fallen angels, for a fuller discussion of this see Genesis 6:1-4

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